Did you happen to catch a glimpse of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton), as she emerged from the hospital, having given birth to her third child? Wearing a bright red dress with a white lace collar (a homage to her mother-in-law apparently; it turns out that Diana, Princess of Wales, had worn a similar outfit when she left the hospital after having Prince Harry), Catherine held her baby boy in her arms, proud husband William by her side, and smiled and waved for the media assembled to record this moment. Her make-up was immaculate, her hair blow-dried to perfection. She wore glossy tights and – get this! – had her trademark nude stilettos on as she sashayed out a mere seven hours after giving birth.
Yes, you read that right. Seven hours after pushing an eight pound seven ounces human out of her body, the Duchess was ready for her photo-call, smiling and waving, and then smiling and waving some more. The only sign she had ever been pregnant was the little bump protruding through her Jenny Packham custom-made dress. But other than that, Catherine looked perfect. No swollen ankles. No back fat. No big bum. In fact, seeing her look as svelte as ever, an unworthy thought popped up in my head: Did she have a baby or a burger?
Well, she had a baby all right. Though you wouldn’t have thought it to look at her. But there were plenty of new moms online who weren’t having this bit of post-partum perfection stuck in their faces. Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, who also had a baby recently, posted a picture of a radiantly smiling Catherine and William, tweeting alongside, “Let’s keep this real for the moms. The Duchess is wearing a diaper.”
Molly was not the only one trying to inject a dose of reality into the proceedings. Social media was awash with pictures posted by women of how they looked hours after they had their babies. Suffice it to say, the contrast with the fragrant Duchess was rather stark. These ladies looked beautiful no doubt, with the first flush of motherhood lighting up their faces. But they also looked like they were just surfacing from a pool of pain and exhaustion. Not what anyone would think about if they saw Kate waving serenely from the doorstep of the Lindo Wing seven hours after giving birth (did I mention it was just seven hours after?).
But those comparisons didn’t exactly make sense. Catherine, a fitness freak, remained remarkably slim (except for the neat little baby bump) throughout her pregnancy. She had a natural birth and a short labour. This was her third child so she had the routine down pat. She had a dedicated team of hair and make-up people who whizzed in even as she bonding with her new-born son to perform those magic tricks on her. But even so, there was something impressive about her ‘jolly hockey sticks’ approach to new motherhood, popping out the baby, and then popping out looking all rested and ready for her close-up.
Looking at her as she performed for the cameras, though, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the Duchess. The other women who gave birth in that hospital could spend time tucked away in a post-birth haze with their families and not worry about the world outside. They could just slip into a tracksuit or a pair of baggy jeans and a T-shirt when it was time to take their baby home. They didn’t need to bother to put on a full face of make-up or have their hair blow-dried. And they didn’t need to run the gauntlet of the international media just to take their baby back home.
Yes, Catherine did make it all look rather easy. In at 6am with labour pains. Baby out at 11am. Hair and make-up at 6pm. Out of the hospital at 6pm or a photo-call with baby and husband. Back at home by 6pm. It was all in a day’s work for the Duchess.
Maybe she really is the superwoman she appears to be. And none of this is even remotely challenging for her. But I do feel for the other new mums who are watching and wondering just how this is possible. How is that they can barely make it to the shower on their own, while Catherine is half-way to Kensington Palace? Why do they look like they went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, while she looks as if she spent a couple of hours at a spa?
Well, all I can tell these ladies is: just admire the woman for what she is (or at least appears to be; for all you know, she is gnashing her teeth behind that smile until she gets out of range of those cameras) and don’t set yourself up in comparison with her. She is the future Queen of England. She has all the help in the world to look like a million bucks even when she is still hurting from giving birth.
The only thing you have in common with her is that you both have new babies. Just rejoice in that fact. Breathe in the scent of your new-born. Cuddle him/her as if your life depended on it. Stuff your face with cake to celebrate. And yes, keep those diapers handy – both for the baby and for you!
From HT Brunch, May 6, 2018
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