I don’t simply dislike celebrity culture. I actively avoid it. Award shows, Oscar nominations, celebrity deaths, celebrity scandals … I can’t change the channel or click off the page fast enough. I even try to pick the lane at the grocery store with the fewest tabloids displayed.
That said, I confess there is one young celebrity to whom I pay attention, whenever he happens to be in the news. I became interested in him purely by an accident of timing, and in a sense against my will. But because of how that initial interest came about, I’ve subsequently found him difficult to ignore.
His name? George Alexander Louis, AKA “Prince George of Cambridge.” With the start of school this past week, he’s been back in the news — and back on my mind.
But why? Why would The Yeoman Farmer be the slightest bit interested in a toddler on the other side of the world? A toddler whom his family will never meet?
As I said, it was an accident of timing.
Our youngest daughter, “Little Miss Sweetness,” was born in mid-July of 2013. She arrived nearly six weeks early, and was immediately transferred to the NICU for observation. That afternoon, a test revealed she had several holes in her heart; these would require open heart surgery in a few months to patch. The hospital ran this test because they strongly suspected our daughter had Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), a diagnosis which was later confirmed with further testing, and heart defects are common in newborns with DS.
As none of these issues had been detected prenatally, or even previously suspected, to say we were in shock would be an understatement.
While we were still processing these twin bombshells, the next day we learned she had an even more immediate problem: duodenal atresia, or a blockage of the connection between her stomach and intestines. As with heart defects, it’s also common in newborns with DS. She was immediately scheduled for gastrointestinal surgery the next morning.
The procedure went perfectly, but required a nearly month-long stay in the NICU for recovery. This was obviously an extremely stressful period for our whole family, with many emotional ups and downs. Longtime readers may remember the article I wrote about the experience (Stage Six: Joy), and the follow-up article (Breaking the Circle of Sadness) I wrote a year later.
That month also included even more long hours of doing nothing but waiting, and watching television. One of the biggest stories of that slow news month came when Little Miss Sweetness was just a week or so old: the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, third in line to the British throne. With nothing else in the news, coverage of the event seemed unending — particularly after the royal family returned home and this official photo was released:
Meanwhile, back in Michigan, even being able to hold our newborn required a major assist from NICU staff (on account of all the lines she was hooked up to). On virtually the same day the above photo was taken, this was us:
As I held my daughter in that windowless cell of a hospital room, I couldn’t help sensing the enormity of the gulf between our situation and that of the royal family half a world away. It wasn’t a feeling of sorrow at what we were going through. It was more an overwhelming sense of distance between the Perfect Royal Baby, object of the world’s interest and acclaim … and our Little Miss Sweetness, greatest shining treasure of our family, but an absolute zero in the eyes of most of the rest of the world. (Or even less than zero … as you might imagine, the recent reports about Iceland boasting of eliminating babies like our daughter hit particularly close to home.)
It would’ve been easy to have sunk into self-pity, or even jealousy. Instead, as I contemplated the gulf between “the world’s” values and the little person who was of so much value to our family, it only made me all the more fiercely devoted to that little person. I wanted to pour out all the more of myself for her, and give her all the more of my time and attention. I didn’t think it was possible to love her any more intensely than I already did. But that’s precisely where the celebrity news out of London ended up leading me.
And that’s why I still pay attention to news about this one particular London celebrity, and why I’ll probably always have a soft spot for Prince George. Every story about him takes me back to those weeks which were so critical for the life of our own family. Every story about him reminds me of that long-ago coverage, which led me to an even greater devotion to Little Miss Sweetness. And all those reminders help make me all the more devoted to her even now.