The space between the moment you learn you are pregnant and the one when you reveal that to the wider world is the most intimate time in a woman's life. You are quite literally carrying a secret. There are very practical reasons not to tell -- risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester and many women don't want to reveal news that might change -- but there are also poetic and emotional ones. You need time to get your bearings, adjust to an altered reality, and savor the in-between: woman to mother to family.
Kate Middleton and Prince William had just a wisp of that time. I obviously don't know who was told when, but there are hints that until Kate became violently ill a few days ago, their news was known only by the parents-to-be. "Such was the level of secrecy," wrote Tom Sykes on The Royalist blog at the Daily Beast, "that before this weekend, the only people who knew were William and Kate themselves."
Her parents realized their daughter was pregnant when she began vomiting uncontrollably during an overnight stay. The Queen and Prince Charles were called just before William drove his wife to the hospital. Harry was told via email.
Now the whole world knows. The Church of England is praying for the Duchess, who is suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, the most dangerous form of morning sickness. Radio stations are playing prank calls to her hospital room. (That call is worth another outraged column all its own. Really?) Illness has forced their hand, and I imagine they feel that as a loss.
Yes, I know, the spotlight comes with the job description. (Technically, becoming pregnant and birthing an heir essentially is the job description.) And yes, of course, Kate understood she was trading her privacy for that lovely sapphire ring.
It is said that motherhood is something you can not fully understand until you inhabit it. The same is true of pregnancy. So knowing the world will be watching must be very different than living it.
I told no one but my husband and my doctor when my first pregnancy test turned positive. For months it was a secret I carried everywhere, like a talisman. Sometimes it thrilled and comforted; sometimes it terrified. In a much wanted pregnancy new life takes form during those months -- in the silent looks between partners, and in the invisible thrum of change beneath the skin.
The second time around I shared the news more quickly. Already caring for a toddler, I was all the more exhausted, and telling friends and family allowed me to ask for help. I was also less nervous about the telling. My chances of loss were higher with age, true, but so was my realization that I would need the support of people I loved if something bad were to happen, so I might as well let them in on the secret early.
Both times, though, the announcement was on my terms. The news was mine to share. There is something jarringly public about the later months of any pregnancy -- you trumpet the most personal of life events to strangers just by walking down the street -- which is why it's all the more delicious to keep things somewhat to yourself.
It makes sense that art historians regularly speculate over whether Mona Lisa was pregnant when she posed. That enigmatic smile? The secret, the power of it, feels just like that.
No one took this from Kate Middleton, but she lost it. That should make all of us a little sad.
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