Let’s talk about The Duchess of Cambridge’s body, because she just had a baby so of course we’ve got to get on the chatter bandwagon.  Let us state for the record: we think Duchess Kate is gorgeous. We look at her photos and videos of her interacting with others, and we think she’s just lovely, and we’re not talking just about her styled hair, or makeup, or impeccably chosen clothing. We’d also like to state that we’re not an avid fans of following celebrities, save for Alan Rickman, with whom Julia is slightly obsessed, or Ryan Gosling, Leslie’s favorite.

That being said, with all of the coverage on our blog, it’s hard for us to avoid (and not be baffled by) the recent photos taken outside of St. Mary’s hospital, with Duchess Kate, Prince William, and wee Princess Charlotte, a mere 12 hours after giving birth. Kate looks gorgeous, well-pulled together as always in a sundress, nude pumps, and full hair and makeup – about 12 hours after pushing another human being out of her body. Baby. Human. Out. Of. Her. Body. At breakfast time. In front of the press at dinner time.(!!!). Think about it. (Julia here: I can’t even pull myself that awake and together 12 hours after running a 5k, naps and spandex be damned!)

It seems we’re not alone as our Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up with women from all backgrounds asking, “Where does this bleep get off looking like that, 12 hours after giving birth.”  We’re inclined to agree with them, except we think Kate’s dress and heels belie the same physical changes (and horrors) that every woman who has given birth have to deal with.

Most mothers leave the hospital still looking five months pregnant, wearing maternity clothes, hair in a messy knot and walking gingerly.  Forget about makeup and high heels.  But in this case appearances are deceiving. Beneath that $2,000 bespoke sun dress are likely the unifying bane of every postpartum mother’s existence: The mesh underwear and mega pad.  If you look at the photos Kate’s dress is loose fitting, easily hiding the pad that would even make your grandmother recoil in horror. We’re recoiling just looking at that thing in the photo to the right.

Why the giant pad?  After giving birth women can expect to experience lochia for days to weeks after giving birth.  This discharge resembles a heavy period and is about as fun as one too.  Women are given disposable underwear for two reasons: 1. To protect their own underwear from blood stains and 2. Regular underwear doesn’t tend to accommodate the girth of the postnatal pads. Girth!

The dreaded postpartum pad and mesh underwear. As thick as it is long, not even The Duchess of Cambridge could likely escape this.

The dreaded postpartum pad and mesh underwear. As thick as it is long, not even The Duchess of Cambridge could likely escape this.

The last time Duchess Kate was seen in public before giving birth was just a few days before going into labor when she took Prince George to swim in the Queen’s pool.  Can we just stop for a moment and acknowledge that might be the most British sentence ever written on the subject of pregnancy?  Anyway, you’ll note in the paparazzi photos her face looks the same as it has for most of her pregnancy.  But in the now famous photos outside of St. Mary’s hospital, her face and legs look noticeably puffy.   Which, come on, let’s cut her a break, she’d just given birth.

But this is yet another postpartum side effect.  As we’ve mentioned here before, a woman’s blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy, and her body retains much more fluid.  This fluid helps, in part, the joints and tissues expand to make room for the growing baby.  But once the baby is born, all this extra fluid no longer has a purpose and escapes into the face and extremities, leaving most new mothers feeling like a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Despite her dress and always gorgeous hair, it looks like Kate’s face and legs did not escape this post-pregnancy side effect.

And let’s talk about that dress one last time.  Gorgeous, loose fitting, but still it can’t hide that post-pregnancy belly. That’s right, as Kate showed the world after she gave birth to Prince George, your stomach doesn’t go back to six-pack flat once you give birth.  Your uterus can take six to eight weeks to contract to it’s normal size, during that time, you still kind of look pregnant – which is not a surprise because with baby, fluids, and placenta, it’s the volume equivalent of having a small watermelon stretching out your insides.  And if you ignore Princess Charlotte in those photos outside of St. Mary’s (we know it’s hard, she’s so little and perfect) you can clearly see Kate’s rounded belly, $2,000 bspoke dress or $20 gap maternity dress.

Now the heels, we have no earthly explanation for those, except princesses being princesses.

Let us be clear: We’re not criticizing her. How could we? She’s under constant scrutiny, has an immense amount of pressure on her shoulders in terms of parenting, navigating royal politics, and trying to carve a life out within that framework –  AND she owns the image fabulously. We’re proud of her, in fact, for whatever that’s worth. We’re just incredibly concerned that society as a whole has created an expectation of perfection from women, that it no one expects any less than it.

Come on, people. We complain and whine when we have to fast for a blood test, mope and dress down in practically potato sacks when we get a small biopsy. Someone needs to give this woman an award, and convince the Royal press team to release some laid-back pictures of the Duchess looking as real as any woman would right now. We’re sure her feet would thank them.

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Categories: Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, Pregnancy, Birth + Family Planning, Science 101 + Mythbusting