Kelly Howland was shopping at Target and carrying her newborn baby when she was approached by a woman who seemed to just be saying a friendly hello, but then tried to sell her weight loss products.
“After three kids, I’ve learned it’s pretty normal for lots of strangers to approach you in public when you have your newborn,” Howland, 29, tells PEOPLE. “They want to see the baby, which I’m perfectly fine with. It wasn’t until after a few questions of small talk about the baby did she pull out her business flyer and ask me if I’d heard of her company before.”
“I knew what the company [It Works!] was and what their most famous products were for, and I was disheartened,” she says.
The Indiana-based artist decided to share her experience on Facebook, because she felt her disrupted shopping trip was indicative of larger societal problems. “We all know that this culture hammers into postpartum women a lot of physical insecurity about their bodies after delivering their miracles from their wombs,” Howland wrote on Facebook. “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.”
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“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?” she wrote. “Instead of leaning into superficial ideals imposed upon us, can we please start bucking the system and instead start praising each other for being the amazing, life giving, creation birthing vessels that we are?”
“My body doesn’t need to be wrapped or squeezed or changed,” she concluded. “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.”
Since sharing her story on Facebook last week, Howland’s post has been shared over 15,000 times and received over 37,000 reactions.
“I think my experience resonated with a lot of women and mothers, because they’ve either had similar experiences happen to them, or they also understand our cultural obsession with weight and body image, and especially with our cultural obsession with erasing motherhood from postpartum bodies,” she says. “I woke up in the morning to hundreds of shares and likes. It definitely wasn’t something I was expecting or planning on!”