For those of you who haven’t heard, Kate Middleton gave birth to a daughter on Saturday morning. Within a few hours, I started seeing a variety of posts on Facebook concerning the royal birth. Some commented on her quick labor (she gave birth just over 2 hours after arriving), some scoffed out the world’s obsession with the royal family (which, oddly enough, only furthers the obsession), and some just expressed a general excitement at a female heir.
But then, we saw the images.
And my goodness, then the internet really got busy talking about Kate’s birth.
For those of you who haven’t seen, the first images of Kate and her new daughter are stunning. A mere 12 hours after giving birth, Kate walks out of the maternity ward in a gorgeous white/yellow dress, her hair perfectly coiffed, her newborn daughter draped perfectly in her arms, and (this is the point almost everyone mentions) in heels. She looks better than I do on most days. In fact, I’d argue that I’ve never looked as good as Kate Middleton did after giving birth early Saturday morning.
And from what I read on twitter and Facebook, I’m not alone in that sentiment. We lost our already somewhat ridiculous excitement over a royal baby to engage in a consuming spiral of comparison.
Many women mentioned a flock of stylists descending on Kate just hours, maybe even minutes, after birth. Some imagined expletives dancing around in Kate’s mind as she stood on those maternity ward steps. Other people recounted what they were doing 12 hours after giving birth (stretchy grandma underwear, blood clots, and the horror of trying to poop). And then some birth center mothers proudly proclaimed, “See, it’s NOT ridiculous to go home the same day you give birth.”
Without any doubt, Kate’s yellow/white dress and Jimmy Choo heels stirred up something inside of us. When Kate got married, we remarked on her beauty, but you didn’t see thousands of women comparing themselves to her. She was a princess, and she looked beautiful.
Kate in a wedding dress didn’t touch any nerves. But postpartum Kate most certainly does. And I think that says a lot about how we view the postpartum period in our culture.
We dread it. We fear it. Most of us feel woefully inadequate and unlovely in the hours, the days, the months after birth. We don’t see ourselves in heels, or silk dresses, or with hair that falls in just the right places over our shoulders. We see blood, we remember bowel movements, we look at pictures and point out the circles under our eyes. And so when a princess comes out of the maternity ward looking better than almost all of us on our very best days, we collectively freak out.
And you know, I don’t think the solution is to say anything about Kate Middleton and how she achieved that post-birth glow. I think the solution is to ask ourselves why so many of us feel so very unlovely during those days and hours after birth and what we can do to change that.
Now, I’m not advocating heels, and I’m certainly not advocating public appearances after birth, but instead I think we need to find and celebrate the beauty in our postpartum bodies.
If that means you have someone come and help you do your hair after giving birth, then ask someone to bring their curling iron to the hospital. If that means you need to buy a pair of beautiful silk pajama pants, then buy those pants. If that means you need to hire a postpartum doula to help you adjust to the new demands of a baby, then find the money or ask for the money to make that support a reality. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to honor ourselves. And that’s going to look different for every single woman.
But if Kate Middleton’s birth taught me anything, it taught me that there is an excess of unresolved emotion around the postpartum experience, and it’s something that we as women need to acknowledge and explore more intentionally.