I’ve been a bit absent this week thanks to a hectic work schedule, but I wanted to make sure I got up this post about the Duchess of Cambridge’s latest engagement sooner rather than later. Of all Kate’s sightings, I wish this hadn’t been the one I had to delay, because it was an important engagement on a number of different levels. 1) It took place less than 24 hours after the tragic events in London on Wednesday; 2) Kate gave yet another speech; and 3) the content of that speech was her most personal yet, touching on postpartum depression, parenting and her own experience as a mother.
First, let’s back up: There was some discussion on Wednesday evening that Kate’s event might be cancelled due to security concerns, and because the Queen’s own Thursday engagement was cancelled. However, the Queen was due to visit Scotland Yard itself, which obviously didn’t need any distraction and the postponement was more about not diverting manpower. Under any other circumstances, I doubt that the Queen wouldn’t have taken the opportunity to let people see her out, about and conducting business as usual. In this case, to a certain extent, it gave Kate the unique responsibility of representing the British Royal Family in the wake of a national tragedy (supplementing, of course, the Queen’s official statement on the subject).
The engagement itself was at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at a reception for Best Beginnings’ “Out of the Blue” film series, focused on promoting mental health for parents and infants. The initiative is in line with Kate’s efforts with Heads Together to advocate for children receiving the developmental support they need, but I was pleased to see such a focus on women yesterday. With the vast, vast majority of Kate’s fans and, frankly, those that pay attention to the Royal Family on a regular basis being women, Kate is in a unique and powerful position to reach and influence.
Now, as for the speech itself:
I feel like this is the speech I’ve been waiting for Kate to make for years. It reminded me of a passage from Tina Brown’s, “The Diana Chronicles” that discussed how bulimia and eating disorders gained some ground in the public consciousness once the late Princess of Wales shared that she had suffered from the disease in the 80s, which, for some, was helpful. Now, I am not insinuating that Kate herself has first-hand experience of postpartum depression or mental health issues, but there is enormous power in a public figure in Kate’s position speaking out on an issue like this, particularly one that can’t be seen and many people don’t fully understand. Her addition of personal anecdotes about her own feelings and experiences as a parent go a long way in making this speech effective and powerful.
After the speech, Kate met with a group of parents who have dealt with mental health issues, some of whom participated in the video series. Kate was reported saying, “There is so much support for mothers when they are pregnant but it can be very lonely after your baby is born.”
I’ve shared the full text of the speech below, but it can also be viewed here.
Now to acknowledge the fashion, because it was actually significant today in one poignant way: Kate chose a skirt suit by Eponine, a designer based in London, which was an important nod to the capitol yesterday. The ensemble is a recycle, Kate having first debuted it in March 2016. The look received mixed reviews at the time – personally, I liked it fine, though I thought the proportions looked a bit off with Kate’s hair length (bizarrely). It was a solid hit with me today, which brings me to my one last, superficial point – Kate’s hair has been looking fantastic lately. It has her classic length and volume, without having to forgo one for the other.
Anyway, we’ll next see Kate this coming Tuesday when she attends the National Portrait’s Gallery annual gala in London.
See all of Kate’s engagements and appearances from 2017 here.
Full text of Kate’s speech:
Before I begin, I know you would all want to join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to all those sadly affected by yesterday’s terrible attack in Westminster. We will be thinking of all the families, as we discuss the important issues we’re here to talk about.
I would like to thank Best Beginnings for inviting me here to introduce the ‘Out of The Blue’ series. This collection of films highlights how vital it is to be open about our mental health especially in the early years of parenthood.
Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience. However, at times it has also been a huge challenge- even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.
Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.
And yet there is no rule book, no right or wrong – you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.
Sadly, for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with their own mental health. Two in ten women will suffer mental health issues that can occur during pregnancy and in the year after birth, often clouding their moments of joy with a real sense of darkness and isolation. Many of these women also suffer in silence, overwhelmed by negative feelings, but also afraid to admit to the struggles they are facing due to the fear or shame of what others might think if they “aren’t coping”.
Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent; pretending we’re all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it. It’s right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s ok not to find it easy. Asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.
If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor. Getting help with our mental health is no different – our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.
Conversations are crucial for mental wellbeing and they should be part of everyday family life. Talking about a problem with a friend or another trusted person can be the beginning of getting better.
This week, as we look forward to Mother’s Day, I would love to see everyone celebrate and value the fundamental importance that mothers play in family life.
Mothers take on an overwhelming responsibility of caring for their families. Their role is vital in providing unconditional love, care, and support at home, particularly in the early years of a child’s development. We therefore should do everything we can to support and value their hard work.
The work of Best Beginnings is vital. By providing tools and resources to help parents establish their own confidence and their own self-awareness, Best Beginnings enables mothers and fathers to do the best they can for their families.
The Out of the Blue films you are about to see are also an amazing example to all parents, that starting conversations and asking for support is a real source of strength. They have been created with real parents, talking honestly and openly about their own experiences of parenthood.
I am now delighted to introduce two brave parents who have contributed to the films, Jessica and John Warne.