Sunday 23 October 2016

Comment: Baby mania is out of control - and we're all to blame

Please tell me that we are going to hit peak reproduction announcements soon, pleads Sarah Caden

Sarah Caden

Published 18/09/2016 | 02:30

Stock photo
Stock photo

She got married to English TV producer Julian Okines in April, and last week Amanda Byram revealed - everything is 'revealed' these days - what was called some "very exciting news".

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Amanda, apparently, would like to have a family.

This might not seem wildly exciting to you. In truth, baby news is really only properly exciting for the people who are expecting the baby, but this wasn't even a pregnancy announcement. This was merely a statement of desire to get pregnant some time.

All the announcement of Amanda's exciting news missed was a patronising, "Ah bless", followed by a rolling-eyes emoji. Because Amanda is 43, you see. Isn't she great, seemed to be the subtext: she's no spring chicken, but she's holding on to hope all the same.

"I'm in my 40s obviously but we would love to have children," Amanda said last week, as she visited Dublin for an event, though she is based in London. "I'm fit, I'm healthy, and if it happens it happens, if it doesn't it wasn't meant to be."

Fair enough and she's hardly as fizzing with excitement as the person she told this to, who most likely asked Amanda if there were baby plans. If that was the case, Amanda bucked the trend for getting cross in the face of such prying and gave a calm and reasoned answer instead. What she basically said was, "I might."

Last week, Amanda's sort-of news was picked up all over the place as great news for the TV presenter. Much was made of how she "revealed" that she'd spent most of her 30s focused on her career and that now she has time for personal happiness.

Level-headed rather than excited was how Amanda came across in her comments on having a baby. And yet, they were received and relayed in the same giddy manner that applies to all things reproductive these days.

In reality, other people's fertility, pregnancy and childbirth are really no more interesting than other people's babies and yet the whole business has been hyped up.

It's reached a point where a few neutral comments from Amanda Byram last week about the desirability of a baby could lead to reports of high excitement about the next time she ovulates and published graphs of her body temperature month by month.

Or, of course, there could come the devastating-to-everyone "exposure" of her use of contraception. We'd feel betrayed by that, and entitled to that feeling of betrayal, to boot.

Please tell me we're going to reach peak reproduction news soon.

There was a time, only decades ago, when you wouldn't even comment or enquire after a woman's pregnant state, even if her waters were breaking in front of you. To draw attention to her condition was to draw attention to the fact that she'd done that thing to get pregnant and that wasn't on.

No one would welcome a return to that level of prissiness, but we've taken the whole business of getting involved in each other's reproduction way too far at this stage. And everyone is to blame.

The celebs are regularly in a huff lately if anyone asks about if they're having a baby, when they're having a baby, how they're getting on with their baby-weight loss and baby-life readjustment, but they are victims of their own carry-on. Not individually, per se, but en masse. The celebs who have beaten us over the heads with their burgeoning bellies, followed by the postpartum shrinkage of same bellies, have led to the notion that there are no limits to what we can expect to know about the famous.

We choose to ignore sane types like Amanda Byram's ex Patrick Kielty and his wife Cat Deeley, who decided to keep their LA-born baby son's name private, because they didn't want the world knowing it before their Ireland and UK-based families had met him. Which puts back into perspective that it's a piece of information that really matters nothing to anyone who doesn't know them. It's a kid's name, let's all calm down.

At the other end of that, though, is the celeb baby-maker who just can't resist showing off. Sure, every baby's special, but me and my baby are super-special, and here's the evidence.

Beyonce's beautifully blow-dried pose when her baby Blue Ivy was born was a case in point.

It was so perfect, so coiffed and lacking in sweat or tears or a big red face that you'd nearly understand the conspiracy theorists who suggested that Queen Bey had been wearing a fake belly for 40 weeks and that a surrogate gave birth to Blue.

Hilaria Baldwin, the wife of actor Alec, has turned her three pregnancies and childbirth into an extreme sport. A yoga instructor by profession, she has documented each pregnancy to within an inch of its life, striking poses most people would find difficult at any time and being the ultimate baby-bearer.

It's all in the name of empowering women everywhere, Baldwin is at pains to point out, particularly when she posed last week in her underwear, a mere day after giving birth to her third child. And in skimpy lace underwear, too, not a pair of disposable knickers in sight, though her tummy remained refreshingly rounded post-partum. In the name of universal empowerment, remember, not raising the stares in the competitive game of reproduction.

It's not just a celebrity sport, though. We're all in on it with our social media curated bragging about baby bumps, baby births, baby cuteness, that then becomes kid-related showing-off as they grow up. We can't admit that it's all incredibly boring, because we're all at it and we can't stop sharing the only kids who aren't boring - our own.

So we pretend it's all a joy and all incredibly exciting, to the point that if a woman says that she might just get pregnant at some point, as Amanda Byram did last week, it's highly exciting news. God help her if she fails to keep us posted on how the project is going.

Sunday Independent

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