With her trademark bouncy locks, glowing complexion, and an on-trend Jenny Packham collared dress, it was hard to believe that the duchess had given birth mere hours earlier.
But mothers are divided about the message her immaculate appearance sends.
While many admired her preened-to-perfection postnatal look, others are concerned that it could pile on the pressure for other new moms to look photo-ready straight after giving birth.
And others wondered how they might have reacted to having to face the world’s glare right outside the doors of their birthing suite.
On social media, moms posted comparison pictures of their own postdelivery images, while a forum thread discussing the topic on U.K. parenting site Mumsnet attracted hundreds of comments.
One mom who wondered if Middleton’s appearance might contribute to increased expectations for others was British TV host Katy Hill.
Sharing an image of how she looked after giving birth, the mother of two also penned a blog post on the subject.
“When Kate left the Lindo Wing, first we all thought ‘Wow — she looks amazing HOURS after giving birth.’ And then it turned to ‘HOURS after giving birth? REALLY??!’”
Hill pointed out that she’s a huge fan of the royal’s, but wonders why she should “feel the pressure to be THIS coiffed, THIS soon.”
Another celebrity who marveled at Middleton’s picture-perfect appearance was new mom and tennis superstar Serena Williams.
Chatting with PopSugar (via Marie Claire), Williams explained how seriously impressed she was with the duchess’s bounce-back.
“I was really busy, but I saw the baby, and Kate was dressed, and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe she had him a couple days ago,'” Williams told the publication.
“That’s one heck of a woman! Let me tell you: I was not in heels [after I gave birth]. I thought she gave birth maybe two days before! Wow.”
But for many women, her appearance was a stark contrast to their own reality. And hundreds of women responded to a tweet from BBC Woman’s Hour host Jane Garvey encouraging them to share their own postnatal truth.
Little doubt that #DuchessofCambridge looks amazing Most women post-birth look like a sack of spuds. I’d post an image of me but you’d need help afterwards. If you’re willing to share your truth, tweet @BBCWomansHour
— Jane Garvey (@janegarvey1) April 24, 2018
— Jade Whyley (@JadeBarnes23) April 24, 2018
While many women were sharing their own postdelivery pictures, others were concerned that by having to face the world so soon after giving birth, the duchess was under her own pressures.
Michelle Kennedy, founder of the Peanut app connecting like-minded moms, has argued that we need to spare a thought for the royal about having to appear picture-perfect so soon after delivering her third child.
“While we all feel pressured to ‘bounce’ back after birth, because this is what the media seems to tell us, the reality is somewhat different,” she told Yahoo Style U.K. “Imagine then the pressure on the Duchess of Cambridge to appear to the world’s media.
“No woman expects that this is their reality; this is the reality of a woman who, with the support of a team, has certain obligations.”
Kennedy cited a thread on the Peanut app called Super Kate, which seemed to sum up the divide of opinion.
“All of the women who were part of the discussion were firstly seeing the funny side (and sharing their own realities of so few hours postpartum), and acknowledging Kate’s reality vs. every woman’s reality, while admiring her holding it together for a photo opportunity (and hoping she got home quickly to get into her pyjamas!).”
I STILL can’t believe Kate Middleton had to appear fully dressed in HEELS shortly after giving birth. I could barely put a shoe on! #birth #postpartum #newmum #pressure #ridicuous #unbelievable #fake #recovery #giveyourselfabreaklove
— charlotte-mary (@scarlettcharlet) April 25, 2018
I’m sure people will shoot me down for saying this- but what sort of an unrealistic message is Kate putting out to new mums & how much pressure was she put under to step out looking so glamorous(& in heels) after just giving birth?! #unrealistic #royalbaby #poorrolemodel
— Krysta Louise (@Kryskayella) April 24, 2018
It’s a sentiment echoed in an Instagram post by the owner of Cissy Wears.
“I can’t imagine having to have a hairdresser and makeup artist and stylist in my face hours after giving birth,” she wrote on Instagram alongside her own postnatal photo.
“I count myself lucky that I didn’t have to think about anything other than my tiny baby. I didn’t have to worry about how people would judge how I looked despite the fact I’d just given birth. I didn’t have people all over social media commenting about how I still look pregnant.
“I wasn’t expected to look amazing and then be criticized at the same time for giving other women unrealistic expectations,” she continued.
She concluded her post by pointing out that all births are different.
“You are not more ‘real’ because you were wearing sweatpants and [have] burst blood vessels under your eyes,” she wrote. “You are not less real because you weren’t. You just gave birth. You are incredible.”
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