On Monday morning, before the sun came up, I rolled over and squinted at my phone…
It was just after 5 a.m. but before 6, and there was no reason for me to be awake. Or to have my phone on my bedside table. But I had broken my digital detox of banishing my phone from my bedroom each night, for one very important reason: the imminent arrival of Baby Sussex. As a journalist and royal enthusiast, I had been waking up early on my own all week, anxious that I might miss the news.
Thankfully my sixth sense had stirred me just in time for the announcement from Buckingham Palace that the Duchess of Sussex was in labor. The long-awaited arrival of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first child was imminent. Squeal! My heart beating a tad faster, I tiptoed to the living room to not wake my children. Within an hour, news of the birth broke, first via an Instagram post and followed closely by an official release. Turns out, that little boy was already cozied up at home in his mother’s arms for hours before the world knew!
I’ll admit, royal births are among my favorite things. I have fond memories of waiting for Prince George’s arrival in 2013, sitting at my midtown Manhattan desk and staring at a live stream of London’s famed Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital. Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, followed in the footsteps of Princess Diana, publicly appearing after each delivery to a cheering crowd.
Each time, I cheered Kate on (literally — pretty sure I actually let out audible cheers). I was particularly struck after her first delivery, clad in a light blue Jenny Packham dress with her still-there bump very much on display. I hadn’t realized that’s what a post-birth body looked like and was immediately in awe that she had embraced it rather than try to hide it. I have to believe Kate knew that the world would take note, given how much scrutiny she had been under since joining the royal family, and how much it would mean.
And yet, in recent weeks, Meghan and Harry made it clear they would do things differently. Buckingham Palace even issued a statement outlining their intentions to celebrate privately first. When I heard the Sussex’s preferences, I thought to myself: good for them. Their son is now seventh in line to the throne — ahead of him are Prince Charles, followed by Prince William and his three children, then Harry at number six — so the chances of him becoming king are slim at best. Therefore, the pressures they face are far fewer, the freedom to do as please much greater. And they are exercising that, as they should!
In celebration of the first pictures of the baby, here are 6 ways in which the Sussexes did this their own way:
1. Meghan’s pre-maternity leave. The last time we saw Meghan, in an official capacity, was on March 19, some seven weeks ago. She quietly retreated from the public eye without making an announcement and spent what I imagine to be this precious time nesting in her new home at Frogmore Cottage.
2. Caring not to share. Before the baby’s arrival, we didn’t know the sex, Meghan’s due date (although we learned when it had passed! She is said to have been about a week overdue), or whether she planned to give birth at home or in a hospital. It gave the run up to the birth a decidedly different feel from that of Kate’s three children. In those instances, the area outside the Lindo Wing was blocked off for a week around Kate’s due date, allowing the circus to unfold in a controlled manner. On Monday morning, Meghan reportedly gave birth to her son in a hospital, managing to slip off the grounds of Windsor Sunday afternoon and back without anyone noticing.
3. Harry’s full-bodied reaction. Shortly after the news broke Monday morning, Harry trotted out in front of the stables on the grounds of Windsor Castle and gave the most adorable 90-second press conference you’ve ever seen. (It didn’t hurt that he stood in front of horses tbh!) My heart swelled at his comments, both what he said — “How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension… this little thing is absolutely to die for” — but also how he said it. He radiated joy, his whole body reacting to the life-changing news: hands clasped, cheeks red, knees bending. The royals are perhaps not known for their public displays of emotion. This felt so real — and really charming. Also, it made Harry, the embodiment of a proud dad, the visual story of the day, gracing the covers of newspaper worldwide the next day. (For those royal history buffs, familiar with the rumored jealousy Charles felt over the love and attention Diana received, this was also a lovely way to give Harry a turn in the spotlight.)
4. Meghan hung back. Meanwhile, Meghan stayed hidden from view, a choice she surely made and one that was most deserved. The Sussexes have weathered a whirlwind year — getting married, announcing patronages, conducting an epic royal tour and a very public pregnancy. I have found myself exhausted just following along. In my head, she was cocooned up in Frogmore Cottage with her mom by her side, sipping a cup of tea with her feet up, getting to know her new son.
5. Pictures on their terms. When the couple emerged for photos Wednesday morning, it was Harry holding the baby. The proud new dad, clad in a gray suit, walked out cradling the newborn with Meghan by his side for a quick three-minute appearance. After all the speculation leading up to this moment, in the end it was quite quiet and low-key. There was plenty of beaming between the new parents, and a few quick answers to a few easy questions. In a lovely throwback, the photocall was held at St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle, where the couple had their wedding reception nearly a year ago. And Meghan, still very much a newlywed in my mind, wore white — a white trench dress, to be precise, reminding me of the white trench coat she wore for their engagement announcement pictures. “It’s magic,” she said with a smile. “It’s pretty amazing. I have the two best guys in the world, so I’m really happy.”
6. Name TBA. Much to my surprise, the Sussexes posed for photos without announcing the baby’s name. As for what the name will be? Spencer, Diana’s maiden name, shot to the top of the odds-list from a UK bookmaker, followed by more traditional monikers like Alexander, James and Arthur. My guess is that the Sussexes will choose something less expected but still classic for a first name. Perhaps Spencer could be a lovely middle name? As would Philip, after Harry’s grandfather. I’ll place my bets on Oliver Philip Spencer. Please share your guesses in the comments! UPDATE: IT’S ARCHIE!!!!!! Full name: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
From start to finish, the arrival of this baby felt, as much as possible, like what the Sussexes wanted. My sincere hope is that they can continue this approach throughout parenthood. Becoming a parent is an exercise in competing emotions. The joy of both my sons’ arrivals, for example, was dampened by the crippling toll of sleep deprivation. For every coo and first smile, there was a shoulder full of spit up or diaper blowout. The added pressure I felt, after years of dealing with infertility, only compounded the situation — I can’t imagine what it would feel like to do it with all the world watching.
My advice for the Sussexes? You do you. I’m Team New Moms (and Dads!) Get To Do Whatever They Want. Tune out the noise and keep following your own instincts. Only you know what is best for your family.
The sweetest photo from their Instagram account.
Thank you, Elizabeth! What advice do you have for Meghan and Harry? And what do you think the name will be? Please share in the comments!