Seeing the beautiful Duchess of Cambridge after giving birth has got me thinking about how a woman’s body changes during pregnancy and the expectation for after. Of course, putting aside the ridiculous comments made by men (here, here) – who obviously have the best insight into bodies during and after pregnancies.
When I was first pregnant I was quite concerned about the changes to my body. Not just internally, but the external changes, the ones we think are beautiful during pregnancy, but often conditioned to find disgusting after. The bump, the stretch marks, your skin, your hair.. it goes on.
Whilst pregnant I seemed to suddenly get loads of stretch marks on my legs, despite my belly gradually growing. However, due to the slow growth of my bump, I managed to combat any others with creams/oils. Until approx. 5 weeks before my due date, when my belly decided to have an epic growth spurt and cover the entirety with stretch marks.
I also never quite got to the stage of a glow, without the help of a good highlighter ;), my skin having more spots than I have ever had in my life. As a trade-off though, my nails and hair were loving life, I’ve never seen them look healthier!
These are all the things you accept, your body is growing a baby, and when the baby is born it all goes back to almost normal. After all stretch marks fade, your belly will shrink and your hormones will settle back to normal so hello flawless skin again! This must be true, as none of this was mentioned in anti-natal class or by any medical professional, the only warning you receive is that peeing yourself may be a problem – but some simple pelvic floor exercises fix that, easy peasy.
After birth, I am sitting in the hospital. My birth resulted in an emergency c-section, a major operation in which you have very little warning – less than 10 mins in my case. My gorgeous baby is approx. 19 hours old, and has already had some visitors, all appropriately commenting on how beautiful and perfect he is. He really is! Then I receive an offhand comment from a close family member, Something along the lines of “I thought your belly would be smaller now he has been born?”. It wasn’t meant as a dig, or a horrible comment, he is just genuinely confused. The baby has been born, why do I still have a belly? Surely it should be back to normal by now?
Five weeks later and I am having registration check-up with my new doctors. The nurse is absolutely lovely as she takes me height and weight and talks me through my medical history. She then has to input those figures into her system, and despite me having given birth five weeks prior, she still has to inform me that I am classed as overweight on the BMI scale. Overweight. A woman who recently gave birth. A woman who was actually pleasantly surprised to hear her weight and how it was only a few kgs heavier than her pre-pregnancy weight. The follow-up.
“Do you exercise often?”
“I’m still recovering from a C-section, so… no.”
I haven’t even had my post-pregnancy checkup yet god damn it.
“Ok, I will put you down as working towards bringing your weight down.”
Luckily I laughed this off, but I could have easily taken that to heart, I could have got really stressed about my weight, or worse.
What I’m trying to say, is why do we have such stupid expectations of women after birth? Kate Middleton looked stunning, yes, she had stylists and makeup artists. Yes, it was required that she pose with her newborn for the media. This is, unfortunately, the role she has to play due to who she fell in love with. But why? Why did everyone expect her to look that way? She recently had a baby, and rather than bond and coo and rest, she was expected to get all dolled up to pose for pictures. Pictures that were dissected by everyone, whether they were discussing how her body looked (is it your business though), Or sharing their pictures post birth to show what it ‘really’ looks like.
Why can’t we just let women look how they look. If someone wants to brush their hair or pop some makeup on before they have visitors just so they can feel more human, or more in control, let them. If they want to rest and stay in their PJ’s, let them.
Don’t judge any woman on how she looks after birth. Its not your business, and definitely not something for you to comment on!