I’m going to preface this post by saying I’m in a mood. And the mood started before I stumbled across some unreliable content on Instagram. I follow a few women on Instagram who have recently become mothers. So first of all, a huge congratulations to them, and welcome to the heartbreaking/confusing/emotional/gut-wrenching, yet wonderfully consuming and amazing journey of motherhood. There is truly no single word to define what new mothers are coming into.
I would say two of the most important things I’ve learned during the almost 4 years I’ve been a mother is empathy and compassion. Especially toward other mothers. I feel a special kinship with mothers I don’t know because in one way or another, despite perhaps obvious glaring differences between us, we can relate over sleep habits, feeding schedules, and age-appropriate developmental toys. The first few weeks postpartum are blurry, emotional, and scary. You’re suddenly responsible for an entire person’s well being. (This lessens a little after your first as the path looks similar; there may be unfamiliar bumps in the road, but for the most part, the path is recognizable. Pro tip: the best way to manage your postpartum bleeding is with the thickest maxi pad or adult diaper available.) I was certainly not trying on pre-pregnancy clothes; I was trying to survive.
Okay, so back to why I’m writing this. I had a visceral reaction today when I scrolled past the image of a certain influencer in non-stretch denim jeans two weeks after delivering twins. You might be saying to yourself, ok, what’s the big deal about that? If this is you, you may want to stop reading now. The image itself wasn’t the kicker, it was the hashtag drawing attention to being back in her pre-pregnancy, non-stretch denim jeans two weeks after twins. The number of comments remarking how utterly daft this post was caused her to edit her text to include a sort-of apology about how she missed her clothes while she was pregnant, specifically the non-stretch denim jeans. I don’t want to get into a psychological debate around why we post selfies, but research shows that we are motivated to post selfies for various reasons: self-esteem enhancement, a need for approval or validation, or for the sake of documentation. In general do we really need to guess why people post photos of themselves on social media? People want other people to make them feel good about how they look. In this day and technological age, who isn’t guilty of this?
But the question is, why did I care so much about this selfie? Her outfit was cute, and a better version of me might not have thought anything. Maybe. But maybe also because I just had my second baby. Technically I weigh the same as pre baby number 1, but my body is most definitely not the same. It’s smooshy, and nowhere near non-stretch denim ready. I don’t feel bad about it though. I delivered two children in the last 3 years! Breastfed number 1 for 14 months and number 2 is 9 months and counting. My body is doing me proud.
So why this reaction? Because a lot, a lot, of women don’t have this experience. And many of these women are my friends. I listen to them talk about hating their postpartum bodies, and struggle losing the weight, all while existing in a society who defines our self-worth as directly related to our looks. So when that new 25-year old mom who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas sees a post like this from a millennial feminist, someone she admires, and whose opinion she values, looks down at herself wearing yesterday’s maternity leggings there is a good chance she might feel bad about herself. Of course this influencer wasn’t posting this insanely good looking photo of herself completely put together in her pre-pregnancy clothes to make you feel bad about yourself, but influencers influence. Influencers are paid to consider how their followers will react.
We live in a constant state of ‘If I don’t post this on Instagram, did it really happen?’ and it’s dangerous when you’re making a living as an influencer and your literal job is to influence. As I said, you can only understand motherhood milestones if you’re a mother. Being back in your pre-pregnancy clothes is a milestone, bragging about it to your million followers is just mean. Having a baby isn’t a one-off event. It’s a huge fucking deal! The messages the new generation of influencer-moms should be sending are compassionate ones focusing on what our bodies can do, not how they look. Use your voice, your platform to promote healthy bodies, and have some goddamn sensitivity while the rest of half the world struggles to fit into those non-stretch denim jeans.
I swear I’m not writing this to be catty. Women, mothers, have it tough enough- so much pressure to get it right, to breastfeed, to get back to “normal” after a life altering event like giving birth. I want all of you to know it is not the norm to fit into your pre-pregnancy, non-stretch denim jeans two weeks after giving birth. And don’t you dare feel bad about it.