Fiona McCade: Childbirth no place for photo shoot

The Duchess of Cambridge. Picture: PA
The Duchess of Cambridge. Picture: PA
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THE Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t need to worry. The moment she has ensured the continuity of the House of Windsor, she’ll be smoothed and coiffed into a vision of blinding beauty.

Then Mario Testino will artfully capture new mother and baby in an image so adorable, it will adorn mugs and tea-towels the world over.

The rest of us aren’t so lucky. When the hospital photographer came to my bedside and offered to snap me and my newborn for posterity, I summoned just enough energy to say “seriously?” before sinking back under the covers. Both the baby and I looked like we’d done ten rounds with Tyson. I was ecstatic that we’d both survived, but I didn’t fancy being reminded of the trauma.

However, some sisters are doing it for themselves. More and more pregnant women are making careful preparations for giving birth, but they’re not asking for breathing exercises, or advice on episiotomies; they’re wanting spray tans, manicures and super-strong false eyelashes, to ensure they look perfect for that first mother-and-baby photo.

Beauty salons are reporting a surge in the number of Mummy Makeovers. Most are booked as close as possible to the due date, but some mothers are even getting their hair, legs and who-knows-what-else done while they are actually in labour, so they can guarantee the effects of their efforts won’t have 
worn off by the time the baby arrives. (Although one woman forgot that her newly-applied fake tan would wash off during a water-birth.)

Before I start banging my head repeatedly against the nearest hard surface, let me say that it’s every woman’s right to do whatever the hell she likes when she’s about to give birth – so long as she’s also thinking about the baby and not just herself.

If looking immaculate helps you cope better with what you’re about to go through, feel free to get yourself glammed up before you venture into the battle that birthing can often be. After all, Greek warriors used to spend ages curling their hair into ringlets before they went out and hacked their enemies to death. If your inch-long false fingernails won’t pose a problem for the anaesthetist should you need an epidural, and if you’re sure they won’t accidentally lacerate your baby when you finally get to cuddle it, go ahead. It’s the last time you’ll get the chance to indulge yourself in quite a while.

But I still need to ask: what is the real focus here? Who is all this painstaking preparation for? The baby doesn’t care. The midwife will probably be too busy to notice. Do you seriously think your Facebook friends won’t “Like” your photo unless you’re looking like Katie Price after an explosion in the Tango factory?

Bringing a child into the world should be about the experience itself, not the photo afterwards. It’s as though everything we do these days is somehow expected to be recorded. Can’t we do some things privately, just for ourselves? (I would say “quietly”, but we’re talking about birth here.)

Perhaps I’m just jealous. It would have taken more than fake tan, false eyelashes and Mario Testino to make me look good after 34 hours in labour. But I had more important things to do than worry about whether my lipliner matched my nightie. I had a baby to gaze at, and like many new mums, I wasn’t able to hold him straight away, so when I finally took him in my arms, nothing else mattered at all.

Girls, all this primping and preening sounds exhausting. Be gentle with yourselves. Having a baby can be tough, so don’t be afraid to let your hair down (literally) and take things as easy as possible. Under these circumstances, no sane person will judge you on your appearance.

It’s bad enough that we’re constantly under pressure to bounce back into pre-pregnancy shape almost immediately after giving birth, but now we have to look good during and just-after labour as well? No thanks.

Celebrities can do what they like, but if ordinary women start caving in to unreal expectations like this, be warned. Never again will we have a comfy, saggy, messy, relaxed moment to call our own.