|The Royal Birth: What to Expect in Home Stretch|
|By KATIE KINDELAN||May 24, 2013, 9:56 AM|
Where has the time gone? Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is weeks away from giving birth to her first child with Prince William, raising the excitement of royal watchers everywhere.
It seems like only yesterday, actually December, that the palace announced the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting not just any baby-to-be, but the third in line to the British throne. We watched Duchess Kate, 31, bounce back from the acute nausea, that hospitalized her weeks into her pregnancy; saw her fashion evolve as her baby bump grew; and watched her bond with fans bearing gifts for the newest royal.
Although the duchess's due date is close, there are still many questions about her pregnancy, the baby and what's next for the duke and duchess in their new roles as parents. Click through to find out the who, what, when, where and why of Duchess Kate's pregnancy and delivery.
The duchess has maintained a high-profile presence throughout her pregnancy, picking up her normal schedule after recovering from a severe bout of morning sickness in her first trimester. The palace announced in April three new charities to which Duchess Kate would be devoting her time and said she would be undertaking private and public visits in the U.K. on their behalf before giving birth.
When not attending public events and maintaining the duties of a royal, Duchess Kate will likely be just like any other expectant new mom, in nesting mode to prepare for the birth of her first child. She was already spotted shopping with her mother, Carole Middleton, at the posh London shop Blue Almond for nursery gear and antique shopping near Anmer Hall, the 10-room English mansion set to become the family's country home.
Despite Duchess Kate's coming from a family of party planners, in both the British and royal traditions, her impending motherhood will unlikely be celebrated at a lavish, public shower.
There is speculation among royal watchers that the duchess has already been feted at a private shower among close friends but, rest assured, it will never make headlines.
"William and Kate have been so keen to let everybody know they are low-key and don't like anything fancy or over-the-top, they would be uncomfortable with a baby shower or doing anything beforehand," Victoria Arbiter, ABC News' royal expert, said.
There's a possibility Kate and William might instead request charitable donations, as they did in lieu of a wedding registry, Arbiter said, noting that any unsolicited gifts given to the royal couple for the baby must be "respectfully returned."
While Americans like to celebrate moms-to-be, the British tradition is more often to celebrate moms after they've become moms. In that case, Duchess Kate and William will be able to accept the gifts they receive from friends and family who come to meet the new baby, according to Arbiter.
"That's when they will be showered with gifts, no question," she said.
The absence of a royal baby shower, the photo-op every royal watcher wants, inspired photographer Alison Jackson to create one herself.
Jackson asked royal impersonators -- including lookalikes of everyone from Carole and Pippa Middleton to Queen Elizabeth to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and, of course, Duchess Kate herself -- to pose together for a baby shower picture that, though fake, made quite a splash itself.
When it comes to giving birth, Duchess Kate will likely follow the example of her mother-in-law, Princess Diana, who bucked the royal tradition of palace births in favor of welcoming her sons into the world at a hospital.
The duchess could choose to follow directly in Diana's footsteps and have her baby in the Lindo wing of St. Mary's Hospital in London, where Prince William was born. If the couple is seeking luxury and privacy, they could go with Portland Hospital, a plush, private birthing facility that is a favorite of celebrities, such as Victoria Beckham, and the place where William's cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, were born.
If Duchess Kate goes into labor while she is at her family's home in Berskhire, England, she could give birth at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, the hospital where she and her sister, Pippa, were born, although royal experts say that is unlikely.
A history-making delivery could come if the duchess gives birth while the couple is at their cottage in Anglesey, Wales, where the prince works as an RAF search-and-rescue pilot. In that case, the newborn would be the first heir to the British monarchy born in Wales.
Look for the young, modern royals to buck tradition here, too, by having Prince William be present for, and play a large role in, their child's birth.
"When Charles was born, Prince Philip played squash here at the palace. When Prince William was born, Prince Charles went off and played polo," Robert Lacey, royal historian and author of "The Queen: A Life in Brief," told ABC News when the duchess' pregnancy was announced. "I think we're getting to see the first royal birth where the father himself is present at the birth and sees his new child come into the world."
The palace has yet to comment on the couple's delivery plans but royal watchers would also not be surprised to see a Middleton family member, like the duchess' mother, Carole, or sister Pippa playing a role as well.
The world will learn of the baby's birth, and whether it's a boy or a girl, in the same way the births of generations of royals have been announced, with a note on the front gate of Buckingham Palace.
"This is a proclamation of the future heir to the throne so it will be exciting and historic," ABC News' Arbiter said. "People will travel there from around the world to see it."
The gate announcement was, of course, the way the world learned the details of William's arrival, including the time of his birth.
That was 30 years ago, however, and much has changed since then. The modern-day royals will also likely have some form of electronic announcement, whether a posting on social media or a note on the royal website, in addition to the traditional gate announcement.
"Every form of social media is going to light up with this happy news but some traditions die hard and the gate announcement will hold steady," Arbiter said. "It will be historic and special."
Weighing just as heavily on royal watchers as the guessing game of whether the duke and duchess will have a boy or a girl, is what the third in line to the British throne will be named.
Duchess Kate revealed in April the couple has a "short list" of both boy and girl names, but acknowledged the selection process isn't easy.
"It's very difficult. My friends keep texting me names," she said while visiting a homeless shelter in Glasgow, Scotland.
Like his or her father, His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor of Wales, the new baby will be born with a name much weightier than its newborn self. Following in the royal tradition, the baby will have four names. For a boy, the title will be, His Royal Highness Prince XXXX of Cambridge and, for a girl, Her Royal Highness Princess XXXX of Cambridge.
British oddsmakers have the name Alexandra in favor for a girl and Philip or George for a boy. Alexandra is one of the queen's middle names and was the name of her great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra. Philip is the name of William's grandfather, the queen's husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, while George was the name of the queen's father and grandfather.
The sentimental choice, for a girl, would be for the couple to choose Diana, the name of Prince William's late mother, Princess Diana of Wales, or Frances, her middle name.
One thing oddsmakers can bet on is that the baby will not be named Carole or Michael, the first names of Duchess Kate's parents.
"The second or third child's name could go to Kate's family but they're naming a royal heir with this child so it wouldn't go to Kate's family until the Windsors have been acknowledged," Arbiter said, noting names from England's former monarchs like Victoria, Arthur, Henry and James are more likely names to watch.
The couple is making final plans to move into their newly renovated apartment at the 300-year-old Kensington Palace, where Prince William grew up. The apartment, 1A, was formerly the home of the late Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II's younger sister, and features a private garden along with its 20 rooms, including a nursery.
The duke and duchess have overseen renovations to the new apartment, including $750,000 in security upgrades, according to the UK's Mirror, for the past year. With the renovations still underway, however, it is likely the couple will welcome their new addition into their current, temporary home, a two-bedroom apartment also at Kensington Palace.
The royal family-of-three can also look forward to vacations in Anmer Hall, the property in Norfolk where Prince William vacationed as a child. The property was gifted to them by the queen and lies less than 2 miles away from her country residence, Sandringham House.
As newlyweds, William and Kate lived in a small cottage in Anglesey, North Wales, close to the prince's job as an RAF search-and-rescue pilot.
The no-nonsense royals made it clear when they were married in April 2011 that they planned to live as much of an ordinary life as possible. They have managed to live up to that claim so far, being spotted grocery shopping, attending friends' weddings, appearing in repeat outfits and shunning the large entourage typical of royals.
When it comes to raising their child, it appears the duke and duchess have no plans to change their ordinary, everyday ways. It was reported in early May the couple had hired a top housekeeper to the queen to assist them at Kensington Palace, paying roughly $35,000 per year for a "high standard of housekeeping."
The palace, however, issued no comment on the couple's reported hire, nor has it said whether Kate and William will continue to staff up as their family expands. Reports in the British media have the duchess planning to live with her family in Berkshire immediately after the birth, although royal experts say that is unlikely.
More likely is that Prince William will join his wife in taking a hands-on approach when it comes to raising their daughter or son, reading bedtime stories and changing diapers the same as any new parents. Prince William is expected to leave his job as a search-and-rescue pilot when his tour of duty ends in September, putting him closer, again, to his family in London.
It is unclear what exactly the prince will do next, but royal experts suspect he will maintain a role in the military closer to home in London, while also increasing his presence as a full-time royal.
"This is the first heir that's been born in the past 31 years," ABC News' Arbiter said, "so William and Kate have the freedom to do things the way they want to do them and the way that suits William, Kate and the baby the best."