Her Royal Highness, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth to a little girl, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, this past Saturday. Surely you know this, as there has been little else talked about since the royal baby’s birth and official naming. Much attention has been paid to the fact that Kate left the hospital so soon after giving birth (a mere 12 hours), and looking like a movie star. I’ve been reading and sifting through the social media buzz, trying to digest it all and make sense of it for myself. So here’s my two cents on the issue…..
First of all, it is possible to give birth and be a functioning human being immediately afterwards. Now before you start sending me hate mail, let me say that my previous statement is predicated upon the birth being a natural, vaginal delivery without complications and interventions. Laura Kaplan Stanley writes in her book, Unassisted Childbirth, about how in many primitive cultures, women give birth mostly on their own, in fields and then put their baby in a sling and continue about their work. She talks specifically about a friend witnessing this in Korea in the 1960’s. So let’s not go on and on about how extraordinary Kate is. She’s a woman, clearly in excellent health and well looked after. She gave birth to healthy baby girl and left the hospital the same day. Fact, not fiction. Reality, not myth.
Secondly, there has been a lot of talk about how Kate arrived at the hospital at 6am and gave birth at 8:34am. Such a short labor has been called “virtually unheard of.” Well, umm sorry, wrong again – on two counts. Very short labors are, indeed, quite possible (though admittedly not the norm). In addition, who is to say that Kate rushed to the hospital when she had her first labor pain? Many media outlets have commented that Kate’s desire was to have a home birth. If that is true, and there is no reason to believe it’s not, perhaps Kate faced opposition to the idea. Perhaps, as a result, Kate decided to labor for as long as possible in her own home, and only arrived at the hospital when the delivery was close at hand.
Finally, if I had a team of people working with me and behind me on almost every aspect of my life, I could have looked like a rock star leaving the hospital, too. According to the Telegraph, Kate’s personal hairdresser arrived pulling a suitcase full of styling supplies to help Kate become presentable. Did she have a make-up artist do her make-up? Maybe. Maybe not. Having had her make-up done professionally so many times before, I’m sure has provided Kate with some skills in doing it herself. The silk Jenny Packham shift dress Kate wore as she exited the Lindo Wing was slimming yet also revealed a very natural and normal looking post-baby “pooch” at her midsection. I highly doubt she was wearing Spanx or had a tummy tuck.
Those of you who have not had a natural, vaginal birth, without complications or interventions, may (somewhat understandably) find all of this hard to grasp, since your own experiences are so different from what we are assuming (keyword there: assuming) Kate experienced. Maybe I wouldn’t believe it myself if something similar hadn’t happened to me.
I gave birth to Sam on Christmas Eve, 1999. I, too, had wanted a home birth, in the water, but my husband was not comfortable with the idea. Our compromise was the use of a midwife, not an obstetrician, at Staten Island University Hospital, and that (assuming there were no other issues) I would give birth in the bathtub of the now non-existent birthing suite. I felt my first labor pain somewhere around 3 am. I labored for a while in my own shower – long enough to use up all the hot water in the hot water tank. Jon and I waited for my mother or brother to arrive to stay with Allie, then 3.5 years old, so that we could head to the hospital and bring Sam into the world. This took much longer than anticipated. I fought the urge to push as I knelt down on pillows on my living room floor, my head down and my ass in the air. I had read in a Bradley book that this position can slow down the process, at least temporarily. When my brother finally showed up, Jon and I headed to the hospital, arriving just before 5am. I was fully dilated and effaced. My water had not yet broken, which is probably the only thing that prevented Sam from being born in my living room or in the car. I got into a lukewarm bathtub and started pushing shortly thereafter. Sam was born in the water. I held her on my chest at 5:43am. I stood up in the bathtub and walked, by myself, from the tub into the bedroom and lay down, unassisted. I had no IV, no monitors, no episiotomy. I nursed Sam in the bed and drifted into sleep, my husband next to me, and Allie, my mom and other relatives in the ante-room chatting about as the sun came up. I asked to be released from the hospital as soon as possible. My midwife recommended that I stay for 8 hours. I had to wait for the pediatrician to arrive to examine Sam and give the okay anyway. It was Christmas Eve, so this took a little longer than usual. I sent Jon and Allie off to have Christmas Eve dinner, as usual, at my mother-in-law’s. My dad and brother went to my aunt’s house, also as usual. My mom stayed behind and brought Sam and I home around 8pm in relative quiet. Jon and Allie returned home a short time afterwards. Sam slept in the crib we had set up “side-car style,” up against our bed. I woke the next morning and opened Christmas gifts with Allie and her new sister. We all got dressed and headed to my mom’s for our annual Christmas Day celebration. Was I tired? Of course! I laid on the couch and in my mom’s bed when I felt the need and we ended the evening early so that I could return to my own bed. While my body may have had a physiological “need” to be at rest for a period of time following Sam’s birth, the thought of being home with Sam and away from such an important and joyful celebration would have broken my heart and possibly my spirit. I could not bear the thought of it. It was MY CHOICE to be part of the celebration, in whatever limited way I could. I left the hospital the same day for a few reasons: I wanted to be in my own bed (I was seriously uncomfortable in the hospital). It was Christmas Eve. I had another little girl who I wanted to get home to quickly and I wanted as little disruption to her life as possible. I was not sick. Sam was not sick. She was a healthy 8 pounds 3 ounces and 20.5 inches in length. I delivered at 38.5 weeks. There was no medical reason for me to stay. Now, did I look like the tall bombshell that Kate did, with my hair and make-up done, in a custom made outfit, as I left the hospital? Absolutely not! But I could have if I had had a team of hair stylists and make-up artists helping me out. And I suspect my “pooch” was larger than Kate’s. But everything about me, past and present, is larger than Kate’s 🙂 My point in detailing one of my three birth experiences is that Kate’s situation is not really out of the ordinary, as the media is portraying it. Perhaps the only extraordinary thing about her experience is that most of us aren’t greeted by throngs of paparazzi as we head home with our newborns.
What I would like to know is, really, why are we so fixated on this? If Kate came out of the hospital looking like a complete wreck, and – heaven forbid – fat, “we” would be criticizing her and fat shaming her. Yet, she came out looking amazing. So, instead of being happy for her, and celebrating the birth of another royal baby, or simply another human being, we call her a possible fraud and discuss how unlikely and improbable her experience was. Seriously??? She couldn’t possibly win. I made my own choices and decisions regarding the birth of all three of my girls, each time incorporating the experience of the previous birth(s) into the decision making process. Kate clearly did the same. All of our experience are unique to ourselves. No two births are the same. We all face choices at each crossroad or intersection. Why is it such a big deal that Kate faced these same challenges and made her own choices and decisions? She didn’t consult any of us. It is, after all, her body, and, therefore, none of our business.