On the three blessed occasions when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has paraded out of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's with a new royal baby in tow, people have one of two reactions (or both reactions in succession): a fawning "Awww! New baby!" or an irate "That is not how women look after giving birth! She had a whole team to make her look pretty! This is bullsh*t!" But you know what? I may not have been as flawlessly put together as Her Royal Highness, but I dressed up when I left the hospital with my baby, and I had some good reasons.
Back to Kate for a minute and the fact that the vast majority of women will not appear anywhere near as polished after giving birth. Like, no duh, you guys. You're not some wild-eyed prophet for figuring this out. Everybody knows it. But the Duchess is a woman very much in the public eye, in a family whose primary function is to keep up a certain appearance. So of course she had a team of stylists blowing out those shiny, flowing locks before she stepped out to greet an adoring public.
I had no such team. I didn't strive to be the fanciest I'd ever been as I left the maternity ward, but I did put in some effort. I applied make-up. I accessorized. I picked out one of the cuter outfits I'd brought with me. Nothing was specially bought. I didn't even take pictures. Because this wasn't for cameras or posterity. It was for me. I don't think anyone should feel pressure to dress up when leaving the hospital. After all, there's no real practical reason to do so: you're leaving one place where you're covered in body fluids and baby to go to another place where you'll be covered in body fluids and baby. But for those so inclined, I think there's a value to it.
1. It Made Leaving The Hospital Feel Like More Of A Transition
The first three months of my children's lives felt like one extremely long day. We really do underestimate how much we revolve our days around sleep — when it's broken up so severely, your sense of time is super screwed up. So while I was in the hospital for four days with my first and two with my second, it didn't really feel that way because I'd been going basically non-stop since I arrived. Doing something out of the ordinary — like putting on eyeliner — was a way to make me feel like "OK, this marks a new time. This is different."
2. It Was Ceremonial
I saw it as a kind of victory lap for the preceding nine months and hours of painful labor and childbirth. I earned the right to feel just a teensy bit fabulous... or at least more fabulous than I'd felt days before, pooping in front of strangers.
3. I "Needed" To Feel Pretty
I'll repeat: Days before I was pooping in front of strangers. And, like, I wasn't ashamed of that in the slightest, and I know that pretty is not the price of admission to society... but it's nice. Look, even when you know your body is doing miraculous and wonderful things when you're in the thick of labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period, it's still very alien to you. So taking control of my appearance was a subtle way of telling myself "I still own my body and my experience in it."
4. At That Point It Was Novel
Because, seriously, I hadn't really gotten dressed in days. I felt like a time traveler or something. Like "What is this fascinating contraption you call 'pants?' And I wish to learn more of this newfangled 'bra' you speak of. 'Tis like sacks for your breasts?"
5. I Was On A Roll After The Shower
I'm not proud, but I didn't shower in the hospital until my last day there both times. I was busy, you guys! (And, also, I was paranoid about my baby being out of my sight even for a few minutes, which isn't rational but it's how I felt.) But once I finally did take a shower I was reminded that I wasn't just a milk machine in love with my new human. I was an actual person who could do things and take care of herself.
Never underestimate the reviving power of a shower, friends.
6. I Wanted To Prove To Myself That I Could Still Do Something For Myself
It had been a while that felt like even longer. And I knew it was going to be quite a while longer before I could really dedicate any significant time or energy to myself (fortunately, in those early days, a little bit of self-care goes a long way). So I thought this little gesture was both proof and also a promise — I can make time for me and I will continue to make time for me, even if it's for something small and, in the scheme of things, unimportant. It's important to me and my reasons for that is reason enough.
7. I Was Feelin' Myself
Guys, giving birth made me feel vulnerable, to be sure, but it also made me feel powerful AF. I was super proud of myself and I wanted to world to know that.
8. I Brought All The Stuff Anyway
There was already so much crap in my hospital bag that I never glanced at or touched, let alone used. Wearing some make-up and a cute shirt once made me feel slightly less foolish. Like "See, I knew this would come in handy... ummm... yeah. Totally handy. Just like my laptop and my two novels and all that work I was going to get done while the baby was sleeping... "
9. It Was A Little Bit Of Putting On A Facade
90 percent of this was absolutely for me, but I would be disingenuous if I didn't admit that part of it was to be able to sashay out of the hospital and "prove" to anyone looking at me "Ah! There's one with her sh*t together. Look at that bold red lip." And, really, that's for me, too. I'm someone who naturally seeks validation and approval and I think a piece of me wanted it then.
10. That Dress Was Heckin' Comfy
Seriously, it was one of those summer dresses that you can dress up or down depending on your accessory game, and it was just really flowy and comfy. I wore it before, throughout, and after my pregnancy.
11. Fake It Til You Make It
There is so much to be said for the power of this life philosophy. And I really do believe that it's not because faking confidence gives us the ability to do things. I think faking confidence allows us to see that we have every reason to actually be confident.