Style Voices

Friday 19 October 2018

Sarah Caden: Cheryl has a sense of perspective, while her celeb peers are busy logging tummy-baring updates

Cheryl hated being pregnant and thank God somebody feels able to admit it, writes Sarah Caden

Cheryl Cole
Cheryl Cole

Sarah Caden

Do you remember where you were when Cheryl first showcased her baby bump? No? I should sincerely hope not.

Unless you're Cheryl. Or Liam Payne, father of Cheryl's now six-month-old baby, Bear. Maybe. And would even Cheryl remember if there hadn't been so much pressure on her, before late November last year, when she went out for the night with Payne and was, evidently, pregnant?

At that point, Cheryl was four months away from delivering Bear, who was born in late March. At that point, Cheryl hadn't publicly confirmed that she was pregnant at all. Nor did she verbally confirm it that night, or ever. It was just obvious. Which was enough. Maybe.

That Cheryl declined either to announce her pregnancy, bare her belly on social media or publicly record every twitch of every trimester was a brave move. She made no big deal about being pregnant and made no big deal about making no big deal - the modern passive-aggressive way of getting attention without seeming to seek it.

She was pregnant. She got on with it. She had a baby and now she's back at work. It's all bizarrely normal, really, as was her comment last week that she hated being pregnant.

In a world that makes a fetish of pregnancy and maternity, this was a bold move. Again, though, Cheryl made no song and dance about it.

"Really. I hated being pregnant. A lot of stuff went on and I just didn't enjoy it," Cheryl told a UK tabloid last week. She didn't say anything particularly bad happened, just "stuff".

It's not something you hear often these days, partly because it's not wildly self-congratulatory and smug, but also because it's so undramatic. And in the real world, weren't there women who felt relieved to hear that? Not just the fact that she hated it, but that it was no big deal.

Of course, pregnancy and parenthood are miraculous and amazing. Both are, obviously, very special when you're in them - but we've lost sight of the fact that they are very common, too. They are special experiences, but they don't always feel that way, and they don't make you a special person.

For a lot of women, pregnancy isn't gorgeous, but it's not horrific either. Women often struggle with its realities, no matter how much they have wanted it, which can be difficult to accept. It feels weird to be utterly hijacked by what is, medically, something of a parasite.

Very few women love their increased size. And no one likes the feeling of sickness, or the tiredness, or the slowness, or the inability to remember nouns.

For a lot of women, pregnancy is no fun, but it is a means to an end. Some of us like it, some of us don't really, some women hate it - and even hating it doesn't mean that we won't do it again. The result is what matters, and Cheryl seems to have a handle on that.

She seems to have kept that sense of perspective, while her celeb peers are busy logging tummy-baring updates and blow-by-blow accounts. She could have used her pregnancy as a publicity magnet - but in an endearing way, Cheryl seems to have embraced instead the happy mundanity of it all.

"[Being a parent] changes your life completely but in the most amazing way. But I've had the best six months of my life. Really. I hated being pregnant. A lot of stuff went on and I just didn't enjoy it," was her comment in total on motherhood - and it captured it all. In all its dull glory.

Cheryl was doing the rounds on the back of her return to The X-Factor, running bootcamp with Simon Cowell. It's her return to the limelight, a manageable return, and she has, obviously, been asked a lot about baby Bear.

It's curious, the modern fascination with the minutiae of famous people's gestations, given that in real life there is nothing more boring than this stuff. When you're in it yourself, pregnancy is fascinating, but only your own. Other people's experiences have limited appeal - generally only if they are pertinent to your own - and as for other people's babies? Nice. For about two seconds.

Oddly, though, people's interest in celebrities "sharing" or "flaunting" their bellies lasts much longer than the two seconds of patience we'd have with women or babies we actually know.

An example is the trend for video announcements on social media, where a well-known couple will try to outdo the last with the cuteness of their clip. Often, their existing children are recruited for added saccharine and their 'aren't-we-amazing?' delight speaks of a delusion that they're doing something unique.

Use of words like "showcasing" and "flaunting" of bellies to accompany pictures of pregnant women are also perverse. They suggest that a choice has been made to stick that belly out front, when really there's no leaving it at home if you don't feel show-offy.

Pregnancy is an actively group event. So much has it been embraced that pregnancy is a communal event that if a pregnant celeb wears loose clothes, they are hiding their belly - almost shamefully. Hence, the trend towards full, bare-skinned belly revelation. That's openness, an expression of true happiness with one's pregnant state and, we've come to accept, it's the only way to be - though Cheryl's honesty happily turns that on its head.

Last week, while Cheryl was getting honest about gestation, Kate and William Cambridge went public with an approximate date on the arrival of their third baby. It will be born in April, it was announced and this information was carried on the BBC news.

"I'm not sure how much news this really is," said Simon McCoy on the British broadcaster, before adding that viewers should "clear their diaries" for the happy event.

And it is, of course, like every baby's arrival, a happy event. But just for those involved. Let's not get too excited otherwise.

Sunday Independent

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