In the hours after giving birth, neither love nor money could have coaxed my swollen, bap-like feet into a pair of nude heeled courts.
But when I saw the photos of Kate Middleton this week, looking undeniably amazing a mere seven hours post partum, it wasn’t envy I felt but pity.
As much as she smiled and waved and flicked that glossy mane of hair, I knew – like any mum knows – that all she probably wanted to be doing was lying in bed, swathed in stretchy maternity leggings, bonding with her new baby.
The picture might have been a perfect photo-op but it was an entirely constructed ‘reality’, a woman trotted out to pose in a publicly palatable image of what women ideally will look like after having a baby.
Visually stunning? Yes – and hats off to the Duchess for managing it – but authentic? No, I don’t even think K-Midi would call it that.
This side of the Irish Sea another Kate, Kathryn Thomas, delivered a much more genuine glimpse of life as a new mum. Make up free, the Operation Transformation star this week posted a picture to her Instagram account showing her and a sleeping baby Ellie in bed.
“Taken at 5am pondering on whether I’ll ever get a full night’s sleep again...” she wrote, adding: “Becoming a new mum is pretty overwhelming.”
Alongside extolling the wonders of new motherhood – how her one-month-old amazes her and makes her heart burst with happiness – the presenter also acknowledged the perils of conflicting parenting advice and ‘winging it’.
The post, which has now been liked over 10,000 times, clearly resonated with fans as a true encapsulation of what life can really look like when you’ve a new baby to contend with.
This isn’t about pitting two women against each other. I admire both Catherine and Kathryn: Thomas for her bravery to be vulnerable and speak out about the “exciting, terrifying, hilarious, daft, empowering, fulfilling and completely magical” aspects of those early weeks, Middleton for her strength and dedication to the role that she’s taken on within the royal family.
I also salute the Duchess for showing – albeit in a fairly extreme way – that women aren’t always left reeling after labour.
And yet, as much as it might be her normal, none of us should think that a royal post-delivery look is something for all of us to aspire to. Royal birthing has always been a uniquely bizarre spectator sport.
In the 1700s it was common for large hoards of people to actually be in the room with the labouring monarch – in France, Marie Antoinette had some 200 folk craning to get a look at her dilating cervix – so set against that backdrop, a few minutes on the steps in a Jenny Packham frock doesn’t look so bad.
But it’s not the ‘right’ way to do new motherhood because there is no right way, other than the one that feels right for you. Some women will feel euphoric after birth, beaming and radiant.
Some will be up on their feet straight away, feeling like they can take on the world. Others will feel like they’ve been hit by a train, wobbling on post-epidural legs, struggling with stitches and wincing over a toilet bowl. Some will feel completely drained, weepy, scared.
My concern would be that – through no fault of her own – Kate’s Lindo Wing look will become yet another preferred, media-friendly version of how motherhood *should* look, putting yet more pressure on new parents over how they feel they should look, feel and act after giving birth. When the reality is that no woman (even Kate) should feel like they have to look any certain way after having a baby.
You don’t need to smile for the camera, you don’t need to fit into a certain outfit or perception of motherhood. As Thomas rightly points out, “all you really need to nail this parenting thing is bundles of love...and nappies.”
As my own delivery date for baby number two nears, I know I won’t be harbouring any secret ambitions of doing a Kate Middleton. I’ll be bleary eyed and greasy-haired, wearing disposable pants and walking like John Wayne.
It won’t be photo-friendly, but it’ll be real.