Beyoncé is pregnant again, and it’s been the one bright spot in my newsfeed this year. I’m not only tickled that one of pop culture’s feminist icons is procreating, but that she is someone with zero tolerance for haters on her appearance as it morphs through the stages of growing and giving life. Beyoncé would take no crap from anyone and we should all arm ourselves with Beyoncé-inspired comebacks to comments about our postpartum bodies. She embodies what women like me strive for: never giving any f*cks what people say, especially if they say something having to do with being a mother.
I really wish I had been ready with some Beyoncé-inspired retorts to comments about my postpartum body. I hadn’t properly readied myself for them and, instead, swallowed them whole; their jagged edges catching on the back of my throat as I choked back tears and forced out stoicism every time someone asked me when I was due weeks after the baby had been born.
I was not prepared for my postpartum body. I knew I wouldn’t snap back to my pre-baby state, since it had taken me about 10 months to gain 30 pounds and expand in surprising ways. However, I didn’t know my breasts would grow even more as my milk came in, and my hair would start shedding from my head, and my mid-section would stubbornly remain squishy. I certainly didn’t expect anyone to remark upon my physical appearance. Weren’t they distracted by this adorable newborn?
It’s too late for me now, since I’m done having kids, but if you find yourself on the receiving end of some judgment about your appearance after having a baby, here are some Beyoncé-level comebacks to stop the haters in their tracks. (Actually, I can still use these, even though I’m six years postpartum, right?)
“To The Left, To The Left”
Yeah, anyone having nothing nice to say, or taking a gaslighting approach (“Oh, it’s great that you’re taking your time to lose that baby weight. What’s the rush, right?”) can step off. To the left. Or right, actually. Just get out of my sight.
“And By ‘Baby Weight,’ You Mean ‘Bootylicious,’ Right?”
No one asked me about my weight after I gave birth (which is a good thing, because if that had happened it would have been exacerbated my body image issues). But I could see in friends’ and families eyes how they were registering the bulk remaining on my postpartum frame when they would come to meet the new baby. It took having experienced it to realize that the fourth trimester is a real thing. I wish there was more talk about it out in the world; then maybe new moms like me wouldn’t feel self-conscious of the baby weight, and we could start embracing it as a poignant symbol of our womanhood. We could celebrate our bootyliciousness, because it shows the realness of motherhood.
“This Is What A Girl Who Runs The World Looks Like”
The world may think women who are six weeks postpartum should look like she was never pregnant in the first place, but this tabloid-exploited myth needs to die. My fourth trimester thickness fueled me, giving me the energy to stay up for all hours and providing me with the ability to burn and hoard the calories I needed to breastfeed my baby. If I’m keeping a child alive, you best interpret that to mean I’m running the world. That is a superpower.
Sure, I look tired and ragged and could care less about what my hair is doing in those first few weeks of my newborn’s life. But look at me holding my baby. Look at how my baby looks at me. My body may be what the world sees as a presentation of my motherhood, but there is so much more to see. The unconditional love. The anticipation of learning the whole world over again through my child’s eyes. The chance to effect positive change by raising a decent human being as best as my husband and I can. I have to believe the word for all that is “flawless.”
Yes, I have failed, and will continue to fail, many times over. But the only way to be better, I’ve realized, is to mess up and apply those learnings to improving my parenting game.
“Fix You Some Lemonade To Wash Down That Ignorance?”
With dignified ferocity, Beyoncé continues to call out the glaring injustices white people have enacted on the bodies and souls of black people in our society. As a white woman in what we can assuredly admit is a racist country, I could never begin to understand what it would be to go through life with black skin. Being female makes me enough of a target. I’ve been getting catcalled since I was 11 years old. As a woman of color, Beyoncé has taken the maxim, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” and channeled her call to recognize and right social injustices to women of color through powerful hooks.
So, when someone has the audacity (not to mention the ill manners) to remark upon your postpartum body, take the high road. Add sugar, but don't totally dilute the tart bite. For me, the album Lemonade demonstrated how to show the haters that I can’t be knocked down by whatever societal ideals they are projecting onto my body.
“You Clearly Don’t Recognize Field Research To Launch An Athleisure Wear Line When You See It”
Beyoncé created Ivy Park to empower the female form in all its incarnations (right?), so maybe I’m following in her footsteps. Or maybe pants with elastic waistbands are the only things that fit me now. Either way, Beyoncé would never feel shame for how much space she takes up in this world, so I won’t either (except when flying coach).
“You’re Just Jealous Of These Boobs In Full Formation”
With the fluffiness of the fourth trimester came the swelling of my boobs. (And I thought I was rocking a full rack during pregnancy. Ha!)
My cup size kept getting bigger, and it almost distracted me from the fact that I still looked pregnant weeks after giving birth.
“I Literally Carried Destiny’s Child And You Want To Talk About How I’m Still Wearing Maternity Clothes?”
By “Destiny’s Child,” I am also referring to my own infant. When is our society going to start focusing on the amazing feats our body pulls growing and nurturing a human life until it is viable outside our wombs? All the media focuses on is how fast we can get tight after giving birth. I’m sorry, but I have a baby. There is no prize greater. Not even getting back into skinny jeans.
Did I ever have the ovaries to announce so overtly how badass I am? No. But at least I came around to the idea of it and that’s progress; especially when you’re someone who grew up hating her body. No longer pregnant but still looking like I was tested my self-confidence. It was a new version of me, somewhere between pregnancy and full-fledged motherhood, and I had to realize it was going to take some time to adjust. Becoming a mom was the best lesson in self-acceptance. Never were my flaws and strengths highlighted so clearly, when a new little person holds a mirror up to your behavior. If I wanted to raise self-assured, emotionally fulfilled children, I had to project self-respect. I had to give myself pep talks. I had to believe I could do this parenting thing, if only because the baby had arrived and there was no going back.
So when the going gets tough, the tough say: “I slay.” Repeat until you believe it. (And don’t beat yourself up, like I did, if that takes a while. It will happen.)