By Ricky Wilson [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Monday morning, Kate Middleton, possibly the most lovely (almost Princess) since (actual Princess) Diana, delivered her third child — a boy who is yet unnamed because that’s apparently how The Royals do it. Congratulations to them — Prince William proving, yet again, that his penis works, and Kate Middleton proving, yet again, that she can look fabulous regardless of whatever new fresh hell she has been through.
Note: Why did Diana get the the Princess title while Kate just got to keep her maiden name? Enquiring minds can find out here.
Monday afternoon, the same Kate Middleton walked out of the hospital looking a bit more like she was walking a runway than a hospital corridor.
MEANWHILE, while Kate was giving actual birth to a whole human being, I was dragging my sorry ass out of bed, spraying 17 pounds of dry shampoo in my hair, and pleading with whatever god might listen to get me through the horror that is Monday.
And last week, while I was just trying to navigate Costco with two kids who wanted everything they saw (including flowers and a bottle of Pantene?) and do my job at the same time, Tammy Duckworth gave actual birth to a whole human being and then took said 10-day-old human being to the Senate floor so she could place a vote.
Though these women differ — I’m sure Kate has a team of professionals to make her look more like a model than a new mom, while Senator Duckworth probably did not — they are both doing their part to redefine what working women look like.
(Note: There are a lot of folks who couldn’t believe Kate would walk out of the hospital so soon post-delivery, but I am here to tell you I gave birth to my fifth baby and left the hospital as soon as everyone was sure I probably wasn’t going to bleed to death. That’s not me bragging, I just really don’t like hospitals, and I had other kids at home to take care of.)
All of this brings us to a valid point: Are women today, either by force or choice, changing the face of postpartum recovery?
Moreover, should we be celebrating it?
Women have more demands placed on them today than probably ever before (Except maybe during World War II?). And it shows. We are caring for other children, holding down the home-front, cloth diapering because our love for the environment has to trump our feelings about literal shit, and going back to work at four to six weeks postpartum (or less). We have forgotten how to spend the first month of our baby’s life doing what we most need — spending it with the baby. We may have completely forgotten how to rest. We may have completely forgotten to allow ourselves to rest.
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While Kate is sort of mandated to show off the royal lineage, she certainly didn’t have to do it looking as fresh as a summer breeze. But alas, she did (REMINDER: there was probably a team of folks helping her not look like she just ran a push-a-watermelon-out-of-your-vag marathon). And while Senator Duckworth certainly didn’t HAVE to go to the floor (actually, she might have?), she sure did wrap that baby up and go the heck to work.
And while I applaud these women for their willingness to do the work they have chosen, I do wish that our culture recognized that being a mother is a hard enough job without having to show up to your other job pretending you got more than a half-hour of sleep.
I do wish that our culture valued the most vital month postpartum as a time for healing our bodies and holding our babies. Sadly, I’m not sure we ever will. As the pressure to be perfect seems to prevail, more and more of us succumb to it. As we are celebrated for doing things like walking the aisles of Target for baby essentials (and, let’s be real, $100 of other stuff you didn’t know you needed) on the way home from the hospital, we are sending a clear message to mothers that they must continue to do more, be more, have more. At what cost, we may not fully understand.
I do wish that rather than expecting more, our culture valued women more.
Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wish I looked as flipping fabulous as Kate did like five minutes after giving birth.