I was fat shamed by my mother-in-law 10 days after giving birth

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Everything I read in the run up to my daughter's birth told me that I would need some serious support in the early days of motherhood.

The midwife who delivered the two day antenatal course I took with my husband was really clear – "it's hard yakka", she said, "you're going to need your mum."  

Unfortunately my mum hadn't factored that in to her holiday plans and was booked on a six week Caribbean cruise ensuring that she would miss the birth and the early days in which I wanted some help. To be fair, she booked the holiday before I got pregnant, but still… 

My husband had the perfect solution – if my mum couldn't be there to help, his mum, Anne, would be delighted to step in. 

I was a little apprehensive, although I got on well with my mother-in-law when I saw her, she had never stayed with us for longer than a weekend. This time around she would be staying for two whole weeks – plus, we would have a newborn in the house. 

I pushed my worries aside – we would have an extra pair of hands in the house to help us navigate the chaos our newborn would inevitably bring plus a source of advice from someone who had raised three kids. 

We agreed that Anne would wait until the baby was born and then drive up to Melbourne a week or so later – giving us time to bond before she arrived. When she came, exactly 10 days after my baby was born, I wished that she had bothered. 

I'd been pretty excited about introducing Anne to our daughter. My husband went to the door to welcome her, and I scooped my sleeping baby out of her bassinet. 

I stood in the middle of the sitting room and watched Anne walk towards me. She had a huge smile on her face, I smiled back expecting us to share a special moment – after all – I had just delivered her first grandchild. 

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"Oh wow," she said. "You've put on so much weight! You're huge." 

It totally floored me. 

She was right, I had put on a lot of weight, but I hadn't expected to be shamed for it just 10 days after giving birth. It was a criticism that I hadn't seen coming and it made me feel like I was already failing motherhood. I was devastated.   

I'm far from alone in experiencing shaming as a new mum. A new survey commissioned by Huggies found that 45 per cent of parents have been shamed for their parenting approach. On top of this, one in three mums has felt shamed by her mother-in-law. 

Psychologist Sabina Read says that mums can take critical comments to heart, "devastating their confidence as a parent."

"With many people being unaware of how their remarks are perceived, we need to be more conscious of how we treat parents when they're most vulnerable. Taking a stand on the issue is the first step to champion all parents," she adds. 

I've never talked to Anne about her comments made me feel that day, perhaps I should have done more to stand up for myself. I did take one important lesson away from the experience – bad support is as useless as no support.

When I had my second baby, we didn't invite anyone to come and help.