THERE IS NO doubt that becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes that Kate Middleton or indeed any woman will encounter. For the Royal Couple, it’s a cherished wish come true.
It was refreshing to see the Duchess of Cambridge standing on the steps of the hospital with Prince George and her husband by her side without fear of judgement on her appearance after giving birth the day before.
The controversy around the shape of her figure cast by some elements of the British media will just serve to increase pressure on new mothers to get back to their post-pregnancy appearance almost immediately after giving birth. It was refreshing to see a glamorous member of the royal family take a stand and celebrate the beauty and miracle of motherhood.
The pressure of looking good
Women are often judged on their looks. Personality and character can count for very little and women too may have bought into this ideal. Consequently, women may put little value on themselves if they don’t feel attractive and desirable as their body image affects their self-esteem. Instead of accepting that for now, it might be just lovely to focus on becoming a mum and bonding with your baby while recovering from the hard work that’s involved in bringing a new life into the world.
Having a baby is a joyous experience and one that is fraught as we come to terms with the reality that our lives have changed forever. In his book ‘The Courage to Love’, Dr Colm O’Connor explores the importance of the mothering role: “To the newborn child, the physical bond and relationship between the mother and child is as essential to the child’s development as food. The active provision of warmth, touch, holding, soothing and loving to a small baby is not sentiment or affection – it is the currency of bonding.”
Indeed, it’s the key relationship that influences all other relationships that we develop in our life time, particularly the intimate relationship.
Her body has been through a tough nine months
In some respects, the role demands that she suppresses her own needs in deference to those of her child (in the early stages at least). Yet I wonder have we lost the sense of nurturing that a mother needs after having a baby? Her body has been through so much change in the nine months of pregnancy – she may alternate between excitement and anxiety as she feels life growing inside her.
The birth itself can be traumatic and somehow, very quickly afterwards there’s the pressure to bounce back into shape. It may be external pressure from society in general, but she too may be putting pressure on herself. She may be disappointed that her bump has not miraculously disappeared after delivery and may notice other mums seem to be doing far better than her (either fitting into their smaller clothes or admirably wearing their title of Supermum with aplomb).
It’s not exactly a competition but there is a tendency to compare ourselves to others and in this particularly vulnerable time, we can find ourselves coming up short if we’re not meeting our own acceptable standards.
She needs support, not criticism and pressure
Mothers are special. Their roles are unique. They need love, reassurance and support by all of us so they can provide the nurturing their children need to grow into secure and well adjusted adults. They may never again be able to think of just themselves, no matter how old their children are. Mothers often complain that their job is less fun and has more responsibility, believing the fathers are free to indulge in the playful element of a child’s development. This may be so, as instinct runs strong when it comes to rearing children and is a major source of conflict in a couple’s relationship.
She needs to be compassionate and fair to herself, to value the important job she is doing, to ask for help and support when she needs it and to get a balanced perspective when she can’t close the zip in her jeans.
Kate Middleton has shown women that their bodies do change during pregnancy, but this magical period of their life is to be enjoyed and celebrated. If she was too focussed on her figure and not on the glowing radiance that a new mother displays, she might’ve forgotten the joy and wonder of giving birth to the future King.
Lisa O’Hara is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland offers confidential counselling and currently have a special introductory offer for an initial consultation. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380 or firstname.lastname@example.org