Editor’s Note: Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University, is the author of “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication.” She was spokeswoman for international affairs in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration. Follow her on Twitter @karaalaimo. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author; view more opinion at CNN.
British tabloids are up in arms that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have indicated that they won’t step outside for a photo shoot shortly after their baby is born, as other royals have in the past.
Prince Harry and Meghan’s baby is believed to be due in late April or early May, but Buckingham Palace issued a statement last week announcing that “their Royal Highnesses have taken a personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private. The Duke and Duchess look forward to sharing the exciting news with everyone once they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family.”
The country’s highest-circulation tabloid, The Sun, insisted that “the public has a right to know about the lives of those largely funded by their taxes.” Another person who The New York Times described as a “senior journalist” told the paper that the couple would be made to pay for the decision by being mocked by the media.
As a new mom, I’m outraged by all the outrage. The expectation that Meghan should have to make herself and her baby available to photographers directly after childbirth is wildly inappropriate for three reasons.
First, the birth of a baby is a medical event for both mother and child. Even if Meghan is hoping for a natural birth, no mother can rule out the possibility of needing a last minute intervention – such as a cesarean section – that would make it tough to walk after the procedure. She also can’t be sure before the birth that the baby will be healthy and not need treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit, as some newborns unfortunately do.
She shouldn’t have to share any of this private medical information with the global media. Letting it be known in advance that she doesn’t plan to hold the traditional photo op allows her to avoid having to publicly explain what’s going on if she or the baby aren’t ready to go out.
Second, it’s deplorable to expect Meghan to get all dressed up after delivering a baby so she can be viewed by others, instead of focusing on her own needs and those of her family. The first few hours and days are critical for parents to recover, bond, and learn how to care for the baby. Meghan has every right to prioritize the well-being of herself and her newborn.
Of course, this isn’t the first time in history that people have demanded that a royal – or any woman – cater to the desires of others instead of doing what she needs and wants. But this kind of thinking is deeply misogynistic and disturbing.
Finally, a photo op isn’t in the royal baby’s best interests. Newborns are unpredictable. Meghan can’t know in advance when the baby will cry or need to feed, sleep, or have a diaper change – but, from my personal experience I can remind you: it often happens at the most inconvenient times. It’s unrealistic to expect a newborn to remain sedate while being besieged by camera flashes and journalists shouting out questions, and it’s unfair to expect a baby to endure that commotion after going through the trauma of the birthing process. Indeed, the experience would be a sensory overload for many adults.
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Of course, British taxpayers do support the royal family. According to Vanity Fair, they cost the average person about 69 pence a year. And the duke and duchess represent their country accordingly.
Meghan, for example, recently became vice president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, which seeks “to enable young leaders to realise their dreams and hopes for the future.”
But this doesn’t mean the British people own her. It would have been inappropriate for my employer to demand that I make myself available hours after having a baby, and the same goes for Meghan – and every other woman.
The tabloids will have to wait for Meghan to introduce her baby in her own time. But they shouldn’t worry too much about being held in suspense for long. I suspect that shortly after the birth she won’t be able to help but share a picture of her bundle of joy.