As I mother, I've found myself pretty lucky in a number of ways. I have a support system and my son is healthy and I have health insurance, so the cost of procreation isn't debilitating. I was also endlessly supported when I was breastfeeding, and that support continued after my breastfeeding journey ended. My partner, who's incapable of breastfeeding, was completely involved in the process. He was helpful in the beginning, and he refused to say the things no grown-ass man says about a woman's body after breastfeeding ends. From start to finish, I had one hell of a breastfeeding cheerleader, and while I knew that was priceless when I was actually nursing our son, I didn't realize how vital it would be when nursing came to an end.
I had some difficulties coming to terms with all the ways pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding had changed my body. While I didn't have a substantial amount of stretch marks and felt pretty comfortable in my postpartum body, as I continued to breastfeed and, after I stopped, I couldn't help but notice how different my breasts were. They no longer held their normal form and showcased some (at times, obvious) stretch marks and, well, my confidence reflected my inability to accept this physical change. I didn't feel like I was trapped in my body anymore (a common feeling when you're pregnant and you don't necessarily enjoy it) but I didn't necessarily recognize my body, either.
Thankfully, I had a partner who listened and gave me support and refused to feed into my body issues by saying the following (horrifically hurtful and offensive) comments. Sometimes, what you say isn't as important as what you refuse to say, and if you want to assist your post-breastfeeding partner in feeling more and more like herself, this is definitely what you absolutely do not say:
"You'll Never Be The Same Again"
Chances are, any parent won't be exactly the same as they were before they had a child. My partner, for example, is not the same man he was before we had a baby. He has changed and grown and evolved in ways he didn't think he would, and I can say the same thing. Why, then, do we (by "we", I mean society) tend to focus on how a woman's body changes after she has had a baby and/or has successfully breastfed? Like, why? A grown-ass man isn't going to look at any of those changes (physical or otherwise) as a bad thing, and he certainly won't draw negative attention to them, as if they're something his partner should hide.
"You Sure Breastfeeding Was Worth It?"
If your partner made the decision to breastfeed (and was successful at breastfeeding) and continued to breastfeed for any semblance of time, it's safe to say she probably does think that breastfeeding was and is worth it and you probably shouldn't assume otherwise via condescending questions. Furthermore, a question like this implies that the positive affects of breastfeeding (for both baby and mother) pale in comparison to any subsequent changes breastfeeding imparted on a mother's body. It's basically saying, "How your body looks matters more than what your body is capable of doing," and, well, absolutely not.
"Well, At Least You Have Push Up Bras..."
Well, at least there are things like break ups and separations and divorces, right?
"...Or, You Know, There's Always Cosmetic Surgery."
I couldn't imagine a partner suggesting expensive, evasive and potentially deadly cosmetic surgery, all because he doesn't like my appearance. I mean, I seriously can't, which I realize makes me lucky but also fills me with rage because, well, for so many women my inability to comprehend is their unescapable reality and any man who makes his partner feel insufficient (especially after she has had a child and breastfed) is clearly not a grown-ass man (and probably shouldn't have a partner).
"So-And-So's Body Didn't Change Like That"
Every pregnancy is different and every breastfeeding attempt and journey is different and that's all because, you guessed it, every body is different. How one particular woman's body responds to breastfeeding does not a standard make, so any grown-ass man worth a damn would absolutely refuse to pit his partner's body against someone else's.
"It's OK, I Still Find You Attractive"
If my partner said this to me, I can't say that I would be able to return the sentiment. Looking attractive shouldn't be the end-all-be-all, and the affects of pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding, shouldn't deter from a woman's attractiveness; both inside and out. Just because motherhood has (maybe) left a woman's body unable to uphold unrealistic beauty expectations society has created to fulfill the male gaze, doesn't mean that she is no longer attractive nor does it mean that she should be "thankful" that her partner still views her as such.
"I Thought Breastfeeding Helped You Lose Weight?"
I would rage. Like, absolutely rage. Yes, breastfeeding has been known to help women lost weight postpartum, as it burns a substantial amount of calories. However, breastfeeding also helps women hold onto a certain amount of body fat that is essential in assisting her body in producing a substantial amount of milk. Furthermore (and perhaps most importantly) while losing weight is a rad benefit of breastfeeding, it is not the most important benefit. I mean, I think the continued nourishment of a child and the reduced risk of breast cancer, kind of trump some number on some scale. All I'm sayin'.
"Maybe, Next Time, We'll Just Bottle Feed"
If there's a "next time," chances are the baby won't be yours, buddy. I mean, honestly ladies; if your partner says any of the aforementioned things to you, please know that you deserve better. Breastfeeding shouldn't be a sexualized act and a woman's breasts are functional, as well as sexual. If your partner is unable to value the incredible thing that your body did, and only focus on how that thing may or may not have physically altered your body, then I say, "On to the next one."