updated 18 Aug 2013, 14:40
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Fri, Jul 19, 2013
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Britain's mothers' army feeling for mum-to-be Kate

LONDON, Greater London - The Duchess of Cambridge lives a very different life to most mums-to-be, but Britain's army of mothers has been captivated by her pregnancy - and is ready to rally around to help her bring up the new heir.

Social media has been abuzz with every detail of Prince William and his wife Catherine's journey towards parenthood, none more so than Mumsnet, a web forum used by 4.4 million people in Britain.

Rumours on the site last week that Kate had gone into labour flew across the world, sending Twitter into overdrive and sparking panic in newsrooms across the globe.

It was a false alarm - Britain's technology-savvy mothers had no more information than anyone else.

But the online community, a lifeline for many parents struggling with new babies, toddler tantrums, illness, work, money troubles and much more, is ready to embrace Catherine as one of their own.

"When you become pregnant, you have this universal bond with all the other women that are pregnant around the world: you know what they're going through," said spokeswoman Jane Gentle.

At 27 weeks pregnant with her second child, she knows something of what Catherine might be feeling right now. "I sympathise with Kate in this very hot weather!" she told AFP.

As would be expected of a website with so many users, Mumsnet has not been universally kind to the duchess.

A quick Internet search brings up discussion threads criticising her weight, her looks and why she doesn't have a "real" job.

But many are sympathetic to how Catherine has managed under the global media spotlight since she was forced to prematurely announce her pregnancy in December after being admitted to hospital with severe morning sickness.

"There was a lot of support on the site from mothers who've been through hyperemesis (gravidarum) because it's far more than morning sickness and a lot of people don't understand that. It's a horrible thing to go through," Gentle said.

"To have someone so famous suffering from exactly the same condition as people from every kind of walk of life is helpful because it gets the word out there."

Catherine was given the best treatment available and will give birth to the third in line to the throne in a plush private hospital wing costing thousands of pounds (dollars, euros) a night.

It is a far cry from the average British woman's experience in the state-run National Health Service (NHS), let alone the difficulties faced by women in poorer parts of the world.

"For every new mother, it's a life-changing experience. Everything's shaken upside-down, everything that you knew yesterday has changed," Gentle says.

"For Kate, it will be an even bigger impending day because she's got the world scrutinising her.

"Hopefully the Duchess of Cambridge will be able to retreat a little bit, look after herself and not worry about what everyone else is saying about her."

When she gives birth, organisers will be asking members for tips for the royal first-time mum.

"We're going to compile all of those brilliant pieces of advice into a book and we're going to hand it over to Kate after the birth so I hope that she'll get some real gems from our users," Gentle said.

Catherine is likely to set new trends for prams, baby clothes and other accessories, just as she only has to wear a high-street dress once for it to sell out.

But while getting on with duty is paramount for the royal family, the Mumsnet advice is for Kate to take it easy and return to public engagements only when she feels fit.

Gentle said her one golden nugget of advice was a simple one.

"Enjoy it. It's a unique experience," she said, adding that Kate, like every mother, should "trust her instincts and go with what works for her".

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