On Monday a baby was born. A little boy for the world to watch grow into a prince. But before we started watching this little prince we all waited with baited breath to see his parents, his mom in particular, stand on the steps of the birth center just hours after giving birth. Of course this is not a surprise. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, has been in the spotlight since her relationship with Prince William became public. She has become a fashion trend setter not only in Britain but around the world. The media and paparazzi watches and reports on what designers she is wearing, what charities she is supporting, what events she appears at, how she parents her kids, etc. In true princess fashion she handles all of this with immense grace and a smile on her face. Making an appearance a few hours after birthing her 3rd baby was no different. Her stylists helped with her hair and make-up and she wore a beautiful dress that perfectly accented her postpartum bump. She stood on the steps with her husband’s arm around her smiling with her newest son cozy and warm wrapped in a soft white blanket in her arms. Kate and William along with their newest baby were the picture of perfection. A real life fairytale.
Can postpartum really be a fairytale? Or are these types of appearances setting girls and women up for a false sense of “normal” after giving birth? Maybe this fairytale postpartum appearance is like the fairytale relationships that we see and urge children to realize aren’t based on reality. Take Cinderella and Prince Charming after their wedding and subsequent carriage ride off to what was sure to be a wild sex-filled honeymoon where they couldn’t keep their eyes and hands off of each other in some undisclosed exotic location. What do you suppose happened a few weeks after they returned home to the palace? Perhaps Cinderella got upset and gave him the silent treatment for being too busy with running the kingdom to have enough time for her. Perhaps he got upset with her for spending too much of the royal treasury at Pottery Barn while redecorating the palace. What did it look like once they had a baby? Did Prince Charming become Prince Sleeps-Through-Everything while Cinderella was up all night nursing and rocking a reflux baby going through a Wonder Week? As that baby grew up did they disagree on how he should be raised? Cinderella feeling it is important for Prince Charming Jr. to know how to do the dishes and cook while Prince Charming wanted him raised as a prince that never had to lift a finger? You get my point, just as relationships are more work than fairytales let on so is being a parent especially a mom during the 4th trimester (the first 3 months after birth).
Now, before anyone gets onto me because different women recover and handle pregnancy, birth, and postpartum differently, let me just specify that I am not upset with Kate for being willing and able to uphold her royal obligations and doing so with such poise. She always blows me away with her strength and the appearances after each of her births is no different. And to any other women that felt and looked like Kate after giving birth-kudos to you! It is wonderful that some women are able to feel physically ready for that type of immediate postpartum exposure and look so peaceful and put together while doing it. You should keep on being you and doing life and parenting in the way that is best for you.
This is for the women that don’t feel like Kate right after birth or even several weeks postpartum. The women that can’t even with the idea of make-up or blown out hair and are doing good to make it into the shower within the first 24 hours of their sweet baby’s life. This is for the mama’s that are uncomfortable, swollen, bloated, and otherwise just not looking or feeling like themselves for weeks or even months. This is for the moms that don’t want their husband to look at them after birth let alone touch them because, gulp, they might get pregnant again and definitely aren’t ready for that. This is for the women that give birth and don’t feel comfortable with their new role as a mom and primary caregiver to another human and can’t even fake a confident look. This is for the new mums that don’t feel like getting out of pajamas and yoga pants and certainly wouldn’t dream of wearing a nice dress anytime soon-mostly because that squishy postpartum belly won’t fit into any of your dresses and you can’t whip a boob out in a dress. You are doing it right too. You are living the right postpartum for you and your baby. It may not look like Kate Middleton’s first postpartum appearance. It may not resemble your neighbor’s or your perfect Grandma’s who swears that she was the most amazing mother to ever live. It likely looks nothing like the carefully selected and highly filtered pictures that your friends from elementary school are posting on Facebook and Instagram. But it is YOURS. It is YOUR baby’s. It is YOUR partner’s. It is YOUR older kids if this is not your first baby.
Postpartum is hard. Really. Really. REALLY. Hard. Physically and emotionally it is one of the most difficult times in motherhood. It is exhausting. It is lonely. It presents new challenges in all of your relationships. It changes your entire routine. It threatens your self care time. It is an emotional roller coaster that you can’t control. It is hot flashes. It is postpartum hair shedding that makes you wonder if you will be bald before your baby is 6 months old. It is leaky breasts. It is cracked and bleeding nipples. It is…..horrible.
But it is also good. So. Incredibly. Good. It is when you first see your baby and hear him cry right after birth. It’s when you realize that your body did THAT. The day you realize that your baby is smiling at you and not just because she has gas and is about to make you change a big blow-out. It is when your relationship with the rest of your family grows and develops in amazing ways that you didn’t even know were possible as they support and love you through becoming a mother to this new little person. It is watching your partner become a parent and seeing the love they have for this new little being. It is when you see your older kids start to form a bond with their new little sister and you can start to imagine them playing together and sharing secrets as they grow up together. It is when you get squishy snuggles while smelling that sweet fuzzy head. It is…..incredible.
So does postpartum look like Kate Middleton in her appearance this week? Not often. Can postpartum still be a fairytale? Absolutely! But it is the part of the fairytale after the carriage ride. The part that is not always a dream. The part that doesn’t make a good Disney movie. The part that women are ashamed of and feel guilty for. The part that you try to hide from public eyes. The part that should be normalized and talked about and embraced. Go enjoy your baby. Go give thanks to your squishy and stretch-marked pajama-clad body. Go feel all of those emotions-high and low. Go live YOUR postpartum fairytale and know that you are amazing no matter what your fairytale looks like.