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New mum Kate will feel the lack of privacy acutely


 Kay Burley

Kay Burley

Kay Burley

Can there be a mother in the world who didn't feel sympathy contractions for the Duchess of Cambridge yesterday? Not because she was having to go through the birth on the hottest day of the year, but because outside her window, Kay Burley was leading the charge of reporters broadcasting to the world about the progression of the duchess's labour.

"I did ask a member of the royal household how many centimetres (dilated) she was," announced Burley, pictured below, at 11.35am, in reference to the royal cervix, "but they told me they didn't give that kind of information out." Her guests let out hearty laughs, though you sensed that in all seriousness, they really wanted to know.

Royal mothers of yore had to put up with the home secretary turning up to births, and one imagines that yesterday, Kate and William might rather have taken their chances with Theresa May showing up in her leopard-print kitten heels than the media assembled outside the hospital.

While Buckingham Palace has merely confirmed the labours of modern royals such as Diana, Princess of Wales, Kate is the first to give birth in the full glare of Twitter and 24/7 news channels. And so it is that just as Clarence House was forced to reveal Kate's pregnancy when she was only seven or eight weeks gone, yesterday they felt the need to release a statement announcing that she was in the early stages of labour (would they let us know when she was 'transitioning' – AKA the bit where you go a bit loopy just before you start to push? We watched in hope!).

Had a webcam been installed in the room and the birth streamed live on the official royal website, nobody would have been surprised. As it was, the only thing we came close to seeing dilate were the pupils of broadcasters, delirious from the heat and the excitement of it all.

Clapham Common is situated in an area of London known as 'Nappy Valley', and yesterday lunch time, the new mothers pushing their buggies across it were more concerned with keeping their babies cool than with the imminent arrival of the new third-in-line to the throne.

The majority just felt sorry for the duchess.

"Having a baby is hard enough without having to do it in front of the eyes of the world," said Lucy Risorto (35).

Because anyone who has ever been in labour will know that often you don't even want to spend it with your other half, let alone the rest of the world.

One dreads to think what it must be like knowing that outside your hospital, all and sundry are wondering if you are going to go for a waterbirth or have an epidural.

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On a far smaller scale, I seem to recall tweeting that my waters had broken. What was going through my mind when I decided to do that? Was I hormonal, or high on the pain of the contractions and the Tens machine strapped around my back? Whatever the case, I wish I hadn't made such a private event so very public – because for the next 48 hours I received umpteen calls and texts asking if I had had the baby yet. Afterwards, people called asking if they could visit – laughable, given that the only person I wanted to see was my new daughter, followed perhaps by her father.

The duchess may have a posh nursery and a palace for a home, but what she doesn't have is the luxury of privacy. And in the first few weeks after you have given birth, that is all you crave (I remember closing the door on my own dad when he turned up unexpectedly).

K ATE won't be able to slink out of St Mary's with her new child, and she won't be able to spend her first weeks of motherhood in her pyjamas, hair a-tangled, face devoid of make-up. Heaven forbid she leave the house with baby-sick down her top. As ever, the rules are different for the royals.

And so in some strange way, the Lindo Wing must currently feel a bit like a womb to Kate herself. Inside it, she is protected from the Kay Burleys and the mad monarchists camped outside, draped in Union flags. Once Kate and William leave hospital, the media scrutiny steps up a gear.

And as the duchess stands on its steps, and presents the royal baby to the world for the first time, she will surely be relieved that her first born is blissfully unaware of the attention it receives. But not for long.

Not for long.

By Bryony Gordon