I remember that I was walking through Walmart with my tiny newborn son, just weeks after giving birth. As I gazed at fabric and yarn, two elderly women walked by. Seeing the baby, they stopped and began ooing and aaing, asking how old he was. Upon hearing that I gave birth only weeks before, they looked at me with shocked expressions. "But you're flat as a pancake!" one of them said.
While it was very sweet of this woman to try to affirm me, her words were unsettling. Why? Because she made my weight a focus of our short conversation. She could have talked about other subjects-the joy that comes with children or asking me how I was managing during newborn life, for example-but she commented on a topic which, I believe, our culture is entirely too obsessed with.
I've heard women bemoan to me that our society is preoccupied with the physical appearance of women, and we've all been bombarded by messages ranging from "Be as skinny as you can" to "Be proud of your body, no matter your size is." We focus so much on the external presence or lack of flab on a woman's body that we forget to talk about what really matters: a woman's life, her soul, her dignity, her joys, her dreams.
But if we don't comment on a new mom's weight, then what are we supposed to talk with her and other new moms about???
We can affirm them on their joyful, radiant glow.
Time and time again, I see this special, subtle glow around new mothers. Yes, they may be sleep deprived and lounging in sweatpants and covered in spit-up, but I've noticed that these ladies often exhibit a joyful glint in their eyes. So mention it! Draw their attention to this beauty that they're radiating in a time when they may not feel very confident or pleased with their post-childbirth image.
We can compliment them on persevering through the challenging days of newborn life.
Regardless of how many children a woman has, anytime she has a newborn there is an adjustment period. This phase carries its own challenges and struggles, and it can be exhausting for new moms to muddle through those weeks and months after childbirth. So why not encourage these women as they push through?
We can congratulate them on enduring labor, and affirm them on their hard work.
Childbirth is no cake walk. Even if a woman has a really easy labor, she still has to put forth effort as she goes through contractions and delivers the baby. No matter if a woman delivers vaginally or through a C-section, she worked hard and had to endure some kind of discomfort, and that is to be commended.
We can tell them that they are doing a good job.
Some women experience so much uncertainty as they try to navigate through mothering a small baby. They hear and read copious amounts of conflicting information on parenting from a variety of sources, and sometimes, trying to care for a baby can seem vastly overwhelming. So, instead of being one of many people trying to tell a new mom the "best" way to parent, how about we just tell her that she is doing a great job?
Even if we make a positive comment about a new mom's weight, why would we want to mention something so superficial when there are many amazing subjects we could talk about? Our society is fixated on weight and body image, and many new moms feel unnecessary pressure as they cope with their post-childbirth bodies. Let's do our part to change this. We need to uplift new moms, support them, and speak with them about what really matters-and not focus on the new flabs that grace their tummies.