Hours later, I watched Kate and William standing in front of the hospital, introducing their baby girl to the world. But instead of looking like she had just given birth, Kate looked as if she was on her way to an elegant tea. Her hair was perfectly blown out, and her makeup was flawless. She had a glow and looked well-rested. And she wore a yellow-and-white floral shift custom dress by Jenny Packham with nude heels. That’s right: She was wearing a FITTED WHITE DRESS less than 12 hours after giving birth.
All I could think about while watching her was all the stuff that was coming out of me and every other mom I know after giving birth — you know, the blood (oh, the blood) and the hormone-/anesthesia-fueled sweats (for those of us who had pain meds). There was also the collective bulk of the OMG-so-ugly-but-so-comfortable white mesh undies and giant cotton diaper, all clearly visible under our fitted hospital gowns. And the swelling — not just the baby bump that still looked third trimester-sized, but the balloon-like hands, feet, face (you name it, it was swelling) that some of us had. In fact, my son visited me in the hospital 12 hours after his sister was born and was dismayed to discover that I still looked at least 7-months-pregnant. “Mama, the baby is out but your tummy is still BIG!!” (He’d repeat this statement over and over again, his mantra until my bump shrunk to a size that he could live with.)
How was the Duchess of Cambridge pulling this all off?! Not just the fitted white dress, but the heels and walking so easily after pushing out an 8-pound, three-ounce baby? (She reportedly had a natural birth so no epidural would have been involved, which would have eliminated the anesthesia sweats and swelling …but there’s still the pain factor here.) Was there a strategically placed ice pack involved, therefore numbing her from the vagina down? Does the UK have a far more sophisticated twist on the mesh undies-diaper combo that we moms in the U.S. get stuck with, therefore eliminating the decidedly inelegant waddle? Did a magic fairy sprinkle pixie dust on Kate, rendering her completely immune to the after-effects of giving birth?
No really, how?!
“My assumption is that because this was Kate’s second baby and the labor was very fast, she didn’t have any swelling in her vaginal area and wasn’t in any pain,” Dr. Selitsky, D.O., an ob-gyn in New York City, told me. But, she notes that even when it’s a woman’s second (or third or more) labor and delivery, and all goes smoothly and quickly, it’s not typical to walk out of the hospital hours later.
“Kate makes the birthing process look effortless,” Dr. Selitsky said. “In reality, it’s hard work.”
Furthermore, just like every pregnancy is unique, every labor and delivery and postpartum period is unique, too. “Some women have wild support systems and elastic rebounds after childbirth while some take time to heal, recover, and transition to the extraordinary privilege of being a mom,” Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a Seattle-based pediatrician and author of Mama Doc Medicine, told me. “You can imagine the team of people who helped support the Duchess’ worldwide unveiling. Kate’s appearance caught on camera reminds us ever so gently again that as parents we’re happiest when we don’t compare ourselves to others.”
A good reminder for us all, no matter how old our children are, or what we looked like after we delivered them.