"Having a surprise conversation with the Duchess of Cambridge after two hours sleep was particularly surreal!" the new mom says

By Simon Perry
May 02, 2020 05:30 PM
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Kate Middleton surprised a couple of new parents when she took part in a video call to a hospital close to her heart.

Royal mom Kate was introduced to little newborn Max, alongside his parents Rebecca and John, at Kingston hospital, just south of London. The hospital was where Kate did some work shadowing for two days last November.

“Very nice to meet you,” Kate giggled. “This is definitely a first. Well, firstly, huge congratulations. Is it a little boy or a little girl?” When told it was a boy, she added, “He’s so sweet. Congratulations!”

New mom Rebecca tells PEOPLE, “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!,” adding, “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.”

Kensington Palace

Kate’s call -- from her home at Anmer Hall, Norfolk – came ahead of the U.K.’s Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which starts May 4. The royal mom of three was checking in to see how things are going at the hospital where she did some work last year, and how the staff is coping amid the dramatic changes in place because of the coronavirus.

“Are you very aware of a difference, or a shift in a mother’s emotional and mental wellbeing in comparison to before the pandemic?” she asked.

She was told there was “a lot more anxiety” because of the situation. “Do they know where to go to get the right support particularly for emotional and mental wellbeing?” Kate asked.

And she praised the staff for keeping working through the challenging weeks. “Babies come all the time so that fact that you’re having to work in these difficult times, so well done.”

She joked with one midwife, who was wearing a mask, that she could see her smiling “with your eyes, yes I can!”

Prince William and Kate Middleton
Kensington Palace

Midwives on the call talked about the impact that coronavirus was having on them and their families, and how important support for frontline workers is. Last week, Kate and Prince William launched Our Frontline, an initiative that provides round the clock mental health support to frontline staff and key workers.

Jennifer Tshibamba, Midwife at Kingston Hospital, said, “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.”

Kate, who has made the importance of the early years and parental wellbeing a central area of her public work, has spoken with midwives, health visitors, parents and leading sector experts about the challenges and impact that COVID-19 in the last couple of weeks. She has been told about an increase in maternal anxiety and isolation as a result of the pandemic, with midwives, doctors, health visitors and clinicians urging mothers and families to speak up and ask for help when they need it.

More than one in 10 women will experience a mental illness during pregnancy or in the first postnatal year, and around seven in 102 will hide or underplay the severity of their illness, her office at Kensington Palace says.

Kate took part in the call with Kingston Hospital last week and last Wednesday held a roundtable call with representatives from the sector including Dr. Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance; Dr. Edward Morris, President, The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG); Dr. Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting; Jessica Read, Deputy Chief Midwifery Officer for England; Katie Massie-Taylor, Co-founder of Mush (an online community and app for mums); Julia McGinley, Head of Parent Support, Netmums (an online parenting community).

During that call, the group discussed key concerns that new and expectant parents had during this time, including apprehension about going into hospital, isolation and reduced support systems. They also talked about there being a potential silver lining of the lockdown is the increased presence of supportive partners, with new families being able to spend more time together with their newborns, the palace said in a statement.

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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The experts spoke about the importance of community and emotional support for mothers at this time which has been made more difficult by social distancing.

Kate praised the resources developed by key institutions who are providing guidance at this time saying, “As organizations you’re playing such a vital role giving key information. You’re hugely trusted by the public and therefore the information you provide is a lifeline to a lot of people.”

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As the maternal mental health awareness week kicks off, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, of which Kate is a patron, has worked with the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to develop national clinical guidance on coronavirus and pregnancy for healthcare professionals, in addition to advice and information for pregnant women and their families.

And the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), who with family doctors are the only health professionals routinely seeing families from pregnancy to when the youngest child goes to school, have a help section on parenting through COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a charity for new and expectant mothers and their families, Best Beginnings has been linked with Kate and her mental health program Heads Together for several years.