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If some of the details in this article appear outdated it’s because I wrote it back in May 2015 when the royal couple had their second baby, Princess Charlotte.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.