Royals

Why patience will be a virtue in the wait for Baby Sussex

There will be plenty of time for photo opportunities.

By Karyn Henger
Images: Getty Images
This morning I woke to see a 1am notification I'd missed from the @SussexRoyal Instagram account. Oh god, had I slept through the baby Sussex arrival announcement?, I panicked. I couldn't help but feel a combination of both relief and disappointment when I clicked on the notification and saw that it was "only" about Prince Harry's attendance of an ANZAC Day service.
"Every notification gives me a minor heart attack, Great post tho," one person commented, and over 1000 people liked it, proving how beautifully it summed everything up. The world – whether you work in media or not – is waiting with bated breath for the arrival of this baby, and the pressure and anticipation is only mounting.
Some British newspapers have expressed outrage that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have chosen to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. And they're even more incensed that the baby's birth won't be announced until Harry and Meghan have celebrated privately as a family.
But where does the royal family's sense of duty to their public end and their right to privacy begin? Have media and public expectations gone too far, with the duke and duchess simply trying to claw some territory back?
Left: Prince Charles and Princess Diana on the steps of Lindo Wing, St Mary's Hospital, with newborn Prince William, on 22 June, 1982. Right: Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on the steps of Lindo Wing with newborn Prince George, on July 23, 2013.
It was Prince Harry's mother, Princess Diana, who started the tradition of appearing on the steps of Lindo Wing soon after giving birth, immaculately turned out, to the world's waiting press. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, followed suit with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and then broke new territory, appearing just seven hours after giving birth to Prince Louis.
Did they ultimately do women a disservice, though, as well as other royal mums going forward?
We can all empathise with the enormous amount of pressure they would have been under to meet their duty to the public; their children sit very near to the top of the line to the throne. But, inadvertently, their Lindo Wing appearances negated women's hard-earned right to be kind to themselves after giving birth.
There is no life experience more intense or dramatic than having a baby, and while some women are able to work with the pain, others are pushed to the brink of beyond.
Whatever a woman's experience, once she has had a baby she will never be the same again. Something shifts, and it's important to hold that before you step out into the public domain.
I've given birth to three children and, with each, greeted my first visitors – close family members only - from my hospital bed, hair not styled, make-up free, still in my pyjamas. With each baby, I could barely walk for two days, and my elation and joy was heavily tinged with exhaustion.
In an open letter, published in the New York Times, Chelsea Hirschhorn, a mother-of-three and CEO of a parenting company, urged Duchess Meghan to "skip the pomp" and not take part in the traditional post-partum photo shoot outside hospital.
She highlighted the realities of what happens to a woman's body after giving birth and questioned why, despite women breaking down barriers in many areas, it was still taboo to talk about the raw aftermath of childbirth.
"Women are expected to just throw on their new mum hat," she said, "and while some of us have the chicest milliner on speed dial, I promise you still won't feel like yourself."
Perhaps the Duke and Duchess share similar views. Perhaps they're simply determined to protect their privacy.
From the outset they have bucked royal tradition, with Meghan reportedly shunning the Queen's doctors and instead appointing her own delivery team led by a female doctor. St Mary's Hospital has been ruled out; there have been talks of Meghan attempting a home birth, and the couple is likely to announce the baby's arrival on their Instagram page.
Whatever their thinking, they have every right to enjoy their early days as a new family out of the public eye.
There will be plenty of time for photo opportunities; in fact, it has been reported they will take part in a photo shoot a few days after the baby is born.
In the meantime we are perfectly capable of exercising a little patience.