Pregnancy is not an illness…

…but sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. Boom tish!

When I was having my daughter, we had a trainee midwife attending us as one of her “case studies” for qualification. She had a sticker or something with the motto “Pregnancy is not an illness”. From this you could tell she was young, idealistic, totally delightful and had never had a child herself. I always wanted to add the punchline above, but I restrained myself. After all, I had no idea until I had become pregnant myself.

I have to say that I was gobsmacked by how unwell I felt when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had blithely expected that I would carry on life as usual, and work up until the day I had her, but it didn’t work out like that. I ended up leaving work early. I know some women who haven’t felt ill, and others who ended up having to be hospitalised because they were so sick, so it really does depend on the person.

The worst of it is that the really sick period (5 weeks to 14 weeks for me) is when you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. So you can’t explain to anyone why you’re turning green at the sight of a cup of coffee, or you have a sudden insane desire for Pink Lady apples all the time. (Mmm, that yummy pink crunch!)

Any expectation that your life will go back to normal straight after having a baby is also misguided, in my opinion. I’ve heard of a barrister struggling to Court to make an appearance one and a half days after giving birth, which just seems insane to me. In fact, from the way it was reported to me, it was like a competition: “X came back 2 days after she’d had hers, but can you believe it, Y beat her and turned up 1 and a half days after she’d had her baby!” Seems like a pretty stupid kind of competition to me.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the reports that Cate Blanchett is to take part in the 2020 summit two weeks after her third baby is due. That seems like insanity to me. The only way in which she could possibly manage it is to palm the child off to someone else for most of the time. And even then, she’ll still be feeling a little sore and sorry for herself. If she’s trying to breastfeed, she might need the baby brought in and out of the summit. Or I guess she could take the child to the summit, but it’s very difficult to concentrate on work-related matters when you’ve got a beautiful newborn there demanding your attention. At least, that’s my experience. And I wouldn’t have it any other way: this new person has come into your life and you want to get to know them.

Cate might miss out on her new child for nothing anyway: this 2020 summit sounds like a bit of a furphy to me. A case of letting people talk, and then just going on as normal afterwards. It reminds me of Charles II’s strategy with Parliament – he got them to fight and talk amongst themselves, while he got on with ruling the country. Mind you, Parliament had an equally dismissive idea of him: “Give him a whore and a side of beef and he’ll be happy.” Lovely.

So, despite thinking of myself as a feminist, I’m just not sure about Cate’s appointment to 2020. She’s a great actress and all that, but her attendance so shortly after the predicted birth of her child gives a message to women that, yes, you can just get back to things straight after having your baby. This might be the case if you have a phalanx of nannies and other support people, but for most normal people, the process of having a child is an exhausting and all-engrossing one which does affect your capacity to work. Even if you’re not unwell and tired during the pregnancy itself, you are likely to be sore and tired after the birth (whether natural or caesarian). And babies are made so that they cause us to focus a lot of attention on them when they are born. And you know what? That’s natural.

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15 Comments

Filed under breastfeeding, childbirth, childcare, children, feminism, motherhood, parenthood, pregnancy, society

15 responses to “Pregnancy is not an illness…

  1. Is it her first pregnancy? The average length of a first pregnancy is more like 41 weeks than 40, and 42 is not at all unusual.

    Either way, I hope nobody hassles her in any way for having her baby in summit meetings, and feeding there.

  2. If this was her first pregnancy I’d think it was crazy but given it’s her third she must have a fair idea of what’s she getting into. Also perhaps she only has to show up for a couple of hours on one day? I think there’s a difference between, say, two hours and attending the summit in full.

    And let’s face it, Cate Blanchett is not a ‘typical’ mother, she would have access to resources others could only dream of to be able to achieve this.

    Also, perhaps the father will be looking after the newborn – is that considered palming off? I know he can’t breastfeed (and doesn’t have to recover from giving birth) but let’s not keep fathers hidden from these discussions.

  3. Yes I tend to agree with Miss V on this – I seem to recall Blanchett is committed to breastfeeding and child-rearing with her husband. And it is her third – you take a lot longer to recover from the first than the others, I believe. I certainly was up and quite able to participate in the world (with the occasional lie down) after 2 weeks. And you’re not madly running around with no idea what you’re doing.

    You’ll find, LE, that it’s all very different and quite a lot smoother the second time around. And less novel. And yet just as beautiful. But one thing you realise is that babies still flourish when their Mums can’t lavish all their attention (and perhaps neuroses) on them. And that could be a good thing.

    And what is it with pink lady apples!!! They’re the perfect first trimester food…

  4. It’s her third pregnancy – so I guess she does know what she’s in for. I’d have less problem if the child were, say, three months old, because then they are less vulnerable.

    I should make it clear that I’d support her 100% of the way if she breastfeeds in the 2020 conference. I’ve got no problem with that at all. I was merely concerned that she might not be able to breastfeed because of the conference.

    Giving care to the husband/partner is not palming off – in fact, Cate’s husband has every right to bond with their child just as much as she does. But I do think it’s difficult in those first 6 weeks to give care to another for more than, say, 3 hours, the demands of breastfeeding being as they are. I maintain that she’d not be at her best.

    Furthermore, I’d say the same about her husband if he were invited instead. He wouldn’t have the same physical demands and effects, but he’d have the sleep deprivation, and he’d also be missing out on bonding with the child. I know my husband didn’t feel at his most effective when he went back to work after I had my daughter – it’s something that has impact on the whole family.

    I dunno, I just hate that idea that you can “do it all” straight after having a child – I don’t think you can, unless you have a lot of money, and pay other people to help you do it.

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  6. Cate obviously didn’t plan her pregnancy around the 2020 Summit and the latter obviously weren’t too concerned or particularly mindful about her confinement. Given that she was the only woman appointed it would have been hard for her and I guess ironic, if she had declined their offer because she was due to give birth around that time.

    I am not a mother but can certainly imagine the distraction of a newborn, however I’ve considered that at this delicate age they need only be within close physical proximity to their mother and are more or less pretty transportable and able go anywhere she can with relative impunity.

    I think breast feeding at the 2020 Summit will be absolutely no issue whatsoever. Paparazzi intrusions not withstanding.

    I’d be more concerned about Cate’s headspace prior to the 2020 Summit and leading up to the birth of her child. Late stage pregnancy, belly protruding miles out in front, waiting, waiting, waiting–that’s gotta be something of a distraction and the period prior to the 2020 Summit is when she’ll be making decisions about who she nominates to attend.

    Wouldn’t ever like to see pregnant women being unfairly discriminated against but clearly it can never be business as usual, or shouldn’t, although that’s the yardstick many (mostly blokes) would judge by.

    Oh and just wondering.

    “when you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. ”

    Who writes these rules?

  7. All the books and stuff recommend that you “don’t tell anyone” in case the pregnancy doesn’t work out (the first 12 weeks are the danger period for miscarriages).

    But that doesn’t go with my personality – I’d rather people know why I was devastated than suffer in silence after a miscarriage. It makes it seem like a miscarriage is a kind of “shame” which should not be spoken about. I think that women should be allowed to speak out about pregnancy and/or miscarriage if they want to. I do appreciate that some people might be more reserved or private than I am.

    In any case, when I had my daughter, people guessed anyway because of my sudden cessation of drinking coffee and alcohol (two of my favourite tipples). Also I suddenly gained an enormous bosom and a tummy well before one is supposed to be “showing”.

    And there was that time when I was dry retching in the rubbish bin and my then boss came in… “You’re pregnant!” he exclaimed. “Um, no, I have, um, a mild case of, um, gastro,” I stuttered. “You’re a pathetic liar too!” he laughed. “Ooh how exciting!” He had four children himself, and was very much a fan of parenthood.

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  9. pete m

    You could swap a dozen actors with Cate and not see a difference – you’ll get the same lefty greeny howard hater opinions. What’s the big deal about which actor who knows it all going? I bet they don’t mention that a Howard tax rebate change on funding is the biggest impact the film arts world has ever seen, which is sad really. The whole summit is just a big pr move to get ppl to “own” labor policy and therefore not cavil with it. Watch out for media attendees and their reporting afterwards.

    On the whole pregnancy thing, the biggest drama is knowing the sex but not telling people. I wish I had now said we weren’t finding out! We did that with the first, which was true, but now are over the not knowing surprise bit and just enjoying the thought of having our next one and being able to buy a few things for “it”. haha I wont tell you either!

  10. I can understand not telling people gender – although I don’t have the strength of will to resist finding out myself.

    One thing I don’t tell people is the names I have in mind, to avoid commentary/criticism. People can be rude when it’s an idea only, but once the child is actually named, they have to be polite. Of course I’ve had nothing but glowing reports about my daughter’s name. hehehe. I only came up with it about a week before she was born, but it suits her very well.

    As for Cate’s appointment – I understand that she is heading the arts committee. To be fair, she does have some qualification to comment on policy in the arts, as she and her husband run a theatre company, and she acts in plays and movies. I would hope that she’d be fair-minded enough to recognise positive contributions that successive governments have made to the arts.

    But I really dislike it when celebrity opinions on matters other than acting are treated as though they are pearls of wisdom of a special value. The fact is that an actor’s opinion on global warming or government policy or whatever is no more valuable than my opinion. In fact, sometimes the opinions of celebrities can be downright moronic or insane (take Sheryl Crow’s suggestion that we should all be limited to one square of toilet paper per “go” as way of stopping Global Warming). Just because someone can act like a hero in a movie or sing a nice song doesn’t mean that their opinions are more worthy or intelligent than anyone else’s.

  11. pete m

    le – I am a bit mean about names and use the most weird ones to put off people. When they asked, for example, I said:

    “if it’s a boy, wolfgang or boris, and if a girl, petunia or apple”.

    Some took me seriously!

  12. Because the rest of my family were really sick and I had no family support I was right back into ‘normal’ routine the day after I had my last baby (grovery shopping etc). Its was an easy birth (#3) but I had been very sick throughout the pregnancy. I ran on the birth”high” the first week until my partner was well enough to help out again. However I would NOT recommend this to ANYONE – it was a “have to” situation. I have been back work part-time or doing post grad study very quickly after my other two children. Its 9 months now with #3 although I am doing a little writing and study at home, but I am heartily sick of people asking when I am going back to work. Its like I am some sort of weirdo for staying home with the kids

  13. I hate that attitude! It’s up to you.

    I have a friend who has gone back 4 days a week after the birth of her first child, and she often says I should do the same, because we sometimes find it financially difficult. However, it’s a matter of what suits an individual. I certainly wouldn’t tell her that she shouldn’t go back to work for that amount of time.

    Personally, I don’t want to go back to work for that amount of time, and I only went back when my daughter was 6 months old as a matter of financial necessity, otherwise I would have waited until she was 1 year old. We deal with things being a bit financially tight sometimes because we prefer it that way.

    So you do whatever you need to do, and don’t worry about what others think. It’s whatever suits you and your children.

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