Dear Beautiful Kate,
Yesterday, while the world was obsessing over whether you were wearing white or yellow, a recycled or new outfit with the intent to either upstage or show respect to your new sister-in-law, there is only one thing that was running through my mind – the courage and willpower that it must have taken to leave your tiny newborn just 3 weeks after giving birth.</SPAN.
While society might now expect you to be superhuman because you were able to walk out just hours after giving birth in heels and a blow-dry, I understand that looking your best and leaving your baby are two completely different scenarios. Regardless of how much (paid) help you have, how priviledged people perceive you to be and how famous you are – at the end of the day you are a new mother again, just like the rest of us!
It was YOUR body that had to give birth, YOUR body that nourishes your child and YOUR body that is filled with the rush of hormones that unlock those motherly instincts that are heightened especially in these first few weeks.
The instincts that want you to be as close to baby as possible. The instincts that even 9 months after giving birth leave me with anxiety at the thought of leaving my baby to go and even do something as simple as having a shower because he might “need” me – for milk, for comfort, for love – because I am his most familiar being. His safe space!
So at 3 weeks postpartum I completely understand that the most important thing on your mind is your baby. Whether he’s doing OK the first time away from you. Whether he might need a feed. Whether he’s wondering where you are. There is no time to think about upstaging, although I saw how you were gracious enough to deliberately hide your face during the ceremony so that the cameras would not focus on you. You chose the most comfortable, yet stylish outfit that you felt was appropriate for the ceremony and you looked beautiful doing it. You fared through this without your husband or children by your side to comfort you because you have always been graceful even when put in situations where you should have been the one being taken care of.
Yes even as an independent, strong and iconic woman there are times where it is ok to be looked after. That call for it even. This was one of those times.
At a stage of motherhood when most women want nothing more than to be at home in their pjs snuggling their newborn, whether uou wanted to or not – you suited and booted up and showed up!
Showed up for those that you love, showed up for the country that your family loves and showed up for the people who love your family. And you were the only one in the room that had to go through this. Again the loneliness that comes with new motherhood cannot be understood by those who are not currently experiencing it. Seasoned mothers forget because it’s natures way of guaranteeing our survival as a human species.
Of course people will argue that you had months to mentally prepare for this day. That by 3 weeks you have had plenty of time to spend with your baby and it’s time to burst out of that baby bubble. Maybe they are yet to experience being a new mother or maybe they have simply forgotten that no amount of time is enough.
But equally the wedding was planned after the fact that you were pregnant. Maybe circumstances didn’t allow for more time but where circumstances fail us, understanding needs to prevail.
And for those people that called this your first public engagement after giving birth – this was so much more than that. This was a personal occasion where you were there to show your love and support for a family member. Someone you consider a brother. It just happened to be in the public eye because of who you both are.
I too attended a wedding 3 weeks postpartum but with my baby and out of the public eye. The only dress I could find which was comfortable, somewhat flattered my healing postpartum body and allowed me to feed my baby on demand was a black dress.
Most people there understood that I was there to support my friend because she had been there on too many important occasions in my life for me to miss this auspicious day in hers. And while black is frowned upon in Asian weddings to the point of being seen as an omen of bad luck – my friend was not bothered and everyone else there saw past my offence because they understood my ability to care for my newborn came first.
I apologise that there are too many people in this world who didn’t extend to you that same kindness and generosity. Yes it was your choice to attend but not your choice to be judged.
I feel saddened that your sacrifice and bravery were overshadowed by the conversation regarding your outfit. Again, it was your choice to attend but not your choice to be judged.
I feel embarrassed that we live in a society where we don’t think twice before knocking a mother down instead of lifting her up and showering her with love because what she feels is so important to the health of her family.
Everyone talks about the sleep deprivation, the exhaustion and the lack of freedom when you become a mother but what no-one talks about is the loneliness, the judgment you face when you are feeling so vulnerable and the constant guilt and worry that creeps up on you.
Maybe you were even ready to be out amongst friends and family to celebrate this joyous occassion. You didn’t need special treatment because it was your choice. But you did not deserve to be judged by those who have never been in your shoes.
I know that you’re not one to feel sorry for yourself or even worry about what is being said. You would have happily accepted your duty both personally and professionally and mentally prepared yourself just like you did for a positive birth, but the fact remains that just because you CAN take it on the chin doesn’t mean that you SHOULD!
While I totally agree there is more to being a woman than giving birth or being a mother – it is still one of the most important phases of our lives and there should be no expectation for a mother to do anything until she is ready. And when she is – the world needs to be waiting with nothing but love!
So with that in mind – I wanted to write this letter to shower you in love and let you know that I see you, I understand and you are not alone.