Opinion

Don't feel bad if you didn't look like Kate hours after giving birth

Does it matter that Kate looks flawless on the day she gave birth? Well, it does and it doesn’t.

Celebrity mothers can cause unrealistic expectations

Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, gesture as they leave the Lindo wing at St Mary's Hospital in London London on April 23, 2018 just hours after Kate gave birth. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

The photos of the Duchess of Cambridge looking polished and glamorous mere hours after giving birth are getting people talking.

"Where are the mesh undies? The messy bun? The expression of complete exhaustion?"

"Don't forget, she's got a team of people to help her look like that – we should all be so lucky!"

"Poor thing, I bet she really wants to be left alone to rest and enjoy some quiet with her family and this new babe."

Does it matter that Kate looks flawless on the day she gave birth? Well, it does and it doesn't.

Here's what doesn't matter:

  • It doesn't matter that some women want to do their makeup a few hours after their baby is born.
  • It doesn't matter that some women want to live in baggy sweatpants for the first few months.
  • It doesn't matter that mothers do things differently from each other or have wildly different experiences of pregnancy, birth, and the early days and weeks after birth.

But in this age of social media and the resulting pressure cooker of expectations many families find themselves in, it's vital that we ask ourselves what we are missing when we are constantly exposed to images like this.

Society does 'pretty terrible job'

The struggles that many families experience when they welcome a new baby — whether it's a first or a fourth — are largely caused by two things: unrealistic expectations and lack of support.

As a society, we do a pretty terrible job of speaking honestly about what childbirth and parenthood are like and an equally terrible job of offering meaningful support to families.

We aren't supposed to be alone in our homes with a newborn, responsible for the entire household, interrupted only by visitors who want to cuddle the baby but don't offer to fold a load of laundry.

We aren't supposed to enter parenthood all on our own, never having seen someone breastfeed, never having changed a diaper.

We aren't supposed to feel inadequate because we are struggling and someone else's Instagram makes motherhood look like nothing but rainbows and unicorns.

We are supposed to be surrounded by care, both practical and emotional. We are supposed to have the freedom to be ourselves, focused on our own experiences and wishes. But we can't get those things if we are stuck believing that there's only one right way to be a parent.

So here's why I think it matters when we see photos like the ones of Kate and William and their new son. These images are so powerful that they can start to shape our expectations.

If we're not careful, we might miss out on the beauty and complexity that show up for all families with a newborn. We might lose sight of the fact that joy and struggle can co-exist. We might forget that there are many realities of life with a new baby, and all of them are beautiful and deserve to be celebrated. And we might miss asking new families the most important question of all: do you have the support you need?

So let's pay attention.

Tell the truth about what it's really like to give birth, to be a mother, to raise children.

Celebrate and truly support the countless ways families are formed and grow. Including the ones without a team of stylists.

About the Author

Anna Baker

Anna Baker is a postpartum & family care doula who lives and works in Regina. You can find her at annabakerparenting.com.