Pregnancy and childbirth bring a lot of changes to a mother’s life. This goes without saying. Your body changes. Your family increases by one. Your brain changes. Your heart changes.
I found, that with these changes, something else happened: people felt like they could comment on my body.
I know. Pregnant women are beautiful. And there is something so exciting about a woman on the verge of becoming a new mother. I find myself smiling at pregnant moms or moms with newborns. And I enjoyed being smiled at when it was me with the large belly or the wee baby in a sling.
The reaction is automatic. I want to say: “You look GREAT!”
Some better things to say would be: “How are you feeling?” “You seem so happy/calm/excited!” “How about this weather?” Even “That’s a cute shirt.
I also felt beautiful when I was pregnant. And in many ways I loved hearing “You look great.” But it also somewhat diminished how I felt. I felt vital and strong and happy and nervous. I loved my taut belly and my growing breasts. I secretly hated the stretch marks that took my once smooth, white belly and zigged it through with dark purple.
And people did say I looked great. And one family member good-naturedly told me my butt was getting big. (Which actually really hurt my feelings, despite the fact that I enjoyed my bigger butt.) But comments on butts aside, I liked hearing how good I looked.
But the postpartum period is problematic. Look at how we treat celebrities. We all marvel at how quickly they get their “pre-baby bodies back.” No one needs to say that it is unrealistic to expect anyone to present with washboard abs mere weeks after delivering. And even if I know intellectually that that is an impossible standard and that surely no small amount of photoshopping or working out or dieting or styling helped achieve that enviable postpartum look, it doesn’t change the fact that women’s bodies are routinely objectified.
(click link at the top to read blog on mothering.com)