Saying no to the maternity sideshow game makes Meghan Markle a welcome rebel

OPINION: Of all the things for which Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has copped it, the outrage over her decision to not make her face and body available for judgement on a global scale within hours of giving birth would have to be the maddest.

Obviously, on behalf of all new mothers (including the puffy, messy and decidedly not camera-ready new mothers many of us have been) we should collectively be buying her the world's biggest bunch of flowers and wishing her all the best as she enjoys them with Harry, a massive slice of toast, and possibly some ice, in private.

At a time when, according to Harper's Bazaar, "average" mothers are feeling so pressured to pass Instagram muster postpartum that they are spending on spray tans, hair styling and blowouts, and even manicures for the labour ward, Meghan is the rebel we need.

Deciding to not submit herself to the world's gaze on the same day she becomes a mother is, by the standards of most would-be pleasers in the public eye, an admirably radical act.

Meghan has chosen not to play the maternity sideshow game at all.
Meghan has chosen not to play the maternity sideshow game at all.

* Prince Harry, Meghan aim to keep baby's arrival 'private'
* How Meghan should prepare for motherhood
* The impossible standard of glamour after giving birth


Shortly before the Sussexes thanked the public for the goodwill, but announced they would not be engaging in the hospital-steps spectacle that has made royal women into the maternal equivalent of performing seals since Princess Ann started it in 1977, late last week Harper's reported on a study that found almost two thirds (64 per cent) of new mothers put makeup on within two hours of delivery.

"Looking good in photos" was the main driver for getting pre-delivery beauty treatments, as well as looking "presentable" for visitors and not looking "ill, drained or tired". Because woe betide any woman whose face shows signs that birthing a baby took a toll.

The labour ward and the earliest hours of motherhood may be the one space left where women should expect to feel free to look as wildly natural as they like; to learn that even this intensely personal moment is being encroached upon by the pressure to adhere to contemporary beauty standards is terribly deflating.

This point was made late in March in a full page "open letter" to Meghan placed in the New York Times by mother-of-three Chelsea Hirschhorn, founder of the mother-and-baby equipment brand, Fridababy.


A post shared by Chelsea Rosen Hirschhorn (@cmrh) on

She urged her to dump the post-birth "parade" in support of rejecting unrealistic standards expected of new mothers.

"You'll smile, you'll wave, you'll be radiant, but between your legs will be a whole different story," wrote Hirschhorn.

"Sure your blowout will be perfect for your hospital step photo-op, but people will be opining on all the wrong things – like how soon you will fit into your pre-baby wardrobe – instead of having an honest conversation about what women go through during birth and immediately thereafter."

The writer did not spare the detail about the more uncomfortable sensations a woman may be experiencing six hours or so after birth, by which time Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge had appeared for the world's press looking impeccable, and in heels, outside hospital cradling baby Louis last year.

Meghan's decision to save something of herself for herself during what for many women is one of life's great, transformative moments has been all the more harshly received due to the Duchess of Cambridge's habit of complying 100 hundred per cent with the expectations of the public.

Kate was hassled for looking 'too good' after giving birth to Prince Louis.

While it is not protocol for princesses to do the quick-turnaround birth and photo-opp routine, she has been a master of the art. With each birth, she has shrunk the time it takes for her to deliver a baby and then appear, glamorous as a swan with the infant.

Even that has not shielded the mother-of-three from the nastiness that accompanies any discussion of women's appearance standards in the social media age. Kate was savaged last year for setting the bar too high.

Now Meghan is getting the same heat, only worse because she won't play the maternity sideshow game at all.

But, just casting back to one's priorities on the eve of the arrival of one's first baby, I'm guessing Meghan's (and Harry's) care factor would be grazing zero. Thank you, you two. Boy, is it good to see someone draw a line.

Sydney Morning Herald