Monday morning begins with me watching a "live feed" of the "royal baby watch," and it's so boring that I find myself taking a break from The Telegraph of London's baby coverage to read about the English cricket team's 347-run thrashing of the Australian side. The live-streaming "royal baby watch" video shows a door of the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in London as a collection of police officers stand guard. A few cabs, bikes and pedestrians pass by; tourists pose for photographs and media muddle about. A person or two enters or leaves every hour or so, but most of the movement is by the shadows that lengthen as the sun sets.
The baby boy born Monday to Prince William and the duchess formerly known as Kate Middleton is big news in the United States, where we celebrate our independence from Great Britain but can't let go of our fascination with the royal family.
The protocol for a royal birth is a story unto itself. Details are written on stationery and signed by attending obstetricians. That document is then placed in an official palace vehicle and escorted by police through gaggles of well-wishers, tourists and media members to Buckingham Palace, where it is framed and posted on an easel. It wasn't until about six hours after the birth that people learned he was a boy born at 4:24 p.m. London time, and weighed 8 pounds 6 ounces.
Here in the colonies, Monday's births among commoners also come with a protocol.
"Nowadays, people find out immediately," says Pat Creehan, who has witnessed thousands of births in her 30 years of nursing and current position as clinical manager of labor and delivery for Advocate Christ Medical Center in Libertyville. Most couples already know the baby's gender, maybe even share that news with family via a pregnancy "reveal cake" with a blue or pink middle, and have picked out a name. The new dad, the mom's mother, sister, mother-in-law or best friend will use a phone to snap a photo of the baby "right from the delivery room before they are straightened up," and send the image instantly to loved ones holed up in the hospital waiting room, Creehan says. "Then you'll hear all this hoopla, cheering and shouting in the family lounge."
Those folks immediately forward the photo and news to extended family and friends who aren't at the hospital. They post stuff on Facebook and other social media sites, and by the time the baby messes his first diaper, he's already getting friend requests from babies with compatible Apgar scores. The days of a doctor strolling out to announce the baby to a pacing dad have been gone for several generations, so the only time Creehan gets to break the news is maybe once or twice a year if an emergency happens and a baby is delivered before the father can get to the hospital.
"The cellphone is the biggest change" in delivery protocol since nervous dads could light up cigars in the waiting room, says Nenette Cacal, the clinical nurse manager of labor and delivery at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. Some dads text a centimeter-by-centimeter play-by-play of the delivery to family. On occasion, a dad actually will walk into the waiting room to make a birth announcement to loved ones, but most of the time that news travels by text message, Cacal says.
The royal baby gets a 41-gun salute, but the playing of Brahms' lullaby welcomes every baby born at Northwest Community Hospital. American tradition used to call for a celebratory cigar.
"I don't know how long it's been since I've seen a cigar," says Creehan, adding that people aren't allowed to smoke anywhere on the Advocate Christ Medical Center campus.
The dozen or so births every day at Advocate Christ Medical Center don't garner the attention given the royal baby, "but it's still exciting. Every birth is still a miracle," Creehan says. "It's an honor and a privilege to participate in every birth. We know how much that baby means to that family, and it never really gets old."
Speaking of getting old, I suspect we will have to wait as long as a typical cricket game before we are treated to the royal baby's name and see a photograph.