Friday, February 3, 2017

A Woman's Worth: Is She or Isn't She

Is a woman worth more than the children she bears? Yes, should be the obvious answer to this question. However, moving in royal watching circles, you start to wonder. Surely, the monarchy is a concept out of another time, some might say. And yes, it is. It is a concept that long favoured men over women and some countries still do. If the first child is a boy, he stands to inherit the throne. If it is a girl, the birth of a sibling could always mean that she loses her position in case the sibling is of the male gender. In some countries, women even have no right to succession whatsoever. (Giving a serious side-eye to you, Liechtenstein, here.) However, most European countries have moved with the times and so did society in general. I've said it before and I say it again: It is sad that even in the 21th century, the success of a princess (or any woman, really) is still measured by the fact whether she has given birth to a child or not.

It's no secret, we all love a royal baby. For a royal family, as for most families out there, a baby is very good news as it shows continuation. In some cases, the world even goes into a frenzy and stares at a door for days on end. (Serious side-eye to Great Britain here.) However, one could have hoped that we had moved long past the times during which a woman's uterus was the most important part of her body and giving birth to as many children as possible was a merit. No woman is a failure because she hasn't given birth (yet). It may be a choice, every couple has to decide for themselves when they are ready to have a child. Or if you are indeed trying to conceive and it isn't working, you don't need the outside world to give comments about what a failure you are. Somehow it is also often blamed on the woman if a couple hasn't been able to conceive even though it may be the male partner who is infertile.

While 99 percent of us only need to bear the looming questions of our well-meaning relatives about when the next - or any - bundle of joy will come into this world. The occupancy rate of the uterus of a royal woman will warrant (more or less) international headlines. Every picture is analysed, a badly fitted dress, a hand placed on the stomach or a few doughnuts too much quickly become the first sign of a pregnancy and turned into a sensational headline. Yet we hardly stop and think. 

Think about how this makes the woman and couple in question feel. The never-ending headlines or a subtle question about a possible pregnancy can be very painful to a couple going through (a period of) infertility. The talk of a baby-bump damaging a woman's sense of self-worth. And above it all, maybe a sad story of baby that is no more: Miscarriages can happen to everyone, no matter who you are. The late Queen Fabiola of Belgium suffered five miscarriages before resigning to having no children with King Baudouin, brother of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. 

While one child certainly cannot substitute another, there are also happier endings: Princess Margaretha and Prince Nikolaus lost at least one child due to miscarriage before Princess Margaretha prematurely gave birth to baby boy, Léopold, who died later the same day. The couple later had three healthy children: Anunciata, Astrid and Josef. It goes to show us that in the end, it's not in our hands. Whether you believe in God, nature or happenstance, it is some power above - fertility is nothing we have perfect control over and so no one should pressure or expect anyone to get pregnant in a year, two or five. Sometimes it is a choice, sometimes it's just not to be. Whatever reason, nobody is a failure because of it.

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