July 24, 2013

Kate Middleton and The Bump Seen ‘Round the World

She could have hidden this. Her choice speaks volumes - courageous volumes.

I’m not much of a Royals Watcher. Frankly, I don’t understand a lot of the fuss, but I acknowledge that millions of Americans derive pleasure from tuning in to palace happenings, especially the ones which feature plenty of pomp, horse-drawn carriages, and elegantly-uniformed heralds making “hear ye” proclamations. I didn’t pay much attention to the fairy-tale rise and tragic death of Diana Spencer and I haven’t been paying much attention to the next generation: William and Kate, their wedding, her subsequent pregnancy or, most recently, the birth of their baby. (I just had to double-check the name of her husband because I wasn’t sure which of Diana’s kids he was. That’s how out of the loop I’ve been.)

But something happened yesterday that made me sit straight up and take notice of this woman named Kate Middleton. Tom Sykes of The Royalist summed it up nicely:

“As [she] stood proudly on the steps of the Lindo Wing yesterday with her new baby, she chose to wear a cornflower blue polka dot dress – remarkably similar to the one William’s mother, Diana had worn when she appeared from the same hospital carrying her first son. But whereas Diana had stepped out of the hospital in a dress that would have been more use on a camping trip than at a cocktail party – a huge, figure-shrouding gown that hid her post-pregnancy body – Kate…emerged in a light Jenny Packham dress…with a gathered empire waist that actually belted above her tummy, making no effort to hide her changed body shape. This thoroughly modern royal was apparently determined to lend a helping hand to women everywhere who have just give birth, and shatter one of the last taboos of pregnancy – the post-baby belly.”

In response to the photos of Kate with a prominent belly bulge, I’ve read comments from people wondering why she still “looks pregnant” and wondering whether something was amiss. Because, unfortunately, many of the models we have in the States for post-pregnancy body shapes come directly from Hollywood/celebrity culture which would have us believe that a woman who is too thin to throw a shadow when she conceives will be just as pencil-slender the day after labor and delivery. If memory serves, People has historically devoted large chunks of their shiny fantasy-mag to articles (with photos) that boast how quickly so-and-so got her body back post-baby. In America, this is the gold standard of motherhood — to very quickly look like you are NOT in fact a mother and get back to your sexy, sexy self the minute the cord is cut. What baby?

How powerful was Kate’s choice to be seen in all of her post-delivery glory? In the same Royalist article, Siobhan Freegard said that “In a couple of minutes on the steps of the Lindo Wing, Kate has done more for new mums’ self esteem than any other role model.
 Sadly too many celebrities often have ultra fast tummy tucks or strap themselves down to emerge in tiny size 6 jeans, leaving everyone else feeling inadequate. Kate shows what a real mum looks like – and natural is beautiful.

Kate could have done any number of things to hide the fact that she still looks six months pregnant (which is normal, and known by every new mother trying to squeeze into the same clothes she wore to the hospital for the trip home). She could have gone the Diana route and lost herself in a tent dress. She could have girdled it up and dressed it down to minimize it as much as possible. She could have refused to be photographed until after she was seated in the car. She could have held the car seat/baby in front of her. She could have chosen to cast and maintain an illusion of perfection. Instead, she chose to show the realities of childbirth and demonstrate the truth that even duchesses who live in palaces have real post-baby bodies, bulges and all. That’s confidence — utter, complete, this-is-what-I-look-like confidence. And nothing makes a woman more beautiful and interesting than confidence.

It’s also incredibly positive and powerful role-modeling for women everywhere. Kate Middleton, I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to you. I like you.

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