Thursday 23 May 2019

Dear Meghan Markle: Here's my advice, from one expectant mum to another

Being labelled geriatric and crying for no reason are all par for the course, Tanya Sweeney tells the royal mother-to-be

Tanya Sweeney has some sound advice for Meghan Markle, who is expecting her first child in spring. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Tanya Sweeney has some sound advice for Meghan Markle, who is expecting her first child in spring. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Tanya Sweeney

Dear Meghan, It's almost hard to believe, but finally you and I have something in common. Like me, I'm sure you felt the world fall away from your feet when you saw those two red lines on the pregnancy test, the 'indicator' line somehow seeming more red and vibrant than the other (or do the royals do pregnancy testing in a whole other way?).

At 23 weeks pregnant, I'm a little further along than your reported 12 weeks (though looking at your tiny 'bump' earlier this week compared to my "are you sure there aren't twins in there?" one, it feels like several years ago). Luckily for you, I have wisdom to impart! The past few months have made for a an eventful and steep learning curve, but learn from my mistakes, tribulations and big moments.

1. You may or may not have been keeping an eye on Twitter this week, where many people seem overly fussed about your having a child at the 'ripe' age of 37. You may have the skin of a 14-year-old, but you may hear the words 'geriatric pregnancy' (lobbed at any pregnant woman over 35) a lot. The problem is that most talk around geriatric pregnancy centres on how many older women experience pregnancy and birth complications. I'm 41, so I'm all too aware that this 'wisdom' is a worry as tiring as a second job. Anyway, ignore it all and worry only when you are told to. We need to reconsider the language we use around pregnancy. I'm sure you'll agree that you're having a baby later in life, like me, because life has just worked out that way.

2. Likewise, I'm sure you are getting so much advice from absolutely everyone, mum and non-mum alike (that folder-over-tummy trick in Sydney - Kate told you that one, right?). Prepare to hear, "I'm going to give you one bit of advice" (they mean five), or even "I know everyone's giving you advice, but here's a really good bit of advice") an awful lot. You may well have heard something about the 8th Amendment Referendum when you were here over the summer, but Irish people are particularly obsessed with pregnant women's bodies. I've been asked about whether my pregnancy was planned and what I plan to do about money. People have demanded to know what my plans are re: co-sleeping, childbirth and feeding. I'm new to all this too, but the gist is this: bottle feeding, C-section and pain relief is 'bad', while 'natural' (ugh) labour, breastfeeding and taking a year off from work to parent is 'good'. If there's not an element of sacrifice involved, or you're not suffering in some way, well then you're not putting your back into it. Basically, tell everyone to bugger off in whatever polite language you like.

3. Similarly, keep off the internet. If you spend enough time in his company, Dr Google will tell you breathing is bad for the baby. Finding no-nonsense, sensible advice is a bit like trying to get a glass of water from Niagara Falls.

4. I noticed that you and Harry looked exceedingly loved-up on your trip Down Under. I can relate. My partner and I were high as 90s ravers in love in the weeks after we found out I was pregnant. But this is a biological glitch, merely designed to inure you from the phase, sometime around the second trimester, where you will cry at absolutely everything. Some things I cried at in a single week around Week 20: an episode of Reeling In The Years (it was 2008, a bad year for us); a 'debate' on how to cook bacon properly; a joke my partner made about having a second girlfriend (despite me making this joke for years); a video of a dog that had been sent to a rescue shelter. Don't take these tears as anything other than a surge in hormones. However, if they are persistent, definitely talk to someone about it.

5. For the love of all that is holy, do your Kegels and pelvic floor/core exercises. Midwives tell you they are important, and with good reason. I didn't bother, figuring I would get around to it at some point before February. And then I got a condition called SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction, where the pelvis becomes misaligned), meaning that moving, walking up stairs and turning in bed is painful. Oftentimes it can't be helped - it happens in one in five pregnancies, apparently - but a decent, strong core is definitely more help than hindrance.

6. People seem to have ignored the tenet: 'unless a woman is in labour, do not ask her if she is pregnant'. If anyone has been audacious enough to ask, even if you are showing a bit, tell them 'no'. It's worth it if only to see the look on their faces.

7. You've had your 12-week scan by now: isn't it mad altogether? Seeing the little grey blob that makes a baby's heartbeat is thrilling, and also hammers home the sobering truth that a little bomb is about to go off in your life in a few months' time. The weeks ahead of the 20-week anatomy scan will be fraught with pure anxiety. If you're lucky enough to be told that all is well, though, take yourself out for a celebratory tea with himself and be sure to really enjoy the moment.

8. I suspect this might be a moot piece of advice for you, but spend a couple of hundred euro, tops, on maternity clothes. You'll only need them for a couple of months. And make sure they are nursing friendly.

9. Names-wise, I've been warned off anything too trendy or too unique. You don't want to consign your child to a life of having to spell their name out as soon as they say it.

10. I presume you are destined for the £7,500-a-night Lindo Wing where Kate gave birth. For that money, you are probably allowed to bring in a 45-page birth plan, laminated. Most people tell me that while it's lovely to be prepared with knowledge and be aware of things like informed consent, it can be just as beneficial to go with the flow and be prepared to ditch the birth plan. Babies, apparently, don't work to schedule, and don't care if you're anxious about the pain or the physical effects of childbirth. But that's the beauty/terror of the whole thing. You don't know how things will unfold. You have no idea who you are going to meet at the end of it all. I hope we end up liking them as much as we will loving them.

See you on the other side. A lot, I presume.


Irish Independent

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