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Let’s not Downplay how Incredibly Difficult the Process of giving Birth is

Kate middleton giving-birth

Some 14 odd years ago I was wheeled into the operation theatre, and emerged woozy headed, attached to a saline drip and with a mewling little bundle of flesh that I now bore complete responsibility for inflicting upon the world. When I made my first trip to the bathroom after being detached from the various tubes and needles and catheters I was attached to, I came across a full-length mirror. Not one to hide behind cushions when I watch a horror movie, I brought the same derring do and misplaced bravado to this moment. I opened the hospital gown to examine the postpartum body now that the baby was out.

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Nothing could have prepared me for that horror. Let me just say, when I saw The Exorcist, I couldn’t sleep for days. The sight of my deflated postpartum abdomen promised to rid me of sleep for much longer, and of course, the offspring played his part in abetting my sleep deprivation for the next twelve months, but that’s another blog post.

Why am I talking about the postpartum abdomen a decade and a half later? Here’s why.

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton had her third baby on April 23, 2018 at 11.01 am, in London. Royalty, of course, is under such microscopic scrutiny of every action that it was only expected that the moment the proud parents stepped out to introduce the new baby to the world would be analysed to the minutest.

But perhaps what was that was analysed the most was Kate Middleton’s appearance. Dressed in a comfortable and sensible red shift, with a white collar, she looked perfectly put together. But then, these are unrealistic ideals most of us ordinary women would be hard-pressed to come anywhere close to after having pushed out a little human from our nethers.

Here was the Duchess, the new baby in her arms, her husband next to her, looking to all purposes, a perfectly lovely couple. The paparazzi, as is to be expected, did go a trifle ballistic with their eulogising of her perfection post partum.

A tweet from a fashion magazine stated, “All Women should look as fabulous as Kate Middleton hours after giving birth.”

I thought back to how I’d emerged from the hospital, clutching onto the newly minted offspring for dear life, in mismatched pyjamas and my bathroom slippers, a hair brush having long given up any passing acquaintance with my hair. I could have scared a flock of unwary pigeons hours after giving birth. I remember caring nothing of what I looked like, my only predominant thought being as to when I would sleep a complete eight hours ever again and what had I got myself into with this motherhood gig? Looking fabulous was the furthest thing from my mind.

I remember caring nothing of what I looked like, my only predominant thought being as to when I would sleep a complete eight hours ever again and what had I got myself into with this motherhood gig? Looking fabulous was the furthest thing from my mind.

What is this ridiculous level of perfection that is being imposed on us women, and more importantly, why?

Why must all women look as fabulous as Kate Middleton hours after giving birth? Why must women be pressurised into some normative construct of fabulousness when they’ve just been through one of the most excruciating experiences of human existence, apart from of course, sitting through an episode of Bigg Boss.

Kate Middleton, for all her affability and groundedness, is definitely not every woman. As the Duchess of Cambridge, she does have a role to play in perpetuating the royal bloodline, in an era when monarchy remains nothing more than tokenism and ritual pomp. And along with this role comes the imposition of glamour, and a surrealism that expects a woman to be ‘fabulous’ hours after giving birth. And why should she too be subjected these kinds of unreal expectations, after all, for nine months, she’s been carrying a baby inside her womb, going through hormonal changes, abdomen stretching to accommodate the growing baby. Surely, she deserves the grace of some time before she is expected to back to her pre-baby size?  Frankly, do these tabloids imagine that she had the baby velcroed off her? She’s been through labour, her uterus is still enlarged, there’s lochia flowing out of her in clumps and splotches, her breasts are probably engorged and painful, and all they focus on is that she’s looking fabulous hours after she gave birth?

Frankly, do these tabloids imagine that she had the baby velcroed off her? She’s been through labour, her uterus is still enlarged, there’s lochia flowing out of her in clumps and splotches, her breasts are probably engorged and painful, and all they focus on is that she’s looking fabulous hours after she gave birth?

This is the kind of popular narrative that makes it difficult for women. You aren’t allowed to be frumpy, let the body rest and recover after the trauma of childbirth. The ideal being held up to you is Kate Middleton, radiant and glowing, not a strand of hair out of place, holding her baby outside a hospital when all you could possibly do is haul yourself to the bathroom and then collapse into a blubbering mass of sobs when you catch a glimpse of the newly ploughed field that now masquerades for your abdomen.

The obsession with the way a woman looks post partum is one more manifestation of the endemic body Nazism that has become de rigueur today, with a celebrity being held up to unrealistic expectations purely on the basis of them being celebrities. No woman should ever be shamed for the changes her body undergoes to carry a baby to term.

Everyday women do not look fabulous hours after they’ve given birth and frankly nor should they care about looking fabulous. Let’s not downplay how incredibly difficult the process of giving birth is by reducing the trauma to how a new mother looks. She’s just given birth. She’s done something fabulous and incredible, and that should be more than enough. As for looking fabulous, there’s the rest of her life to do so. If she chooses to.

Also Read: Why I am more than a Mommy Blogger

Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV