Presenting a baby to the world is a moment of pure, unadulterated joy. It’s a time of celebration, of pride, doting and wonder. Parents beam, despite the exhaustion, their worlds having changed after creating, and now cradling, new life. There’s unconditional love combined with sheer radiating happiness. Strangers smile with them, uniting over shared experience, older generations become misty-eyed with reminiscence, whilst others look on and fast-forward the years, to the day when they too will experience this beautiful rite of passage.
Society delights in babies and new mothers, cooing over unknown infants and nodding with insight when fellow parents are encountered, or granted access to their ever-swelling club. And there’s nothing the general public seem to relish in more than a birth of the royal kind.
Following any celebrity wedding, there are months of speculation, womb watching and bets, as the world takes a pregnant pause to savour in the anticipation of generations to come. Then it becomes official and, right from the point the pregnancy is formally proclaimed, the news, social media and daily gossip are awash with expectant euphoria. We guess at everything from sex and names to the type of birth the new mother may have, which change bag will be adorned, what will be worn and how the baby will feed; no topic is deemed insignificant and nothing, it seems, is too intimate, to warrant our consideration.
And then the baby is born and presented to the people, the nation joins together, commemorating the most natural act known to all; the skill to grow and bear a human, competently and well. Yet that’s simply not always the case and, in the afterbirth of this, latest, rapturous and congratulatory craze, the unfulfilled longing, unending grief and utter devastation, which infertility brings, will still affect one in seven UK couples. Unfortunately, these good news announcements have the capacity to also cause pain.
My husband and I were married in June 2011, shortly after the spring which was Wills and Kate. It was exciting, it was thrilling and it was glorious – we, a mere mortal couple, triumphed and basked in their jubilation and the earth’s elation was contagious. When the world then entered the next phase of their matrimony, forever on the lookout for a bump or a tenuous excuse, which could mean only one thing, my husband and I joined in, but rather watching our own womb with bated-breath and a secret, almost illicit, comradeship with our fellow marital compatriots. However, when they got to share the news of their princely prize we, the runners-up, were learning how to navigate the daunting world of infertility and IVF. Our counterparts had started on the adventure of parenthood whilst we embarked upon a brutal journey involving injections, heartache and anguish.
As the globe brimmed with delirious royal baby frenzy, I teemed with rage, jealousy and bitterness, begrudgingly paying my pounds for the office sweepstakes, sourly partaking in small person small talk, whilst suppressing a unique and limitless devastation. I’ve never been proud of the envy or resentment which took root, because having a child is absolutely a wonderful gift, yet it’s also an occasion which can be shattering for those living in its shadow, forced to watch with suffering from the sidelines, whilst the dreams of others are made real.
Trying to truly comprehend the intense and all-consuming desire to have a child, when no child is forthcoming, is unimaginable but the cycle of desperation, hope and broken dreams is, sadly, the daily reality for 3.5million people in the UK. The pre-infertility me would never, for one moment, have thought that the birth of a stranger’s baby would act as a trigger, causing depression and self-loathing, yet that’s the merciless truth of infertility; the pain is real and cuts deeply into the soul.
While the Duke and Duchess’ decision to keep the details of the birth private may have dismayed some, for me it serves as a welcome relief, acting as a small moment of respite in the media-frenzied circus, which will inevitably ensue. A breather before we enter a season where the fertile are commemorated, and the childless-not-by-choice are tantalisingly shown what they too, acutely, wish to have and to hold. I learned the hard way that, despite the sacrifices endured, there are no guarantees when it comes to the formation of a family.
It’s not the wish of anyone living with infertility to taint happiness, or find themselves unable to share in the well-deserved joys which, rightfully, take place surrounding the celebration of a new being. But, whilst all will indubitably wish Harry, Meghan and baby well, please understand that it can be incredibly difficult to continuously delight in life, when the wonderful news just keeps on happening to someone else.