It started with a tweet. One solitary tweet into the ether, not even a week ago. Yet here I sit, exhausted, exhilarated and full of faith in the human spirit! When I wrote my “Letter to Kate Middleton” back at the start of July, I was wanting to support her and
other first time mums on their incredible – and sometimes overwhelming – journey.
Then, as I sat, along with the rest of the world, watching the doors of The Lindo Wing, waiting to see the world’s most highly anticipated baby and new parents, I was beyond excited for Kate & Will. Nothing can ever come close to the pride and euphoria of first time parents. It’s such a magical time.
Image courtesy of Daily Mirror
As Kate stood on those steps all coiffed and perfect, I couldn’t help but feel for her – for the fact that she’d had a blow-dry, got made up and presented herself to the world at a time when she would have been tired, emotional and probably just wanted to have a nice cuppa and a piece of toast and revel in her “babymoon”. The physical and emotional effort it took for Kate to step outside that door can be appreciated by every mother, worldwide and I felt full of respect for her.
I remember when our daughter Kaya, was born – leaving the hospital was traumatic. I felt as if the world was so loud, so dirty and polluted, so totally overwhelming. My man even stopped our car to berate a driver behind us in Richmond Park for following too closely! “There’s a newborn baby in here,” he roared, the protective male lion defending his cub! We laugh about it now, but at the time the desire to protect felt very real.
How Kate and William coped with the noise and glare of the world’s media outside the Lindo Wing, I’ll never know. They were cool, calm and collected and even managed to joke with the assembled media and crowds. They were, in short, perfect. Had it been me, I’d have literally run to the car! Which I did – to get some groceries, full of the joy of the first appearance of a future King.
Then THAT magazine cover slapped me in the face. My anger at how un-just and irresponsible it was went from 0-100 faster than Clarkson screeching around a test track and I tweeted for a boycott of OK! in support of Kate.
By the time I came to pay two minutes later, my phone was pinging with RTs like an overzealous Vegas slot machine. “Don’t worry, I think it’s broken, the children drop it so often,” I innocently suggested to the bemused guy behind the counter.
But the OK! cover played on my mind. How dare they even suggest that Kate should be worried about losing weight, weight she blatantly hadn’t even gained in the first place! I felt saddened that such a positive time could be given a negative slant and nervous for other new mums who might see that cover and feel the pressure to “lose” a belly which had actually facilitated their motherhood.
Feeling totally helpless and in an attempt to counter the damage I tweeted a photo of myself two months after the birth of my son, Akira, to show the reality of a post-baby body and try and take some of the pressure off women who already had enough on their plates with a new life to look after!
BOOM. That evening alone I had 1,000 re-tweets of both messages.
To date I’ve had 7,000 and gained over 10,000 new followers on Twitter.
I’m still completely bemused as to how it all happened, not to mention overwhelmed. I was just trying to help mums feel normal.
But the fact that my tweets soon went viral were indicative of the strength of feeling on this very topic.
Let’s be honest here, the cover wasn’t the only insensitivity around the birth.
Kay Burley (the mother of a son herself) showed surprise that Kate still had a bump on Sky. OK!’s official Twitter account questioned “Is it just us, or did anyone else just have a ‘How many babies were in there’ moment?” And of course, THAT cover.
But I think the outpouring of feeling was to do with a lot more than a magazine editor who, frankly, took a punt on a bestselling issue and got it so horribly wrong.
Granted, as editor, not to mention as a woman and mother, Kirsty Tyler should have known better. And don’t even get me started on the OK! “apology” which was delivered like the meaningless “Sorrrrreeeee” of an indignant 10 year old who’s been forced to spit out the word.
But this soon became about much more than an ill-judged magazine cover. It was frustration that we’ve reached a point as a society where a magazine editor would even deem that cover suitable. Ever. Let alone in the moments surrounding the birth of a future king, whose mother has never put an LK Bennett step wrong.
How have we arrived at this place where women’s bodies are SO up for public scrutiny?
When a young mum is encouraged to start thinking weight loss, even before her baby is born, something is clearly wrong.
When Beyonce apparently wears four pairs of Spanx to hide her post baby bumps, something is clearly wrong.
When women tweet me to thank me for my honest picture because they’re victims of domestic violence, a violence which started when they didn’t instantly lose their baby weight ‘like the celebs had’, something is clearly wrong.
When Kim Kardashian feels the need to hide out for seven weeks, allegedly waiting until “she’s lost the baby-weight”, something is clearly wrong.
Did I expect my tweet to go global? Absolutely not. I’d have taken more care over the wording if I’d thought for a moment it would even get 100 retweets!
Besides, honestly, no mum would wish this madness on her family in the first week of the summer holidays. It’s been crazy.
But this isn’t about me.
It’s about every new mum sat breastfeeding, feeling bad about herself after THAT cover.
It’s about the body image of all mums who should be left to get back to looking how THEY want, WHEN they want.
It’s for all women who are fed up of the constant scrutiny of women’s bodies in the media.
Enough with the madness.
This week, the comments came flooding in, filling my Twitter with the most uplifting and inspirational messages I’ve seen in a long time. If you get a moment, have a read through. It makes you proud to be a woman. And the level of support from men has been overwhelming too.
By Thursday I was doing interviews globally with Australia and Canada. On Friday it was LA’s Access Hollywood, by Saturday it was the juggernaut that is the US’s Today Show.
A journalist asked me if I was nervous about the scale of reaction, given that OK! is such a powerful title and linked with so many newspapers, not to mention TV channels here in the UK.
I do find it interesting that all my TV interviews have been for overseas.
So maybe I should be worried!
But do I regret it? Not for a nano-second. Something HAS to change. I don’t want my seven year old daughter Kaya growing up under this kind of ridiculous body pressure.
One journalist suggested to me that he thought this was truly a tipping point.
We can but hope.