If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, then allow me to be the first to share the breaking news: Princess Kate is pregnant! Now feel free to join in with the rest of the world as it goes absolutely completely bonkers in reaction.
I understand that a new baby, especially one of royal lineage, is a huge deal. And sure, I’m also super curious whether the wee-one-to-be is going to have a head full of shiny, chestnut locks like his or her mother. But honestly? The most I can muster up for Kate right now, beyond my heartfelt congratulations, is my deepest sympathies.
From here on out, no matter how much Kate avoids scheduled events, stays indoors with the windows covered, or unplugs from the internet, this pregnancy is no longer solely hers. The public has already claimed her pregnancy as its own — as much as one can claim somebody else’s gestational period.
Within Kate’s inner circle, she will most likely be subject to the pregnancy pitfalls that even the most common of pregnant women experience: well-meaning relatives and friends sharing their own tales of pregnancy and labor, tips on how best to take care of herself, and thoughts on everything from breastfeeding to where the baby will sleep upon his or her arrival. My money is on some lush, red velvet swathed bassinet surrounded by stuffed corgis sporting collars made of gold. Not very safe, certainly. But I think we can all agree that it would be utterly adorable.
However, Kate will also be subjected to even more than the usual advice / tips / suggestions / warnings / admonishments / pleas /accolades regarding her pregnancy from the public. There will be articles written, polls posted, memes created, and talk shows devoted to all aspects of her pregnancy and impending baby.
The princess never really stood a chance at a private pregnancy, though, did she? Not when the tabloids started predicting her “condition” mere minutes after tying the royal knot (and some even proposing the notion of a shotgun wedding). And while Kate will be dealing with this on an epic scale the likes of which I can barely fathom, I do have a little inkling of what she may end up going through. When I was pregnant with my son, I felt, at times, as if those nine months somehow turned my body into a timeshare with the general public.
Only during my pregnancy did people feel like it was completely reasonable to come up and touch my stomach uninvited. Under any other circumstances, intimate touching like that would be deemed harassment and called out. Yet not a day went by, particularly during the last few months, when somebody’s hand shot out to give my belly bump a rub. To be fair, about 50 percent of the time, permission was requested first. But if I dared to deny somebody the privilege of placing their hand on my stomach, I would be on the receiving end of a look that made it clear that I was a Grade A bitch for not letting some stranger caress me.
And then there were the comments. They started as soon as I began showing. At first they were harmless and actually helpful, but those quickly morphed into panic-inducing and annoying ones. I understand the desire to share your experience, but unless I specifically ask, no, I do not want to hear the story of how you were in labor for 18 hours before having to get a C-section. Those tales of terror did nothing to help my latent anxiety surrounding labor that was already starting to bubble to the surface. And while I appreciated suggestions for what brands of cloth diapers worked for folks, I didn’t care for those who pooh-poohed our choice to use cloth instead of disposable, claiming that we didn’t know what we were in for.
After a while, I was able to tune out the comments and responded with a half smile and nod, getting out a “Thank you for your suggestion,” as I continued making mental lists in my head about what shows I needed to DVR later that evening. The worst comments, however, came from supposedly well-meaning folks who lectured me about what I did with or put into my — let me repeat that, my — pregnant body. I had what you could call a “rule-breaking pregnancy.” I flew in the face of conventional “wisdom” and scooped cat poop, drank the occasional glass of wine or beer, rode a bike, and ate deli meat, sushi, and soft cheeses. I did not make these choices naively or flippantly. I researched what would work best for me and my pregnancy. Yet one more reminder that I was apparently only leasing my body from the general public during those nine months occurred each time somebody decided to lecture me as to how I was potentially harming my unborn child.
I get it. We, as a society, want to thrive, and we feel some sort of responsibility to help those growing the next generation. But here’s where I veer from that thought process. I trust women. I feel that for the average woman, she knows what’s best for her and her body, and if she doesn’t, I have faith that she will seek out the answer. (Whether she has access to that information is a whole other post … ) It’s the same trust I put into women who decide whether or not to have an abortion. Their bodies, their choices. Does that mean I don’t cringe just a little when I see a pregnant woman walking down the street with a Big Gulp in one hand and a cigarette in the other? No, of course I do. But I also realize that it’s not my right to tell her what she should or shouldn’t be doing.
And let’s not even get started on labor/birth choices and what everyone else wants you do to.
Which brings me back to the princess. Kate will be subjected to all of this and more. Her food and drink choices will be scrutinized. Folks will have opinions about her maternity fashion and what it may or may not say about her potential as a mother. There will be talk over whether she travels too much during this time or not enough. There will be so many royal pregnancy jokes that we’ll all look back on this time and be ashamed of ourselves.
In the meantime, let’s try and give Kate and Will some space, and allow them to enjoy these next few months without adding in our two cents. They’re rich enough as it is.
Avital Norman Nathman is the blogger at The Mamafesto.