The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a beautiful baby girl. And it's not just Charlotte Elizabeth Diana who is a beauty—it's Kate as well.
As many have noted, Kate smiled in public view just one day after delivering her second child, not seeming to mind what others might think of her postpartum body. Why is this noteworthy? Because being seen in public is something few female celebrities do right after having a baby.
Physical appearance is a big deal for women in the public eye, and many remain in virtual hiding until they've reached pre-baby weight—then reappear as if nothing ever happened. The general rhetoric around “getting back your pre-baby body” is prevalent and near-constant once a woman has delivered. Even the queen herself buys into this: Beyoncé professed that she revealed so much of her body in her last album's music videos to show her success in reaching that ideal.
All this pressure has led many women to balk. Not only is it unrealistic to expect women to look like their pre-baby size when they're just a few days or weeks postpartum, but it's also ridiculous to suggest that women stay inside and isolate themselves until they return back to “normal.” In a welcome surge of pro-baby-body social media, you can regularly find pregnant or formerly pregnant moms sharing photos hugging their large bellies, laughing off stretch marks, and proudly pointing out C-section scars as triumphant battle wounds.
I, for one, find the resistance refreshing. I gave birth to my second child this year, and as one mother of several kids told me, you have to embrace the “new normal.” While I'm all for self-improvement and striving for confidence, I think there's something wise and true about her statement.
After my second child was born, I was thrown by my new normal. I had never weighed so much in my life, I was bumping into things on the daily, and I couldn't fit into anything but maternity clothes long after the baby had left the premises. I cringed at myself in photos and was tired and slow-moving to boot.
What happened to my youthful body and energy? I felt discouraged and wondered if I would ever feel like myself again. I tried to eat healthier and started to walk on the treadmill once or twice weekly, hoping it would make a dent. Nothing seemed to change.
Now, almost a year later, I've lost pretty much all the weight I was worried about. But I have to be completely honest and admit that it had hardly anything to do with my actions. My baby wasn't taking my breast milk well, my milk supply dried up, my size-D chest disappeared almost overnight, and my period returned. Within a two-week time frame, I was living in a completely different body. I may have been back to a lower weight thanks to the drastic power of hormone droppage after milk runs out—but a “pre-baby” body? Far from it. Any other moms could probably laugh with me about that descriptor for the rest of this article.
I've learned that pregnancy and childbirth are reminders of the unpredictability of life. We can't control our bodies when it comes to nature's way of making babies, and we're not really supposed to.
To me, saying “I'm trying to get back to my pre-baby body” is as ridiculous as saying that you're trying to get back to your “pre-cavity tooth integrity” or “prepubescent energy levels.” You can't go back in time, only forward. Nature has a way of being stubborn.
Not only is it impossible to truly control the aging process or return to pre-anything in life, but this sort of thinking is also circular. Sure, everyone wants to return to their pre-sun-exposure skin smoothness or their pre-adult-worries disposition. We can go back and back in time seeking the elusive fountain of youth, but we forget where this leads: right back to the unpredictable world of childhood, back in our parents' house, in our mother's arms, or her womb before that. To a place where our autonomy is limited by space and time and the realities of biological development and environment. That is the real world, where some things are within our control and other things are not.
It's just as true when we're children as when we're adults having children—we're often dropped into the position of being along for the ride, not always knowing where it will take us. But it's especially during these times that, wittingly or unwittingly, we're in for an adventure. And like Duchess Kate, we're best off smiling along the way.