While I would not class myself as a Republican I am not really a Royalist either, but since this is not 1649 I can sit on the fence quite happily. I do, however, get really irritated by what I see as the excessive coverage of royal events, especially when they usurp other stories that affect people’s lives much more. There are other births too that, in my opinion, are much more worthy of our attention given the courage and suffering that are involved.
Let me make it clear at this point that I wish the Royal Couple no ill will, and should add that it would not swap my life for theirs in any circumstance; the pressure that comes with the media spotlight must be immense. Nor do I want to underplay the pain of childbirth that Kate will have gone through which, having watched my wife Karen go through twice, I can only imagine. Nevertheless they have had the best of possible advice and care as they become parents for the first time.
But as I sat through what I saw as the interminable coverage waiting for some other news I could not help reflecting on children born into abusive relationships, into families where addiction is rife, or where the parents for whatever reason just cannot cope. I then thought about those many people who foster children from such situations and how heroic they are in taking children who are often quite troubled. I cannot imagine, as I struggle daily with Jake and Sam, how (or why) they do it. But thank goodness they do.
I then thought about the many people for whom having children is far from straightforward. Those who are unable to for whatever reason, and those for whom having children is a desperate round of medical consultation, IVF treatment, joyous hope and, often, crushing disappointment; then repeated. For parents, like friends of ours, who knew that if the pregnancy went to term they would have at most an hour with their child before it died, and how they made the courageous decision to do just that. But also their joy of conceiving again and having a healthy boy.
I thought of single parents who often seem to be so derided by our society yet must go through unbelievable strains and pressures to bring up their children. Mums and Dads who do not have anyone to share the load, the joys and the pains with. People who I imagine often must feel very isolated as they bring up their children alone. I cannot imagine parenting on my own and would be lost without Karen.
I thought of those in other parts of the world who do not have access to the sort of great medical care that we do here in the UK, and for all its faults the National Health Service is still an amazing thing. Places where child mortality rates are far higher and how we often forget that, behind the statistics, are grieving parents. I thought of those caught up in conflicts around the world, those very conflicts that lose our attention when not reported, and of the loss parents feel when their children are senselessly killed or taken away to fight in armies for causes that were long forgotten.
I guess what I am saying is that having a child is usually a time of joy, and by all means tell us about the birth of the royal baby; I am actually interested in it to the extent of knowing its sex, weight, name; and that mother and child are healthy. But that it is. For me there are far more interesting and inspiring stories of parents, carers, and those who never get to be parents showing courage in the face of unbelievable adversity. While I do not suggest that individuals be thrust into the public eye like William and Kate, I think there are many other stories of parenthood which deserve our attention that we never get to hear about.
So while I hope Kate and William will be able to experience as many of the joys and frustrations of parenthood that their situation allow, I would like to dedicate this post to the many parents and those who cannot be parents who have gone through unimaginable pain and grief and shown amazing courage in the face of such adversity. Let us remember them too.