Other than a morbid, Netflix-fuelled fascination with Princess Diana last November, I’ve never been that into stuff that comes out of Buckingham Palace. I’m not anti, I just didn’t really engage. I was convinced I’d seen William in Thursdays, our local nightclub when I was 16, but given it was in a field in Sussex, it seems unlikely. Plus, when I yelled ‘WILLS!’ he didn’t even flinch, so probably wasn’t him. Other than that night, I just felt the whole family were a world apart from us. Separate. Then Kate Middleton changed things a bit for me. Not with her astounding head of hair or the way she made LK Bennett a thing again, but with her honesty about motherhood.
First, she stood sweetly on the steps of the Lindo Wing with William and baby George, and we saw a gentle mound beneath her pretty blue dress. She was leaving hospital in a form-fitting dress that showed the still swollen belly beneath it. I didn’t crow and cluck with glee – when people said she was brave for showing it I thought this said more about them than her, and where exactly is she supposed to hide it?! – but I did nod sisterly, glad that she had single-handedly dispelled the commonly held myth that the uterus shrinks back down as soon as it’s vacated. Two more babies since then with more small shift dresses and that gorgeous shape, Kate is still having to brave those bloody steps in heels, when – if she’s anything like me (and appearances would suggest otherwise, of course) – she’s most likely clenching stuff around a wad of towels up there.
OK, so some might argue that by wafting out of the Lindo Wing, fully made up and looking like she could guest star in an episode of America’s Next Top Model might not be that helpful or honest. When you look like a raw steak 4-hours post-partum (hi!), this kind of high octane glamour could royally piss you off. BUT I’d argue – the majority of people who, thanks to family pressures and circumstances I guess we’ll never understand, had to face a bank of photographers and strangers in Union Jack suits hours after pushing out an 8lb baby would also gratefully allow a hairdresser and expert makeup artist in to soften the blow. She’s not posing for a ‘LOOK I SNAPPED BACK!” shoot, she’s following protocol. I can’t think of anything worse than being exposed like that, when all you want to do is get into bed and stick an ice pack in your pants. And what Kate Did Next at a Best Beginnings charity event will always override any residual snark about the post-birth get up, frankly. For me, anyway. Because what she did that day went a long way towards making an honest dialogue more acceptable. In her speech, she admitted she found motherhood ‘a huge challenge’.
“Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer, overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother,” she said, “It’s full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost. There is no rulebook, no right or wrong; you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can at times lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance. It’s right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s okay not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.”
I was stunned to hear her speaking so frankly. Because this isn’t just a break with royal protocol, but also the general theme of post-truth perfection wielded by so many mothers in the public eye.
And just as some might give that nude patent pump a go when they see her shapely foot shining in the sun, she might also ignite a spirit of honesty that helps people acknowledge and share their feelings, and hopefully when necessary, to seek help. What a gal.