Belfast Telegraph

Sarah Caden: Why Duchess of Sussex and Amy Schumer are two new mums with more in common than you imagine

Meghan Markle and the American comedienne are proof that perfection is not always desirable, writes Sarah Caden

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Amy Schumer with husband Chris Fischer

By Sarah Caden

The announcement came last Tuesday. "10.55 last night. Our royal baby was born." This announcement did not herald the arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's baby, however, but instead the baby boy born to actress and comedian Amy Schumer and her husband Chris Fischer.

This Instagram announcement came with a photograph of Fischer kissing Schumer on the cheek. She is red-faced, sweaty looking, with a blood-pressure cuff on her arm and a rake of hospital bands around her wrist. She looks like she's just had a baby and she holds her baby in her arms. It's a happy snap, the like of which you've seen before, from people you actually know.

The announcement quickly garnered just under 2.5 million likes, though I can't testify as to how many tut-tutted at the baby with a soother in his mouth and him only just born. His teeth will be ruined. His speech will be delayed. Surely, there were some bad-mother-already observations. Or maybe not. Maybe everyone left that to Schumer, who will, no doubt, be making millions in the future from slating her own parenting blunders.

She'll peddle this material as making a stand for women and mothers everywhere, lashing back at the much-pilloried pressure to be perfect when, really, seeking attention and approval for being really, really bad is merely the flipside of seeking it for being good.

It was a week with a lot of talk about babies and a lot of sympathy for mothers who feel pressure to look and feel good after giving birth. There was only a matter of hours between the birth of Amy Schumer's "royal" boy and the arrival of the baby now known as Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The announcements of their births came close together and, in a way, they were more similar than they seemed.

Schumer was raw and uncensored, as is her wont, while Meghan, though as glossy as any royal mother before her, managed to be perceived as a convention-flouter, flying the flag for the modern mum.

This despite the fact that, in fact, Meghan seemed to have all her birth and baby-presentation requests met. What Meghan wanted, Meghan seemed to get and yet the idea prevailed last week that she was to be pitied following baby Archie's arrival.

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How awful that she was going to have to show him off and look good doing so. How awful that she could have no privacy. How awful to be scrutinised at a time when a woman tends to feel raw and reclusive.

And, yes, Meghan's situation as a new mother is hardly one that most of us who have been there would envy. But we don't have the perks of her position either, and, in fact, she got it her way to a great extent.

Okay, so she didn't get her home birth, but she did manage to make it to hospital without anyone knowing she was there. She avoided the hospital steps photos that Kate Middleton posed for, only hours after her three babies' births, and Meghan got a staged palace photocall, instead, days after the birth.

Sure, she still looked hormonally overheated and a bit uncomfortable, but she had a breather before she did her duty and showed the new Windsor to the world.

Nor did Meghan actually, on the scale of things, have it that bad. Having it bad is going home with a baby that is not well, or having no money to feed it, or no home to call your own, or having to go back to work the next day to keep the family fed.

Meghan has chosen a certain position, the limelight attached to which she seems fine with the rest of the time. Posing for pictures is hardly a huge hardship and, yet, by making rather a big deal of it, Meghan managed to win more popularity points and a position as something of a hero for mothers bucking the pressure to be perfect.

Ultimately, though, her management of the first sighting of baby Archie last week didn't smack of someone who was hating the attention. As is her habit, she had the photos of her new little family issued in black-and-white as well as colour.

She got to do a favour for her US TV mate Gayle King and she scored incredible points for her choice of dress, an empire-line belted dress that emphasised the fact her stomach remained protruding and pregnant-looking.

An "absolute icon" was how Meghan was praised for that so-called "mum tum" and how indignant Kate Middleton must have felt in the face of that, as she, too, never made any concealment of her still-large stomach on those much-maligned hospital steps.

But no one really cares if Meghan's baby photocall was, in reality, very similar to those endured, or enjoyed, by Kate. Meghan is the hero of real women, despite the fact she ultimately diverged very little from royal convention.

So, her baby has a rather suburban first name and a cringey "Harry's son" middle name, but, aside from that, the whole affair won't have seemed radically different to royal watchers, or the royal's peers.

The nuts and bolts don't matter, though. It's the narrative that matters and the narrative is that Meghan is a modern woman rewriting the Windsor rules. And doing it for all of us, of course.

It's amazing, really, how we can take both these new mothers, on the surface filling very different spaces, to represent a reassurance that perfection is not prescribed.

Schumer, through her pregnancy, was all about "look how crap I look", "look how awful this is" and hamming it up to lucrative effect. She tapped into a modern trend to emphasise the awful, as if that's a way of protecting us from demands for perfection.

And, meanwhile, in merrie England, Meghan has done a wonderful job of seeming to slap down too-high expectations while really seeming to glide through it all like a swan.

From the sweaty to the soignee, two women in control of apparently contrasting narratives - and both doing rather well on it.

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