The Duchess of Cambridge has spoken for the first time about the birth of her children and life as a mother of three in her most candid and personal interview ever. Kate, 38, opened up on the joys and challenges of motherhood as she spoke on Giovanna Fletcher's podcast Happy Mum, Happy Baby – and revealed fascinating details about her life with Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four and Prince Louis, who turns two in April.
The podcast was recorded during the Duchess's visit to a London Early Years Foundation nursery in Stockwell, south London, last month, as part of her work to promote her 5 Big Questions survey on early childhood, which she hopes will help to bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come. Here's seven things we learnt from the heartfelt exchange…
WATCH: Kate Middleton meets Giovanna Fletcher as she visits London nursery
The Duchess of Cambridge preferred labour to pregnancy
Kate's difficult pregnancies with all three of her children is well-documented, but in the podcast, the royal mum said herself: "I got very bad morning sickness. I'm not the happiest of pregnant people. Lots of people have it far, far worse. It was definitely a challenge. Not just for me, but also for your loved ones around you and I think that's the thing - being pregnant and having a newborn baby and things like that, impacts everybody in the family. William didn't feel he could do much to help and it's hard to see you're suffering without actually being able to do anything about it."
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She added: "[It was] utterly rotten. I was really sick. I wasn't eating the things I should be eating and yet the body was still able to take all the goodness from my body and to grow new life, which I think is fascinating." Kate admitted that because of her difficult pregnancies, she actually preferred being in labour. "Because it had been so bad during pregnancy, I actually really quite liked labour… Because actually it was an event that I knew there was going to be an ending to! But I know some people have really, really difficult times, so it's not for everybody. No pregnancy is the same, no birth is the same."
"[It was] utterly rotten. I was really sick," said Kate of her pregnancies
The Duchess of Cambridge used hypnobirthing
Like Giovanna and other famous mums, Kate tried hypnobirthing too. When asked, "Am I right in thinking you did Hypnobirthing?" the Duchess replied: "Yes! Actually it was through hyperemesis that I really realised the power of the mind over the body because I really had to try everything and everything to try and help me through it. There are levels of it. I'm not going to say that William was standing there chanting sweet nothings at me! He definitely wasn't, [laughing] I didn't even ask him about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself. I saw the power of it, really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that that they teach you in hypnobirthing when I was really sick and actually I realised that this was something that I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful."
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Standing outside the Lindo Wing was 'terrifying'
With all three of her children, the Duchess presented her newborn babies to press and to the world as she posed outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. Admittedly, Kate revealed it was a "terrifying" experience. "What was it like knowing that so many people were outside, after you've given birth and you're in your little cocoon with your new family?" asked Giovanna.
"Yeah, slightly terrifying, slightly terrifying, I'm not going to lie (laughter)," said Kate. "Everyone had been so supportive and both William and I were really conscious that this was something that everyone was excited about and you know we're hugely grateful for the support that the public had shown us, and actually for us to be able to share that joy and appreciation with the public, I felt was really important. But equally it was coupled with a newborn baby, and inexperienced parents, and the uncertainty of what that held, so there were all sorts of mixed emotions."
Of the moment she held George for the first time, Kate, who didn't know the sex of her baby, revealed: "Amazing, amazing. It is extraordinary as I've said. How can the human body do that? It is utterly extraordinary, actually. And he was very sweet. And also sort of relieved that he was a happy, healthy boy."
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Kate said standing outside the Lindo Wing was "terrifying"
Prince William and Kate struggled as new parents
The Duchess was very open in how she and husband William fared with their first baby. When Giovanna asked, "How many hours after giving birth did you come out?" Kate recalled: "I… Oh my gosh, I can't remember. Everything goes in a bit of a blur. I think, yeah I did stay in hospital overnight, I remember it was one of the hottest days and night with huge thunderstorms so I didn't get a huge amount of sleep, but George did which was really great.
"I was keen to get home because, for me, being in hospital, I had all the memories of being in hospital because of being sick so it wasn't a place I wanted to hang around in. So, I was really desperate to get home and get back to normality. But I think you think, particularly with your firstborn baby, you think everything is going to go back to how it was. I totally underestimated the impact and the change it had on us from that moment really and I think, unless you've got children, you don't realise. No amount of planning and preparation can get you ready for that moment."
Mum-of-three Giovanna mused: "When you leave hospital and get home [after giving birth], I remember that eerie silence…" to which Kate revealed: "It wasn't that quiet in our household! William was like, 'oh my gosh, is this what parenting is going to be like?' No, it took us a bit of time to get ourselves settled and going again, but that's the beauty I suppose of having a newborn baby. You are pulled to your toughest and most unknown places really that you hadn't necessarily even have thought about before."
"Yes absolutely – and anyone who doesn't as a mother is actually lying!" said Kate of mum guilt
The Duchess of Cambridge on mum guilt
When asked whether she struggles with mum guilt, Kate replied: "Yes absolutely – and anyone who doesn't as a mother is actually lying! Yep – all the time, yep – and you know even this morning, coming to the nursery visit here – George and Charlotte were like 'Mummy how could you possibly not be dropping us off at school this morning?' But no it's a constant challenge – you hear it time and time again from mums, even mums who aren't necessarily working and aren't pulled in the directions of having to juggle work life and family life… and always sort of questioning your own decisions and your own judgements and things like that, and I think that starts from the moment you have a baby!
"Also I feel huge responsibility because what I've learnt over the last few years is so fascinating and I definitely would have done things differently, even during my pregnancy, than I would have done now... Because you know - the science - and I found that fascinating to see the wellbeing of the mother – not just physically, you know there's so much information about making sure you exercise and making sure you have a healthy diet and things like that, which yes is definitely important. But the emotional wellbeing of the mother directly impacts the baby that you're growing."
"Spending quality time with your children" is a priority, says Kate
The one piece of advice the Duchess of Cambridge would give her younger self
"If you could write a letter to anyone about motherhood, who would it be to and what would you say," asked Giovanna. "Can I write back to myself? Is that really weird? I think I'd have liked to have written to myself at the beginning of my pregnancy with my first child because I think through I have experienced – not only as a mother but also what I've learned on my journey through, digging deeper into the early years landscape – I've learned a huge amount but I'd really love to go back and tell myself at the beginning of pregnancy, right at the start what things I feel now really matter in terms of being a parent but also what really matters to the children and my children now.
"It's the simple things that really make a difference. It's spending quality time with your children. It's not whether you've done every single drop off and every single pick up but actually it's those quality moments you spend with your child when you're properly listening to them, properly understanding what they feel, and actually when things are going wrong, actually really taking time to think, 'how as a mother am I feeling? Am I actually making this worse for my child because actually this has brought up all sorts of things that I feel rather than just focusing on them and how they might be reacting or responding to certain situations?' That would be another piece of advice I would like to give myself back then.
"Someone did ask me the other day, what would you want your children to remember about their childhood? And I thought that was a really good question because actually if you really think about that, is it that I'm sitting down trying to do their maths and spelling homework over the weekend? Or is it the fact that we've gone out and lit a bonfire and sat around trying to cook sausages that hasn't worked because it's too wet? That's what I would want them to remember, those moments with me as a mother, but also the family going to the beach, getting soaking wet, filling our boots full of water, those are what I would want them to remember. Not a stressful household where you're trying to do everything and not really succeeding at one thing."
Kensington Palace shared this photo from the podcast recording
The Duchess of Cambridge's 5 Big Questions Survey
On her survey on early childhood, Kate said: "Hopefully it's the first small step into looking at prevention and it's not just about happy, healthy children. This is actually for lifelong consequences and outcomes. I was looking at one of the stats. I think there is £17 billion estimated in England and Wales alone that is spent on late intervention and it's crazy - not only because it's an economic cost but because there is a huge social cost to our communities and our societies. So that's really why I'm doing this. It's going to take a long time – I'm talking about a generational change - but hopefully this is the first small step: to start a conversation around the importance of Early Childhood development."
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