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Like many people, I’ve been captivated by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s romance from the beginning. As a native Los Angelino, it was like watching one of our own live out her personal fairy tale, complete with prince charming, an epic love story and, eventually, a gorgeous baby boy. I’ve written a plethora of stories about her and thought each time how wonderful her new life must be.

But, the just-released documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, shattered the illusion of the 38-year-old Duchess of Sussex’s fairy-tale life. Sure, since she joined the royal fray, there have been loads of reports and quotes from sources about how Markle has handled the transition from everyday, albeit famous, citizen to member of the royal family. As an optimist, I took most of them with a grain of salt, but there was no denying the pain on her face as she spoke about how difficult her journey as a wife and mother has been.

While speaking with ITV’s Tom Bradby, Markle spoke candidly about the rough transition and unkind headlines she’s experienced since becoming a part of Prince Harry’s life. “Look, any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable. And so that was made really challenging, and then, when you have a newborn, you know?”

Now that I’m pregnant, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to, as the British say, “keep calm and carry on” while under a very bright spotlight. It’s difficult enough to be pregnant—between the hormones, the morning sickness, the exhaustion and the immense changes—but being picked apart while growing a human is inconceivable to me. I think back to her Oceania tour now and can’t even imagine how taxing that travel and robust itinerary must have been. Early in my second trimester, I can barely commit to dinner, let alone a 16-day very public tour. As she says, you’re extremely vulnerable while pregnant (and tired) and once your child comes I imagine that feeling is radically exacerbated.

Markle looked to be on the verge of tears as she went on to say, “Especially as a woman it’s—really it’s a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or just trying to be a newlywed. And also thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.” 

That last line hit me like a truck. I surmise that in regards to her work as a royal and perhaps even her personal life, many have subscribed to the same school of thought I had. When you’re so convinced that someone’s new life as a duchess is the thing of storybooks, you’re not likely to treat that person as a human being with real concerns and fears and troubles.

Being a newlywed is hard, being pregnant is hard and, as I imagine, being a new parent is hard, too. Cram all of that into two years and throw in a slew of Twitter trolls and unkind headlines and of course it’s, as she admitted, a “struggle.”

In the documentary, she went on to share that the glare of public scrutiny is “hard” and not what she expected. “In all fairness I had no idea, which probably sounds difficult to understand and hear, but when I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy but my British friends said to me, ‘I’m sure he’s great but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life.’”

I’m going to let that sit there for a moment.

Yes, Meghan Markle might be living many women’s dream, but there are clearly parts of it that feel more like a nightmare. So, next time I feel a tinge of “her life looks so perfect” popping up, I’m going remember that although she’s the Duchess of Sussex, she’s still human and deserving of compassion. 

My all day morning sickness is rough, but I’d gladly take it over the cruel scrutiny and emotional turmoil of Markle’s real-life fairy tale. I’ll choose my normal life and non-royal (but still very charming) husband any day of the week.

Harry & Meghan: An African Journey airs on ABC this Wednesday, October 23 at 10 p.m. ET.

RELATED: Prince Harry Opens Up About Potentially Moving to Africa with Meghan Markle and Baby Archie

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