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.
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
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.
applies to any body, regardless of whether or not it has ever been pregnant.
when it comes to the immediate postpartum period, round bodies aren't any sort
of failing whatsoever. They're normal. Completely normal.
just 24 hours after giving birth, Kate Middleton's body wasn't as svelte as it
was before she gave birth. So what?
every person who gives birth will have a rounded belly in the immediate
postpartum days. So what?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
That's true for you, it's true for
me, and it's even true for princesses.