The Duchess of Cambridge and Our Post-Baby Bodies

Originally published Tuesday, 30 July 2013.

I’m going to admit something which will probably make many of my friends and colleagues roll their eyes when they read this: I watched, via live-stream on my computer, in gleeful anticipation for the Royal Baby to be delivered and announced to the public. I know, I know- it’s just another baby, just another pregnant couple, babies are born every day. I get it. But like so many others, I’ve been swept up in the hype over Catherine and William—a couple who has seemed against all odds to remain relatively normal (and, I would argue, gracious, humble, and charitable)—in spite of their royal status.

When the pair finally walked out of the hospital holding Prince George, it was a thrilling moment. It was also a moment for moms everywhere, because Kate, beautifully serene, was wearing a lovely blue polka dot dress that did nothing to hide her post-baby belly.

It took me a moment to realize why seeing Kate’s post-baby belly gave me pause. Then I realized- I’m not use to seeing post-baby bellies. I thought quickly through my friends and family who I’d seen soon after delivery—yes, I remember those baby bellies, but there was something so surprising and affirming in seeing the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a dress which flattered her and did nothing to hide her bump. In a time when celebrity after celebrity often goes into a six-month hiatus and doesn’t emerge until a grueling exercise regimen has completely obliterated any sign of being with child, this was a much needed reality check for my heart.

I’m not the only one who had a strong reaction to Kate’s belly. I read Sarah Bessey and Emily Wierenga’s posts on the royal baby bump and cheered along with them.

“Because in the face of supermarket tabloids,” Sarah writes“that barely allow a woman’s perineum to be stitched up before they are gleefully asking “how she’s going to lose the weight” and a celebrity culture that plans a tummy tuck before even nursing the new babe for the first time, we have forgotten how having a baby actually looks on a body.”

Who knows what Catherine’s plan is for “getting her body back.” It says something about our culture when a phrase like that is even a part of our vernacular. Tabloids have gone crazy debating her weight loss plan, but as Emily writes in her blog, “Kate, forget the six-page spread in UK's OK Magazine detailing your weight-loss plan. Forget trying to get back to your pre-pregnancy physique because you have a new body now, one that has worn and born a child and one that will feed a child and it will never be the same, but change is good. You have a new name now, and that name is mother, and it has a shape all its own.”

This morning, I read a beautiful post by a woman named Charis Gibson on the blog Threads. She talks about the tears that came after reading about Jade Beall, a photographer who took pictures of women’s post-pregnancy bodies and posted them on her blog, eventually publishing them in a book. Charis is pregnant with her second child, and the images she sees plastered all over the media affect her like they do all of us. We start to believe what we’re seeing in magazines is reality and think what we see in the mirror is a grotesque distortion of beauty, when in fact the opposite could not be more true.

“The sad reality is, that despite being a loved child of God who should really have more important things to worry about, I’m clearly so bothered about my stomach sagging that I blub about it into my cornflakes,” Charis writes.

“In our fallen, messed-up world, we’re often so bound up with what we look like that it can be really hard for that relationship with God, that understanding of our identity in Him, to penetrate our self-loathing.

But one of the reasons I was so moved by these photos was that they reminded me I’m not a helpless victim of media airbrushing.”

I loved Charis’ thoughts here- that we have a choice when it comes to what we see on T.V. and in magazines. We can either “swallow the lie” and believe what we’re seeing, or we can remember Truth and let that shape us, define us. Good stories are good because they tell the truth about the human condition. Whether she intended it or not, the Duchess of Cambridge’s has caused a sensation with her stomach because she’s showing us the truth about life- that it’s not all airbrushed perfection.

Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.