There are lots of things no one tells you about childbirth. Like, for instance, that all that push-push-PUSH!-ing can give you hemorrhoids and break blood vessels in your eyes. (Because looking more tired and uncomfortable is exactly what every new mom needs, right?) Another fun tip? By the end of those 9 months not even maternity clothes fit well and you’ll be stuck wearing your husband’s basketball shorts and oversized Pac-Man tee for weeks, including to church. (And by “you” I mean “me”.) But one thing that really surprised me about birthing babies is how even after the wee one has exploded out of your nethers, you still look, well, pregnant.
After the birth of my first son, I remember sitting on the bed and poking my newly post-partum stomach. At first it was out of habit and I panicked briefly because I couldn’t get the baby to move… until he cried from the bassinet and reminded me he was an outsider now. But then it was because my stomach literally moved like a bowl full of jelly. I was Santa, you guys! But with a whole new meaning for “red suit”! And my stomach stayed that way – an oddly distended jiggly cavern with my organs still stuffed in inappropriate places as if decorated by a Feng Shui artist who hates people – for several weeks.
After my fifth baby, I was no longer surprised when I’d lay down to nurse my baby and my stomach would curl up like a puppy next to us on the bed. I knew that eventually it would deflate to the point where I could tuck it into my pants, my trusty skin apron. (And this is also why I am such a huge fan of post-partum belly wrapping – not so that you can get flat abs fast but because it helps hold all your organs together until your abdominal muscles get strong enough to do it. Seriously that thing was amazing!) Within 6-8 weeks your uterus will shrink back down to its normal walnut size and instead you’ll be consumed with your huge, alien breasts!
Which is why I think I was so surprised at the public hue and cry over the recent pictures of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and new mom to George Alexander Louis, standing tall and lovely in a blue polka dot dress with her post-partum bowl full of jelly proudly on display. People were seriously surprised – both by the fact that her tummy still looked pregnant (one commenter wrote “I don’t mean to be a jerk but this isn’t for real, right? No way can you have a baby and still look this pregnant!”) and by the fact that she chose not to hide it. (For the record, my first thought upon seeing the pics was “How is she hiding that snowboard-sized maxi pad under her dress?? They must have better mesh panties in Europe.)
Frankly, I was surprised that people were surprised. Hasn’t anyone seen a real post-partum belly before?
And then I realized: Probably not.
Thanks to the ubiquitous magazine covers showing new celeb moms posing in bikinis with their babies tucked under one arm like a Prada bag under headlines like “How I lost all my baby weight! 50 pounds in two weeks!!” and TV specials that show supermodel moms birthing a baby one week and walking a catwalk the next, we’ve grown to think that it’s normal for women to birth babies like Rachel on Friends: When you’re pregnant you put on a plastic belly (with a very realistic looking bellybutton!) and when you have the baby you just take that thing off! Easy peasy!
These insane expectations hurt all of us – from commoner to celebrity royalty. Victoria Beckham reportedly went into hiding during the last month or so of her fourth pregnancy and refused to emerge until she was back in her pencil skirts so that there would be no chances for the paparazzi to snap unflattering pictures. The other new celeb mom of the summer, Kim Kardashian, hasn’t been seen outside even briefly since the birth of her little one a month ago. And who can blame her after the way the media eviscerated her for her weight gain during her pregnancy? And poor Jessica Simpson. Don’t even get me started on her and her $4 million Weight Watchers “failure.” Sigh.
It’s not just adults that are surprised either. My friend Jill posted on Facebook about her experience watching the glowing Kate as she introduced her baby to the world: ” My 9 yr old daughter watched with me and it surprised her. I was grateful I could talk with her about what your stomach is really like right after having a baby. I was misinformed, or in denial, with my first pregnancy. I brought jean capris to wear home from the hospital. I was so disappointed, confused, and upset when I had to wear my maternity capris home instead.”
My friend Michelle added, ” Now, this may sound so stupid as a nurse, but I had NO idea that one had that tummy afterwards. Of course one does, it’s your uterus which comes down in due time. I honestly appreciated everything a out it, she was tired, emotionally there, smitten, a tinge overwhelmed, but held it together.” And I doubt she’s the only medical professional to not know this either.
Which is why what Kate did was downright revolutionary. Not only did she show the bump but she was confident and beautiful and not the least bit concerned about people seeing it. In fact, as Leslie from All Health Breaks Loose pointed out, “I feel like Kate’s stomach was the furthest thing from her mind. She had a beautiful, healthy baby – that’s what she deserves to be focusing on.” And frankly that’s what we should all be focusing on as well – our beautiful babies and their adorable tummies.
Were you surprised when you saw the pics of Kate’s tummy? What did you think of her choice? If you have kids, what was something that no one told you about childbirth that you had to discover on your own?