"Showing off her bump" - the vanishing identity of a pregnant woman

A pregnant woman is more than just a bump with a woman attached.

It's a painful experience, but I do read the Daily Mail every day. I always feel that it's important to be aware of the misinformed bile it's giving out to people.

On right-hand side of their web page there's a column called "Femail Today" which gives an index of articles about various celebrities going out wearing clothes and either putting on or losing weight. Each are bad, apparently. Because that's what women should be interested in. 
 
They often use a ridiculous phrase whenever a pregnant woman steps out in public. They say that she's "showing off her bump". Today it was Holly Madison. I wouldn't have heard of the former Playboy playmate and US reality star either if she hadn't been in Dancing with the Stars three years ago. What was Ms Madison doing? She was filling with car with petrol. I can't imagine for a moment that she was thinking "I must show my bump to the world". More likely it was something like "darn, the red light's flashing, I'd better get some gas."
 
She only announced she was pregnant the day before. It's quite common for a woman's identity to just disappear, even if the baby you're carrying is not much bigger than a grain of rice. Suddenly you become public property. People come up to you in the street and pat your bump and think they have the right to ask you all sorts of personal questions.
 
Pregnancy takes around 40 weeks. During that time, you pretty much carry on as normal. You go to work, you go shopping, you go to the gym, you go out to parties. Harriet Harman fought and won a parliamentary by-election in 1982 during her pregnancy. Angela Constance, now the Scottish Government's youth employment minister, won her Livingston constituency from Labour while in the early stages of her pregnancy with son Cyrus. I'm sure that neither of them thought for a second that they were "showing off their bump" as they headed off to the next stop on their campaign trail. 
 
You can't exactly leave your bump at home when you are pregnant, but it shouldn't define everything about you. Pregnant women don't stop being nurses, lawyers, government ministers or whatever. 
 
Further down, by the way, the Mail decided to have a pop at some other pregnant celebrity who was on her way to a yoga class. The paper expressed disbelief that anyone could bend with a bump, showing their usual ignorance of both pregnancy and yoga. 
 
It really annoys me that the aspirations of young girls appear to be directed towards fashion, frivolity and footballers by the likes of celebrity magazines and the Femail column on the Mail website. I kid you not - Louis Walsh actually suggested in his book Fast Track to Fame that aspiring female singers should give their career a boost by dating a footballer. We need to provide alternative sources of inspiration for young girls. Let's hope that will be a big part of the Olympic legacy with so many positive role models - from the warmth and wide ranging wisdom of Clare Balding's broadcasting to Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton and now Sarah Storey's and many others' achievements in their sports. 
 
At some point in the next few years it is likelier than not that Kate and William will have one or more children. The media will go into overdrive and Kate will have even more ridiculous things written about her. The reporting on William will be very much business as usual, while the reports on his wife will be, pretty much, about a bump with a woman attached. It's a depressing thought.
 
Caron Lindsay is a Lib Dem activist and blogger. This post originally appeared on her blog here. You can find her on Twitter as @caronmlindsay
Who is the woman attached to this bump? You can't even tell... Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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We argue over Charlie Gard, but forget those spending whole lives caring for a disabled child

The everyday misery of care work is hidden behind abstract arguments over life and death.

“Sometimes,” says the mother, “I wish we’d let him go. Or that he’d just been allowed to slip away.” The father agrees, sometimes. So too does the child, who is not a child any more.

On good days, nobody thinks this way, but not all days are good. There have been bright spots during the course of the past four decades, occasional moments of real hope, but now everyone is tired, everyone is old and the mundane work of loving takes a ferocious toll.

When we talk about caring for sick children, we usually mean minors. It’s easiest that way. That for some parents, the exhaustion and intensity of those first days with a newborn never, ever ends – that you can be in your fifties, sixties, seventies, caring for a child in their twenties, thirties, forties – is not something the rest of us want to think about.

It’s hard to romanticise devotion strung out over that many hopeless, sleepless nights. Better to imagine the tragic mother holding on to the infant who still fits in her loving arms, not the son who’s now twice her size, himself edging towards middle-age and the cliff edge that comes when mummy’s no longer around.

Writing on the tragic case of Charlie Gard, the Guardian’s Giles Fraser claims that he would “rain fire on the whole world to hold my child for a day longer”. The Gard case, he argues, has “set the cool rational compassion of judicial judgement and clinical expertise against the passion of parental love”: “Which is why those who have never smelled the specific perfume of Charlie’s neck, those who have never held him tight or wept and prayed over his welfare, are deemed better placed to determine how he is to live and die.”

This may be true. It may also be true that right now, countless parents who have smelled their own child’s specific perfume, held them tightly, wept for them, loved them beyond all measure, are wishing only for that child’s suffering to end. What of their love? What of their reluctance to set the world aflame for one day more? And what of their need for a life of their own, away from the fantasies of those who’ll passionately defend a parent’s right to keep their child alive but won’t be there at 5am, night after night, cleaning out feeding tubes and mopping up shit?

Parental – in particular, maternal – devotion is seen as an endlessly renewable resource. A real parent never gets tired of loving. A real parent never wonders whether actually, all things considered, it might have caused less suffering for a child never to have been born at all. Such thoughts are impermissible, not least because they’re dangerous. Everyone’s life matters. Nonetheless, there are parents who have these thoughts, not because they don’t love their children, but because they do.

Reporting on the Gard case reminds me of the sanitised image we have of what constitutes the life of a parent of a sick child. It’s impossible not to feel enormous compassion for Charlie’s parents. As the mother of a toddler, I know that in a similar situation I’d have been torn apart. It’s not difficult to look at photos of Charlie and imagine one’s own child in his place. All babies are small and helpless; all babies cry out to be held.

But attitudes change as children get older. In the case of my own family, I noticed a real dropping away of support for my parents and disabled brother as the latter moved into adulthood. There were people who briefly picked him up as a kind of project and then, upon realising that there would be no schmaltzy ending to the story, dropped him again. Love and compassion don’t conquer all, patience runs out and dignity is clearly best respected from a distance.

All too often, the everyday misery of care work is hidden behind abstract arguments over who gets the right to decide whether an individual lives or dies. I don’t know any parents who truly want that right. Not only would it be morally untenable, it’s also a misrepresentation of what their struggles really are and mean.

What many parents who remain lifelong carers need is adequate respite support, a space in which to talk honestly, and the recognition that actually, sometimes loving is a grim and hopeless pursuit. Those who romanticise parental love – who, like Fraser, wallow in heroic portrayals of “battling, devoted parents” – do nothing to alleviate the suffering of those whose love mingles with resentment, exhaustion and sheer loneliness.

There are parents out there who, just occasionally, would be willing to set the world on fire to have a day’s respite from loving. But regardless of whether your child lives or dies, love never ends. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.