OW, my eyes! The internet is alive with pictures of ‘real’ women post-partum, after Women’s Hour asked listeners to send in pictures of themselves after giving birth — and it’s not a pretty sight.
Just to make things worse, here’s one of me, shortly after being delivered of my first child, Beatrice (she’s the very wrinkly thing in the pink blanket), after two days in labour and an emergency C-section.
I think we can all agree I look truly horrendous, even by my own low standards. Blotchy, puffy, not to mention a rather alarming shade of greeny-grey. And this was two days after the actual event, at home.
I don’t have any pictures from the hospital. Must have broken the camera. Even if I had wanted to I could not have put on a dress and appeared in a pair of nude heels, and a full face of make-up, Duchess of Cambridge style, on the hospital steps to show off the new arrival to the world.
Eight women shared their after birth photographs following the discussion of how women should look post-partum triggered by the Duchess of Cambridge’s (pictured right) appearance
For the first few hours after the operation I wasn’t even allowed to sit up. I couldn’t hold my baby, either.
As for make-up, I was so puffy from morphine (I’d had a spinal block), I doubt whether anyone could have located my eyes in order to apply that signature Kate liner.
My legs, meanwhile, were encased in porridge-coloured support stockings, out of which my toes poked like poached chipolatas. If anyone had even suggested a pair of nude heels I might well have stabbed them with a stiletto.
The rest I won’t describe. Some things are best left to the imagination.
So I have lots of sympathy for all those women who, over the past few days, have pointed out the stark difference between their own birth experiences and that of the Duchess of Cambridge.
And I completely understand why they feel that her version of mother- hood — in and out in a matter of hours, no pain relief, smiley, wavy photo- call — is unrepresentative of most women’s experiences.
Leading the way was former Blue Peter presenter Katy Hill who said: ‘I wanted to shout “Nooooo Kate”. I don’t expect to see a woman hours after giving birth wearing tights and heels and earrings.’
They are completely right.
But that doesn’t mean what Kate does is wrong. And it certainly doesn’t mean that her picture-perfect version is any less worthy than my — or anyone else’s — experience.
In fact, for every woman defiantly showing off her ‘just crawled from a train wreck’ photos this week, there were also those quick to show how they, too, liked to keep up standards and felt there was absolutely nothing wrong with making sure your roots were touched up, and your make-up bag packed among your baby essentials. Births are like babies — no two are the same.
Sarah Vine (pictured) revealed she finds Kate’s ability to have children without gaining extra weight irritating
Don’t get me wrong. I find the Duchess’s ability to pop sprogs — and big ones, too: this last one was 8lb 7oz, just 1lb lighter than my first one — without them appearing to even touch the sides extremely irritating.
Bad enough that she never seems to put on an ounce of extra weight, or that her ankles have never once — in three pregnancies – exhibited even the tiniest hint of water retention.
The fact that she’s in and out of the labour ward in the time it takes most new mothers to get dressed in the mornings just contributes to the overall sense of a woman who is too good to be true.
It’s this perfection that annoys people. They see it as some kind of implied judgment of their own failings, a sign of superhuman abilities they somehow lack. They, wrongly, infer that the Duchess is somehow acting as a self-appointed role model for new mothers everywhere.
This is, of course, completely irrational. Kate can’t help it if she’s good at having babies. Nor should she be made to feel guilty about it, or forced to pretend otherwise. It’s just one of those things: some women have easy births. I envy them, of course. But I don’t judge them.
Kate can’t help it if she’s good at having babies
As to the rest — the dress, the hair, the make-up — Kate isn’t trying to prove a point at all.
She’s just doing her job, which is to put on a good show for the British public.
The fact that she is prepared to put aside her own, no doubt burning desire to sit around in an elasticated waistband, tucking into chocolate Hobnobs to fulfil what she clearly sees as her end of the bargain is only to her credit.
It shows that she knows the responsibilities of her position and takes them seriously.
It shows she understands what duty is. It shows that she is prepared to go that extra mile. And that kind of grit is rare in this day and age. She should be praised for it, not pilloried.
Oh, and by the way, if you think Kate looked polished, just wait until it’s Meghan’s turn . . .
I look a bit of a mess, but a very happy one
Maria Hughes, 38, (pictured) claims her appearance was the last thing on her mind after giving birth to her daughtter
Maria Hughes, 38, is a clerical officer and lives in Essex with her husband Michael, 35, an operations manager, and daughter Lily, four. She says:
By the time Lily was born at 2.13pm one Friday in April 2014, I hadn’t had a shower for more than 48 hours.
My waters had broken at 4am on the Thursday morning and when I finally held my gorgeous baby in my arms I was so elated that my own appearance was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I couldn’t stop cuddling Lily for long enough even to brush my hair, let alone put on make-up.
As for my clothes, I’ve been worse dressed at weddings than Kate was when she left St Mary’s Hospital earlier this week!
So do I look a mess in my photos? A bit, yes, but a very, very happy one.
I just hope that Kate kicked off those heels, put her pyjamas on and enjoyed her baby like the rest of us when she got back to the palace.
Hubby reapplied my lipgloss in labour
Nina Motylinski-Davies, 36, (pictured) revealed she wore full make-up during labour with the assistance of her husband applying lipgloss
Nina Motylinski-Davies, 36, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in Eastbourne, East Sussex, with husband Jonathan Davies, 42, a bank manager, and their children Angelina, eight, and Gabriel, four. Nina says:
When I left hospital the day after my son was born in December 2013 I wore full make-up, a cashmere jumper, leggings, and a girdle underneath to start working on my mummy tummy. I wanted to be back in my size 8 jeans!
Being well groomed is my trademark and it makes me feel good, so I even wore full make-up during labour, asking my husband to top up my lipgloss at regular intervals while I was in the birthing pool.
After a total of 30 hours in labour, much of it excruciating because of my baby’s position, I was absolutely exhausted when Gabriel finally arrived naturally, weighing 7lb 13oz, just as I was about to be wheeled off for an emergency C-section.
It’s a good job that earlier in the week I’d had my nails done, and a blow-dry at the salon — I was having contractions the day before.
Having a baby is such a special occasion and I knew lots of photos were going to be taken so I wanted to look my best
I absolutely adore being a mother but I don’t want it to define me. I still want to look glamorous and pretty and that’s what I want my husband to see when he looks at me, too.
I wore leggings for weeks
Joanna Thompson, 32, (pictured) revealed she washed, straightened her hair and applied make-up hours after the birth of her son
Joanna Thompson, 32, lives in Stockport with her husband Dan, 44, and their sons Leo, three, and Asher, six months. They run a charity, Millie’s Trust, in memory of their daughter who died after choking at nursery in 2012. She says:
I’m barefaced in the photos taken just after I’d had Asher at 1.15am one night last October, but within hours I’d had a shower, washed and straightened my hair and put on my make-up.
I’d been induced three times and the final drip worked. It was the most intense labour pain I’d ever experienced, but one push and Asher came straight out.
My hospital beauty routine was the same as I follow at home — I didn’t want to look a mess when we nipped to Tesco after being discharged later that day — though I was a bit sore initially and lived in leggings for weeks!
I’d almost forgotten I’d only just given birth until a lady came to coo over Asher as we stocked up on nappies and baby clothes.
When she asked me how old he was I suddenly realised that he wasn’t even 20 hours. She was very impressed.
Yesterday’s masacara, but who really cares?
Alex Turnham, 34, (pictured) claims she didn’t care what she looked like during the birth of her son James
Alex Turnham, 34, is a full-time mum and lives in Devon with her husband Stuart, 34, a company director, and their children Lara, 13, and James, two. She says:
Ordinarily I love to wear fashionable clothes and you wouldn’t catch me stepping out of the front door without foundation and mascara.
But when we left hospital the same day James (left) was born in February 2016 I couldn’t have cared less what I looked like. I still had yesterday’s mascara smudged under my eyes.
I probably looked a real state, but the only thing that mattered to me was that our little family was together.
That may sound trite, but a month earlier, when I was eight months pregnant, my husband had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, a form of cancer, and was due to start his second round of chemo the day that James was born.
Medics kindly delayed his treatment by 24 hours so that he could be with me for the birth, and the following day we were all back in the same hospital, just a few wards down, for his chemo.
He’s in remission now and I’ll treasure the pictures taken after James’s birth for ever.
Second time, I looked fine
Sophie Parsons, 33, (pictured) claims she was able to maintain her appearance as her C-section was planned
Sophie Parsons, 33, is a part-time recruitment resourcer and lives in Horsham, Sussex, with her husband Martin Ulley, 41, a sales manager, and their sons Jasper, four and Jacob, two. She says:
When I had my eldest son, my pelvis broke during the delivery, so I spent nine days in hospital afterwards and resembled a heroin addict with black eyes from all the morphine.
Ironically, I’d planned a going-home outfit and had my nails done but I wasn’t banking on a 17-hour labour with such horrendous complications. So, when I had a planned C-section with Jacob in April 2016 it was my chance to ensure that I looked camera-ready with my new baby.
I washed and blow-dried my hair the night before and got up early the day of the birth to put on full make-up.
Compared with my first son, I honestly felt like the Duchess of Cambridge.
It was lovely having photos taken with my husband and children, knowing that this time I didn’t look horrific.
I did have time to do my hair and make-up
Jo Cole, 38, (pictured) revealed she groomed her appearance between visitors after the birth of her daughter
Jo Cole, 38, is a teacher and lives in Devon with her husband Marek, who is also 38 and a teacher, and their children Amy, seven, Aiden, five, and Alice, two. She says:
Although I look quite neat and groomed in this photo just hours after having Alice in August 2015, on a day to day level, I don’t have time to think about my appearance at all.
So, being in hospital with my new baby gave me a rare opportunity between visitors to have a leisurely shower, wash and blow-dry my hair and put on some make-up.In fact, I was glowing for days after the birth and also very relieved.
Having had a horrific labour with Amy, it had left me feeling anxious when I had Aiden and even more so with Alice, although thankfully she arrived in just one hour and 24 minutes — with no pain relief or stitches.
I remember as we left hospital feeling elated and eager to get home to immerse myself in the lovely chaos of family life with three children.
No glamour for me, I was in comfy jeans
Chloe Busby, 28, (pictured) says there was no chance of her wearing heels after giving birth
Chloe Busby, 28, is a former teacher who lives in London with her husband Lee, 32, who works in construction, and their children Archie, eight, Maisie, six, Charlie, four, and Darcie, 11 weeks. She says:
I felt very nostalgic watching footage of Kate and her baby on the steps of St Mary’s this week as that’s where I had all my children — albeit it not in the posh Lindo Wing.
But it was still a very lovely experience. When I left hospital nine hours after Darcie’s one-hour-20-minute water birth in February, I can’t say I looked anything like as glamorous as Kate. I wore comfy maternity jeans and flat boots — no chance of me in heels.
Everything was a bit sore and my empty ‘Mum tum’ was still big, but I didn’t care. I felt fantastic.
And under that Jenny Packham dress and professional ‘do’ we new mums know Kate was just like the rest of us!
Hours later we were in the garden
Georgina Horton, 38, (pictured) admits she wanted to look her best after giving birth and bought new clothes specfically
Georgina Horton, 38, is a marketing executive, and lives in Oxfordshire with her partner, Paul Dunne, 47, a business manager, and Holly, nine, and Erin, seven. She says:
Erin was born in just 28 minutes in June 2010 and I was discharged an hour later.
She weighed 11lb 5oz and my bump had been enormous, but within moments my tummy vanished and I’d barely gained weight elsewhere. To go home, I wore a size 12, non-maternity black dress from M&S bought for the occasion. Psychologically, I didn’t want to go back to my pregnancy clothes.
We sat in the sun in the garden that afternoon, which is when this was taken. I recall wanting to look and feel my best, not just for my self-esteem but in anticipation of the visitors we’d have. To me, it would signal to them that I was coping well.
And like all new mums I had the lovely afterglow that’s impossible to replicate.