There are so many stories about how so-and-so famous person "got her body back" after her baby was born. "Doesn't she look great? Way to go, girl!" The flip side of all that seemingly innocuous congratulatory fussing is the underlying assumption that postpartum bodies are only valuable if they look like never-had-a-baby bodies. There's enough outright criticisms, too. Honestly, why even go there when there are so many things you can do instead of critique a mom on her postpartum body?
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with a postpartum person wanting to work out and eat well. There's also nothing wrong if the new mom doesn't want to (or can't) work out and eat well. The glorification of the "we can't even tell you were pregnant" body feeds into our culture's obsession with shaming moms who don't immediately (or ever) look like they did before they were pregnant. What is so bad about looking like you had a baby? Why is this something we need to cover up? I'm no medical doctor but, if I'm honest, I always question how healthy these immediately-back-to-pre-baby bodies are. However, and again because it's worth repeating, that's me being snarky and isn't necessarily helpful or productive.
So, instead of talking about or critiquing postpartum bodies either positively or negatively, I think we should all do these following things for recently pregnant people instead. Join me, won't you?
Take Her Out To Dinner
Pay for the babysitter, or arrange for one, and take her out to dinner. She needs caring and fun adult conversation way more than she needs anyone's opinions on her postpartum body.
Clean Her House
After I had baby number three, I had a few friends come over for a group potluck. One friend brought wine and we all sat around talking while our kids were running around outside. At some point I looked up and noticed one of my friends had done all my dishes. She didn't make a big deal out of it, she just saw it needed to be done and did it.
It's a year later and I'm getting all teary and grateful just thinking about it.
Watch Her Kids
For any reason. Whether she wants to work out, sleep, go on a hike, sit in silence alone, go to yoga, mediate, or do something completely unrelated to her children, watch her kids.
Buy Her A Massage & Babysit While She Gets It
Making another human takes its toll on the human body. Chances are, once the new mom in your life has been cleared for massage, she's really going to want one. However, I'm hard-pressed to find a new mama who will actually (or can actually) take the time to set up a massage for herself. There's so much to think about and feel guilty for, so why would I take an extra hour or two away from my kids?
However, if you buy her a massage she will be hard-pressed not to take it. Plus, she needs it. She needs it so bad.
Understand that part of buying a mom a gift that requires time away from her children is that you'll care for her children while she's out using your gift. Otherwise, it's just another thing she doesn't have time for.
Listen To Her
Listen to her childbirth story for the however-many time. Listen to her cry. Listen to her laugh. Listen to her b*tch. Listen to her gush about how much she loves her baby. Listen to her fear that she hasn't attached to her baby, yet.
Whatever she wants or needs to talk about just listen. If you don't, who will? Certainly not her kids. Very likely not her equally overwhelmed partner.
Tell Her How Incredibly Strong She Is
She just grew a human being inside her body and then birthed that very same human being for an untold (and grueling) number of hours. If that's not strong than I don't understand the definition of the word.
Be Amazed By Her Strength
Don't treat childbirth like just another thing that happens and everyone does it so it's no big deal. It is a big deal. In fact, it's a huge f*cking deal.
Be reverent. Be amazed.
Let Her Know She's Important To You
One of the hardest things about becoming a mother is that you're somebody's mother. We're taught that mothering is the most important thing we could ever do. What that means, traditionally, is that mothers stop being important as autonomous individuals. We're no longer worthy simply because of our existence, we are worthy because we gave existence to someone else.
With the above in mind, the absolutely most essential thing you can do for a person postpartum, is letting her know she is important to you. Not as a mother, not as someone who gave birth, but as someone who is worthy all on her own. However you did it before she had a baby, make sure to do it ten times more emphatically now.