In all of the miraculousness and excitement of the birth-process and holding one’s own newborn, both new and experienced mothers have it tough. It’s not easy being a parent, but there are also other challenges post-pregnancy; mothers go through physical, emotional and psychological struggles. For example, whether a mother has gone through a difficult pregnancy and birth process or just, simply, has given birth, there’s such a thing as postnatal birth trauma, a type of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Giving birth is traumatic and can lead to serious psychological and emotional struggles. And then, there’s the post-pregnancy, ever-changing physical body. Consequently, here are five comments (or something along these lines) not to say to a mother, post-pregnancy:
1.Comments on the baby’s skin color; in the South Asian case, how dark or light a baby’s skin is and who they got it from.
It’s bad enough colonialism has instilled this notion of white superiority among South Asian cultures; what’s even worse is the fact that this notion still exists after 75 years! I remember growing up and people complimenting my brother, for example, saying that he was light-skinned and attractive, while they looked at me and said, “She’s a little dark, isn’t she?!” Moreover, when one of my babies was born, I remember the “skin color” comments; someone said, “She’s light-skinned like her nani (my mother).” I remember thinking, And…? I wish now that I had said something, but I didn’t because I already knew that it’s not easy to change someone’s mentality. Being shemla or khalo doesn’t mean I am any less than anyone else or that I should feel ashamed for it and I hope we can be the generation to change that. We can start by speaking up.
2.I hope you’re breastfeeding? It’s proven to be the healthiest option.
It doesn’t matter what role you have in the mother’s life, whether you are a spouse, a relative or a friend; you have no right to dictate or recommend how a mother feeds her baby-breastfeeding, powder milk, bottle-feeding, etc. Contrary to common belief, not all babies latch onto the mother’s breasts and not all mothers produce enough milk to provide the necessary nutrition for their babies. This is all a journey between mother-and-child; doctors and nurses may also be involved; whatever it is, you should not make the mother feel guilty or any less of a mother because she is unable to breastfeed her baby sometimes or all the time.
3.You will lose that preggo-fat in no-time.
Mothers love seeing the progress of their baby’s growth within them. We look forward to our midwives measuring our bellies to understand this growth progression. We even look online to understand what kind of fruit-size our baby is at that moment, for example, an apple by Week 14 and a watermelon by Week 38. While we get so excited at every step of the growth process, touching our bellies, feeling our babies’ movements, even seeing the movements roll over our skin; it’s definitely a different kind of feeling post-pregnancy.
Some of us get stretch marks, some of us have sagging bellies and some of us…well, still look pregnant. We might not feel as beautiful as we used to when we were pregnant or pre-pregnancy. We feel the pressure to lose that belly fat, mainly to feel better about our own physical appearances. So, when you make a comment such as the one above, don’t; we are aware of our ever-changing physical appearance better than you could ever understand. We don’t need reassurance either. We need rest and sleep! We need to remember to drink water and to eat because our focus shifts from ourselves to our newborn. We need to bond with our babies. Our “preggo-belly” can wait and you can keep that comment to yourself.
4.Are you pregnant?
I still get asked this and my third daughter is two-and-half years old. I just say, “No, this is still my preggo-stomach” and some reply with “I’m sorry” or “Oh, okay” and change the topic. Your comment won’t stick with me, but it will affect me. I have a full-time job both at home and outside of home. I focus on things that I am passionate about like writing this article. Do I want to lose my preggo-belly? Of course, I do, but it’s not my priority right now and I’m happy with that.
5.So…when is the next one coming?
You might as well ask about my husband and my most intimate bedroom details! That’s not your business. That’s between my husband and me.
Believe it or not, after my third child, I still get asked this question and what’s worse is that I get asked specifically because we have three daughters and no sons. It seems difficult for some people to understand that we cannot choose the gender of our babies. It’s just not in our hands so instead of trying to make us feel bad for not having both genders, how about just congratulate us and keep our health and our baby’s health in your prayers?!
Imagine you ask a couple this question after they had been struggling to have a baby for a while or a couple who have just had their first-born after believing it was impossible?! It is important to be grateful for every moment and it’s important that you try to make couples feel just that.