Before my feminist leanings were in full swing and I wanted to grow up to be Margaret Thatcher, I, like many of the hopeful girls of my generation, fancied myself as a pretty rad princess wife to Prince William. I dreamt of charity work in remote villages during the day and donning my tiara at the state dinner in the evening (I’d transport between the two in my flying horse-drawn carriage, of course).
What didn’t make it into my pre-pubescent fantasy was hundreds of thousands of people commenting on Facebook images of my post-baby baby. Ms. Thatcher might have looked more appealing earlier on.
Right after the birth of the most anticipated baby since… Jesus?… Kate was lauded by mothers around the globe for donning her “real body” in public. Those first iconic images of Kate and Will with their bundle of joy showed an “imperfect” princess, one with a pronounced bump. She looked gorgeous, nonetheless.
I was among those who let out a celebratory cheer upon seeing Kate’s post-partum body. Having given birth just two months prior to Kate (also long-awaited, yet with comparatively less fanfare), I was both personally and socially relieved to see another new mom leave the hospital without six-pack abs.
Yes! I thought. Now that’s what a new mom looks like! That wasn’t entirely accurate, of course. For one, she looked awake. More than that, she was dressed and had her hair combed. So she was sort of what a new mom looks like.
Regardless, it was a refreshing image of semi-reality when we’re normally fed the media’s steady diet of airbrushed mamas and “banish the baby fat!” headlines.
This week we got a new slew of images of post-partum Kate, just three months out from George’s birth. The pictures show a svelte princess playing volleyball in wedge heels at a charity event.
The Today Show posted the photo to Facebook and by the time I saw it, it had over a thousand comments. They ranged in tone from lauding Kate for the determination and commitment [the viewer assumed] it must take to return to her pre-baby size to decrying her thin physique for betraying millions of moms.
And in that moment, maybe for the first time, I felt sorry for the Princess. Now, sure, when you decide to marry Prince William, you sign on for your life to be played out in the public eye. But I have to wonder if you expect that your experience of bringing your child into the world will be so incredibly fraught with judgment about your body.
Kate’s body, vessel of her son’s beginnings and (reportedly) supplier of his nutrition, is now also subject to the world’s constant scrutiny. It begs the question, how much more can a woman’s body be to everyone? When does it stop belonging to the woman herself?
We love that she’s got pudge. Now we love that she doesn’t. Or we hate it. We are inspired or we are disappointed. We are proud of her or we are ashamed. We admire. We are jealous. We are skeptical.
And then maybe there are some of us who are indifferent. Thankfully. I imagine Kate likes people like that. But what do I know? We’re not in the same play group or anything.
The truth is that Kate’s body is and will continue to be the subject of thousands of articles, tweets, and lunch break conversations. And in the meantime, her body will continue to change, as our bodies do. Her breasts will stretch and shift and sleepless nights will add subtle lines and things just won’t feel the same as they used to.
And while I’d love to prance around the palace and get invitations to fancy parties, I’m happy to do without the world’s judgment about my body. I’m quite content to try to zip my old jeans in my own private little corner of the universe. It’s hard enough to do the work of mothering.
My wish for Kate, and for all mothers like and unlike her, is that she can go about the business, her business, of being a mama without Facebook commenters telling her if her post-partum body satisfies them or not.