Friday was the day that Beyonce released the long-awaited picture of herself with her four-week-old twins. Just like with her pregnancy announcement picture, she is festooned by an array of multi-coloured flowers, the sprawling vista of the $4000-a-month garden of the Malibu rental she shares with husband Jay Z the backdrop for the image. Her body is preened to perfection, her hair long and silky and just-so, her outfit of choice some sort of ridiculous floral sheet with turquoise knickers and matching veil, her gorgeous babies cradled in one arm.
Now let me paint a picture of the first few weeks of my motherhood journey: a tongue-tied baby was attached to my breast, morning and night; I wore tracksuits and nighties - the only things semi-comfortable enough for my sore bits after a twenty-four-hour labour (and if I wasn't bleeding so heavily I would have forgone the underwear, too, as those waistbands are super itchy after giving birth. The maternity pads aren't exactly made of silk, either).
Anyone who came to visit (and I made sure there were not many visitors those first few weeks) would have witnessed me sitting on a big rubber ring, my mum-tum hanging over my very baggy tracksuit bottoms, while I ate more food and drank more juice to satisfy the overpowering hunger and thirst I felt each time my baby fed. They no doubt would have seen a boob at some point, too, and probably would have been sprayed with breastmilk, because my god, it takes a while to learn how to control those let-downs.
Okay, I actually did make sure my hair was clean and that I wore clean clothes every day because for me, feeling dirty only would have added to the feeling of being totally overwhelmed with emotions and responsibility, but I would have to feed the baby right before getting in the shower, so someone had to be around to hand him to, then feed again when I got out before attempting to dry my hair. I'd emerge make-up-less, looking just as bruised and battered as before, only this time with clean hair and nice smelling clothes (thanks, Mum). My bloodshot eyes and the burst blood vessels all over my face and body - which were the result of pushing for so long - probably would have scared off some of my visitors, or at least put the childless ones off having children for life.
So what has one got to do with the other? Why does what I looked like have anything to do with what a millionaire pop-star looks like four weeks after giving birth?
It's got everything to do with it, because a new mum is a new mum; it really doesn't matter how much money you have, or how many people you have working for you; a baby needs its mama almost constantly for those first few precious months, and no amount of money can mimic that.
If Beyonce looked this perfect, it would have taken time to get her like that, so where were her babies during that time? I'm assuming - rather presumptuously - not with her?
Of course, there are mums who need help when they come out of hospital; some because they have had difficult births or some may be struggling emotionally, and that really is nothing to be ashamed of, we all need to accept help. But the ones who choose to not breastfeed simply so that they can hire a night nurse, and make this decision before they've even had the baby, are the ones I find hard to relate to, and these 'perfect' celebrities are just adding to the pressure mums feel to 'get back to normal', when actually, they should be embracing a new normal: the notion that no, you won't get much sleep, but that's okay! It's the way it's meant to be, it's what all mothers go through, it's not exclusive to just a few of us. That yes, breastfed babies don't sleep as deeply as formula-fed babies, but surely if that's the case, this is what 'normal' must be, because before bottles, everyone would have been doing this and no one would have been there telling us that we could get more sleep and look more perfect if we just 'do it the other way', no worries about the vital immune-boosting antibodies that the breastmilk will provide our new-borns, as long as we can get a few winks.
I'm seeing pictures of mums I know on Facebook all the time these days, out with friends a few weeks after the birth of a new baby, looking perfect. "Yeah, I went out for dinner with her three weeks after she gave birth, she's amazing!" exclaimed one friend as she told me about a night out with a fellow first-time mum.
But I don't think it's amazing. You know what I think is amazing? A mum who is at home, persevering through breastfeeding no matter how hard it gets - because let me tell you sometimes it can get hard - knowing she can't go out with her mates right now because she made a decision to bring a human being into this world and therefore she now comes second. A mum spending time on the attachment between her and her baby, not that between her and her mates. Happy Mummy Happy Baby? I despise that term. You know what makes a happy mummy? When her child grows up healthy and grounded and content because those early days of attachment taught him trust and security, and the early days of breastfeeding gave him a stronger immune system.
These so-called 'supermum' celebrities being photographed with their toned physiques and perfect hair and immaculate make up, wearing jeans and heels four weeks after giving birth, splashed across every newspaper and online forum you can imagine, only makes normal mums, the ones who are actually doing their very best for their babies themselves, feel like failures when in fact, they are really the supermums.
Her autobiography, 'My Enemy, My Friend', can be found hereSuggest a correction