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