A woman has had a baby. I know! Amazing, really. It’s baby-shaped, as far as we can tell under the blanket, and appears more than capable of doing things newborn babies generally do, such as lying there. It may do other baby-like things soon, such as having a name. More as we get it.
And yet let’s not be churlish here. The reason pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge on the hospital steps still resonate for many – achingly fashionable as it is to wish the whole circus would just go away – isn’t just that they evoke fond parental memories. It’s that being pregnant and having a baby even of the non-royal variety is such a weirdly visible thing to do. Everyone feels a sense of ownership when you’re pregnant. Everyone feels the need to ask inappropriately intimate questions or pat the bump or offer advice about going back to work, plus in some cases bare-faced nagging dressed up as attempts to be helpful. The world’s cameras may not literally be trained on every new mother, but at times it damn well feels like it.
The day the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth, pregnant women could look forward to side-eye in Starbucks amid reports that drinking more than one coffee a day might be bad for the baby (never mind that it is based on one study from Norway describing a very slightly elevated risk of having an overweight child, and the causation has been described as “weak”). Then over that guilty flat white, they could read all about how one in four hospitals now refuses women’s requests for a caesarean delivery for anything other than clinical reasons. This is despite guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that says women should have a choice, even if they have endured grim vaginal deliveries previously, or are terrified of the process, or even if they are just grown adults who, having read up on all the risks, were mad enough to imagine they might have some say.
NHS patients quite properly make choices all the time about which form of medical intervention suits them, yet nobody is ever described as being Too Posh To Choose Conservative Management Over Radical Surgery For Slow Growing Cancer; it is only the routine choices that women make over childbirth that attract such intense public debate and censure.
Yet at times parenthood comes to feel like one long process of being invited to defend and explain choices that aren’t really anybody else’s business. If a grown woman is confident wearing heels when pregnant, in the full and certain knowledge that there might be an infinitesimal risk of falling over in them, then who are you to stand between her and the pleasure of dressing at least one part of her body in something recognisable from a previous life? Who cares which bit of your body the baby came out of, so long as everyone’s alive and well at the end?
Performative parenting of the achingly middle-class kind – the sort that involves dragging an oblivious toddler round a museum, talking at the top of your voice about educational things just so everyone knows what an excellent parent you must be – may be exceptionally irritating to witness, but it’s a defence mechanism deep down, an insecure reaction to that feeling of being silently judged.
There have been endless calls for royal births to be treated more like the ordinary, mundane events they really are; to be politely ignored, not plastered all over rolling news. But honestly, there is a reasonable argument that it should be the other way round, and that every single woman who has given birth deserves to come out of hospital to the works: a faux town crier and Kay Burley in full cry and someone reverently erecting a golden easel outside the house, which anyone who will be spending the next three weeks sitting on a rubber ring knows damn well they have earned.
But given the practical difficulties of granting everyone their own 16-page commemorative tabloid pullout, many new parents would settle for the other thing royal mothers now get from the media: a very particular sort of scrutiny from strangers, which at least bends over backwards to be kind. One that focuses chiefly on how well the children behave at weddings, considering their age, or how sweet they look in their dressing gowns; and one which is increasingly afraid of being hammered on social media if it’s seen to judge too harshly or harp on about when mum is losing the baby weight. The Duchess of Cambridge isn’t the only one who deserves a break.
• Gaby Hinsliff is a Guardian columnist
(MINNEAPOLIS) — A Minnesota doctor accused of illegally prescribing an opioid painkiller for Prince a week before the musician died from a fentanyl overdose has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a federal civil violation, according to documents made public Thursday.
The settlement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg comes as state prosecutors prepared to announce Thursday morning whether they’ll file any criminal charges stemming from their two-year investigation into Prince’s death.
Schulenberg is not currently a target of any criminal investigation, federal prosecutors said in a letter to his attorney. His attorney, Amy Conners, released a statement Thursday saying “there have been no allegations made by the Government that Dr. Schulenberg had any role in Prince’s death.”
Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. State and federal authorities have been investigating the source of the fentanyl for nearly two years, and no one has been criminally charged.
But federal prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alleged Schulenberg, a family physician who saw Prince twice before he died, violated the Controlled Substances Act when he wrote a prescription in the name of someone else on April 14, 2016.
The settlement, dated Monday, does not name Prince or make any references to the Prince investigation — but search warrants previously released say Schulenberg told authorities he prescribed oxycodone to Prince on April 14 and put it under the name of Prince’s bodyguard and close friend, Kirk Johnson, “for Prince’s privacy.” Schulenberg’s attorney disputed that, saying Schulenberg did not prescribe opiates to any patient with the intent that they go to Prince.
“After he learned of Prince’s addiction, he immediately worked to refer Prince to a treatment facility and to transfer care to a chemical dependency specialist,” Conners said.
She said Schulenberg decided to settle to avoid the expense, delay, and unknown outcome of litigation, and that “he made no admission of facts nor liability and denies any such liability.”
Oxycodone, the generic name for the active ingredient in OxyContin, was not listed as a cause of Prince’s death. But it is part of a family of painkillers driving the nation’s overdose and addiction epidemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were addicted to prescription opioids, including oxycodone, in 2014.
A laboratory report obtained by The Associated Press notes that one of the pills found in a prescription bottle in Paisley Park that bore Johnson’s name tested positive for oxycodone.
Under the settlement, Schulenberg has 30 days to pay $30,000 to the U.S. government. He also agreed to stricter requirements for logging and reporting his prescriptions of controlled substances for two years. Among them, he must keep detailed logs of all controlled substances he prescribes, allow the DEA to inspect the logs and other records without prior notice, and allow the DEA access to his prescribing history on demand.
It’s illegal for a doctor to write a prescription for someone under another person’s name. Anyone convicted of doing so could lose their DEA registration — meaning they could no longer prescribe controlled substances — and could face discipline from their state medical board.
The settlement says the DEA won’t revoke Schulenberg’s registration, unless he does not comply. It’s unclear whether the state medical board will take action. His license is currently active and he has no disciplinary action against him.
A confidential toxicology report obtained by The Associated Press in March showed high concentrations of fentanyl in the singer’s blood, liver and stomach. The concentration of fentanyl in Prince’s blood alone was 67.8 micrograms per liter, which outside experts called “exceedingly high.”
Prince did not have a prescription for fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after he died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. Authorities found numerous pills in various containers stashed around Prince’s home, including some counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl.
While many who knew Prince over the years said he had a reputation for clean living, some said he also struggled with pain after years of performing at an intense level. Documents unsealed last year paint a picture of a man struggling with an addiction to prescription opioids and withdrawal, and they also show there were efforts to get him help.
Associates at Paisley Park told investigators that Prince was recently “going through withdrawals, which are believed to be the result of the abuse of prescription medication,” according to an affidavit.
Just six days before he died, Prince passed out on a plane, and an emergency stop was made in Moline, Illinois. The musician had to be revived with two doses of a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
The day before his death, Paisley Park staffers contacted California addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld as they were trying to get Prince help. Kornfeld sent his son, Andrew, to Minnesota that night, and the younger Kornfeld was among those who found Prince’s body. Andrew Kornfeld was carrying buprenorphine, a medication that can be used to help treat opioid addiction.