Changing the Postpartum Conversation
By Guest Blogger Jane Grates
Having children of your own is an amazing experience. Just the idea that somehow, the female body is capable of growing what starts as just a few cells inside her and ends up as a baby in her arms 40 weeks later is completely mind-blowing. Add to the amazement the reality that many women can keep their babies alive via their own bodies, thanks to nursing, for the baby’s nearly first year of life, and holy sh!t. Is there anything females can’t do?
Yes. There is.
We can’t be reasonable with ourselves.
After having children of my own — two girls, 7 and almost 3 now — I see it more than ever. I’m well beyond the freshly postpartum haze, while some of my friends still have that cloud in their peripheral vision. What’s wild to me is that while rationally, we know that our bodies just did this incredible thing for the better part of the year, somehow — for some reason — we tie our self-worth to how we looked before we had children.
How bizarre is that?!
The notion of “getting your body back after baby” is preposterous — I mean, I don’t know about you, but I have yet to figure out a way to physically undo everything my body went through, twice, to grow and birth children … and there’s that small detail about figuring out a way to turn back time (thanks, Cher) — but as preposterous as it is, this idea is freakin’ ubiquitous.
We can’t easily consume popular culture without getting some celebrity story about So and So who lost 50 pounds in her first week postpartum. But they’re celebrities, we say. Of course they can do this. Look at all the resources at their disposal.
Sure. Even if we adjust our worldview to focus on that which we plebeian occupy, the whole your postpartum body is inferior messaging remains subtle at best and explicitly offensive, at worst. If you post your postpartum pics and stories on social media, crazy MLM-style marketers will start hounding you to try a magical shake or wrap to help you “get back” to what you looked like before your body did arguably the most incredible thing it has ever and will ever do in your life.
Say it with me: this is all bullsh!t.
I would love to be able to singlehandedly change the conversation and tone that we take on when conversing about postpartum life and reality. Sadly, however, I can’t. So many women go through so much of their lives completely despising their bodies, and for many, their hatred intensifies a thousandfold after childbirth.
When we talk about raising our children in a way that teaches them that they are strong, caring, and treasured members of society, do you notice that we pay no mind to their exterior appearances? Of course, we all believe that our children are beautiful beings — as evolution surely hardwires us to do — but we don’t expend tons of time or energy convincing our children that their self-worth ought to be tied up in their external appearances, right?
We spend a lifetime cultivating our children’s egos and self-confidence so they know that what matters most is what’s on the inside, not on the outside.
…and yet, as we age, so much of our internal conversation shifts and focuses on what’s on our outsides, what our stomach looks like, how much weight we gained or lost after having kids, or how many more days we have to give up carbs so we can have a sexy stomach at our next beach getaway.
I wish the fix were simple, that we could all simply wave one big collective magic wand and voila! The conversation would be different.
Instead, in order to change the dynamic, to challenge the incessant bullsh!t, each of us, every single day, has to make a choice. Every time we talk about ourselves and our bodies — whether in the presence of friends, of our significant others, of our children, or simply to ourselves, internally — we have to change the way we view ourselves.
We have to stop tying our self-worth up in our exterior appearances.
Arguably the best way to do this, the best tool that I’ve come across in helping me to reshape and reframe my conversation is this: talk to yourself, or talk about yourself, as you would your best friend. You wouldn’t look at your best friend and immediately start lamenting her/his perceived “flaws” — the stretch marks, the soft stomach, the wrinkles — would you? Of course not!
By talking to or about ourselves as we would our best friend, we can slowly change the conversation. In doing so, we can become our own best friend and our own greatest advocate and ally.
We can, in essence, have our own back.
When we purposefully change the conversation, others will take notice. Confidence is one of the best characteristics a person can have, and in freeing our minds of the fixation on our appearances, we’ll have more mental bandwidth available to conquer any one of the world’s many ills.
Try this adjusted mentality on for size. Though it may be awkward at first, you — and your family, and your friends, and your significant other, and the world at large — will be glad you did.
AUTHOR’S BIO: JANE GRATES A professional runner and vegan. Operating at the junction of aesthetics and intellectual purity to create strong, lasting and remarkable design. She also writes reviews and recommendations on Runnerclick, BornCute, NicerShoes and GearWeAre.