A New Mother's Thoughts on How to Engage with New Mothers (guest post by Kaitlyn Flores)

In honor of International Women's Day being yesterday, I'm sharing some incredible words from Kaitlyn Flores. When I read her Facebook post, I was so deeply moved, I immediately messaged her asking if I could share her post on my blog. She beautifully articulates a part of my heart that I haven't known how to express for years.

Her message is something I strongly want to shout from the rooftops so everyone can hear it and start working to shift the cultural norm. I'm so thankful for Kaitlyn, her voice, and they way she is boldly using it.

Photo by: John Abakah

Photo by: John Abakah

"Today is International Women’s Day and in honor of all the women out there, I would like to share the following thoughts:

Recently, I was out shopping with Fisher. When I was checking out, the cashier lady looked into Fisher’s carrier and said “He is so beautiful! How old is he?” I said, “Isn’t he? Thank you, he’s 2 months old.” She said “Oh you don’t seem like a new mom!” Taken aback by this I asked her “what makes you say that?” She said “oh I don’t know, just the way you were talking to him and you seem like such a natural!” Her compliment took me by surprise. At first I was a bit confused because I had never heard that one before, but then I realized what a thoughtful and meaningful thing to say to someone. I told her “thank you so much, what a great compliment.”

I’m sharing this story today because I feel compelled to share my opinion on comments/compliments I’ve received in pregnancy and as a new mom. 

The most common comments (by far) that I’ve received in pregnancy and since I had Fisher have been about my body. So many people have said “you barely even look pregnant” or “wow you’re due in 6 weeks? You’re so small, you look so good!” And post-birth, “you don’t even look like you just had a baby!” Sometimes followed with “you look sooo good!” Or “you’ve bounced back so quickly” or even “you look like you’ve lost all your baby weight already.” All said with a big smile and a look of expectation or sometimes a hint of jealousy. I am expected to receive this as a compliment and say thank you, and mostly out of politeness and for the sake of social correctness I usually just say it. Now I realize most people reading this are probably thinking “she’s complaining about receiving all these great compliments?” Or maybe you’re thinking you would be thrilled to receive comments like these. Please, keep reading. 

These well meaning comments elude to that an unchanging body in pregnancy is good and desirable. Many of the comments I’ve received have an underlying meaning of “smaller is better”... “thinner is better”... and today I want to challenge that. Yes, there are people who are overweight and need to lose weight because it is directly related to a health issue they are experiencing. BUT DARE I SAY, THIS IS NOT MOST PEOPLE. 

Gaining weight in pregnancy is something I worked very hard on (yes you heard that right) and was monitored closely for by my doctors because I began my pregnancy underweight. Most of the time, if I say this out loud to someone, they either scoff, roll their eyes, or make a comment like “wow, I WISH I had that problem.” You guys— this is NOT OKAY. We all need to stop assuming that everyone is trying to lose weight all the time... this is a harmful assumption. It is just as harmful to tell someone they are too skinny as it is to tell someone they are too fat. If you are truly concerned about a person’s health, then make that the conversation and leave their body out of it. On a similar note, it should not be considered abnormal when a woman is satisfied with her body or her weight... yet it is. Think on that for a minute. Not gaining enough weight in pregnancy, as well as not consuming enough nourishment, can be very dangerous for the baby and for the woman! So, to have people “complimenting” me for what they assumed was me not gaining weight (they were wrong), or for “staying thin” sounded to me like “you aren’t doing enough for your baby.” Also, I have not “lost the baby weight.” NOR AM I TRYING TO. NOR DOES ANYONE NEED TO STRIVE FOR THIS. Can we please just all stop talking about “the baby weight?” I just grew a human. All of the organs in my thoracic cavity just got rearranged and then put back. The chemical and hormonal processes in my body are another thing entirely. I can feed my baby with my body. My pelvic structure was significantly altered for the birth process in a matter of months. My body had to replenish a MASSIVE blood loss post-birth. If I were not properly nourished throughout this, my baby and I could have suffered significantly. If we listen to our bodies, our hunger and fullness cues, and respond to those healthy signals, our bodies will regulate to the weight it needs to be at. Our bodies are for us, not against us. We need to stop treating our bodies as if they are the enemy that we must always fight in order to reach some made up ideal. 

Now, I realize that these comments I received were said out of kindness, BUT my entire life has changed, I have a miracle baby boy, and all people seem to be able to talk about is the size/shape of my body? Receiving comment after comment about my body beginning in pregnancy and continuing through the postpartum period from literal strangers to friends alike, has led me to realize just how body obsessed our culture is, especially when it comes to women and women having babies. I want to clarify that I’m not upset at the people who have made these comments, and if you’re thinking “oh no, I just made a comment like that to her” please don’t feel embarrassed or anything of the sort. We only move forward... know better, do better. I am upset that collectively as a society the normal thing to say to a woman in pregnancy and post-baby is something regarding how she appears. First and foremost, I want to point out that a pregnant woman’s weight gain or lack there of is none of anyone’s business besides she and her doctor. Secondly, if a woman gains a lot of weight in pregnancy and keeps most of that weight post-partum, she is just as beautiful and worthy of a mama as the woman who gained less. 

Beauty isn’t measured in inches or pounds. Please don’t reduce the miracle of life to a woman’s outward appearance. 

So, moving forward, consider coming up with a few comments or questions that you can say to a woman who is pregnant or recently had a baby that don’t have to do with how her body appears... that way during your next encounter, you are prepared with something meaningful to say. Consider asking about experiences... and asking open ended questions... how are you adjusting? What’s it like being a new mom? What’s been the hardest part so far? What’s been the best part? How could I be of help to you? Questions like these will lead to meaningful conversation instead of a dead end empty comment about physical appearance. Go forth and empower each other! 

Thanks for reading & happy international women’s day!"