Duchess Kate Middleton and Prince William welcomed their third child on April 23, 2018, and the world was ready to celebrate.
To date, the announcement Tweet from Kensington Palace has been retweeted over 42,000 times.
In addition to the notes of congratulations and well-wishes, the comments are full of women noting how gorgeous she looks just hours after giving birth—often putting themselves down in the process.
“That’s EXACTLY how I looked after giving birth… not.”
“Wow, it’s been three years since I had a baby, and I still don’t look as good as she does.”
When the Duchess, or anyone in the spotlight, gives birth we find ourselves at once happy for them and comparing the many ways in which they are different from us, often with an underlying message of self-criticism.
Now, this is not about putting Ms. Middleton down—hardly. She is a remarkable woman, and yes, she is exquisitely beautiful.
But mama here’s the thing: So are you.
Yes, her hair is done, and her dress is adorable. But her beauty is much deeper than that. I see in her the same beauty that I see in every woman who has just done the work of bringing a child into the world—vaginal birth, cesarean birth and adoption included.
It’s the look of having just fallen in love.
It’s the look of a new level of confidence—and a new level of fear.
It’s the look of fatigue that comes from doing the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
You have those same looks—I haven’t met you, but I know. It’s what happens when you become a mother.
It’s the tie that binds us. Ultimately at its core, the beauty of motherhood has nothing to do with our make-up and hair—and Instagram photos and Pinterest worthiness of our days—and everything to do with our intent.
The intent to give our children the best lives we can.
We all strive for that, but the cards are stacked against so many.
Every new mother, royal or not, represents the current state of motherhood around the world. And quite frankly the state is not doing well.
Kate doesn’t deserve any less attention than she is getting— it’s just that other women deserve more attention than they are getting.
According to a new report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 40% of women do not go to their postpartum visit—even more for low-income women of color. They cite lack of transportation and the staggering fact that one out of four women in the United States return to work ten days after giving birth. Self-care for mothers is just hard, especially when resources are low.
The issue runs way deeper than logistics though. We live in a culture that has steadily engrained the message that some women are less-than.
We feel it when we silently put ourselves down when we see how beautiful Kate looks leaving the hospital. Why can’t I look like her?
We feel it in the disparities in our maternal and infant child care system, in which black infants are twice as likely to die as white infants.
We feel it when we put each other down to bring ourselves up.
It’s rampant. And it’s time for a change.
Change comes from the top—for example, Linda Villarosa wrote in the New York Times that “only about half the states and a few cities maintain maternal-mortality review boards to analyze individual cases of pregnancy-related deaths.” This means that we are not looking into the individual and systemic issues that are contributing to “[reduce] preventable maternal deaths.”
Change comes from policies and practices that allow women to take more than 10 days off from work, so they can heal, bond and embody the message that being a mother is as valuable as bringing home a paycheck.
Change comes from quality healthcare that is a given, not a luxury.
Change come from us—shifting the dialogue and culture to one that is inclusive of all parents, that tells all parents that they are important and worthy.
And change comes from within. Believe it or not, the very act of looking at your postpartum-self in the mirror and saying, “I am beautiful,” is a revolution in and of itself.
So yes, Kate is beautiful. But mama, the same light that shines from her eyes shines from yours—from every woman’s. No light is brighter or more valuable. It is our responsibility as citizens to mother each other.
It starts with ourselves.