Hospital supplied mesh underpants. Industrial-strength breast pumps and a nipple-free nursing bra.
If you’re a mother, you know these items well. But I’ll bet you’ve never posted a picture of yourself using them on your Instagram.
Amy Schumer has. And we are better for it.
After my children were born, I was sure any memory my husband had of me as a “hot date” would soon be forgotten. My bloated post-pregnancy body leaked every three hours and I couldn’t wear pants without an elastic waistband. I would hide in my closet to pump so he wouldn’t see me hooked up to a piece of farm equipment. My unmarried brother-in-law once walked in on me — he never left the house without a condom again.
Amy has embraced the shame most women feel around these “ugly” and decidedly unglamorous moments.
The actress and stand-up comedian consistently shared photos with lengthy captions about her struggle with hyperemesis, a pregnancy complication that causes severe nausea and vomiting. In her Netflix comedy special released earlier this year, she literally lifted her dress to show off the large bandage covering her misshapen belly button. She showed the world the new mother uniform: a pumping bra, paired with a sturdy pair of mesh underpants and an ice pack. Since giving birth, Schumer has posted multiple pictures with her breast pump — a device that, despite being a relatively modern invention, resembles an archaic milking machine.
This is what motherhood really looks like.
But Schumer’s most recent posts touch on another “taboo” pregnancy topic: the emotional toll new mothers experience once those nine months are over.
Earlier this week, she visited the Comedy Cellar — a West Village institution known for “drop ins” — when celebrity comedians arrive last minute to surprise the audience with a set. Amy did just that on Monday night.
While the audience at the comedy club was surely amused by her appearance, many Instagrammers had a different take. “Let the stitches dissolve first,” commented one mother. Another simply wrote “Already?!”. Many others rushed to Schumer’s defense, welcoming her back to the stage and praising her strength.
Strength doesn’t even begin to describe it.
When I first became a mother, I felt the most unattractive and least valuable I’d ever felt in my life. I questioned my self-worth constantly: Why won’t this baby latch? Why won’t it sleep? Why can’t I get him to stop crying? Will I ever feel good in my body again?
My primary source of confidence was cut off. The one thing I was really, really good at — my job — was out of reach.
After my first son was born, I was convinced I’d be a mediocre parent. Like so many mothers, my key source of anxiety — and a reason so many women put off having kids — was becoming irrelevant at work, or worse: forgotten completely. I was sure my credibility would be shot by the time my maternity leave was up. Not one week after his birth, out of fear that my banking business was disappearing with every second I spent with my newborn, I pulled on the only dress that fit and hauled myself to an industry event. The cocktail party was only half-way over when I realized the puddle I was standing in wasn’t a spilled drink. It was my own breast milk, soaking through my dress.
Amy Schumer probably left her house for a whopping two hours on Monday night for her stand-up routine.
She didn’t go to the Comedy Cellar just to tell jokes. She definitely wasn’t there to party. She was there to work. Had her husband done the same, he’d be the devoted father, caring for his family by going out to bring home the bacon. I doubt anyone would’ve asked him who was taking care of the baby while he was away. When a career-driven man goes to work, he is a provider. When a working mom does the same, she is a deserter, abandoning her life’s true purpose.
A two hour reprieve when you’re caring for a newborn 24 hours a day should be a self-care standard, not the subject of severe scrutiny.
Maybe she went to feel like a human again — not just a human milk machine. Maybe she went for an excuse to put on actual clothes and get a much needed confidence boost. Or maybe to express herself in the best way she knows how: by doing her job. I suspect a round of applause and a room full of laughter can be a high kick when you’re marching through the monotony of those early days of motherhood.
Amy’s Monday night set does not make her a bad mom. In fact, it probably makes her a better one. I am a better mother on a Monday night after anchoring two TV shows than I am after a full week of family time. When quality time together is in low quantity, it becomes just that: quality.
Think back to your last “Housewives” marathon. Or your last phone call with your bestie while you trolled your ex-boyfriend’s on Facebook. No one is faulting you for taking that time to recharge. So why hold another mother to that impossible standard?
We can do better. Because at the end of the day, we are all just trying to do our best.
Amy, I hope you know how much better you made so many of us feel. Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for your strength.
To all of those “good parents” out there who think abusive comments are making the world a better, smarter place, I’ll share one of my mother’s favorite lines: If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.
And if that doesn’t work for you, head over to the nearest comedy club. You never know who may drop in.
Originally published on NBC News.
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