Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex arrive at the British High Commissioner residency in Johannesburg. Picture: Michele Spatari/AFP
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex arrive at the British High Commissioner residency in Johannesburg. Picture: Michele Spatari/AFP

What’s wrong with Meghan Markle not being okay?

I don't remember much about the first few weeks after my first child was born.

It is a blur of uncertainty - questions about whether I was doing it right, trouble with breastfeeding, huge dollops of guilt when I finally threw in the towel and switched to formula, long, sleepless nights only partly due to a crying baby, and a rising anxiety inside every time my husband walked out the door.

In between all that, there were moments of unbridled joy; when my son burrowed deep into my arms as if he couldn't get in there far enough; when his tiny, pink, finger curled around mine; the way his eyelashes rested on his cheeks when he slept, and when he smiled at me with his currently eyes, even though everyone kept telling me that it was just wind.

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It was, in short, as it is for most new mothers, a wildly emotional ride and one that I wasn't - despite all the books I'd read, the advice I was given, and the support I had - prepared for.

Becoming a mother can be totally overwhelming, irrespective of title or wealth. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty
Becoming a mother can be totally overwhelming, irrespective of title or wealth. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty

And so it was that one day I was pushing my trolley around my local supermarket, with my boy strapped in to one of those capsules they have attached to them, and I was worrying that I should have bought some sort of blanket to spread out, so that all the germs that were surely lurking in that capsule would not touch his soft, baby skin and knowing that if he got sick, or caught a cold, it would be my fault.

I remember that moment clearly. I also remember the next one, when a woman about my age, lightly touched my shoulder and told me my little boy was beautiful, and asked, in the way women ask each other these things, what his name was, how old he was, how he was sleeping - and I was keeping.

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"It's hard isn't it?" she asked, and I, to my great surprise, burst into tears.

Big tears. Big, wet, hot tears that fell from my eyes in a torrent that I couldn't turn off. And in between those tears - in the way women do these things - I kept apologising for them.

"I'm sorry", "I'm sorry", I kept repeating but exactly what I was apologising for, I do not know.

Why do we have such a problem with Meghan Markle admitting to not being okay? Picture: supplied
Why do we have such a problem with Meghan Markle admitting to not being okay? Picture: supplied

I do know that for all of us, in those moments of uncertainty, or sadness, it is often when someone - it could be a stranger, sometimes most especially if it is a stranger - asks if we are okay that all our carefully constructed walls come tumbling down.

And in that moment, the stranger will, like mine did, put an arm around you and offer that everything will be all right, or your partner will tell you what a great job you are doing, or your friends will bring cake, and everyone will tell you that as a new mother, it's natural to lose it every now and again.

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Unless you're Meghan Markle. Because apparently, if you are a duchess, you are not allowed to. Because you are rich. And privileged. And pampered. And live in luxury. And how very dare you even dare to hint that all is not rosy in your turret, Missy.

The recently aired documentary Harry and Meghan: An African Journey highlighted the royal couple's recent trip to Angola, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa, where they visited numerous charities or organisations they support. These included the Halo Trust in Angola, which clears landmines and AIDS the victims of these heinous devices, Sentebale in South Africa which delivers aid and hope children affected by HIV, Cama in Malawi which supports young Africans through secondary schooling and further education, and Waves for Change in South Africa which provides mental health services.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex tend to their son Archie during their royal tour of South Africa. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex tend to their son Archie during their royal tour of South Africa. Picture: Toby Melville/Getty Images

But all of this work went largely unnoticed in the tsunami of criticism which followed Meghan Markle's outrageous decision to answer a question honestly.

Asked how she was going, Markle answered that she was finding the media scrutiny that comes with being a Royal wife difficult and said "So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mum, or trying to be a newlywed, yeah well I guess … and also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay. But it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

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And then her eyes glistened with tears a little. Because, according to some quarters, she is an "actor", and can apparently turn them off and on like a tap. And also, they howled, how dare she speak these words in a poor African country. With real, poor African people. A glaringly obvious situation that Meghan apparently didn't grasp while she was out there among them, trying to help.

Because she is self-indulgent. And rich. And entitled. And an actor.

And because in a world where it has become - thank goodness - perfectly acceptable to ask each other are you okay? - or in the parlance of a supportive, mental health movement here in Australia "RUOK"?, Duchesses aren't allowed to answer.

Frances Whiting is a columnist for The Courier-Mail.