Monday 20 May 2019

So, what can we expect when we're expecting?

Model Abbey Clancy says she struggles with the toll pregnancy is taking on her body. Mother-of-one Gillian Fitzpatrick understands

Gillian Fitzpatrick and her daughter
Gillian Fitzpatrick and her daughter
Abbey Clancy at the Victoria's Secret bash

Gillian Fitzpatrick

Wearing a knitted black Julien Macdonald mini-dress, Abbey Clancy sashayed onto the Victoria's Secret red carpet in London last December. She looked then as models tend to look: tall and slim.

Yet two weeks later, she announced that she and Peter Crouch, her footballer husband of three-and-a-half years, were expecting their second child - a brother or sister for four-year-old Sophie. That she had been close to five months into her pregnancy at the Victoria's Secret event is astonishing. Indeed, Abbey - who celebrated her 29th birthday earlier this month - seemed to be enjoying an almost perfect pregnancy.

Which is why I was shocked to read at the weekend that the model is struggling. "I think pregnancy's such a weird thing," Abbey revealed. "One part of your brain is going, 'Oh my God, I'm so blessed, it's a miracle', and the other half is going, 'I can't bear this. I'm so fat. I'm ugly. I've got headaches. I've got spots. I feel sick!'

Two years ago, I was entering the final trimester of my pregnancy. There was something fascinating - and yes, also grotesque - about watching my body change and adapt over the course of 40 weeks. The sensible, practical part of you of course acknowledges the wonder of it all. But then there are the very real sentiments that many women don't usually discuss: that you feel unattractive, invisible and incapable.

And it's not just the obvious changes that you have to come terms with either. I have a small blemish on my face; so small that I never paid much attention to it before I was pregnant. Then, as the weeks ticked by and my stomach swelled, the blemish also expanded in tandem until it became an alien, blister-like stain that no amount of foundation would cover. After some misguided internet research, I suspected skin cancer - until my GP reassured me that it was all just part-and-parcel of pregnancy. All those racing hormones were causing a small mark to become a significant eyesore, albeit one that thankfully calmed down a few weeks after my daughter, Giulia, was born.

Psychotherapist Harriet Parsons lectures in the Dublin Business School and University College Dublin. She is also the services co-ordinator for the eating disorders awareness group, BodyWhys and she explains that the ideal of pregnancy is rarely realised. "Women are supposed to be all glowing and radiant; we're meant to love our bumps and look fabulous," Harriet says. "But it's a huge change in any person's life and self-criticism can pretty quickly creep in.

"After all, your body is no longer your own - whether you like it or not, you're not in control of it. Every pregnancy brings with it, in some capacity, challenges and problems. Those nine months are rarely, if ever, incident-free."

Harriet adds that talking is important, "Take a deep breath and say 'you know what, I'm not actually enjoying all this, but that's OK'."

"Bumpwatch" seems a particularly in vogue pastime these days, but I was never one of those women who felt comfortable "flaunting" their pregnancy body. Instead, my wardrobe was full of flattering A-line and babydoll dresses with plenty of ruffles. It's not that I felt ashamed, but being pregnant separated me physically from the herd of my peers; it made me stick out from the crowd. So, amid waves of nausea and swollen calves, I felt vulnerable.

"It is weird seeing your body go through so many changes," Abbey also said at the weekend. "Every day, your clothes are getting tighter."

I remember packing up my bag in Holles Street; my husband James had run out to the car to grab the baby seat; Giulia was sleeping in her hospital crib. I took my coat from the chair beside my bed - the same one that I'd worn to hospital three days prior while in the early stages of labour. Closing it up from the base to my neckline, for the first time in months I didn't have to grapple with the bump in my midsection; the zip moved smoothly within seconds from start to finish. It was a strange - and wonderful - sensation that made me feel freer and more able than I had done just 72 hours previously.

Because, as any woman, even the goddess-like Abbey Clancy, knows well - tighter clothes are psychologically tough to grapple... no matter what the cause.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in Life