Why Kate Middleton's Post-Birth Appearance Makes My Heart Hurt a Little
Once again, Duchess Kate delivered a royal baby. And once again, she emerged merely hours later looking as impeccable as she does on every other day of her life in the spotlight.
To recap, the Duchess wore a Jenny Packham yellow and white printed frock and heels when she emerged from Kensington Hospital alongside her husband, William, holding their new baby girl (who, by the way, seemed to be on the road to share a name with me—Alice!—but is now officially Charlotte). Her hair, as always, looked shiny and perfect, and her makeup, as the kids say, was on fleek. It was 10 hours since she birthed a baby (reportedly without an epidural) who weighed more than eight pounds.
Obviously, royal fans and pretty much everyone else on social media lit up with feedback on the royal reveal. My Facebook feed was a scrawl of women asking, "How is this possible?" I jokingly commented on one thread, "You guys are all slobs. I looked like that—better actually."
There was no way my sarcasm could have gone undetected. Looking as lovely as Kate hours after giving birth is theoretically possible in the realm of physics, but is, ahem, rather unlikely—like the model with pregnancy six-pack abs. But you should sooner expect to pay for your kids' college with some future PowerBall winnings than you should expect it will happen to you. (And it will definitely require a pre-arranged staff.)
I'm not going to lie: It was important to me, too, to look somewhat put together following the birth of my twins in July. For one thing, I knew there would be pictures. So I proceeded with my hair and makeup routine at 4 am on the morning preceeding my scheduled c-section. But beyond that, I also anticipated that looking somewhat more civilized would help me feel somewhat more civilized and human in the hospital—and I was completely right about that. (So I didn't regret bringing a hairdryer in my hospital bag, by the way.)
So that's nice and all. But there are realities to giving birth that are far from glam, no matter how you prepare. For one thing, you are bleeding and as a result wearing undergarments that, shall we say, are not exactly magazine-cover ready. Then there's the minor fact that you may not even be able to stand up, either following surgery (in my case), or as a result of delivery complications (also in my case), or for sheer exhaustion. You're likely trying to breastfeed, you're sore, and—in partiular for first-time moms—you may be utterly bewildered and even very weepy.
So imagine all of that in the context of having to sit—picture it, in a hospital room!—while your hair and makeup team gets you set to greet an insane throng of fans and global media. You might like to be bonding with your baby, but you're doing that.
On the one hand, how awesome, right? A team to help you feel your best when you might feel like you've just been through a war. On the other hand, when I consider the pressure Kate must have endured—my heart hurts.
My husband sent out an email birth announcement to our loved ones from our hospital room. In it, I looked tired and weary, but basically normal. I'm not embarrassed of how I look in that picture (thanks in part to my prep work!), and I'll be happy to cherish it.
In another photo I love, it's my new family of four, just home from the hospital, posing in front of our house. I'm hiding my post-delivery bump and leaky boobs behind our front gate. I'm so glad I was able to hide in peace! Every woman who sees that picture—well, any woman who's ever delivered a baby—will know well why I'm posing that way, of course.
But there are a lot of pictures I didn't—and won't—show anyone. For instance, the one in which I've squeezed my body—which still looks massively pregnant—between two car seats in the back of my car on the way home. My boobs are the size of Manhattan Island and the seatbelt is ruthlessly cutting off my post-baby bump in the middle—after major abdominal surgery. When I see that picture, I recall all the confusion and anxiety and also the physical pain. And when I see it, well I'm glad there were no paparazzi there that day. (Actually, given my fancy delivery hospital, they probably were there—but not for me!)
My postpartum phase has actually got me thinking a lot about celebrities, like Kate (and Kim, and all the rest of the high-profile moms). I have needed much of this time to adjust. Emotionally, of course, but physically, too. I've needed to recalibrate my weight, the changes in my pregnancy and post-pregnancy hair, my diastasis recti—all of it. I'm so glad I only had the ordinary pressures to deal with—the ones I put on myself, mostly, as well as run-of-the-mill social and professional ones—but not the pressures related to massive global media attention.
Not ones serious enough to summon a hair and makeup team to my hospital room. And thank heaven for that.
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Photo: James Whatling/ Splash News