Postpartum women face quite a few challenges. It’s a time of great joy but also deep exhaustion, hormonal recalibration, physical changes, and all of the upheaval that comes with adding a new human into the family mix.
People mean well. They really do. But the things they say sometimes…
1. Gonna try for another one?
Oh my gosh, I just had this one. Like, nine minutes ago.
2. You look so much better now!
Exactly how terrible did I look when I was pregnant?
3. I guess your body’s a little different after having a baby, huh?
Just a little. After all, I did grow a human.
The self-consciousness most pregnant women feel about their bodies is rivaled only by the self-consciousness most postpartum women feel. Because now that cute little person who resided in the womb is on the outside, and we are faced with the daunting task of “getting our body back.”
Postpartum women have a body, thankyouverymuch. A body that helped carry and form and make another body. We don’t need to get it back. It didn’t go away.
Still, it is hard to figure out how to dress and care for and live in a rapidly changing body, especially when it has certain features that it’s never had before, like loose tummy skin that, as Anne Lamott noted after her son Sam’s birth, would lie down next to her on the bed “like a puppy.”
Don’t draw attention. If you have to say something, say, “You look great.” Then move on.
“Postpartum women have a body, thankyouverymuch. A body that helped carry and form and make another body. We don’t need to get it back. It didn’t go away.”
4. You look really tired.
And you sound really rude!
5. Anything – I repeat, anything – even remotely critical of the baby.
Remember the Thumper rule? From Bambi? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Postpartum women worked for nine long, heartburn-y months to bring this little person into the world, and we are proud of them.
I don’t care if the baby you see has acne (ours both did), crossed eyes, or a forked tongue like a snake. Oooh and aaah or don’t say anything at all.
Because, come on. Even babies that look like little old men are cute in a little old man sort of way.
6. You can still try for your boy/girl…
This is said to parents who have two (or three, or four) kids of the same sex. Don’t assume people are disappointed with a house full of girls or vice versa.
“I don’t care if the baby you see has acne (ours both did), crossed eyes, or a forked tongue like a snake. Oooh and aaah or don’t say anything at all.”
I never thought I’d be the mom of two boys, but now that I am I love it. Am I going to try for a girl? No way, José. We haven’t entirely closed the door on a third baby (though it’s pretty darned near shut) but if we did decide to have another, we’d be a million percent happy with a boy or a girl.
7. Is he/she a good sleeper?
8. Oh, they aren’t sleeping? Have you tried feeding them rice cereal/swaddling/white noise/a pacifier/turning on Game of Thrones/standing on one foot while gargling lemonade and reciting The Gettysburg Address?
Because being bludgeoned with unsolicited advice is the best.
9. How’s your vacatio– I mean, maternity leave?
Oh, so good. I ate bonbons yesterday and then got a pedicure.
Oh wait, I didn’t. I got vomited on three times; changed 22 diapers, four baby outfits, and two of my outfits because diapers don’t always hold in all the goodies; dug out from under laundry mountain; napped for a solid minute; took the baby to the pediatrician for the second time in three days because he has some crusty eye goobery thing; and nursed so long a piece of one of my nipples actually fell off.
“We both felt TERRIBLE. I knew I still looked pregnant. She knew she’d just insulted me to the rooftops. It. Was. AWFUL.”
It was almost like being in Hawaii sipping a cocktail with one of those little umbrellas, but not quite. Thanks for asking.
10. When are you due?
The rule here is: DO NOT ASK THIS EVEREVEREVEREVEREVER. In fear of just this question, I made sure I had our firstborn physically strapped to me in a carrier every time I left the house for the first month. Until the one time I didn’t.
I was in the baby aisle at Kohls and the sweetest older woman came up to me and said, “Oh honey, when are you due?”
And I said, “The baby is in the car with his daddy.” And the awkward silence that stretched between us is probably still lingering in that Kohls aisle to this day, almost four years later.
We both felt TERRIBLE. I knew I still looked pregnant. She knew she’d just insulted me to the rooftops. It. Was. AWFUL.
What should you say?
Ask how things are going. Tell her you’re glad to see her. Remind her that you’re there for her.
Have you had a baby? What’s the best/most bizarre/most hilarious comment someone’s thrown your way?