Friday, February 29, 2008

Vocab Rehab: Pregnancy and New Mom Edition

The phrase: “You just had a baby? How is that possible?” or “How much weight did you gain when you were pregnant?” or “What are you doing to lose the baby weight?”

What you’re trying to say: We live in the era of Hollywood Bump Watch. Gossip magazines, blogs, and entertainment shows document every stage of stars’ pregnancies as well as every pound they shed to “get their bodies back.” Not only has it become normal practice to scrutinize preggo A-listers, but women everywhere are now scrutinizing themselves in the same way. Most moms and future moms have fears about how motherhood changes the body, and this worldwide celebrity pregnancy fixation certainly isn’t doing anything to alleviate them. When we tell someone how good she looks post-baby or ask about pregnancy weight gain or baby weight-loss strategies, it’s usually an attempt to bond over those pressures. But behind the compliments and questions are much deeper insecurities: “How did you face the fear of gaining weight? I am afraid that pregnancy will make me fat and I already have issues with my weight. You’re giving me hope that I don’t have to destroy my looks to have a baby.”

What might be heard: The bottom line is that when you comment on a pregnant woman’s or new mom’s weight, you send a message that your focus is on the way her body looks--not the baby’s health, her health, or her emotional state.

Where it goes: Bonding over baby weight might feel comforting in the moment, but women who get into these exchanges are really cutting themselves off from more meaningful conversation. Events and feelings attached to becoming a mom suddenly take a back seat to body obsessions. You start trading tales of hours on the treadmill instead of expressing the joy of hearing baby’s first laugh or sharing tips on how to find personal time when your whole world has shifted so dramatically.

What you could say instead: Having a baby is a life-changing experience. In ALL departments. Ask a pregnant woman or a new mom how she’s doing and listen to her answer. She might talk about feeling stressed or tired. She might say she’s completely blissed out and head over heels. And yes, there’s a chance she’ll tell you she’s unhappy with her weight. In that case, tell her to steer clear of Us Weekly. Then give her a nice long list of the reasons you think she is/will be a great mom--reasons that have nothing to do with the numbers on the scale.

Read all Vocab Rehab entries.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Thank you for this blog post, I will share it with my friends. I especially liked: "The bottom line is that when you comment on a pregnant woman’s or new mom’s weight, you send a message that your focus is on the way her body looks--not the baby’s health, her health, or her emotional state."

I'm in my ninth month and am -- through a yoga class with women of all different shapes and sizes -- cherishing my ever-rounding body in this process.