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Of Baby Mamas and Body Talk

DITCH DIETING. BANISH BODY HATE. FIND YOUR FREEDOM. GRAB THE FREE COURSE NOW!

 In Blog, Body, Real Life, Weight

Yesterday I overheard an interesting conversation in a department store check out line.

I was with my three littles waiting to pay for the new shorts and shoes that my oldest daughter needed for camp. The people in front of us were dropping piles of clothing and accessories onto the counter and the cashier was frantically removing security tags, taking off hangers and unknotting necklaces. As a result, the line was stalled and beginning to wrap around the store. The kids and I decided to pass the time by admiring a newborn baby and making small talk with her mama who was standing next to us.

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Shortly after we finished exchanging words and smiles, two women (each pushing strollers of their own) walked by. The first in line “ooh-ed” and “aww-ed” as she maneuvered her own cutie pie on wheels through the crowd that was gathering behind the register.

AND THEN (and this is where it gets interesting…)

SHE REVERSED THE STROLLER
LOOKED OUR NEW BABY MAMA FRIEND IN THE EYE
AND SAID “THAT’S NOT YOUR BABY, IS IT?”

The scene progressed from there:

BABY MAMA: “Yes, she’s mine.”
OTHER MAMA: “Well, you didn’t have her though, right? Like – you didn’t give birth?”
BABY MAMA: “Oh, I did. It was me. I’m sure of it.”
OTHER MAMA: “But you look so good. I’m so jealous.”
BABY MAMA:  (smiles with raised eyebrows and a little bit of WTF in her eyes)
OTHER MAMA: “Wow. Wow. Good for you. I’m so jealous right now. How did you do it?”

What happened next will remain a mystery because it was at exactly this time that a manager guided me and my babes to an open register. But, what happened next isn’t important.

What’s important is that we notice how women are viewed, even by other women.
What’s important is the realization that this sort of dialogue happens ALL OF THE TIME.
What’s important is changing the conversation.

Too often, we women look at others’ bodies and project our own insecurities and aspirations all over them. Sometimes, we even open our mouths and voice those feelings aloud, in public, with a captive checkout line audience. We size our sisters up and compare ourselves to what they’ve got – taking note of where we’re “ahead of the game” and where we don’t yet “measure up” to the arbitrary cultural standards and best practices that tell us how to have a body as a woman.

We look at someone who just pushed a live human being out of her body- under any number of complicated, messy and downright frightening circumstances – and instead of giving her a hug or a high-five and telling her what an amazingly brave miracle woman she is, we tell her that her weight loss is on point and give her praise for losing the belly. Rarely, if ever, do we stop to consider her story. Maybe it’s because we’re so consumed with our own.

As I drove away from the mall yesterday I wondered about BABY MAMA.

I wondered if maybe she had her daughter prematurely and went through dramatic, painful NICU experiences before bringing her infant home from the hospital and out into a world full of women jealous of how her body “bounced back,” little knowing that she was 3 months post partum and only recently allowed to hold her baby girl without the tubes and masks. I wondered if maybe she had ever suffered from body image issues or disordered eating and if comments like the ones she received were triggering. I wondered if she didn’t particularly like being analyzed on the basis of her body and felt uncomfortable with the attention. I thought about her economic status, whether or not she had enough food to eat, if she had experienced a recent tragedy, or if she simply wanted to buy her 75%-off picture frame in peace before her daughter woke up and milk started leaking through her t-shirt.

I wondered about her story. And I hoped that it was a beautiful one.

I thought about OTHER MAMA too.

I thought about all of us.

And I thought about the fact that weight loss talk isn’t always (or even usually) a compliment. Body size is so much more complicated than the assumed equations of:

SMALLER = BETTER

LESS = BEST

Because not all lost pounds are praiseworthy. And not all thinner bodies are healthier ones. You can’t read a book by it’s cover and you can’t assume a woman’s story (nor her worth) by her weight.

*********************

I would love to know YOUR thoughts on weight loss talk (post-partum or otherwise):
Have you ever been approached about losing weight?
How did it make you feel?
Do you compliment others on the basis of size?
How do you feel about your own weight?
Do you think cultural body ideals influence comparison and body talk?
If you have something to say – please comment below!
Showing 14 comments
  • Daniela
    Reply

    Post-partum weight loss talk is the worst especially when you are sleep deprived and already self conscious with your body post-delivery. No one seems to talk about what to expect once the baby has come for the mom – it seems to be all about the baby. The worst though is when you get asked if you are expecting again…

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Daniela – one day I will write a blog post about the number of times I’ve been asked if I am expecting (I gave birth 8 years ago so I haven’t been pregnant for quite some time but I do have a lower back and stomach curve that seems to trick onlookers). There was a time when it really stung. But, I was wearing a form fitting dress and got asked the question recently and felt so much better about it (except the frustration at how much our bodies are the first round of conversation when meeting someone.)

  • Natalie
    Reply

    Thank you for writing this! I haven’t had any children yet but my mom had 2 when I was in high school and a few friends have in the last year. It’s so sad how the world views women and their need for weight loss regardless of their situation. Your honesty and thoughts really put my view in perspective too. Great post!

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment Natalie! I am glad to know so many women who are changing the landscape of the conversation about womanhood and bodies. One person, one idea at a time. Thanks for being a part of the sisterhood.

  • tinajayne Bosland
    Reply

    What a great post. I recently had someone ask my how I could be such a good photographer since I was, you know, fat. I couldn’t believe that this person thought that somehow my weight decided if I could be talented or not. I was shocked. This story is just one more example of how people have placed too much value on the size of someone’s waist.
    I appreciate you sharing this story with us and your insight.

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Wow, Tina. I am sorry that you were at the receiving end of such an inconsiderate and uneducated question. Thank you for sharing this experience with me. You aren’t alone. So many women are stigmatized based on their size when it says nothing of their character, health, talent or wisdom.

  • Carly
    Reply

    Excellent points. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had hyperemesis and struggled, even with medication, to eat/keep down enough calories. I was quite thin after giving birth and have always worried, even though my daughter was born healthy and at an average weight, that I did not eat well enough for her during pregnancy. Though I “looked good” after giving birth, it was at a cost of being sick for nine months. For a year after giving birth, I remained at a low weight but as my daughter started gradually weaning, the weight has slowly started to creep back up to my pre-pregnancy weight. All of the comments about how I looked “so good” after giving birth have made me feel pressured to remain at that lower weight, which probably isn’t feasible when I am not breastfeeding, and feel bad about re-gaining (and made me think – what? did I not look good before I got pregnant?). All this to say, you never know how another woman’s pregnancy was or how her body is reacting to breastfeeding, etc (everyone’s body handles these events differently and almost always with some ups and downs). I can totally relate to feeling “jealous” of another woman’s body – I probably think this at least once a day! – so this post was great reminder that you just never know what a person might be going through and that body talk is rarely helpful. Thanks for the insightful post. (And, by the way, those were some pretty nosy questions that the Other Mama was asking Baby Mama!).

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Wow, Carly! Your story is another case-in-point. And I want to affirm you and tell you that you owe it to NO ONE to be that small hyperemesis induced size forever. Our bodies are constantly changing, ebbing, flowing, aching and recovering. Your precious bod went through so much (I had hyperemesis too – ugh!) and brought a beautiful babe in the world and worked hard to do all it could to take care of you both. Now it is once again caring for you, protecting you and getting you back to where it feels most healthy and protected. What an amazing BODY that loves you so much. Your words about thinking “what did I not look good before?” are classic. That is exactly the underlying messaging that plays out when we hear weigh loss comments or when we give them. Thank you for sharing so candidly in this space. I appreciate you.

  • Rachael
    Reply

    I remember several times people commented on how quickly I lost the “baby weight” or how they were jealous of my weight loss. Little did they know the negative body image and disordered eating that I had gone thru to get to the body that they were complimenting and wanting.

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing this, friend! You prove my point exactly. We cannot read a book by it’s cover. Grateful for you and the fact that you’re writing a new story RIGHT NOW!

  • Lauren
    Reply

    Great post Lauren! And I’m totally feeling for the baby mama friend you made. After I had each of my babes and then getting back to my pre pregnancy weight pretty quickly without dieting or much exercise and then dropping below my pre pregnancy weight despite eating enough for two grown men I got SO many compliments about how great I look and how lucky I was to lose the baby weight and even random people asking me what I eat to stay so slim (if they only knew I could house almost an entire pizza and be hungry an hour later… LOL). Anyway, it was awkward and uncomfortable because I was just living, surviving sleep deprivation and enjoying life and my new baby and all I wanted to say is how special and beautiful and wonderful they were despite how they feel about their weight. And then this thing always happened after I stopped breastfeeding, I would gain some weight and be at my normal weight for my small frame, but people stopped telling me how thin was and family members and friends would instead say “you look so strong and healthy” even though those same people were telling me before how amazing I looked 10 pounds lighter. It would throw me off because I felt like when they would say I was “strong” it actually meant big which I used to feel sucky about. Luckily after my third kid I was pretty comfortable with this weird cycle of compliments and comments that I received often about my body and I just would say thanks and forget about it because I’m content and happy with my “stong”, amazing, healthy, loved, baby making bod and I refuse to let any bit of my joy to be found in my clothing size or weight.

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      I love you, Lauren! Thankful for you and glad that you had the ability to love your body and accept her many changes through pregnancy and breastfeeding AND BEYOND. You are a beautiful woman – inside and out. It’s a shame that people don’t realize how indoctrinated they are to praise smaller bodies and what that does to women whose bodies change and no longer get the same compliments. It says something implicitly – it says they aren’t enough. BOOOO on that. Ha!

  • AJ
    Reply

    I had someone tell me once “I hate you.” And I looked at her incredulously and said “why?” And she said “because you look like that after having 2 babies.” Sadly, it was my own mother. My mother who knows the eating disorder I suffered for 10 years before having children. I’m loving these posts. 😘

    • Lu Uhrich
      Reply

      Oooh that is so tough, AJ! Sending you lots of love, Mama!

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