Thirty-one years ago, my daughter, Zoe, was born. I was ecstatic. But it wasn't just about the baby. I was almost as excited to mark the end of the most miserable nine months of my life — or, as it will be known from this point, the Princess Pregnancy.
Hyperemesis gravidarum — now in the news because of the sufferings of Prince William's wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — has always been a royal pain.
I had heard of morning sickness back in 1980 when I became pregnant At first, if anything, it was a relief, proof positive that there really was a baby in there. That was until morning sickness set in 24/7 throughout my entire pregnancy.
Which is why Zoe's birthday was cause for double celebration. No more throwing up, getting dehydrated and ending up in the hospital on IVs. No more concerned friends suggesting burnt toast or vitamin B shots or sharing stories of starved women in concentration camps whose babies came out fine. No more doctors suggesting that perhaps I was ambivalent about giving up my freedom or, worse, a hypochondriac.
I had been thrilled about being pregnant. I may as well have had the plague. Forget glowing: just getting out of my ratty robe and into real clothes was a remarkable feat. Plus, I felt guilty that my husband's life had been reduced to running back and forth to the hospital while moonlighting, since I was too sick to work.
On the positive side, for me, pregnancy was a radicalizing event. For starters, there was my doctor, who had the gall to suggest that my round-the-clock sickness was a function of being ambivalent about motherhood. I couldn't wait to be a mother — I just wanted my head out of the toilet.
Which led to Insult No. 2: Was I bulimic? Maybe I was symbolically trying to "throw up the baby." I assured him that I had never been bulimic, couldn't remember the last time I was nauseated, but was starting to feel like throwing up, especially when he referred me to a psychiatrist who grilled me on my relationship with my own mother, my feelings about femininity, even my sex life. Turned out his Ph.D. thesis was on the pathology of women who choose to be child-free. I finally understood what feminists referred to as their "rage stage."
But that was only one side of how my pregnancy was life-changing. I had been a chubby teenager, but, now, each pound gained was a triumph. For the first time I could, and did, eat anything I wanted, which would have been great had I been able to keep it down.
Now that hyperemesis is headline news, I'm a bit envious when I think back to how defensive I felt about being less than a "perfect pregnant woman." It won't take away the nausea or fear, but the Duchess of Cambridge's ordeal will change perceptions of this serious medical condition.
What Demi Moore and her famous nude photo on Vanity Fair while pregnant did on the fashion front, Kate will do for expectant mothers having difficult pregnancies.
Here's what I'd tell her: Your baby will be fine. You will feel better, and even if it takes nine months, it will be well worth it. Because becoming a mother doesn't just happen. Being a princess — okay, a duchess — is big. Global, paparazzi, the-future-of-England big. But carrying a child is bigger. Whether you're royalty or the girl next door, nothing you do will ever be quite this momentous.