Kate Middleton: 10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Into Labor

Dear Kate,

I have a vagina, you have a (royal) vagina. Aside from the fact that I think you also have (royal) green-ish eyes, I'm not sure what else we have in common. Well, except that you're about to become a parent. Any day/minute/second now. And although literally no one that I know of was betting on my child's gender while I labored, nor were people camped outside the hospital to get a glimpse of my spawn, I can still relate to the utter hell that is "just before that baby comes out." Allow me to share some wisdom.

Everyone wants your baby to be healthy, but they also want it out of you.

The sooner the better, says the entire universe, including the Queen. This may not seem contradictory — people just want to get a look at that baby! Including you! — but in a world where C-section rates have tripled here and in the UK in the last 20 years and many consider their current frequency medically unnecessary, it matters. You want a natural birth, remember! In fact, you could kinda say that the whole wanting that baby out is the very reason we have so many cascading interventions that lead straight to C-sections in the first place. Fuck those needy bastards!

Your birth plan is probably totally pointless.

I mean, hey, surely a royal gets the birth she wants, right? Or does the health of a future heir trump all personal preferences when it's time to usher out the royal goods? Will you get to eat while laboring, unlike the rest of us? Will they make a special water birthing tub just for you that's never been tainted by plebe vagina? Will there be a special birthing attendant only there to ensure every item of your birth plan is honored to the royal letter? For most of us , it all goes out the window, and there isn't much we can do about it. I wish I'd known that. (And here's hoping someone somewhere gets to control more about their birthing experience.)

How you think about expecting really affects the experience.

Language shapes consciousness, and the very notion that the clock is ticking days past July 13 means you have to feel all anxious now that things are "off track." It doesn't help that people are also saying you're "past your due date" when a "due date" is a "guestimate" in the first freaking place. This is the sort of mindset that leads to being willing to do whatever it takes to get labor going even when it's perfectly fine to wait around and let the baby come out when it's cooked all the way. Also, you also want that thing out of you, too, probably (you're a royal, not a saint — right?). Oh how I wish I could have not cared about that. When my water only partially broke, I might have just stayed home and read a good book. Try to ignore those pesky interventionists!

That said, a healthy baby really IS all that matters.

So you may as well go ahead and stop caring about whether you get your perfect birth. A perfect birth will go from natural, no meds, no C-section, healthy baby to induced, painkillers, 12 hours, but didn't hurt THAT bad, healthy baby. We spend our entire pregnancy fretting one thing or another, including how everything will go down in that hospital room and hoping our hair won't look like wilted lettuce. But now is not the time to worry anymore about that wilted lettuce. (I can tell your hair isn't the wilting type.)

You should take that birth plan and roll it up into a little (very anonymous) paper scroll and put it in a bottle and drop it in the Atlantic so someone can find it in 10 years accompanied by the message HEY FUCK YOU DUE DATE. And then go back to concentrating on working with your body and not against it. One of the worst things for contractions is tensing up like crazy when they hit. That's so hard to avoid when you're sweating the process.

Still! Your body was totally made to do this!

Your body! It's in possibly the greatest pain you have ever experienced, and yet it will feel the most amazing and in sync with your brain that it ever has. You'll feel animalistic and primal and yet, totally yourself and totally OK with it. It's so bizarre and so comforting. Yes, all pregnant women are told this, and we tell ourselves this, and the lady in the birthing class tells us this, and the books tells us this, but then, sometimes, the fear kicks in. What if you're the one person whose body WASN'T made to do this, you think (do royals get insecure?). It's a fear that tends to overwhelm the senses, and make you less confident. Less trusting. Just remember: You are doing it right. Whatever happens, you did it as right as you could in your context.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

If you need to listen to some Enya, break out the Enya. But it might feel like a Gwar kinda labor. Just sayin'. You just can't predict these things in advance. Perhaps all you want is certain people around you while you grunt your way through this, and yet, in the moment, you might loathe those very people. Labor is so individual, and it's so hard to predict how you will really feel as it's actually happening. I discovered I was able to endure hours of contractions just fine! I was so impressed with myself. But then when it started to hurt, it fucking hurt yo, and nothing, not even pride, was going to stand between me and that Demerol. It's not a competition, and hopefully for you no one is documenting your every utterance. Allow yourself a wide, wide, open, blooming flower, vaginally stretched amount of space to change your mind during this process.

It's OK if you hate aspects of this experience.

You will probably burst into gay song every single moment of your labor and new motherhood, but I hope that at least privately, you are able to allow yourself the full range of complex feelings that come with motherhood and birth, hormonal plunges and finding your way, even if that way comes with a full round-the-clock staff of helpers. I hope you don't have to say it was pure bliss every second. That will make it much, much harder on regular people who look up to you. Nothing makes complicated feelings about a culturally oversimplified role harder to deal with than the perception that there's something wrong with you for not swimming in bliss soup every second.

All mothering is not "automatic" for women.

Just because many women are typically able to become mothers does not mean that it's natural to care for a newborn. The love may come effortlessly (or not), but the learning to put up with colic, not so much. I've already seen stories asking "Will Kate be a good mom?" and other shit no one asked about Prince William. "I think she will approach motherhood like she was born to it," says a British 'royals reporter.' "She has always been drawn to children and has an affinity with them."

That sounds all nice and normal and sweet and perfect and believable, but it is precisely this kind of assuming about how you will or won't approach motherhood — something no one knows on account of you not having a kid of your own yet — that pressures women to be all smiles, and utter perfection, a pressure you no doubt already understand. Privilege may make the outsourcing of childcare a given, but it can't prevent the very normal, complex feelings about motherhood that all women can have, and it's important to be compassionate toward yourself.

Your body is also made to heal from this process, but that takes a hot minute.

If labor were portrayed more as the sometimes grueling endurance sport that it is (note: NOT a psycho, blood-curdling horror movie), it might be easier to recover from the "bumps and bruises" you pick up along the way. I would say "take as long as it takes to recover," but we all know that's a big royal farce. The pressure is on you more than practically anyone ever to model not only perfect motherhood back to us, but perfect recovery as well. But in the interest of rushing to get your public face and body photo-ready, I hope you can at least be very good to yourself in the process while you manage an extremely public transformation.

You'll really never be the same again.

Tis true. And it's also amazing. I'd always read that men become fathers at their kid's actual birth, whereas women are mothers at conception. That may be biologically true, but this discounts what happens the moment a baby leaves your body and becomes your child in your arms — that's more transformational than any positive pregnancy test. This is when the good shit starts. This is when the shit starts. And what is stranger than anything is the realization that, in spite of every where else you still want to go, there's no place you'd rather be than totally immersed in this.