What can be Prince William’s excuse—sorry, reason—for staying on at work at his search-and-rescue base in a remote corner of Wales, 300 miles from Kate and a four-and-a-half-hour drive (on a good day) to the London hospital in which she will give birth? Sources say that he simply wants to be treated equally to his fellows, and military rules mean he gets just two weeks’ paternity leave. He wants to have all that time off after the birth, to get maximum bonding time with his child and heir.
There are of course compelling reasons that might force a man not to be at his wife’s side during the painful last few weeks and days of pregnancy. If your work involves, for example, negotiating for hostages in Sudan or towing oil rigs around the South Arctic seas, then it might be acceptable not to be present for the tricky last moments. You might even be forced to miss the birth itself.
It’s a problem many men in the military face, and all too often military wives are obliged to co-opt sisters, wives, and friends as birthing partners in place of their husbands or boyfriends. The realities of active service dictate that paternity leave often cannot be taken until some time after the happy event itself.
But let’s face it, these strictures don’t really apply if you’re Prince William. After all, in just a few decades, he will be head of the armed services, so one would imagine he could probably get some extra duvet days.
Because when he is stuck on the M4 motorway into London and Kate is calling to say, “WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU HERE, YOU USELESS BASTARD,” a response along the lines of, “I just wanted to be treated like everyone else, darling,” is likely to meet the response: “YOU ARE PRINCE WILLIAM, FOR GOD’S SAKE.”
We all know women can be seriously cranky pre-partum, but seeing as the future of the monarchy is at stake, might it not be wise to leave any idiotic hillwalkers who have shimmied to the top of Mt. Snowdonia without a bottle of water in the hands of some other equally well-qualified airman?
While some think it’s time for the future King Billy to pull rank and get his ass back to London, others disagree. The writer and education radical Toby Young, for example, says: “Lots of women go temporarily insane during pregnancy, so it’s very sensible of William to spend as much time in Wales as possible. If he’s smart, he won’t come back until the royal baby is at least 1.”
Still, Kate is reportedly freaking out—in a typically controlled way, she is expressing her anxiety by creating birth music playlists to take into the hospital as part of the hypnobirthing program, something I know all about—and part of her anxiety is said to be down to William’s absence.
Who could blame her? After all, unspoken though it may have been, having a child was presumably rather an important part of their marriage contract.
Although Kate appears in public not to have let the pregnancy ruffle her, if she has managed to maintain the same equanimity behind closed doors, then she will be the first wife in history to have done so. And if William hasn’t thought more than once that he can’t wait for this particular nine months of his life to be over, then that would be a first too. But can things be so bad as to justify William hiding out in Wales, indulging in a pre-birth quarter-life crisis by sleeping in a plywood shed on base, polishing his helicopter, and cooking baked beans over a gas stove with other men?
William may have simply found a way to engineer non-attendance at the delivery room, the secret guilty wish of many expectant fathers these days, who fear the ickiness will put them off sex. If the baby comes quickly, there is no way William will make it back in time for the birth, as the palace is now letting it be known that William will not, repeat not, be using one of the rescue helicopters to get to the delivery room. (That’s a wise decision, in view of the headlines the death of a mariner whose outboard motor had broken down the same night could cause.)
It may not be such a bad move. One of the champions of the theory that the birth itself should remain off-limits to fathers is the distinguished doctor, author, and academic Dr. Michel Odent. Dr. Odent is best known for being the author of the first articles about the initiation of breastfeeding during the hour following birth and for introducing birthing pools into hospitals. He is currently studying the health and behavior of fathers during the days and weeks following birth.
Since the 1980s he has been arguing, with all the success of King Canute, that mothers give birth much more easily if they are not being watched by their husbands.
The reason he says, is simple: “What the theoreticians never understood is that the enemy of an easy birth is the release of adrenalin, which is caused by fear or excitement. And the release of adrenalin is highly contagious. You cannot be in state of relaxation if you are close to someone in a state of adrenalin. And when a man loves his wife, it is normal that he is anxious when she is in labor.”
“The man’s place is in the waiting room smoking a cigar,” he says. “The last thing Kate needs there is William. She needs someone calming. Her yoga instructor, or Pippa. Not a husband making her more infuriated and angry.”
Marin also suggests that forcing men into the delivery room when they would rather be elsewhere is unwise. “One guy passed out, hit the floor, and died. The problem is if you are not there with a video camera and biting off the umbilical cord, you are treated like a war criminal."
So William should stay in Wales, then?
"Wales sounds like a great place to be, but maybe he could find somewhere a bit more remote.”