What did you think when you first saw Duchess Kate each time she walked out of the hospital after giving birth to the three royal bubs? "Well put together" is a phrase that comes to mind.
But that’s not necessarily a good thing, according to actor Keira Knightley. She’s written a piece for a new book of essays called Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies), and it contains details of her own birth – and some observations about Duchess Kate’s postpartum behaviour.
Why would Keira compare her birth to Duchess Kate’s, you might be wondering? Well, Keira’s baby girl Edie was born on 1 May 2015 and Kate gave birth to Princess Charlotte one day later. It seems that Kate was on Keira’s radar as they both navigated those early, ouchy postpartum days.
Reported on by Refinery 29, Keira’s essay gets speedily down to the messy bits of her own birth and questions the wisdom of Kate’s tidy post-baby photo ops.
“My vagina split,” Keira reportedly writes in the first line of her essay The Weaker Sex, which she dedicated to her daughter.
“You came out with your eyes open. Arms up in the air. Screaming. They put you on to me, covered in blood, vernix, your head misshapen from the birth canal. Pulsating, gasping, screaming.”
“You latched on to my breast immediately, hungrily, I remember the pain. The mouth clenched tight around my nipple, light sucking on and sucking out.”
“I remember the shit, the vomit, the blood, the stitches. I remember my battleground. Your battleground and life pulsating. Surviving. And I am the weaker sex? You are?”
“Hide our pain”
Writing about Kate’s birth, Keira ponders the wisdom of the Duchess’ “perfect” postpartum appearance.
“We stand and watch the TV screen. She was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see,” Keira wrote.
“Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate.”
“Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.”
It’s utterly true that there are some near-impossible standards being modelled by high-profile new mums in the media. But that said, it’s hard to fathom that Kate could do this differently … and it’s unclear (from reading the excerpt) whether Keira’s writing sympathetically or critically. Or both.
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From where this writer stands, it seems that Kate’s protecting herself by showing the media a sanitised view of birth and those postpartum hours.
The world is watching and many are keen to critique her and pick her apart. The glossy veneer minimises those opportunities and fulfils her public obligations pretty efficiently.
Keira Knightley on the other hand, is not constrained by royal protocol nor centuries of tradition. She’s able to mum in her own way, and has up until now chosen to keep her parenting experience fairly hush-hush. Duchess Kate isn’t afforded the same privacy. Both deserve respect and support.
This post originally appeared on Babyology.
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