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5 Truths About Postpartum Bellies

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to their second child in May. And, in case you couldn't remember, the Duchess—or Kate, as most of us "know" her—faced an ungodly amount of scrutiny the last time she gave birth.

Arguably, the most egregious form of this scrutiny occurred when Kate and Will stepped out of the hospital to introduce Prince George to the world a mere day after he was born. Kate was gorgeous and divine, as always. Her hair was perfect. Her beaming smile was perfect. Her posture was perfect. Even her outfit was perfect.

What made that outfit all the more perfect, to me, was the fact that Kate's dress clearly showed her still soft and rounded postpartum belly.

It was perfect. Perfectly real.

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I loved everything that this moment of "realness" signified. Kate wasn't hiding the reality of her postpartum belly. She wasn't trying to present herself as the incredible shrinking mother. She was sharing a truth that every new mom knows all too well: Our bellies are still large and soft and round in the days after we give birth.

But this realness was just too much for some people on the Internet. Instead of focusing primarily on how radiant and happy Kate looked, some people called her "fat." They complained that she still "looked pregnant"! They wondered if she had "twins in there or something."

I can hardly begin to count all the things that are wrong with these responses to Kate's postpartum body. In addition to their cruelty and objectification, these responses reveal a profound misunderstanding about postpartum bodies.

It seems like a good time to remind everyone of some important truths about postpartum bellies. Because no one—princesses included—deserves to be criticized for a normal (and beautiful) change in their bodies.

1. Having a round body is not a moral failing.

This applies to any body, regardless of whether or not it has ever been pregnant.

Especially when it comes to the immediate postpartum period, round bodies aren't any sort of failing whatsoever. They're normal. Completely normal.

Yes, just 24 hours after giving birth, Kate Middleton's body wasn't as svelte as it was before she gave birth. So what?

Yes, every person who gives birth will have a rounded belly in the immediate postpartum days. So what?

New mothers' bodies aren't objects intended for critical and sexual scrutiny. Their bodies are amazing forces of nature that just gave birth to entirely new human beings. Celebrate them. Don't shame them.

2. Pregnant bodies must expand in order to accommodate growing babies.

This fact should be so obvious that it pains me to have to point it out to anyone. But yes, in order to grow an entire human being (or human beings), a person's uterus and skin will stretch as the fetus grows. Their bodies will also retain fluid and fat in order to nourish their babies, both during and after pregnancy.

Quite simply (and obviously), pregnancy makes a body bigger.

The fact that any new mother's belly reflects this growth is only natural. What's more, this fact should not invite criticism from anyone.

There are varying shades of normal for every mother, and no one normal is better or worse than another.

3. The uterus is awesome, but it is not magical.

Normally, the uterus is about the size of a pear. When a woman is pregnant, the uterus stretches to about the size of a watermelon.

Nothing that has spent months and months stretching from pear-size to watermelon-size will revert back to its original size within a day. Not elastic. Not socks. Not uteruses. Not bellies. In fact, it takes about six to eight weeks for the uterus to completely shrink down to its pre-pregnancy state.

To expect anything else would be to expect magic—not normal biology.

4. Thus, all women look "a little pregnant" for a while after giving birth.

Even a few days after the birth of their babies, new moms will look four or five months pregnant. It takes time for the uterus and belly to deflate. It takes time to lose the extra fluid that one has retained during pregnancy.

One day—or even one week—is simply not enough time.

5. And thus, no one's body "bounces back" immediately after they have a baby.

This is true despite the fact that many magazine covers would have us believe that a celebrity's most admirable accomplishment after having a baby is "getting their body back."

Some new mothers' bellies are flat (or flat-ish) within a couple weeks after birth. This is normal.

Some new mothers' bellies only return to their pre-pregnancy shape and size after many months. Sometimes that takes a lot of hard work and exercise. Sometimes it doesn't. This is normal.

Some new mothers' bellies are softer and rounder for the rest of their lives. This is normal.

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There are varying shades of "normal" for every mother, and no one normal is better or worse than another. Soft, round, flat, hard, lumpy, ripped, tight, saggy: each of these belly types reflects the life they've brought into the world, and they all deserve our celebration and admiration.

That's true for you, it's true for me, and it's even true for princesses.

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Image via OK!

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