It’s okay not to look like a princess after giving birth
Updated 23rd April 2018
Congratulations William and Kate on baby number three!
If some of the details in this article appear outdated it’s because I wrote it back in May 2015 when the royal couple had their second baby, Princess Charlotte.
This is me after my first baby was born in December 2009. I hadn’t slept for 28 hours, due to contractions that were five minutes apart from the moment they started. I was swollen and puffy in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, so much so I could barely walk and none of my shoes fitted me. I’d become even more swollen during the birth. I’d vomited. The hospital staff thought I was developing pre-eclampsia. I laboured as naturally as I could for as long as I could, putting 10 years of yoga practice to good use – but complications with the umbilical cord being wrapped around my baby, as well as the pre-eclampsia, meant being wired up to all sorts of machines, a spinal block, an episiotomy, a tear, an assisted forceps delivery, stitches, piles, the lot.
I’m not wearing any make-up in this photo and my hair desperately needs a wash, as does the rest of me. I still couldn’t feel my legs.
My daughter was born a year to the day my previous pregnancy had ended in a devastating miscarriage and I was so overwhelmed by her arrival, that all I could do was hold her and cry
Here I am again, the next day, when my baby was 24 hours old. Still swollen and puffy. Still knackered from not sleeping, and wearing clothes that are old and worn but totally comfortable when you can barely walk or sit. Still no make-up. It hadn’t even occurred to me.
Here I am, below, after my second baby was born in September 2011. This was when I realised all those people who told me second labours were always faster than the first were lying. This is me after 65 hours of contractions, 5-10 minutes apart from the start, and no sleep at all. Granted, the pushing bit was easy, as he just flew out, but it was a mission getting there. I’m crying and shaking in this photo and can barely speak because I was physically and emotionally exhausted and completely overwhelmed that my baby was actually here, because I’d begun to wonder if we’d ever get to meet our little one. I can’t believe I am showing you this photo – it’s one of the worst photos of me, ever.
Here I am after my third baby was born, in March 2014. This labour was “only” eight hours long, a breeze compared to the other two. While it’s the best photo so far, I still very much look like a woman who has just given birth. I’d spent half of this pregnancy unable to walk due to pelvic girdle pain. The hospital eventually gave me crutches – but I have no idea how they expected me to use them with a 2.5 and a 4 year old. Baby number three was born in the early hours of the morning, so yet again, I am rocking the effects of no sleep in this photo.
You might wonder why I am showing you these photos – unedited and unfiltered. I don’t think anyone other than my husband and close family have seen them before and they certainly didn’t make it anywhere near Facebook when I was introducing my babies to the world.
The reason I’m publishing them on my blog is because after seeing all the royal baby coverage over the last week, I want to say it’s okay not to look amazing when you’ve just given birth. It’s okay to look knackered and puffy and tired and messy. To be wearing no make-up and crappy clothes. It’s okay to walk out of hospital in flip flops and tracksuit bottoms, rather than designer shoes and a custom-made Jenny Packham dress.
I’m not criticising Kate for looking so good – if I had the world’s press photographing me a few hours after giving birth, I’d demand a stylist and hairdresser too. I’d spend hours getting ready to face them even though what I’d really want to be doing is cuddling my new baby, which is what I’m sure Kate would much rather have been doing. But that’s the price you pay when you are married to the second in line to the throne and mother to the third and fourth. I’m so glad I didn’t have to do that. I admire Kate for doing it with such good grace and genuinely hope she kicked off those heels the minute she was in the car.
I’m also not criticising women who naturally look amazing after giving birth. That’s wonderful. Go you! Celebrate that gift! And I’m not criticising those who take the time to look good, to wear make-up and heels and a fab going home outfit. Pregnancy and birth does a lot to your body – why shouldn’t you do what makes you feel good?
I, however, definitely don’t fall into the Kate category, and neither do the majority of my mummy friends. I know a lot of us have felt quite miserable looking at the first photos of Kate and baby Charlotte and, back in 2013, baby George.
If you fall into our gang, rather than Kate’s, I just want to tell you this: it’s normal. It’s normal to not look your best when you have just given birth. It’s normal to still not look your best days, weeks and even months later. It’s okay not to bother with make-up, and to have unwashed hair. It’s okay to have bags under your eyes. It’s okay to choose clothes for comfort, rather than style. It’s okay to feel physically repulsed by the thought of wearing high heels even though you were always a stiletto kind of girl. It’s okay to still be in your pyjamas at midday and to sometimes forget to clean your teeth. Your body has done the most amazing thing in the world, and needs time to recover from birth. Maybe you have stitches or a c-section scar to heal. You have a tiny baby to get to know. Maybe you also have other children to look after. If you want to put on a full face of make-up and your best clothes, then go for it. But if you don’t, then that’s fine.
I know I look crap in these photos – I hated them at the time. I almost deleted some of them, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Now that my children are 5, 3.5 and 1, I like them. When I look at them now, I see a mummy who is so utterly besotted by her babies that nothing else matters. I see a mummy who is so overwhelmed by meeting her children for the first time that she can barely contain her emotions. I see a mummy who may not look her best in these photos but who is having one of the best moments of her life. I see the beauty in them. My post-birth photos might not be perfect, but I wouldn’t change them for the world.
How did you look after giving birth? What did you think of Kate’s photos? I’d love to hear your thoughts either below, or on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or tweet me on @cardiffmummy
It’s lovely to see your photos. And, rest assured, you look FAR nicer than I did after my nearly-emergency-c-section forceps delivery! Not only do I rock grey skin and messed up hair, I also seem to have a double chin. In every bloody photo.
C’est la vie! It is still the single happiest moment of my life. I pushed a person out of me and I look like it too!
*check out my blog (babies, birth and more) at http://www.thewisemamas.wordpress.com *
You should be proud of those photos after going through all of that! As you say, the most happiest moments of our lives and I’m so glad I have those photos to treasure. x
I do actually like the photos, the ones of me and my son when he is just minutes old make me blub every time I see them. He is just wonderful.
It’s good to recognise that women will look like crap after birth. I really feel sorry for Kate that she had to even wash her hair, let alone stand in heels in front of the world’s media! Bless her!
Yes, I really feel for Kate too – I bet it was the last thing she wanted to do. That’s lovely the photos have such an effect on you though – amazing how much emotion can come flooding back. x
After having a c-section, my first photo with my (now 10 week old) baby was whilst I was still on the operating table. I was in labour for 32 hours before baby arrived so I have greasy hair, tired and grey face, vomit on my nightie!! However, I cry every time I see that photo. There are so many emotions captured in the second that my partner took the photo; absolute joy, relief, instant and pure love. I felt like an absolute superhero, like the most beautiful and powerful woman in the world, and I love looking at that photo, remembering the first time I met the 2nd love of my life; our son.
I think that women should try to capture the moment that they first meet their newborn, as you can never go back to that moment. It’s a priceless photo. And women should feel beautiful at that moment, because they’ve just begun the most wonderful job!
I’m not usually this soppy! This is what that 1st photo has done to me!
Oh wow, what a beautiful comment. It really brought a tear to me eye. Thank you so much for sharing your story and yes, we should all feel like “an absolute superhero, like the most beautiful and powerful woman in the world”. Definitely photos to treasure. x
After being sick from the initial intake of gas and air I had a lovely rash all over my face that didn’t go for days. A painful 22 hour labour (strong contractions all the way) and funny heart rhythms with talks of potential cardiac referrals meant I was frazzled and an emotional wreck by the time our son was born – and these do show in the photos. I was so scared! But yes, I am also proud that we all survived that journey, and that I made the right priorities for me to get through those initial months of recovery (ditching the clothes and make up and ignoring housework to catch up on sleep and take in the wonder of my son).
Beautiful photos 🙂 Hearing your labour stories and seeing these precious photos have bolstered my strength and confidence for our second time around coming up in September – thank you for sharing!
Wow, sounds like you had a really tough time – and yes, you should be so proud of those photos for representing that journey.
Congrats on your new pregnancy, hope all goes well with baby number two and I’m so humbled to hear you say it’s given you some extra strength and confidence. We “normal” mummies are amazing x
They are beautiful photos, and I dare imagine Kate may have similar. I think we all have our look that we want for the outside world and those which are just us being us. Kate’s just seems intensified a million-fold, given all most of us want to do after our first is get home and there was this small matter of the world’s press before home for Kate. I love how much motherhood changes us, how desperate to stay-in we might be after our second just knowing it’s the nearest you’re going to get to a break for the next year! I hope every one knows what a world apart some pregnancies and births are, and that the moment our life grows a little bit bigger is a beauty beyond make-up and heels.
I like to think Kate has some photos just like this too and I am sure she will treasure them a lot more than the ones outside the hospital. What really shines through to me in post-birth photos is love and emotion and the amazement of meeting your baby for the first time. xx
I love your photos as they show such an amazing time in your life. I look awful on my first photos with my babies my hair is a mess and i look knackered. I left hospital all three rimes wearing maternity clothes and flat shoes , no make-up and my hair tied up in a messy ponytail. xx
I’m sure that new mum glow is shining through though. All these birth photos represent such an amazing miracle – we should all be very proud! x
Totally agree – the thing I’ve noticed from all post or shortly post-birth photos is how the women in them just shine (including you!). No make-up, no styled hair, no clothes even but there’s something radiant that’s more important than any dark circles. Although mine still aren’t going on Facebook any time soon…
My priorities after my daughter was born (courtesy of emergency C section) were sleep, food, shower, get dressed – in that order. Which meant vest and yoga pants for quite a few weeks. Make-up didn’t even figure.
Yes, you are right that women do just shine. It’s such a special moment and all those photos are so full of emotion and love and the wonderment of meeting a baby for the first time, not to mention everything the photos represent in terms of the pregnancy journey and birth story. xx
I think they are wonderful photographs that capture emotion and that special meaning of family.
Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. Amazing how a photo can capture so much raw emotion. x
I think you look lovely in those photos. I don’t have anything against people who use make-up, but personally, I am not a huge fan. When you are happy on the inside, it shows on the outside no matter what. Childbirth and motherhood by themselves are enough to make you glow, imo.
Yes, I think you are right about that inner beauty shining through, and new mums definitely do have that glow. I love everything these photos represent. x
Oh you look so emotional with your second! That is EXACTLY how i felt after the second. I love love love these pics. You look beautiful in every one! SO real. Xxxx
Just looking at that photo brings everything flooding back. I was so physically and emotionally tired from such a long labour, I couldn’t speak. All I could do was cry! Such a special moment to have captured though. x
Thank you for sharing. I think you look great in all three. I had c-sections and still looked pretty out of it in my pics. And it also never occurred to me to put on make-up. But I still love those pics as they are so real and personal and means a lot to our family!
Yes, that’s what I love about the pictures. Everything they represent – such an amazing moment to have captured. x
Ah I think you look amazing after giving birth to your precious little one. I just came back from Paris and a French lady on the plane asked me how Kate managed to look so radiant after giving birth, I said it’s a mystery to me and the majority of us who have to give birth in an NHS hospital and feel rubbish for the next couple of months! She happily agreed:)
Seems some things are universal! French women are always so glamorous, so it’s comforting to hear they look the same as the rest of us after giving birth!
You don’t look crap, you look beautiful. The love in your eyes takes over your whole face You look happy.
Photos after birth are such an emotional topic for me. I had pictures after my first emergency section but they were on my phone and that was stolen a year or so later. When Luka was born nobody thought to take photos. It had been so traumatic and the last thing I wanted was a reminder of it. I regretted it when pregnant with Bella though, and made sure I had a photo in recovery. I’d had a c-section so no make up but I had had my hair done the day before! When Elsie was born I’d been admitted for monitoring the night before, had no sleep and was so stressed after a long and stressful pregnancy. I found her birth (another planned section) quite distressing and when the midwife and my husband both asked if I wanted a photo I said no. I felt like crap and I wanted to hide away for a while. I cannot tell you how much I regret this, and always will.
My point (SORRY for the long comment!!) is that it doesn’t matter what you look like or even how you feel at the time. Take all the pictures, make the memories live on after you. And no, you don’t need to look like a princess. To that baby in your arms you are the world x x x x x x x
I had a little tear in my eye reading this comment – that bit about ‘to that baby in your arms you are the world’ is gorgeous. I can see why it’s such an emotional subject for you though. I’m so sorry to hear your phone got stolen and I’m sorry to hear you regret there not being any photos. It sounds like you had a really traumatic time though and I can see that photos were the last thing on your mind.I hope you have made up for it with photos now though! xxx
Great post, I think even when looking ‘rough’ all mum’s look beautiful after giving birth, you can see in your photos that you are glowing and your eyes look so happy!
Leanne – A Slice of My Life Wales
Yes, such a natural beauty in all the post-birth photos. Just a shame so many women feel they have to hide them away due to what society deems is beautiful x
I love your photos! We don’t have any of us just after the birth as they handed Rev T the Tubblet and wheeled me off for emergency stitches! #allaboutyou
Oh sounds traumatic. Hope all was okay and you didn’t have to wait too long for cuddles x
It’s funny, after she had George, I was super impressed by how she looked (and I appreciated that she still looked pretty much preggo in those first pics) but something changed this time around. It kinda frustrates me that she looks SO perfect just after giving birth to baby #2. Of course, she’s not alone to get ready for those crowds! Nor is she the primary one caring for her older child all the time…but it still erks me a wee bit. It isn’t that I’d want to see her looking rough, but it’s hard to see her looking a way that most of us cannot. :/
Great post and awesome pics!!
I think it must be very difficult for her though. Whatever she does is scrutinised. If she’d come out looking like the rest of us do after giving birth, the press would have a field day. Just like when they discovered she had some grey regrowth in her hair while pregnant and it was all over the papers. So unnecessary. I never see William being judged in the same way! x
I don’t think that any of us can imagine or understand what goes on in Kate’s world – I would imagine that her external appearance are armour against what the world’s press may want to say about her – basically, she’s on a lose-lose. And who knows whether she is the main carer of her children or not, and I really don’t mind or care. I love this post, I think you look real, and honest, and like a woman who has just created a beautiful new human being. The photo of you crying made me catch my breath, as I remembered the utter helplessness of being in the midst of labour, working so damn hard at it, and wanting it all to come to an end. Thank goodness we don’t have an army of people ready to judge us from the moment we have our babies – we have the luxury of private lives, of being able to nest and cuddle our babies, and whether you choose to brush your hair or not, pop on some eyeliner or not, as long as you’re dedicated to your baby that’s the only thing that matters, because we women do an incredible, epic, awesome thing in growing and delivering human beings! (this said, whilst in early stages of labour, I do have a pic of me painting my toenails, so I would be “prepared” – thank goodness, because afterwards, I certainly wouldn’t have contemplated it!)
Thanks for much for linking to #AllAboutYou
Thanks for your lovely comment, Zaz. Amazing how much emotion can be held in a photo – that one of me crying instantly brings it all back for me. I couldn’t speak (very rare for me!), all I could do was cry and shake, as it was such a long labour and I was exhausted and emotional, I didn’t think he would ever be born! I agree with your thoughts on Kate. It must be so hard for her, constantly being judged on her appearance and very little else. I like to think she has photos like this somewhere though. x
I love that you posted these it’s real life. I really hope Kate has some ‘real’ pictures as they are so precious. My first picture with my prem Ivf miracle is holding his tiny hand in NICU, It would have been amazing to have that moment but you know I wouldn’t change it for the world as my special picture is the day I got to hold him. I look pretty good as I had the benefit of a hot shower so I guess it’s all swings and roundabouts 🙂
Oh wow, sounds like a really emotional experience with your baby in NICU. Hope you are all doing okay now x
Oh yes thanks no lasting effects and now a crazy 3 year old!
Great post. Of course, I looked wonderful after having mine. Okay, I’m lying. I actually still look crap now, and my youngest is 12 months old. In fact, reading your post has reminded me that I didn’t have a shower or brush my teeth this morning. That said, I have a nearly 3 year old, a just 1 year old, 3 jobs, a dog, a puppy and a cat that all survive. I’d rather that than look nice. Probably.
Wow, sounds like you are doing an amazing job looking after everyone. I have days when I forget to clean my teeth too! My youngest is 14 months and I totally relate to what you are saying. x
You look amazing in all those photos and I’m so glad you’ve shared them here. I nearly wrote a post called ‘Doing Women No Favours Whatsoever’ along similar lines, but you’ve done it better than I would have, thank you. Brilliant post. #MBPW
Glad you liked it. You should still write your post – the more of us spreading the message that we should be celebrating birth in all its glory, the better x
You look great in the pics. After my first birth I looked horrendous, high on pethidine and exhausted after being induced! Photos for no one to see!! My second labour happened so fast I just about made it to the hospital so gave birth still in my dress and looked pretty good afterwards! Very different experience!!
You should be proud of those photos though! We mummies do amazing things! x