Dont pile pressure on women to look authentic just after they have had a baby
It seems that some people wouldn’t have been satisfied unless Middleton had come staggering out, like a besmocked crab, with a massive distended” Mr Greedy” belly, shooting newly arrived milk through her Jenny Packham dress at aghast reporters. This, for some, is postpartum reality. The catch is that merely one reality is allowed.
Not that authenticity is a bad thing. It certainly beats watching a new celebrity mum embark on some crazed public quest to stuff herself back into her pre-pregnancy jeans, proving … which is what? That she’s still sexually viable? To these women, I’d say, sisters, if you can’t spare us, at least spare yourselves. Certainly, it seems to be the grimmest of fools’ errands to try to put a sepia light or flattering filter on the hard graft of get another human being safely out.
However , not every postpartum experience is the same. After both my babies, I was slim, with a somewhat normal-looking stomach- it would have been hard to tell that I’d just dedicated birth. The reason for this didn’t lie in earnest yoga sessions, but because both my newborns were early and small. In fact, my second daughter was extremely early and horribly small … and sick.
The point is that, in the unlikely event of my being dragged out for a press photocall, for my non-existent adoring public, my body might have risked being denounced as “unrealistic”. When, in truth, my situation was all too real, just different to that of another woman who could take her big, healthy newborn home, instead of camping in a special care baby unit for six weeks, as I did. For her part, Middleton looked as if she’d got her hair and makeup done for the press pack and opted an outfit that skimmed her midriff. So bite her. Her merely mistake was in not realising that she wasn’t dishing enough postpartum real for some people’s liking. Isn’t this more pressure, simply from a different direction?
Just as women aren’t standardised , nor are the implications of pregnancy on their own bodies. Certainly, a shrill inverted body fascism, accusing women of being unrealistic or unrepresentative, is neither feminist nor helpful. One woman’s post-birth reality does not fit all.
* Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist
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