The misogyny of “get your body back”

My mid-morning errand today involved going to Target to buy things I needed (diapers, coffee) and a few things I didn’t really need, that nevertheless will make my life a little easier (Dollar Spot mini binder with abundant list inserts to replace my near-full daily to-do list notebook, underwear that isn’t so old and stretched out that it barely stays up – sorry, I have no dignity).

What I came across, and what should come as no surprise yet still filled me with rage and dismay, was something I really, really didn’t need: a glaring reminder that I personally and new moms across the Western world owe it to society to GET OUR BODIES BACK after baby.

I was meandering through the baby aisles looking for a non-plastic sippy cup option (no luck) as The Baby has taken to clanking his bottom teeth on the shot glass I fill with water to offer him at meals. At the end of the bottles and breast pumps aisle, there it was, shining like a beacon of judgment: A rack of fitness magazines showing off the extremely fit, glowing bodies of women.

Body shaming at Target
While you’re worried about making sure your baby is thriving, don’t forget: You’re not good enough!

To this I say (and here comes some French, with no apologies), FUCK YOU, TARGET.

Like just about any woman with a pulse in America, I have fought my whole life to come to a place where I can love and accept my body as it is. It took me marveling with wonder and gratitude at my body’s ability to grow and push out and feed another human being. I’ve finally been able to quit grimacing at the way my thighs spread out on a seat or glowering at my arm hair or wishing I were different, or better. I am finally content with who I am, and while I have never had to endure the stigma of being extremely overweight or otherwise extremely far from conventionally acceptable appearance, I feel something almost like grief at the first 30 years of my life spent looking in the mirror and not feeling like enough.

And I have nothing against exercise. In fact, I credit exercise with helping me maintain my sanity and maybe having an almost obscenely quick and easy labor. I have been craving a chance to go running again and take every opportunity to walk around the farm or get a good stretch in, because it makes me feel good.

But this display isn’t about exercise. It’s about exploiting the vulnerability of women whose bodies have been stretched and taxed and transformed in ways that definitely don’t always feel comfortable or normal or acceptable. Society seems to think pregnant women’s bodies are public space, open for any remarks or criticisms that might come to mind. And then when baby actually arrives, even though life is 1000% different and priorities have shifted like tectonic plates, there’s that shitty expectation that if you don’t get your body “back,” you have tumbled headlong toward permanent fat frump town and your worth as a woman is forever revoked.

Exhausted new mothers who face fear and judgment and limitless guilt in every direction. It’s not enough to keep a baby alive and fed and happy and appropriately enriched. Better make room in your cart for instructions on putting yourself back together, because you’re (still) broken.

How dare you, Target.

How dare you strategically place this column of manufactured perfection in this spot, amplifying those insecurities for new mothers who are just trying to find a pump so they can go back to work or the right bottle in hopes of easing colic.

I know Target didn’t invent this expectation, but they certainly have no problem taking advantage of it to sell more magazines.

This makes me angry and sad, and makes me want to say to new moms who come across this and other post-baby fitspo and feel the monstrous weight of inadequacy:

You are good enough.

You’re more than good enough, in fact. You are a goddamn superhero, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way.

Dear New Mom: You're good enough.

I know this may seem like a big soapbox for a small transgression, but this and every instance of post-baby body pressure is yet another form of misogyny that we shouldn’t have to fucking put up with. If we don’t call it out when we see it, if we don’t condemn it for how it makes us feel and for how it reinforces society’s apparent say in how women must occupy space in a certain way, then it’s never going to get better.

Target, you don’t get to make me feel bad about my postpartum self. I’m good enough.

 

The misogyny of “get your body back”

Feeding and care of new moms

Weeknight meal wednesday.jpg
I know. It’s Thursday. Don’t care.

As soon as The Baby wakes up from his morning naps (which, I hate to admit, he’s been sleeping through far better since my recent acquisition of yet another Amazon Prime impulse buy. He definitely likes to have his arms up by his face but can’t sleep when he can fully flail. Thank you, Amazon gods. Take all my money and all my hypocritical proclamations about anti-consumerism. P.S. Thank you also, Amazon gods, for the gift of a baby jail. The Baby hasn’t chewed on any electrical cords since its delivery!)

I cannot get through one sentence without a major digression.

Anyway, as soon as The Baby wakes up, he and I are headed to Cleveland to bring food and fun to my good friend and fellow new mom, who celebrated the recent Cavs championship win by going into labor.

Having recently been well fed and cared for by my friends in my own early weeks postpartum, I thought I’d share a delicious, easy meal that is one of my faves and travels/keeps well. It’s not Wednesday, I know, but I made this last night, so it’s still a Weeknight Meal Wednesday.

I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum the first time I made it, and it has become one of my staple recipes. Its many, many iterations are all over Pinterest, so it’s not exactly a novel idea but I FREAKING LOVE IT. It’s extremely adaptable, super healthy and easy enough to make even if you have a six month old.

Butternut Squash Shells & Cheese with Chicken and Tatsoi

This recipe made two 9″x 9″ casseroles worth of dinner (one for my family and one to give.) Halve just about everything if you’re less hungry (though you can always freeze half!)

Ingredients

  • One large butternut squash
  • One large/two medium onions
  • 2 lbs of short cut pasta (I used shells)
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 big bunch of tatsoi (this came in my Fresh Fork bag last week. You could also use kale, swiss chard, broccoli or another green of your choice. This was delicious!)
  • Milk (maybe 2 cups? Did not measure)
  • 1 block of meltable cheese (I used Monterey Jack), shredded
  • A dollop of spicy brown mustard
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
  • Butter/canola oil

Directions

Cut your squash and roast it. I think I did 350 for about 45 minutes, with the squash cut into disks. I also have success cutting the squash in half vertically, sticking each half face down in a baking dish with a little water underneath for steam, and cooking, but I wanted a little roasty flavor on thse because that one circle ended up being a snack for The Baby.

I also took this time to cook three chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. Once they’re cool, you can chop them up into bite-size pieces and set them aside/stick them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put everything in the oven.


While the squash is cooking, now is a good time to shred your whole block of cheese. This can be done a little in advance because you need to be able to handle the squash, so allow it to cool a bit. Some recipes tell you to peel & cut up the raw squash and steam/cook it on the stovetop, but I’m not about to spend time peeling a raw butternut squash. Moving on.

Chop up your onions (slices are fine because you’re going to end up pureeing the whole thing) and sweat them out in some butter, thyme and kosher salt. (I sadly used all my butter to make an upsettingly decadant cookie dough snack while I cooked lactation cookies, so I had to use oil. Butter is better if you’ve got it.)

Get your pasta water on to boil. You will want your pasta to be piping hot and ready to go when the sauce is done to help incorporate the cheese. Undercook it just a little so it doesn’t get too soft in the oven later.

Once the onions are very sweaty/leaning toward caramelized, add the squash. Once everything is good and soft, it’s time to buzz it up with milk and a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard in your favorite food processor-type gadget. I use a Nutribullet, which isn’t quite big enough for the whole thing so I do it in two batches. The consistency and color will approximate the nasty fake cheese in a delicious boxed shells and cheese.

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add the squash puree. Begin to mix and stir in about half the shredded cheese. This is about the time I thought to cook up some greens to add, but any time before this step is good, too! I cooked the chopped stems in a little oil and then steamed the leaves, making sure they weren’t too water (but as the shells were a little under and everything goes in the oven, it’s not a big deal if there’s some extra moisture.) Add the chopped chicken and stir everything up. If it looks a little dry, add a few splashes of milk.

Grease two 9″x9″ (or 8″ x 8″? I dunno, square) *baking dishes. If you’re eating yours for dinner, preheat the oven back to 350. Split the pasta into the two baking dishes. Bake the one you’re eating now, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes. You can uncover for the last few minutes to brown the cheese, if you life. I like to write cooking instructions on the foil of the other one to make it super easy.

*I broke one of my cardinal rules of dropping off postpartum dishes, which is Thou Shalt Not Create More Dirty Dishes for a New Mom. I had a bunch of foil baking pans perfect for such occasions but lost them somewhere in the move, I guess. Don’t be like me.

Here’s the finished product! And a bonus photo of the lactation cookie dough I ate by the fist-full made to go along with it. I did not stray in any intentional or beneficial way from this recipe, so just go there and check it out. These are so, so delicious (and effective, in my experience.)

 

Baby’s awake, time to pack up the car… and meet his new friend!!

Feeding and care of new moms