So it seems to be big news that Kate Middleton was photographed with a visible bump when she and Prince William left the hospital with wee baby George. Some posted comments on both news and gossip blogs pondering how it was possible that she was ALREADY pregnant and showing. Really? That would be quite a miracle. This response unfortunately reflects the unrealistic expectations for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately following giving birth.
The truth is, of course, that it takes a while for the uterus, that a day or two before held a dozen pounds of baby, placenta, and fluid to shrink to its usual size (that of a fist). It takes up to eight weeks for this process to be complete. So that bump is perfectly normal.
Breastfeeding aides in the return of the uterus to its original size. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions, slowing bleeding and helping the organ to shrink. For women who’ve already given birth, these contractions are sometimes painful, like early labor–typically not the case for first births. But there is no way that any woman, breastfeeding or not, will have a flat postpartum belly.
Tucson’s own Jade Beall, whose photographs of mothers’ bodies in all their un-Photoshopped glory have received staggering attention around the globe recently, commented on the Kate’s post-baby photo on The Daily Beast:
This is a historic moment for women around the world. Kate has chosen to confidently show what our bodies can look like after undergoing one of the most life-changing feats a human can experience.”
I, for one, was thrilled to see Kate not only hiding under a tent-like dress, as was done in previous generations, but actually rocking an empire waist, accentuating the perfectly normal body of a brand-new mom. (Of course she also had perfectly coiffed hair, but that’s how it works when you have your own full-time stylist. Hey, I wouldn’t have minded a nice shampoo and blow-out after delivery…)
It’s so wonderful that what must be the most widely seen photo of a new mom this year is both beautiful and educational.Thank you, Kate, for not hiding the normal belly of a new mother. And thank you Jade, for your work in sharing the beauty of bodies in all their glorious forms.