Clever old Kate has given birth to her littlest prince this morning, on St George’s Day. And for me (as I suspect for many), all hope of productivity for the day went out of the window the moment I saw the news alert pop up on my phone. All day I’ve had Sky News Live on in the background as the world held its collective breath, waiting for the royal couple to emerge from the Lindo Wing to introduce their tiny bundle to the bank of cameras and news reporters waiting outside those famous doors.
Why is it that these moments make me cry? Is it the pomp and circumstance? The Town Crier bellowing “Hear Ye, Hear Ye!” and the announcement on an easel outside Buckingham Palace? Is it the flags flying in the wind and the all-round-wonderful Britishness of it all? Or is it that, beneath all of that, William and Kate are really just every one of us? A proud, tired, immensely relieved couple, welcoming a new person into the ever-expanding cavity in their hearts as their family grows. Truthfully I think, its because this moment, played out so publicly in front of the world’s media, takes me right back to the two biggest days of my own life: the ones when my daughters were born.
Of course, there are a few sizeable distinguishing factors. Kate’s stylist and hairdresser arrived earlier today to prepare her for the waiting cameras – not quite the experience had by most of us. But neither did we face the probing eyes of the world as Kate does today. As the sniffer dogs make their rounds of the area the news reporters speculate about what she might be wearing or what the baby’s name might be as they wait for a glimpse of her.
And then she emerges just as coiffed and composed as she was after the births of her last two babies – despite both of them having weighed over 8 pounds at birth.
How can anybody withstand such pressure? I, frankly, could not have imagined descending a flight of steps in heels with a baby in my arms to face a bank of flashing cameras mere hours after giving birth. My goodness – I considered it an achievement just to hobble, bloodied, bruised and in a considerable amount of pain, out of the delivery room and into recovery.
But there are similarities too; enough that the scenes on TV today evoke with total clarity the emotions of my own experience, and the enormity of what it meant. There was the arrival of the older siblings, and the sweet, sweet introductions going on behind those closed doors the are universal for any family. There was the proud dad emerging from the hospital with much on his mind as he dashed off to fetch his elder children, and the family closing in, protective, welcoming a new member into its fold, life never to be the same again.
And as the moment the world has been waiting for arrives and the couple appear on those steps, I feel a lump rising in my throat. Because I recognise the look on a mother’s face as she gazes down at the bundle in her arms. I recognise the protective arm of her husband as he guides her down the steps and I recognise the words exchanged between them: a language of their own; a shorthand developed over years of knowing and trusting one another; a vocabulary of shared adoration for the boy in her arms, spoken quietly, to the exclusion of the rest of the world even as they stand there in the very centre of it.
As I watch them climb into their car to drive home, a rite of passage that’s stressful enough for any parent even without a press helicopter hovering above, I wonder if I also might be feeling a bit envious. Envious of the bubble they’re about to disappear into. Envious of the cotton-wool-wrapped quality of the days that are to follow for this little family. The newness of their world and the intensity of their feelings.
I didn’t expect to mourn the passing of my babies’ babyhood. We made our choice that two would be our number long before either of them were in our lives, and I never considered myself much of a “baby person” until they were there in the crook of my arm. But my littlest is now two with a great big personality and mind of her own, and our baby days are very much behind us. Watching Kate and William on the steps of the Lindo Wing today, Kate tucking the tiny fingers of a newborn infant into his baby blanket to keep them warm, I find myself wishing – more than I’d have thought I’d be keen to admit – for some tiny fingers of my own to protect from the cold.
I think of the days and weeks that await their little family now. Of the delicious baby smells and the agony of sleep deprivation. Of the ecstasy of a baby asleep on your chest and the smell of baby spit-up on your third t-shirt of the day. Of the round-the-clock feeds and the way the heart swells when a three-year-old balances her new baby sibling precariously on her lap. I think of all those things and the countless more, and then I pull my own littlest on to my lap and breathe her in.
After all, there is much still to come.
And the feeling passes.