Love Your Body

Postpartum mom to stranger at Target: 'My body doesn't need to be changed'

Just a few weeks after giving birth, Kelly Diane Howland was shopping at Target with her newborn daughter in tow.

A woman starting chatting with her and, at first, shared some standard small talk about the baby. But then, the woman asked Howland if she’d ever heard of It Works, a skin care and nutrition company that also sells slimming, postpartum belly wraps.

“I tell her that I know what it is but I’ve never utilized it,” Howland described in a Facebook post. “She proceeds with artificial shock and surprise and gives me her card and her spiel.”

The woman’s flyer featured before and after photos of a woman’s postpartum stomach, with the "after" photo of a flatter tummy clearly meant to be superior to the "before" image.

Howland didn’t appreciate the implication that because she recently gave birth, her body somehow needs improvement.

RELATED: Why my post-baby body makes me feel sexier than ever before

“My body doesn't need to be wrapped or squeezed or changed,” the jewelry designer and mom of three wrote. “It needs to be valued and revered for the incredible life it just brought into this world. THAT is beauty and THAT is all it needs.”

Howland said she doesn’t think the woman meant to insult her by giving her the card. However, she believes that body-conscious advertising geared toward new mothers preys on insecurities after childbirth.

“I don't think I have to spell out for a single woman the cultural pressure that postpartum mothers face regarding their physical appearance. We know. We all know. She knew. And that's why she approached me,” she wrote. “Can we PLEASE not perpetuate the pressure, the impossible expectations, and therefore keep alive the insecurities that we newly postpartum women face regarding our new and changing bodies as we enter motherhood?”

"Be gentle enough to follow the natural paths of the earth and strong enough to rise up and reshape the world" Brenda Peterson

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Howland’s post, which has been shared more than 16,000 times, has inspired plenty of passionate discussion.

RELATED: 4 signs of postpartum depression, and how you can help

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Mom of 4 inspires with honest post-baby body pic

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Mom of 4 inspires with honest post-baby body pic

Play Video - 0:36

A distributor for It Works (not the woman who approached Howland) commented on the post, suggesting that Howland had misread the situation.

“In my honest opinion, I don’t think [the saleswoman] meant any harm,” she wrote. “If I was the person who handed you this card and saw this post on the internet, I would truly be hurt ... As a [woman], I would never want another [woman] to think I was thriving off of anything she could be insecure of.”

However, many other commenters argued that the saleswoman who approached Howland had crossed a line.

RELATED: Lingerie store refuses to take down ads with plus-size, disabled models

“I totally agree with every single word you are saying,” one mom weighed in. “It's so hard for us mothers. We do not need any more pressure ... we know our bodies are not like they used to be so we don't need anyone telling us what we already know.”

“Keep on keeping on, mama,” another supporter wrote. “A human being just grew, lived off of, and came out of your body. Not to mention that you're still her sole source of nourishment. We should all give women grace and appreciate the female form in all its uniqueness.”

I wrote a mini essay on being approached in Target by an It Works distributor and posted it to my Facebook. A friend asked me to make it public so she could share it. I didn't think anything of it - I changed the settings. At almost 9k shares and over 18k likes just two days later, I jokingly told my girlfriend I'm never making a status public for her again! • While I didn't expect my post to go semi-viral, the fact that it did revealed something that we should not ignore: We are not alone. • My private Facebook message inbox has been a continual stream of message requests from strangers reaching out to tell me their stories of heartache from the cultural pressures of how a woman "should" look. It's full of mothers saying thank you for speaking what we're all thinking. It's requests for advice on how to not be insecure about their motherly bodies. It's full of some It Works distributors writing mad letters in defense too, for sure, but more than anything, I now have a digital pile of letters from fellow mothers who also resonate with the desperate plea to society to stop looking at the evidence of motherhood on our bodies as flaws, as less than, as undesirable, and as not sexy or beautiful (ironic, since sex and union is what made us mothers and changed our bodies in the first place, don't you think?) • I was holding my newborn daughter when I was approached and offered a flier with a photo of a "before" and "after" of a seemingly "less than" stomach and an "improved" stomach, and perhaps this is what heightened my Mama Bear instinct to rise against the cultural pressure of body image expectations: Because of her. For her. • I want a better atmosphere for her. Where she never cries in dressing rooms, where she never feels the need to compare or doubt her worth or feels pressured to change or be "better" by someone else's standard. I want her to walk this world in peace, knowing that her physical form is gorgeous and her heart is the measure of her worth. Women, these changes for our daughters start with you and me. They'll model what they see. Love your bodies unabashedly, and you'll open the doors of change and give your daughters the opportunity to do the same

A post shared by Mothering In The Midwest (@simplelivingfolks) on

Since her post went viral, Howland said she has been receiving a “continual stream” of messages from other moms sharing their own struggles with body insecurities after childbirth.

"I now have a digital pile of letters from fellow mothers who also resonate with the desperate plea to society to stop looking at the evidence of motherhood on our bodies as flaws, as less than, as undesirable," she wrote on Instagram.

RELATED: The inspiring way this woman conquered her dressing room 'demons'

Now, she is using her newfound public platform as an opportunity to spread a message of body positivity — and to share her hopes for her own, newborn daughter’s future self confidence.

“I want her to walk this world in peace, knowing that her physical form is gorgeous and her heart is the measure of her worth,” she wrote. “Women, these changes for our daughters start with you and me. They'll model what they see. Love your bodies unabashedly, and you'll open the doors of change and give your daughters the opportunity to do the same.”

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