It came as no surprise that Kate Middleton appeared, made up, dressed up and locks ashiny, just 24 hours after giving birth to the future king of England. I had seen many of my mom friends online worrying, even before the baby was born, about whether she would appear looking "perfect" after the birth, and she didn't disappoint — she looked great. But she did surprise many people, including me.
Wearing an empire-waisted dress that (unlike Diana's more muu-muu-like dress) didn't hide her still-round "baby bump," Kate smiled and waved for the cameras, and made small talk, along with her husband, Prince William, for several minutes before they departed for home with baby in tow. She seemed comfortable and at ease (as much as one can be with cameras clicking away and reporters lobbing questions).
Almost immediately, people around the world commented about her still-existent "bump" — which, in short, is normal. The uterus takes three to six weeks to contract back to its original size (it expands almost 100 times its original size during an average pregnancy). That Kate had a still-expanded midsection after giving birth the day before is a totally ordinary thing. Nonetheless, plenty of mean tweets were lobbed the new mother's way. Some people were even concerned that something was wrong. But all the women who have given birth knew that this was fine, and wondered how the rest of us could be so ignorant about this basic physical fact.
But until I read about the uterus expansion (explained online in a comments section of an article), I didn't know that was normal either. Because even in 2013, even in our know-everything-about-everyone culture, it seems there are still taboos about women's bodies and pregnancy. Because so many women don't appear out-and-about until their bellies have shrunk post-birth, and especially because celebrities show up a month or two after having babies looking just like they normally do, many of us don't know anything about what a woman's body looks like after she has a baby.
How can I know Kim Kardashian's shoe size and favorite color, but not this basic fact of biology?
So while the Duchess of Cambridge probably made lots of women feel frustrated for appearing so lovely post-birth (apparently she had her hairdresser in the next morning before she even saw her mother), she also showed the world what a woman's body really looks like‚ without shame.
As photographer Jade Beall told the Daily Beast, "This is a historic moment for women around the world. Kate has chosen to confidently show what our bodies can look like after undergoing one of the most life-changing feats a human can experience."
Now I know what a healthy post-baby body looks like — and so do millions of others. Kate could have covered up, like many women do, but she didn't. She made a pretty significant statement about herself and about women‚ body image and what's expected of mothers — in a pretty blue polka-dot dress, without saying a word. Perhaps this princess will challenge the status quo more than we think.
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