The Duchess of Cambridge surprised new parents with a virtual bedside visit 16 hours after they welcomed their baby son into the world. Kate cooed over little Max, telling mum Rebecca Attwood and dad John Gill: "Hello! Very nice to meet you! This is definitely a first, I think!" The conversation came during a call from the Duchess to midwives she worked alongside on a two-day work placement at Kingston Hospital last November.
WATCH: Kate surprises couple who have just welcomed baby boy
"He is so sweet. Ah, congratulations! When did you have him?" she asked Rebecca, who was sitting up in her hospital bed alongside her baby's cot. Told he had arrived at 10pm the previous night, the future queen replied: "My goodness, you must be exhausted."
Kate spoke to new parents Rebecca Attwood and John Gill
Rebecca, from Raynes Park, south west London, said afterwards: "Having a baby is an extraordinary experience at any time, but having one during lockdown and then having a surprise conversation with the Duchess of Cambridge after two hours' sleep was particularly surreal! "The Duchess asked us about having a baby at such an unusual time, and our experience on the maternity ward was that all the midwives made it as normal as possible – apart from the masks, it was exactly the same as when we had our first son, Rafe, in 2015. The midwives were amazing on both occasions."
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Baby Max was born 16 hours prior to the phone call
Ahead of UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, (May 4-10), Kate heard from midwives about how Coronavirus has changed the experience of expectant mums and new parents, with staff wearing personal protective equipment for appointments and births. From her Anmer Hall home in Norfolk, she watched as Sam Frewin, Lead Midwife Birth Centre & Better Births, put on an apron and mask before taking the laptop in to introduce her to the new family. "I'm smiling, can you tell?" joked Sam. "With your eyes, I can," laughed Kate.
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Perinatal Mental Health Midwife Jo Doumouchtsi said women were anxious about coming into hospital and catching Covid, but also about being isolated from family with a newborn. But she added: "They will still be very well supported by the midwives, by health visitors, by GPs and by mental health teams." Jennifer Tshibamba, a midwife in the Antenatal and Newborn Screening Team told the Duchess: "We want women to know we're still here, we're still open. Even with what's going on, we're here to listen to you, we're still here to make sure we provide you with the best care for your pregnancy, for your baby and support your family."
The Duchess spoke to midwives about how coronavirus has changed the experience of expectant mums
Director of Midwifery Gina Brockwell said of Kate's call: "She's clearly very interested in maternity services. She spent quite a long time with us back in November so really seemed to have a good understanding of our role, but also around the challenges of having a baby and a new family and the raising of people's awareness of the sorts of challenges that people have to go through. So it's an honour actually that she wanted to come back again."
Last week the Duchess also spoke to experts from organisations including the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, of which she is patron, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance and the Institute of Health Visiting, about challenges facing new parents during the pandemic. She told the group: "It's so important to access and reach out for help when you need it. We've heard it with the frontline workers, for those who are struggling, they don't feel they can reach out because they feel guilty for doing it, which is extraordinary to hear... With new mums and parents and families, they don't want to feel like they're overburdening [the NHS] but it is so important to reach out and ask for help when you do need it."
The mum-of-three also spoke to maternal health experts
Kate also suggested talking to others in the same situation. She said: "You speak to six mums and all of you realise you are going through the same thing. Before that, you're worried that actually what you're experiencing, you're the only one who's going through it. And it's exactly the same for new mums whether through pregnancy or with a newborn baby, you know, you feel that you're the only one actually experiencing something.
"But actually to be able to share it in whatever way - whether it's on the phone, through social media, in any form actually - if you have got access to it, it does provide that normality and normalising of some of these anxieties and these worries." Dr Alain Gregoire, Perinatal Psychiatrist and Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance UK, said: "Your mental health is important and if you need help, get help – the NHS is here to give you the advice, support and care you need."
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