After a woman gives birth, whether she is Kate Middleton or your co-worker a few cubes down, someone is inevitably commenting within five minutes about how much “baby weight” she needs to lose. The pressure to shed that weight lightning-fast is so intense, it’s no surprise that pedal hospital beds are a thing. However, a much simpler way to relieve some of that stress from new mothers is to encourage the phrase “baby weight” itself just to shrivel up and die.
“Baby weight” sounds like it should mean the ten or so pounds of newborn, placenta, and random delivery guck that a woman loses immediately after birth, but no—that would be too easy. What gets people’s panties in a wad is the additional padding a woman naturally and necessarily gains as part of a healthy pregnancy. Let’s be clear: this isn’t “baby weight,” it’s life weight, and it’s nobody’s damn business whether it stays or goes.
If a man packs on twenty pounds while pulling extra shifts, nobody calls his potbelly “working-sixty-hours-a-week weight.” Instead, he’s practically given a freaking medal for his hard work, and no one gets on his case to eat undressed salads in order to fit into his old Levi’s. (And if he happens to be a father? He’s got a “dad bod,” and haven’t you heard? Those are hot.)
Just like life has its ups and downs over the years, the scale does too. Certain medications, intense work schedules, and the struggles or deaths of loved ones can all cause weight to increase or decrease, depending on how a person deals with stress. If a friend goes up three dress sizes while caring for her dying mother, nobody mentions it; if the extra pounds come from being pregnant, however, her weight is somehow an acceptable topic of conversation.
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The fact is, a woman’s pre-baby weight has very little bearing on her life as a mother. Becoming a mom is a lifestyle change. Having a child might mean you exercise more because it keeps you sane, or it might mean you exercise less because waking up eighteen times a night drains the energy you need to even put on a sports bra, much less run around the block. Of course, the overall goal is to be healthy and happy with yourself, but isn’t that everyone’s aim? Giving birth should not suddenly make your body fair game in the judge-a-thon we call modern life.
Obviously, body-shaming doesn’t just affect mothers—but when tied to the already anxiety-inducing life change that is new motherhood, the judgment is especially painful. Women are sold the idea that part of the “good mother” package is looking fine in Lululemon while pushing the stroller. The reality, of course, is that your baby does not give a single one of her many shits what you look like. When you are already sleep-deprived, and petrified of making a mistake while caring for a tiny, helpless creature, the last thing you need is one more worry or fear of failure to add to the list.
A woman’s weight changes over the course of a lifetime, but it is always a part of her. Whatever her body type, it does not matter whether she got it through having babies, closing deals, or running marathons. She arrived at her weight by being human, and if she wants your opinion on her body, she’ll ask… but don’t hold your breath.
This original piece was written exclusively for In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. Featured image © lanakhvorostova via depositphotos.com.