When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepped out of St Mary’s hospital with their new little baby daughter, the world only had eyes for one royal: Catherine. Dressed in a yellow and white (!) silk shift dress, with blow-dried curls cascading down her shoulders and a beatific beam on her face, we all had the same reaction: she looks freaking amazing. Not just amazing for someone who popped a 3.7kg watermelon out her wazoo 10 hours earlier, but amazing full stop.
How is that actually possible? My memory of being 10 hours post-birth is a frozen pad in my knickers for the pain and stitching, puffy ankles, a crying baby and exhaustion veering on delirium.
Let’s start with the obvious first. She has A LOT of help. The duchess has her own hairdresser who attended the hospital straight after the birth. She had fashion designer Jenny Packham create a beautiful bespoke dress which artfully hid her still-swollen belly and accentuated her long, slim legs. I’d do the same if I had the world’s media camped on the hospital doorstep.
Next, hyperemesis gravidarum in her pregnancy meant she didn’t gain much weight on her lean frame to begin with. It’s nothing to be jealous about - it’s bloody awful and potentially fatal. I bet she was overjoyed to eat without chucking, and I hope she had a glass of champagne and a huge slab of Brie to celebrate.
But Kate had another reason to smile. Unlike many women in Australia, Kate had a team of midwives who monitored her pregnancy and led the delivery of her second baby, while her team of obstetricians waited nearby. We can assume that because she gave birth within two hours of arriving at the hospital, and walked out 10 hours later, she had a straightforward vaginal birth.
Associate Professor of Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney Hannah Dahlen said continuity of midwife care during pregnancy and childbirth is a vital factor when it comes to having a positive birth experience and recovering well from labour.
"We know that Kate had been cared for by the same midwives throughout her pregnancy and that continuity of care is hugely important when it comes to a positive and trouble-free birth experience," Ms Dahlen said.
"Getting the same information from the same midwives throughout pregnancy makes a woman feel safe, secure and relaxed, and much more likely to birth their baby without any need for intervention.
"Part of the advice from her midwives would have been to labour at home for as long as possible, which is just what she did.
"It is important to have obstetric care available in case there is a need for it, but recovery from childbirth will be much quicker if there is no intervention."
Ms Dahlen said she was not at all surprised when she saw footage of a relaxed and happy Kate leaving hospital with her family less than 12 hours after the princess was born.
"Lots of my mums are just like that," she said. "The way Kate walked down the stairs and climbed into the car, it was obvious that was not a woman who had a traumatic birth."
She points out that following childbirth a woman's body is over-flowing with the "love hormones".
"They are pumping with oxytocin, the hormone of love connection, which will help breastfeeding happen, and help the mother fall in love with the baby and the newborn fall in love with the mother."
So there you have it. That beaming smile showed a mum high on love for her new bub, a feeling most of us can relate to.
Sure, under that stunning dress Kate would have had been dealing with the standard non-glamorous things all mothers go through. She was probably in pain with a contracting uterus and possibly shaking in those beige high heels. I bet she couldn’t wait to go home and put some trackies on.
But she had a good birth, which is something all women should have the opportunity to experience.