She wears a dress and it sells out in minutes, spikes a sudden interest in vegan trainers, and she’s even had us reconsidering the clashing combo of red and purple – who knew? It seems like we all want a hint of the Duchess about us, and are prepared to go to strange places in fashion to copy them – remember that time Kate Middleton had you rummaging in your sock drawer for those beige tights you thought would only be useful for cress-heads or the odd 80’s theme night?
But here’s one royal trend that seems to have gone unnoticed: the ‘due month’. During all of Kate Middleton’s pregnancies, and now in the same way with Meghan, both the Duchesses have cooly told us the baby is due ‘in July’ (George), ‘in April’ (Charlotte), and ‘in March’ (Louis). Now Meghan and Harry’s baby, even with all the tabloid speculation, can only be pinned down to ‘April or May-ish’. This secretive approach is understandable – both Meghan and Kate surely want to do all they can to keep the pressure of the world’s media at bay.
The rest of us don’t have to worry so much about deflecting the spotlight of fame, although it has to be said, if you want to attract attention, there’s nothing quite like being massively pregnant. In fact, it’s probably the closest you’ll ever come to the “Royal experience”, as strangers jostle to press your flesh in the street, and a veritable team of well-meaning folk queue up to offer unsolicited advice and scrutiny.
All this attention and the constant gaze of an adoring public might make you feel like a princess, but after a while, the nagging sensation of being public property can wear a bit thin.
This is only made worse by the giving of a specific ‘due date’. Throughout your pregnancy, you will be asked by everyone from the bin man to the Head of HR: “When are you due?” In spite of having to answer this question on a daily basis, you must reply to each loyal subject with the same smiling decorum, even if your legs are creaking under the strain of an eight pound bump, or you’re secretly craving your 10am bucket of fried chicken.
And once the world knows your due date, look out. Approximately three weeks before it comes around, the question, “Have you had that baby yet?” will start to be asked, and, here’s the really irritating rub, each and every one of the people who asks you will do so as if it is the wittiest most original question you have ever been posed.
Keeping your royal poise, you will answer, “Ha ha! No, not quite, oh ha ha ha!” and throw your head back in a coquettish way to indicate the great extent of their wit. And they will parry with, “Good gosh, is it twins?!”, and you will laugh still more, as if they were channelling Peter Cook himself, whilst somewhere, in a parallel universe, your doppelganger is face down and spitting obscenities into the carpet.
The problem with due dates is that the only person who is entirely disinterested in them is the child in utero, who will surely take the event of being born as an opportunity to get started on a lifetime of messing with your schedule and being gleefully beyond your control. Babies simply do not give a fig about due dates, and turn up when they feel like it: the motivation for being born is something that, as yet, scientists cannot fully explain.
Some will be ‘early’, some ‘on time’ and some ‘late’, in fact, only about 5% of babies arrive on their actual due date, and research has shown that the length of pregnancy can vary by up to five weeks. Yup, all women are different, nature is full of variety. It’s a shock, I know.
In spite of this, the pressure around due dates doesn’t just come from one’s well-meaning public – it can feel like the medical system turns paparazzi in the final weeks of pregnancy, hounding you with information about ‘going overdue’ long before you actually have – from 38 weeks under NICE guidelines.
As the date itself approaches, they begin enthusiastically ‘sweeping your membranes’ in attempts to ‘get things started’ – which may be a well-meant attempt to help you avoid the rigours of a ‘real’ induction a week or so later, but in reality is about as much fun as a royal virginity test.
It’s true that some of this just can’t be avoided. The 12 week ‘dating scan’ has become a staple of antenatal care, and although a tiny minority of women do exercise their right to decline it, most can’t resist the temptation to see their future offspring wriggle and kick on the hospital screen.
It’s a lovely moment – but it comes with a price: the precise due date – according to the scan – is recorded, and with that, the guarantee that if baby doesn’t show up ‘on time’, the pressure for induction will mount. In my view, it’s a shame it has to be this way – it can spoil the last few days and weeks of pregnancy that ought to be a special time, and worse still, undermine a woman’s much-needed confidence in her body before she’s even started the challenging journey of labour and birth.
But by having a ‘due month’ – even if it’s just for your adoring public – you can claw at least some of the power back. After a nightmarish ‘overdue’ experience in my first pregnancy, I’ve experimented with this myself: in pregnancy 2 I told everyone ‘June’ when in fact my dates said mid-May, and – as if to illustrate how you indeed become more laid back with every child – with pregnancy 3 I just said, “When the blackberries come.”
“When the blackberries come? Has she gone mad? What does this mean? Doesn’t this vary, depending on the weather? How can she be so imprecise?”…my court and social circle scrambled and fell over each other in an anxious search for more information. But I kept my poise, and like the ship-in-full-sail I was compared to on a daily basis, I would float regally off, holding my enigmatic secret like a designer clutch.
This powerful air of mystery should be rightfully claimed by all pregnant women, not just princesses. Forget ‘bateau necklines’, the ‘due month’ is finally a royal trend worth following.
Writer Milli Hill is a freelance journalist and the founder of the Positive Birth Movement. Find her on twitter @millihill or email her firstname.lastname@example.org
Her bestselling book The Positive Birth Book is available from Amazon and all good book sellers. Her next book, Give Birth Like a Feminist, is published by Harper Collins in August.