Occasionally a memory surfaces from the first few days following my daughter’s birth. My friend had traveled a few hours to visit us and she was holding the baby while I got a few tasks done. One of these things was the delicious feeling of trying on clothes with waistbands and seeing what could be used as breastfeeding friendly attire.
I pulled out a red floral romper and wondered if I dared try it on. Why not? I had recently reveled in my curvy body with my full breasts and for the first time had felt womanly. My body had not only grown a baby but was able to nourish this child. On went the romper. It fit differently, yes. My stomach was soft and full from where my baby had grown and only recently exited. My breasts were much larger and my thighs and hips were softer, or perhaps had spread? No matter about that, I was exuding a happy post birth high and I practically bounced out to show off my Spring outfit to my friend. Her face did not reflect the same happiness I felt. She paused and said, “You know, you don’t look bad for just having had a baby.”
Ouch. I went back to my bedroom and put on my big t shirt and some shorts.
Please know that this is a wonderfully supportive friend of mine. She had zero intention of making me feel bad. I am also aware that we can only feel inferior from someone’s words if we give our consent. This event occurred nearly 20 years ago and much has been done in the world to embrace how our bodies change during the pregnant and postpartum period . But I still think about it.
Because I was fragile.
Everything was new. My baby, a blessed addition to our family, was still a new experience. My body had gone through immense changes in the last few days and for months prior. Sleeping patterns (if I dare call it that) were new. Breastfeeding, accompanied by the joys of oxytocin and the navigation of sore nipples and leaking breasts was new. Baby blues that manifested as crying into a bowl of cornflakes at 4 am was new. The absolute and raw love I felt looking at my child was new. Being a mother and all that comes with that was new.
So my advice to everyone is to build up a new mom. “You look amazing!” works well. Some other suggestions are:
I love the way you look at your baby.
You are handling this postpartum period perfectly.
How can I help you while I am here?
Can I run any errands for you?
The female body is miraculous/magical.
Motherhood looks beautiful on you.
I am interested in how you are feeling (then listen).
For new moms it’s also okay to have a sense of humor at some of your new experiences or at the wayward comments from people. I look back and laugh at the crying in the cornflakes experience and have told the story many times as humor. I have the perspective of looking back and not only realizing that I survived new motherhood experiences but I also enjoyed them and miss them. Except for the sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can remain a long ago memory.
Revel in your fragility. Revel in the new experiences. You are caring for a new human, your baby, and that is immensely beautiful.
My daughter and I visiting family– she is about a week old. All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, AKA Knoxville Doula, 2016