For most of my life, I have always thought that it must be great to be royal. Some people may disagree with this; but, all things considered, I’ve often thought the lifestyle that goes with it can’t be so bad. When I express this opinion to others, many agree, but I am also often met with responses relayed in tragic tones such as “it would be a complete invasion of your privacy!” and “but you wouldn’t be able to do the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s ever again!” I hear what these people are saying; but, to be truthful, things like that wouldn’t bother me so much. Anyone who knows me well knows that Sainsbury’s carpark is one of my least favourite places on Earth. In my mind, Hell looks exceptionally similar to that wretched parking lot. I can’t stand it. I also hate doing the grocery shop- especially with two children under two, I hasten to add. The invasion of my privacy thing would be annoying, but I think I’d be willing to accept it in exchange for the other perks that royalty has to offer; and one cannot deny that there are many of those.
One thing that I haven’t ever envied the royals for though, is the fact that they have to pose for photographs in front of a substantial audience just hours after giving birth. Anyone who has given birth, or who has watched someone give birth for that matter, will know that it is pretty grim. Sure, the end result is good, but I am referring to the physical process itself. Whether you are lucky enough to have one of these legendary “super fast labours” or whether you labour for hours or even days on end; regardless, I think most people feel pretty awful and knackered by the end of it. In addition, it is a fairly gory undertaking if I’m to be totally honest. Considering all of that, it is not difficult to appreciate that one is certainly not feeling picture perfect in the immediate aftermath of this unique experience.
I’m very lucky that many of my closest friends now have babies and young children. In fact, a group of us have been through the whole pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a baby stage together. This has enabled us all to share our experiences of various things and to support and relate to each other throughout the whole “journey.” One thing I have noticed, however, is that when we messaged each other to announce the news that we had finally given birth to our respective bundles of joy, none of us sent each other pictures of ourselves immediately following the birth. Generally we sent a picture of the new arrival, without us featuring at all. I knew that my reason for not sending my immediate post birth selfie was, to put it bluntly, because I looked horrendous in it. I suspected my friends thought the same about their own post-birth pictures. Besides, many people will view such pictures as somewhat personal and private, and wouldn’t want the entire world to see them. It wasn’t until recently, when I sent some outraged messages to some of my close friends via Wattsapp fuming over some remarkably unrealistic post-birth pictures that I had seen on Instagram that we all began to share our own pictures with each other.
To set the scene, I was sat at home browsing through Instagram. Since starting my blog and its related Instagram account, my feed and recommended pictures have mainly been centred around the niche of motherhood and babies and so I see quite a lot of posts of this nature. I was scrolling away quite contentedly when, all of a sudden, my blood began to boil. I came across a spate of pictures of women who were apparently in a hospital room or bed holding a newborn baby. They had allegedly just given birth. However, these pictures were ridiculous and outrageously unrealistic in my opinion. Specifically, they featured women with pristine make-up, wearing sexy lingerie, sporting non-bloodstained thighs (!), with not a bead of sweat to be seen on their perfectly made-up brows.
Now, I’ll be one of the first to confess that I am not really much of a feminist. However, I was somewhat outraged that this was the message that was being sent to women via social media; that looking pristine and unblemished immediately after going through labour was somehow normal or expected. These women looked more ready for a photoshoot than I did on my own wedding day (and I had to get up at a most disagreeable hour that morning in order to put in an adequate amount of time to try and make myself look pretty)! They certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place if they were to be posing on the steps of the famous Lindo Wing. I texted my close friends without delay, asking if their post-birth pictures were anything like these. Luckily, I was more than satisfied with the responses and examples they gave me. Basically, all of our photographs were pretty similar (and nothing like the aforementioned Instagram or royal examples).
Of course I am not about to share everyone’s pictures on here (I will share my own at the end), but it’s safe to say that if I had have seen most of these prior to going in to labour then I would most likely have sutured my own cervix up out of fear (and I’d given birth once before already so knew what was coming). Only one friend was not pictured looking significantly bloodstained and tearful and she quickly clarified that this was because shortly after her baby was born he had shat all over her chest and so she had to be cleaned prior to any photographs being taken. This necessary scrubbing had made her look quite a bit more presentable than the rest of us did!
After having Henry (my first) I remember being in a world of pain. I am not exaggerating when I say that EVERYTHING hurt. Although I was overjoyed to welcome the little man, everything hurt so much that I tried to smile for the camera over a face that was screwed up in agony and trying not to cry. This resulted in me looking like some sort of crazed psychopath with an incredibly sinister smile indeed. To add to this unfortunate facial expression, I was sweaty and had make-up smeared down my face following the exertion and variety of emotions experienced within an incredibly short space of time. I had also managed to strip off down to my underwear at some point along the line (I can’t remember exactly when this happened, although I suspect it was around the time that I was on all fours the wrong way round on the bed- one of my friends did warn me that I may experience an overwhelming desire to get naked during labour, and it appears she was correct). My hair was also greasy and crazy, hence the analogy of having been dragged through a bush backwards. Henry was in the picture of course, and he was curled up in my arms, covered in blood and some sort of white substance (like all freshly born babies are) and his face was screwed up from crying.
Edward, my second, was a much quicker second stage of labour. As a result, I don’t think I looked quite as buggered in the post-labour pictures, but I still wasn’t ready for my Instagram close-up. Essentially, I ended up looking rather startled and surprised that he had come out as quickly as he did (with Henry I was pushing for much longer and so when it started with Edward I was thinking I was really in for it but actually he was much faster to emerge) and my shellshocked look was accentuated when they announced his weight just before the photo (I think most people would look somewhat dumbfounded with the realisation that 8lb14.5 of human had just somehow emerged from their nether regions- kudos to all those who have birthed heavier infants). I had been spattered with blood as he arrived and was transferred to me for skin-to-skin and so I sported blood stains, not just on my thighs, but as far as my shoulders. Edward was performing as a newborn is expected to and appeared to be screaming the place down in said picture. When I went for a bath shortly after having Edward, my husband came to check on me. He claimed this was to ensure I was ok “under the circumstances”, but given the unsettling trail of blood that led to the bath, and the vibrant red shade of the water (the scene looked like it could have been one of the outtakes from Texas Chainsaw Massacre), I suspect that he was actually making sure that a deranged, knife-bearing lunatic hadn’t snuck in through the bathroom window and stabbed me whilst he and my aunt were fussing over the newborn in the other room. This wasn’t the case, but my husband seemed almost surprised at that. I do remember a similar bath post Henry as well, just for the record.
After I had given birth to Edward, my dad (also called Edward) who was on holiday in the Caribbean, put the aforementioned photo on his social media and I was furious because it was not flattering and I thought I looked dreadful in it. I made him remove the post from his page shortly afterwards (forcing him to do so was easier said than done when he was vacationing across the Atlantic and I was sending pleading text messages to him whilst trapped under a feeding newborn). My dad (bless him) could not understand what my problem was at the time and he kept telling me that he thought the picture was “wonderful.” Initially, I thought he was a crazy old fool for saying that and thinking it was in any way appropriate to post such an eyesore online, but since then I have reflected and come to the conclusion that perhaps the bloke was merely thinking that everyone needed a good dose of reality. Seeing the pristine Insta snaps recently really reinforced this thought for me.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is, that these staged social media photos are just that- totally false. As I said, if the person in the picture doesn’t look as though they have been dragged through a bush backwards, run a marathon they have done zero training for (hence sweaty and half dead), and look like they’ve been hauled over a bed of knives (blood EVERYWHERE) then the photo isn’t legit (or they, like the royals, are privileged enough to have a team of hairdressers and make-up artists on hand to make them look red-carpet-ready after the whole ordeal). So, if you feel like you look awful in your post-birth pics, then that is totally normal. Unless of course, you are “unfortunate” enough to be royal!