On the weekend a new princess was born. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are now the proud parents of a healthy baby girl, a sister for their son George.
On hearing this news I felt happy. I have been the proud parent of two healthy babies and the joy – if not the entire physical experience – is pretty special. I am also inexplicably fond of the young Cambridge family and so it made me happy.
After collapsing in bed on Saturday night I woke up on Sunday and was quite stunned to see photos of the new parents and the new princess leaving the hospital. The birth itself was straightforward and so about 12 hours after being admitted Kate, Will and the new princess, headed home. Before they did, they graciously and generously stepped out on to the hospital steps to show the world their baby. (Like, the actual world.)
Admittedly my brain was a little fuzzy (a weekend spent strategizing will do that to you) but as I looked at the snaps I didn’t quite know what to make of it.
I still didn’t until I came across the most magnificent post birth-review from comedian Em Rusciano that made me laugh and high five the computer screen at once.
“Make no mistake I’m completely in awe of her, I’m not here to judge or put a sister down. But when I saw Kate on the steps I admit to having an overwhelming urge to give her a big hug and whisk her away…
I’m also worried that there were hundreds of thousands of new Mothers out there who saw Kate and compared themselves to her. Ladies please don’t, she is the World and Olympic champion of post birth bounce backs. You don’t have her support team or pelvic floor muscles it would appear. If you’ve not left the house yet and your child is 3, that is still OK! Let’s not make this a competitive sport OK? PROMISE ME.”
That right there is exactly the unease I felt but couldn’t articulate.
Experiencing a terrifically straightforward and speedy labour is a blessing. Being able to take yourself and your little baby home so quickly after giving birth is perfectly reasonable. As is having a blow dry and a chic dress to don for the appearance, if you are, like Kate, a Duchess due to have the world’s paparazzi lenses focused on you. But that is not the benchmark for post-partum life. Not even close.
The trouble is that the rest of us very rarely see the gritty reality of those first post-baby days and weeks and months up close. We’re left to our own devices ( or increasingly Facebook & Instagram) when it comes to imagining how those days might look and feel. When millions of us, men and women, see the images of Kate and Will and their darling bundle leaving the hospital, it informs that picture. And that’s not without risk.
Because if the Cambridges are the yardstick by which anyone is planning their post-baby life, or if it’s even in the same postcode as the yardstick by which anyone is plotting, they are highly likely to be devastatingly disappointed. During a time when a person can least endure it.
So let’s spread Em’s message. Princess Kate is “a true warrior” and her safe delivery of Baby Sheniqua* is a truly wonderful thing. But her birth is sadly not the benchmark. It is like the “unicorn” of all births.
*This is not the royal baby’s actual name. It is Em’s chosen moniker and I couldn’t resist not including it.