From the earliest stages of pregnancy, the world and his wife want to feel your bump – and I’m firmly in the camp of being weirded out by this. I distinctly remember somebody even lifting up my top (unannounced) to take a look. Taken aback, I felt violated and like an exhibit in a museum. Random tummy groping went on throughout the entire pregnancy and my next one too. I would quietly ask people not to and questioned whether I seemed rude because this was all so new for me. Inviting a friend to feel the baby kicking fell into a completely different category though, as this was within my control. I mean, you wouldn’t put your mitts on someone’s boobs, so why touch their belly without asking?
As you know, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s baby is due imminently (or may have already been born). And right now, we can’t move for Royalists indignantly remarking they should be given up-to-the-minute birth news. It’s almost as if nothing but a labour suite webcam will do. Yet with us currently in Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m asking why any mum should ever be made to feel like their baby is everybody else’s business.
Baby news is always precious, but can we take a minute and consider an expectant mum (and dad)’s personal space? A recent article by the Daily Mail entitled “All we want is to share in the joy of Baby Sussex as we near 50 days since Meghan last made a public appearance” just underlines my point. It should not be what “we want”, but more importantly, what the new mum wants. How can Meghan’s mental health and emotional needs be so disregarded that getting a peek at the Royal baby surpasses her privacy?
After the arrival of my daughter, I suffered stitch drama that could’ve had its own mini-series, as well as having a small human to keep alive. I distinctly remember the shell-shock my husband and I felt when we got her home, a mixture of sheer elation and “oh my god, I didn’t think labour would be like that”. Nobody’s post-birth aftermath is going to be pretty and that’s just a basic fact. There are pads, creams, lotions, very little sleep and a lot of complete rabbit-in-the-headlights confusion.
We were so excited to share our news when she was born and rang close friends and family from the hospital. They all rallied with gifts and lovely messages of support, sending baby clothes and blankets. We arranged family visits and I’d have been lost without both my mum and mum-in-law; whose help was invaluable.
But riding the brand-new baby wave, you encounter every overwhelming emotion. I felt tearful, proud, vulnerable, happy, exhausted and quite simply, desperately in need of enough space and understanding to bond with my baby, establishing myself as her mum.
When the baby was a few days old I had to be rushed back into hospital, and she stayed at home with Daddy for a few hours. I felt discombobulated and acutely sad about being away from my beautiful girl. In the meantime, we’d told friends that visits would be when we invited anyone round, and ad hoc drop-ins weren’t happening. Mostly because when she wasn’t feeding, crying or needing us, sleep was essential for survival. Spending time chatting with matchsticks propping my eyes open while I could be napping, just wasn’t what I wanted. For the most part this was completely respected.