The Expectations and the Authenticity Ten Hours After Birth

Looking at the photo of a royal ten hours after she had given birth made me curious about what other women’s stories were ten hours after giving birth. Those stories are below.

I have been exceptionally busy this week and therefore behind in the news. When I first saw the photo of the royal family my thoughts were “Oh, so sweet. A little princess.” (An actual princess, not the default female-child-equals-princess princess.) Welcome to the world, Baby Charlotte! The image of Kate, William, and Baby Charlotte on the steps of the hospital, introducing her to the waiting world is lovely. Kate looks radiant and proud. She and William are visibly glowing and clearly in love with tiny Charlotte. I smiled to myself knowing what a special moment they’d have as parents introducing George to his new sister.

When I learned the photo had been taken a mere ten hours after the birth I was a bit shocked and my thoughts were, “And here comes the shit show.” Kate, intentionally or not, just upped the ante upon which we will compare, contrast, and fight with each other as mothers and women. Ten hours. Not even a full half day.

Let’s remember this discussion isn’t about Kate the woman, but the image of Kate the celebrity. As an individual, Kate the woman is free to make her own choices and I invite you to respect them. She may have felt completely amazing after Charlotte’s birth and was looking forward to introducing her daughter to the throngs of people waiting to glance at the world’s tiniest princess. As you’ll see in a bit, different women feel differently after birth. Each birth is different, from mom to mom but even for the same mom from birth to birth. I’ll share those stories with you in just a moment.

ChildbirthTen hours after birth looks different for different women, though we’d never know it by what the media presents to us. We don’t honor individual stories of mothering. We are not honest about our bodies. We don’t insist on there being a rich and textured weave to that cloth. No, we accept one smooth narrative applied to all. Using the most recent photo of Kate as an example, ten hours after birth women are still expected to look pulled together, coiffed and manicured, having put on a pretty face and perfect outfit for the cameras attempting any trace of evidence of what our bodies actually just did.

If you are like me and find it unavoidable to encounter images of famous, rich women and their just-had-a-baby-can-you-believe-it-bodies splashed all over magazines and websites then you know that really we could insert any celebrity mom into the position the Duchess was in this week and have the same results.

Kate Middleton I want to examine the presentation by the media of a mother a mere ten hours after birth. I want to look at what societal expectations we have and how realistic those expectations are for most mothers.

Let’s also remember that in this photo, Kate isn’t just a “new mom”. She is a “working mom”. Kate’s job to look perfect in public. (That’s the rub when you’re a princess.) She is doing her job as a member of the Royal Family and she is dressed for her work, which in this scenario is to be put on display for her public. She is doing her job well.

But as a celebrity, Kate’s image didn’t happen in a vacuum and her carefully managed image only serves to add pressure on women for whom the Beauty Myth extends to their bodies even during pregnancy, birth, and post-partum.

You have seen the headlines and advertisements all week, yes? “Get Kate’s effortless post-baby look now!” “Yummy Mummy Kate looks perfect in yellow and you can too!” “Kate may have just given birth, but she looked as elegant and stylish…”  “Duchess Kate has perfect new mommy color pallet for this spring. Find your colors now!”

I have even seen birthing centers and midwives use Kate’s photo to market their style of birthing classes and services, saying “Yes Kate looks this good after birth and YOU can too if you only try ________ during childbirth!”

And still the focus remains on what we look like, not what we do. I simply cannot stand it. I want to scream. 

If it is not known or obvious to people, Kate had a team of stylists and professionals surrounding her and helping her to look this pulled together. She may have enjoyed every minute of it and that is fine, but what is important here is for women to understand her look was achieved with professional help that is not accessible for most moms. Kate had a public appearance with her newborn from which the photos would be shared around the world and become part of history. Of course she wanted to look her best, aside from the fact she was obligated to.

Read how Kate and her team of well-paid stylists achieved her perfect look.

None of this is Kate’s fault nor responsibility, naturally. She didn’t create this system. Society is using her. (Again, that’s the rub for a real princess.) In all honesty, we need to turn our attention off Kate and reflect inward at what narratives we choose to believe. And judge each other by. Worst of all, what narratives do we judge ourselves by?

“Wouldn’t it have been cool if this time around, she had injected another dose of reality into the whole myth of instantaneous post-partum perfection? [S]he could have used her platform to make a difference. And by doing so, IMHO, she would have done a great service to her most devoted subjects: other women.” – Audrey Brashich

Read Audrey’s full post here: “Why I’m Mad At Kate Middleton”

Ten hours after either labor and birth of my two children I did not look like Kate. I looked as beautiful as a woman exhausted from childbirth can look. I know I wasn’t concerned about looking beautiful. I was focused on caring for my body and figuring out what to do with this tiny person who was mine. I was wearing a nursing tank top and the awesome meshy hospital underwear, bleeding into those giant hospital pads and all over my bed. That is what my body was supposed to do after pushing a human being and placenta out of it. I was catheterized and sewn back together in places I didn’t know could tear open like they did. And since we’re all friends here, I’ll have you know that after my son’s birth I pooed the bed due to three hours of pushing and a stomach virus that had set in 24 hours before his first breath. I tried to clean it up but couldn’t and sat sobbing in my room until the nurse answered my call button. TMI? Nobody talks about that side of birth, do they? Time to get real, girls! Shit happens.

I was feeling angry and traumatized because childbirth didn’t go as easily as I had been promised by other moms who had used the same birthing technique I had tried, and failed at. I felt lied to and I felt like a failure. I was unshowered, exhausted, overwhelmed, and in pain. A lot of pain. I was mad at my husband for not bringing me flowers. Or food. I was hungry and waiting for my milk to come in. I hurt, everywhere. I wanted my mom. I needed to brush my teeth. I wanted everyone to get away from me and I wanted a circle of people around me to help me and care for me and the baby. I was madly in love with and awestruck over my newborns and after my son’s wretched birth I promised myself I’d never go through this again.

That is my story. I wish it was happier. It just is what it is. I love motherhood, I hated birthing.

We don’t hear our collective truths often enough. We don’t speak our truth often enough. Maybe we aren’t invited to, maybe we’ve been taught to keep it quiet. Maybe we think it doesn’t measure up to what should be. Maybe we have learned to not own our bodies and therefore discredit one of the most intense experiences we’ll ever have with it.

Maybe it is because we are not taught how to honor other women and in turn honor ourselves.

I am abundantly cautious of selling child birth to women like a travel brochure, with one desirable ending point. Childbirth is a journey, not a destination. A destination means a single, desirable end place. A journey means we take different paths and hold different stories of our travels.

When we discredit or silence the negative birth experiences we take away from the power of the event. We rob a woman of her voice and her story. We end her journey for her because she did not reach her destination. We tell a lie by omitting the full panorama of what birth truly is.

The most disrespectful thing we can ever do to a woman is to take away her voice and disempower the story of her journey. The media does this regularly and attempts to take away the authenticity of our births and our bodies.

The other day on the Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies Facebook page I asked for women to share their truths, to tell us what they looked like ten hours after birth. I linked a media literacy article for context and it was interesting that even when given the opportunity to tell their truth some women still took time to judge, berate, chastise, and snark at each other. To cut each other down. To tell each other what to do. Instead of telling their own story they told others what to do with theirs. It was an experiment within an experiment and one of the reasons it took me so long to write this post is because I did not want to have to wade through all that negativity again.

The majority of that thread was women using their voices to tell THEIR stories. To enrich this pattern we are weaving. To create a more authentic and truthful yarn that holds this cultural narrative of childbirth together. Some women shared photos, a beautiful and real portrait of what motherhood looked like when it began for them. 

Some of the stories were hilarious: 

“10 hours after giving birth I looked like I’d been rode hard and put away wet.” -Laurie M.

“Ten hours after birth, I looked like a soggy and bruised puff pastry.” -Holly W.

“The Stay-Puft Marshmallow man. But I had a big smile on my puffy face.” -Dawn B.

“Deflated bratwurst.” -Katie S.

Some stories were harrowing and made my breath catch: 

“Ten hours after my last birth I was still intubated and in an induced coma. I don’t know how I looked, there are no pictures of that time. I saw myself for the first time three days later.” -Cassandra A.

“A bedridden homeless person. I was still on IV magnesium to prevent post c-section seizures. Had not seen my twins, as I was on bedrest for 24 hours. I at least had a catheter so I was spared from using a bedpan.” -Jennie K.

“I looked like a scared mama, praying my micro preemie would survive the night.i have no idea what I looked like, I was only concerned for her life. So thankful most people don’t have to worry about that 10 hr after birth.” -Betsy T.

Some stories were empowering, ‘I am woman, hear me roar’ type truths:

“Ten hours after birth I looked pretty good. I could get up and take a shower right away and put on some clothes.” -Kathryn H.

“10 hours after giving birth I looked like the happiest mama in the world, I was glowing with joy and power at my accomplishment. I was sporting a heavily used hospital gown with front slits to facilitate ease of nursing, but I didn’t care I was over the moon with happiness.” -Deirdre O.

“Ten hours after giving birth, I looked proud, and happy.” -Jessica B.

Some were very real:

I could really use a shower” -Mia B. 

“Greasy and stringy.” -Elisabeth J.

“Like I needed to sleep long and soundly!” -Birgit N.

“A lump of panicky exhaustion!” -Rowenna A.

Some stories were more difficult, similar to what I shared of my truth above: 

“10 hours after giving birth, I looked like a deflated purple spotted ball of motherhood.” -Erin W.

“Train wreck – both times. Super long labors, one emergency C-Section.” -Kelly G.

I looked shell-shocked and terrified. I also looked nauseated because I hadn’t had a proper meal in about 3 days.
Also, I was wearing socks and my husband’s sandals because my feet had swollen too much to fit in my own shoes. And it was snowing.” -Wendy H.

Some stories showed the experience can vary from birth to birth for the same mom:

“I looked OK the first time around. I’d had a shower and blow-dried my hair and put some make up on. Why? Because I’d had a fairly straight forward delivery, a healthy baby and I knew there would be cameras out, taking pictures to send to far away family, and I wanted to look a certain way. The important thing is that *I* wanted to do that – I did it for me and no one expected it from me. It was my choice and I was lucky to have the mobility and energy to manage it. My second delivery was a different story! I looked like you’d expect someone who has just survived life threatening complications would look – hooked up to IVs, unable to move. I didn’t shower for days – I couldn’t walk for days – and that was OK, too. Every situation is different.” -Jill B

“10 hours after my first birth I looked like a train wreck, natural quick birth but my body tensed up & I was in rough shape for like a week. After second birth I looked great, I relaxed more the second time & had more time between contractions. But both births I looked completely in love & in awe of my handsome little boys I had carried around inside me!” -Jennifer P.

And all of the others that won’t be categorized but rather blended together because women and birth cannot be separated and categorized. They can only be truthful and we can only act as sisters to one another if we are to hold each other up and live authentically: 

“Ten hours after birth I looked like I would EAT THE FACE OFF anyone who suggested I should do anything other than nap, eat and tend to my kid.” -Alexandra G.

“10 hours after giving birth I was a wreck (both times).” -Ushan A.

“Okay but stoned, and I couldn’t move my legs because of my epidural. No walking anywhere for me!” -Leslie K

“I looked like me, but prone.” -Susie C.

10 hours is roughly the amount of time it took me to get really pissed off about the situation I was in, after each of my kids was born. About 10 hours after my first son was born the hospital staff took him, for a medical check up, right when I needed to feed him. I was promised he would be returned right away. He was grabbed from his check-up by the hospitals photographer and was missing from me for almost 2 hours. With my second son about 10 hours after he was born the hospital staff came to discuss with me that I was going to be discharged in the morning, but he was going to have to stay in the NICU. When my daughter was born I was told that because she was large they had to prick her foot, to test her blood sugar levels, before she ate, EVERY time she ate. At about the 10 hour mark my pain meds from the C-section I had were gone and I was exhausted. At that point I was not up for an entire night of waking up to a hungry baby, then waiting with a hungry baby for a nurse to come in and prick her foot, then trying to get her to latch on properly when she was screaming out in pain from being pricked.” -Nancy C.

“Ten hours after birth– the first time, I looked sick and scared as the birthing was traumatic and my son was very ill; …the second time I felt wonderful and looked like my typical self, pregnant or not pregnant, bathed and hair fixed and holding a safe and healthy baby.” -Mary P.

“A mommy in love with her new baby. ” -Barbara B.

“A fattie who hadn’t showered for a month…and exhausted.” -Becky J.

“Ten hours after birth, I looked amazed, content, tired and happy.” -Stephanie H.

“Like a boss.” -Nicole T.

“Glowing and proud! I felt invincible. Oh and most likely with a boob hanging out. Both girls nursed like champs!” -Angelica A.

“A very worn-out but elated mama trying to balance snuggling a new baby with wanting to strangle the nurse who kept coming in every five minutes asking if I wanted her to take him to the nursery. No, I don’t. We’re snuggling/nursing/bonding/sleeping. Go away.” -Becky C.

To me my wife looked like a bad ass. What she felt like she looked like I have no idea. I really liked the comment above about marathon. It was like she ran an ironman race. I was providing support but she ran it and yes, she looked like a bad ass both during and after.” -Jonas S.

“My stomach was lying on the bed next to me and my maternity ward roommate was on the phone complaining about how she had hoped she could keep on some of the baby weight but it was just all gone immediately. I didn’t throw anything at her, so I was proud of myself.” -Meg D.

“10 hours after a delivery that was a page out of my worst nightmares….I looked washed out and probably could have used someone to make me look pretty…..hehe.” -Shehla A.

“After my first two, I look tired and sad, but that was probably because the hospital didn’t treat me so well. After my third, who was born naturally at a birth center, no one believed I had just given birth. I was peppy and looked relaxed.” -Katie N.

The first two times (epidural births) I felt pretty icky. Third time, after a med-free birth, I felt awesome. I don’t know what I looked like because I was pretty assiduously avoiding cameras. But I do know that what I looked like should have been the last thing on my mind. There is a crazy amount of pressure on women to look a certain way all.the.time and feel bad about themselves when they don’t. So I have beautiful, beautiful pictures of my brand-new babies. Most of them have a slice of my arm or hand or shoulder in them. Few of them have my face. And I regret that so much now. The few pictures I do have, I’m glowing with joy. Why not more of those shots? Why did I feel like I didn’t want my picture taken?” -Gina P. 

“10 hours after giving birth I looked like 160 pounds of well-kneaded bread dough. My body felt like it had been hit by a truck. But my heart and pride were at their infinite limit.” -Christina H.

“10 hours after giving birth I looked like…I don’t know, and don’t care, because having a mirror around was the last thing on my mind.” -Jeanine T-B.

“I looked like I needed sleep while trying to help a newborn learn to “latch on” and trying not to throw up from all the pain meds they gave me for a c-section birth. My tummy also looked like there still could have been another baby in there.” -Susan L.

“I looked like a happy, tired mama beautifully glowing with love for her new baby.” -Robin W.

Baby #1, sleeping but with baby on my chest, so content, proud and in love. The pain of the c-section slowly kicking in. Baby #2, my 1st vbac 10 hours later was a very different pain, I had finally showered, had spent the day snuggling 2 kids and overwhelmed by it all. Baby #3, vbac #2, I was telling the nurse what to do, taking charge probably with exhaustion, but thrilled to have #3 daughter. Best Mother’s Day gift. How I looked I don’t know and I don’t care & neither did my kids or husband, but if I had to guess, it would be like a mom.” -Jennifer D. 

Ten hours after labor I still completely understood (and was affirmed in my belief) that images of [Kate Middleton and other] female celebrities represent false symbols of womanhood sold by the media and a patriarchal culture, and I was not at all concerned about conforming to those unachievable and unrealistic “standards.” 99.99% sure she had a team of hair & makeup people with her, a stylist told her what to wear, and she soldiered through the walk from the door to the car with a big smile plastered on her face so they could whisk her away to go back to bed. It’s too bad that women believe these images, where (male-dominated) media only values “pretty” images of motherhood over the realities of birth and motherhood, as the reality is too upsetting? uncomfortable? overwhelming? for most people to process. Mother’s Day is coming up, and if we really valued motherhood, we would fight for fully paid maternity (parental) leave, affordable daycare, living wages for day care providers in particular and all workers generally, flextime and paid sick leave for employees, guaranteed social security for stay at home parents and unpaid family caregivers, job security/training for parents who temporarily leave the workforce, (etc etc) and an end to the misogynistic culture that tries to teach girls they are only valuable as ornaments to boys, and teaches boys that they have to be “strong” and “tough” to conform to cultural expectations.” -Renee L. 

10 hours after giving birth I looked like an exhausted, nervous wreck with the faint remnants of paint on my tummy from being painted like a beach ball at my birthday party the night before. I wasn’t producing milk, and I couldn’t feed my daughter. I was teetering on my feet due to lack of sleep with a hungry,yowling beauty in my arms. I felt like I was a horrible Mom right off the bat, where was my milk? Eventually, I had to send her to the nursery where they fed her, and I had to learn to be kind to myself.” -Bunny D. 

“10 hours after my 2nd birth I was at home having a cup of tea and getting a cuddle from my new baby and her big brother! Both my gorgeous babies were born in the water on gas and air in Midwife led units which I think goes a long way to help how you feel after. May also be helped by having short labours and no tearing. I birthed both my babies safely! I felt I could do anything!” -Fiona B.

“The Michelin Tire Man wearing a diaper.” -Nicole S.

“Ten hours after birth I looked: bloated, tired, and sore. I actually refused to allow my husband to take any pictures of me because I just didn’t feel like myself.” -Kimberly G.

“A very happy deflated balloon.” -Aviva G.

“I looked like I was sleeping. Because I was. But I also was up, around and dressed within a couple hours of birth. Ready for the media? No. But ready for family and friends.” -Chris C.

I looked like I’d had a major abdominal surgery and was experiencing a several day chemical vacation post-surgery.” -Linda W. 

10 hours after the birth of baby #1, I was looking like my normal self and wanting nothing to do with the awful hospital gown. After baby #2, I looked like a zombie. I was up almost 24 hours before his birth, but not due to labor. He was taken from my room at the 6 hour mark due to lung issues so I launched into milk pumping with a goal of 8-10 sessions every 24 hours to make sure there would be milk when he was ready to come off of the iv. My life became a routine of pump, wash the pump parts, run the bottles to the nursery, visit my son, and repeat.” -Connie K. 

“Less than 20 minutes after my water birth, I felt on cloud nine! My vagina however would beg to differ! Despite not tearing, it felt as if I had passed a bowling ball, and my pee felt like acid! For the next 24hrs post birth, I walked like I’d been riding a horse for a week.  10 hrs after, I was snuggled up on the sofa with our new little lady.” -Donna W. 

“I ate Taco Bell 30 minutes after delivering my twins (vaginally) and showered right after that. I would have blown dry my hair but I had forgotten my hair dryer. I drive the nurses and my doctor nuts cause I was constantly on the go. I looked and felt great.” -Jennifer M.

The first time, I looked sleepy but elated, snuggling in bed with my still puffy belly and tired eyes, holding my tiny baby and uncaring of the pain in my incision site. No makeup, and the same messy braid I’d labored in for 36 hours. The second time–dazed, shattered, exhausted, and frustrated by the tiny squalling thing struggling to latch, born after a surprise c-section that gave me none of the birth euphoria I had expected.” -Stephanie H. 

“10 hours after my last birth which was an Emergency C-Section I was desperately try to fart and burp so that all the painful gas that had built up in my shoulder would leave!” -Danica C.

“10 hours after giving birth I was fine. In fact, we left the hospital early and travelled to see family for Thanksgiving dinner.” -Angie R.

“Hell, almost 3 YEARS after my son’s birth and I’m still a frumpy mess, lol. Happy as can be, though.” -Mandi S.

“Less than 12 hours after both of my babies (#1 an exhausting and horrible induction at a hospital and #2 a beautiful, calm home birth) I was eating and enjoying 10-12 family visitors passing around the baby and relishing in the love and community my kids were born into. I’m sure I looked like death warmed over both times, in my nursing tank and yoga pants, but it was quite honestly the two times in my life that what I looked like or what others thought of me was the furthest thing from my mind.” -Jen S.

“The happiest person who desperately needed a shower and a nap.” -Anne G.

“Ten hours after birth I looked like a sleeping person.” -Tonia J.

With all of my girls I was showered, dressed and coifed within the hour of having them because my body was so relieved to be rid of the baby elephants I house for eternity. But that’s just my “peasant stock” body. 100 years ago I would have been the lady dropping a baby in the field and going back to shucking wheat. Since shucking wheat isn’t on my to-do list present day, I enjoy feeling human again as soon as possible after giving birth.” -Erica M. 

I was up walking and talking showering and eating chick filA within a few hours of delivery. I was excited and ready to go home! With my first that is. By my 3rd. I was tired n exhausted and wanted to stay in the hospital for a week had they let me. I had a bit of PPD and wasn’t ready for the world, but that’s how life goes, I was delighted to be holding our 3rd baby with the man of my dreams next to me, it’s like a fairy tale sometimes, and Kate deserves the same feeling, she looks like she feels the same way.” -Nicki H.

“10 hours after birth I looked like I always do…a beautiful woman!! The only difference was now I was a beautiful momma!!” -Victoria W.

10 hours after birth I was sporting mesh underwear with an elephant sized maxi pad, staples across my belly after my emergency c-section and still in the hospital gown. I was exhausted after almost 24 hours of labor, including the last 2 hours of that being excruciating back labor. I needed help getting to and from the bathroom while I shuffled like the hunch back of Notre Dame. Then shock of shock, seeing my reflection and realizing I still looked 6 months pregnant, even after giving birth!! No one warned me about any of this, even all the books I had read. With my second, it was a scheduled c-section, I recovered much quicker. Within a few hours after the c-section, I was in my own nightgown, hair brushed, a bit of make-up and up to seeing visitors and having my picture taken. I was even able to walk on my own and get to and from the bathroom on my own. Night and day from the first to the second experience.” -Jessie W.

Neither of my births were all that easy – first was 24 hours of mostly natural labor and eventually a c-section (revealing a 8lb 14oz baby boy with a very bruised upper arm – clearly he was stuck on my pelvic bone!). So 10 hours after that I think I still had a catheter in, and was delirious from 3 days of no sleep, struggling to figure out how to nurse my child (boobs like bullets anyone?), and all the drugs and pain and “disappointment” of the c-section. 2nd was better as I had a planned c-sect. (revealing a 9 lb 7 oz baby girl!!!), but due to the surgery I was still pretty much bed ridden and very puffy from the IV fluids. At least this time I was much better rested and knew how to nurse!” -Jaime W. 

“I was up and about right away with all but the last one. With my last I separated my pelvis and couldn’t even stand up. But the other five, I was great! With two of them I was home before the 24 hour mark. The only reason I spent extra time at the hospitals was we were waiting for the doctors to let us leave! Keep in mind me longest labor was 6 hours…and the others averaged 3 hours with maybe 20 minutes of pushing and 15 minutes of pain.” -Micki S

“10 hrs after childbirth I looked blissed out. That’s a look that has nothing to do with hair, skin, or makeup. It’s gorgeous no matter who you are.” -Lisa C.

“Who looks in a mirror ten hours after birth? I mean seriously! 63 hours of labor people!” -Jennifer K.

I honestly can’t remember what I looked like after giving birth- looking in the mirror wasn’t even on my radar, ha ha. But I probably looked tired (I was up for at least 48 hours straight before giving birth with my first and 24 with my second, and then of course it’s not like I could just fall asleep right afterwards). I’m only in a couple of pictures from around the time I gave birth, and I haven’t looked at them in a while, but I think I just looked like me- not a fancied up version and not a decaying zombie version, just normal me.
Mostly what I remember feeling after birth was immense physical relief both from the end of labor and not having very active babies using my ribs as a jungle gym anymore. That and being so excited to eat since it was pretty much the first time in 9 months I could eat without getting sick or heartburn.” -Kristen W.

“After my third baby I looked like a glowing mommy! After my first I was a wreck with baby in the NICU.” -Karen C. 

“10 hrs after childbirth I looked like I had just competed in the most physical event of my life and relished every minute of my triumphant finish!” -Elizabeth M.

After almost 3 hours of pushing I ruptured most the blood vessels in my face and eyes. 10 hours after delivery I looked like I belonged on the walking dead without any of the fancy makeup tricks. I got so many stares from other parents in the mother/baby unit and I’m pretty sure I scared some nursing students! I do have a picture somewhere for proof and I’m planning to play that card repeatedly when my daughter becomes a snarky teenager!” -Lindsey R.

“I looked like I couldn’t care less what anyone else thought, because I live for myself and the sweet little love of my life in my arms.” -Lollisplotch M.

“A proud mother.” -Manuela R-F.

“Ten hours after birth I looked radiant and sweaty and happier than I’ve ever been… Also very naked and as voluptuous as ill ever be.” -Fernanda R

“My tummy looked and felt like a well used bean bag and I looked extremely thankful for my new sidekick latched onto me ….and for the catheter that meant I had an excuse not to get up and walk.” -Meghan L.

Ten hours after my son’s birth I was still shaking from the delivery. I was in labor for 27 hours and had an emergency c section. I had to have an extra incision, and that still wasn’t enough so they tore open my uterus with their hands. My son wasn’t getting oxygen and it had to be quick, so they couldn’t even wait for pain meds(I was doing it naturally). So I was strapped to the table while they cut me open(I could feel every cut)I looked horrible after having him. I lost twice as much blood as they thought I would, so I was pale and clammy and weak. And it was glorious because my son was alive.” -Jessicah W. 

“Ten hours after birth I was wishing that maybe I had slept a little, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the amazing little piglet I held on my chest. My body was exhausted, my mind alive. I felt and smelled like I had run a marathon.” -Ebby M.

“I looked amazing 10 hours after giving birth with my 4th. He was born before I normally woke up, I took a shower, had a nap, then got up and went about my day. My others were born later in the day so I was sleeping 10 hours after.” -Sarah L.

“Ten hours after giving birth I looked ecstatic, because those new mama hormones were goooood! 24 hours after giving birth I left the hospital and found I could not sit down, use the bathroom properly, fit into the clothes I wanted, or stop wearing Depends.” -Emily S.

“A happy and elated mum cuddling my newborn, both of us still naked on the sofa letting him find the breast.” -Diana S.

Ten hours after my first, intervention-filled birth I was pale, shakey and incredibly sore. Ten hours after my largely natural second birth, I was still very sore but recovered much more easily that my first, and definitely wasn’t the colour of the hospital walls, like my mum said I was with my first!! This isn’t a judgement on birth choices, just my truth!” -Christina C. 

“Like a Halloween version of the Goodyear blimp.” -Connie R.

“Ten hours after giving birth, I was still unconscious, planning a funeral and then unconscious again.” -Nicole T.

“Ten hours after giving birth I looked like a woman who had just spent the better part of 8 hours laboring then pushing an 8 pound baby out of myself. But also glowing and radiant!” -Christina R.

I have no clue what I looked like 10 hours after my first birth. Probably asleep. 10 hours after my second, my heart was melting as I watched my 6 year old hold his tiny baby sister for the first time.” -Emily S.

“10 afters after birth I looked VICTORIOUS! I had my daughter. She was alive, she was healthy, she was perfect, and I had my partner by my side. I was home. I was walking. I was also only ever peeing in water and wearing black leggings.” -Cee O’C

“10 hours after birth I looked like… Someone who didn’t care how she looked cuz I was on cloud 9 after having a baby!!! I was too focused on getting this new mom thing figured out to honestly care how I looked. Didn’t shower, no make up, tied my hair up to keep it out of the way, and happier than ever… Tired too but that goes without saying. Lol!” -Emily F.

“First kid-exhausted and worried, and frustrated at dealing with a bully pediatrician in the hospital. Second kid, happy and ready to go-I wanted to go out to dinner. What a difference a safe, healthy homebirth made.” -Erika G.

“Sleepy and hungry!” -Jennifer M

“It didn’t occur to me to check what I looked like. I was 38 years old, 2 weeks over due, had been induced 2 times and had an unscheduled C-section at 10 p.m. I so didn’t care. I hadn’t combed my hair in over a day, I hadn’t showered in over a day, I don’t think I’d brushed my teeth either.” -Elizabeth T

After an induction for preeclampsia, being bullied repeatedly by a doctor I never met, painful manual dilation without my permission, sunnyside up delivery, episiotomy without consent, a failed epidural and more crap that I’ve not even listed…the birth of my daughter was not the bliss I hoped for. Hours later I was still hooked up to medications that made me anxious and caused double vision. My hair was a hot mess, I couldn’t get out of bed and a parade of people kept pouring in to the room. I fake smiled, but I wasn’t happy…nor did I look like it. I don’t wish that type of experience on anyone.” -Becca S 

“Ten hours after birth I looked like: me…. a bit swollen in the belly area (of course) but glowing, radiant and in excellent health. The photo is me after the birth of my second child in hospital…about one hour after birth and we went home (I walked briskly out of there) within another 4 hours. sans makeup and hair done of course – it was 2 in the morning!” -Bree H

I looked completely deranged. They took my baby to SCU and I had no support, no phone and was hooked up to a drip in my spine. To an attachment parent it was tantamount to torture and it took about two years to recover.” -Carlie H.

Ten hours after the birth of my daughter was about 10:30pm. I looked tired, not exhausted, but I was energized. I *think* I was wearing a hospital gown. My baby bump was similar to my five month size. Ten hours after I gave birth to my twin sons was around 2:30am. This time I was wearing my own nightgown, with slits in the pleats for nursing! Otherwise, the same. With my daughter, I was in labor for six hours, ending with less than fifteen minutes of pushing. I got an epidural just before I started pushing. With my twins, active labor started when the fetal monitor was attached to Baby B. Two and a half hours later, I was done. I didn’t even have time for an epidural – I found out that it HAD worked somewhat with my daughter. Ouch. Once I took a shower each time, I felt and looked like my pre-pregnancy self, with a belly bump.” -Jean C.




  1. Like you said, each of us has a story and should all be respected, even Princess Kate’s.
    I felt beautiful, strong and glowing 10 hrs after a long labor.
    If I was a princess and had such resources, I would have looked like Kate. Why not, that is HER story.
    In judging her, your argument becomes null.

    • Danielle,
      I never judged Kate. I explained she had a team of stylists and it was her job to look that way for that event. Stating facts is not the same as passing judgement. I *did* judge the messages the media sends and sells to women about their post-baby bodies, and in doing so stated very clearly that while Kate played a role (albeit understandable) in that it was neither her fault nor responsibility. I asked women instead to turn inwards and questions what narrative we accept vs what our own narratives and if we share them.

      I would also like to add, the point of this post was not for women to do more harping on each other. The point was to tell our own stories. None of us actually know what Kate’s story is or what her choices were. You are making assumptions based on what you saw in the media. How much agency did Kate have over any of that? We don’t know what her truth is, which is why I’d rather we focus on our own.

      I’m glad you had such a wonderful birth experience. As you can see when you read the entire post and the 100 or so birth stories I shared, experiences varied from mom to mom and birth to birth.

  2. Astrogal says:

    Thank you for this post and for keeping it real! I know the reality is that *some* women will look and feel like a million bucks after giving birth, just like *some* women are naturally blessed to look like supermodels, but the vast majority of us are not, so thank you for telling our stories. The REAL stories that the media and those in denial do not want to hear. Why is this such a taboo topic? Most women are mothers and as such know exactly what the messy, ugly part of childbirth and after entails, and yet we still act so surprised when Kate has a flabby tummy a few days after giving birth to George, or when a mom in a bikini posts her stretch marked belly on Facebook – really!? Why are we so surprised, we all know this is the truth for most of us. Since we’re all friends here, I will tell you that when my daughter was born 9 years ago, 10 hours after birth my vagina felt so incredibly swollen it felt like a grapefruit down there, it hurt to wipe and I had a squirt bottle to rinse down there; I had a large maxi pad on me to collect the clots that I was passing; the first time I got out of bed that morning my bladder completely emptied onto the hospital room floor with no control whatsoever; my hair was matted like a rat’s nest from my feeble attempt at washing it when they had me take a shower right after childbirth the night before – I wouldn’t actually properly comb or wash it until a week later when I was discharged from the hospital; my breasts were painfully swollen and nipples sore from nursing, any fabric that rubbed against them was painful; and of course, sleep was a precious memory that I wouldn’t fully recover until 2-3 years after childbirth. And those are just the first few hours. And that was after a normal, completely natural childbirth with no complications (other than 2 hours of pushing) and just a tiny vaginal tear that didn’t require any stitching. So yes, moms, let’s get real and not fill the head of other unsuspecting new moms with sunshine and rainbows when there is a real, messy, gritty reality to having a baby (and after) that so few of us are actually prepared for because nobody bothered to tell us in detail. Of course being a mother is wonderful, your baby is a blessing, it’s all worth it, etc., etc. but there are tough times ahead for many – permanent body changes, diminished sex life, conflicts with partner relationships, and so much more that we are not privy to and we damn well should be.

  3. Jennifer Gerhardt says:

    After my first birth, I looked and felt like I’d been hit by a train. But honestly, for my second son, I looked and felt really good. My labor and delivery had been smooth sailing and fast (well, compared to the first one). My mother-in-law commented that it looked like I had gone to the store to grab some milk and instead came back with a super cute baby. Kate Middleton could have had the same experience for her second. But in reality, part of her job is to look perfect. The rest of us ARE NOT held to that standard by anyone but ourselves.

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