Yesterday’s Royal announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant had Fleet Street’s finest scrambling for an angle. On the face of it you might have thought it was hard to do much with “Kate Pregnant”. It’s Kate. She’s pregnant. What more is there to say?
Day One of the yarn is a bit early yet for “Kate’s baby scare”, even for the British newspapers, and there’s nothing to suggest the Duke of Cambridge isn’t responsible for her condition, so no dice there either.
So congratulations to the London Daily Telegraph for being the first to grasp the implications of her hospitalisation with morning sickness, asking “Could it be twins for the Duchess?”
Prime Ministers are Tweeting, the Queen is delighted, the whole magazine industry is embracing temporary salvation and a young woman is in hospital feeling like death warmed up and no doubt desperately hoping everything is going to be ok.
Talk about a lot of pressure on one lone uterus.
The announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant is indeed joyous news, and when you’re carrying the future third-in-line to the British throne, it’s not news you get to celebrate in private. But while I’m not usually one to advocate public institutions outright lying - continuing the cat-and-mouse speculation game for a few more weeks might have been the kindest thing to do for Kate and William.
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According to official figures there’s currently a record number of self-centred women in Australia. If you are one of the self-appointed experts who believe women who have babies after their fertility “best-before” age of 35 are selfish, that is.
Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers released last week, revealed that 12,805 babies were born to women over 40 in 2011 - the highest number on record and almost double the number of 40-plus mums compared to just ten years earlier.
But, despite the sharp increase in the number of older mothers, women who delay having children until their late 30s and early 40s continue to be demonised by many.
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Tony Abbott’s wife Margie has today gone in to fight for her husband, trying to show off his ‘soft, feminine, side’. She’s done this by talking about him as a man who’s happy to pitch in with the chores, a man who would prefer to watch ‘Downton Abbey’ than the footy, and above all, a man who loves his family.
All of this is fine, and it’s probably a good political tactic. It’s clear over the past weeks that his image - especially among women - has been damaged, and painting the man as a great dad who loves his kids can’t hurt.
But what is incredibly insulting is using the pain of a miscarriage to score political points.
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The New York Times ran an article recently with the rather fascinating headline: “Eager for Grandchildren, and Wanting Daughters’ Eggs in Freezer”.
The front-page story was about the growing phenomenon of American parents helping their single daughters to freeze their eggs for later use – at a cost of anywhere between $A 7,500 and $17,000. Why? Well, as 61-year-old Candice Kramer put it: “By the time Allison was 35, I felt the clock was tick-tick-ticking. I viewed it as opening up an opportunity for her.”
Call it a grandchild insurance policy. With women increasingly deferring babies until later in life, America’s would-be grandparents are investing in hope.
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Earlier this week journalist Maria Moscaritolo took aim at the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia because, in a submission to a Government inquiry, they repeated concerns that women might abort their babies if made to feel guilty about drinking while pregnant. Here, the WFA says that was just one point in a 21-page report. Punch. Counterpunch. You decide.
Maria Moscaritolo appears to be guilty of the same journalistic shortcut as one of her colleagues at The Advertiser the previous day.
They both based an article – or in Maria’s case a scathing condemnation – around one quote lifted from a long document (the old “taken out of context” argument I know, but in this case true) and in Maria’s words, a “daft and self-serving claim” when the claim is not ours.
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While pregnant, I remember gazing at the slim, lissome models in the posh maternity wear catalogues and wondering if they were going to give birth to a basketball instead of a baby.
Those graceful elongated elks seemed to inhabit an enchanted forest a world away from mine. They wore clothes I couldn’t afford to buy. They were tall, slim and had beautiful round compact baby bellies. I was short, squat, perspiring, and afflicted with varicose veins in unmentionable places.
But it never occurred to me that these catalogue women posing in the chocolate Toorak wrap dress ($269.99), the Point Piper aqua tee ($69.99) or the Double Bay print pant ($99.99) were not actually pregnant.
When I was pregnant with my second child, the 19 week ultrasound brought potentially devastating news. Our child had a growth on the lung which could kill them. At that stage, doctors were unsure what would happen.
The growth could get bigger, squashing internal organs and killing the baby. If that happened, they could induce the baby at about 26 weeks so doctors could try to operate. Or it may not grow any bigger and the baby could have it removed after birth.
News that a couple had the wrong twin aborted at 32 weeks when one was diagnosed with a serious heart defect brought these memories flooding back. This poor couple ended up losing both children, which is horrific for all involved.
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Birth is unpredictable - unless of course you have booked in for a caesarean and know exactly the when, where, why and how. Nowadays this is an acceptable form of giving birth, however at the other end of the spectrum there are women birthing at home with no medical intervention.
And then there is the majority that falls in between. Every day, all over the country women are birthing in hospitals with healthy babies. Some without any intervention while others have a full gamut of procedures. Some are elated by their experience and some are shattered.
When pregnant, hospitals encourage us to write a birth plan. It is a document that details what procedures you will and won’t accept and whom you want there. A lot of time and energy is spent creating them. It is our formal statement about how we want our bodies and babies to be treated by the hospital.
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Pregnancy is a lovely thing. Lovely, obviously, because it usually produces a baby, but also because it keeps you warm, excuses cake consumption and ensures you score a seat on the bus.
It also makes everyone smile and ask pleasant questions, which is doubly nice when you’ve had your head down the loo half the morning.
But, for some, the sight of an expectant mum is torture. They may enthuse with the rest of us, but behind the plastered smile, they’re splintering into a million unspilt tears. Because there’s no keener reminder of what you don’t have than someone else’s swollen belly.
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Most people agree that we, as a society, want to decrease the number of abortions.
Like any grand statement, the means to getting to this end will be the judge of our seriousness and principles.
Tory Shepherd is right to point out our goals cannot be achieved through “guilt, hate and fear mongering”.
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Call me a bit of an idealistic Charlotte from Sex & The City, but if I have experienced something amazing, I want the world to experience it too.
So now I am a mum, I’d love the whole world to experience the joy of motherhood, particularly the women who are having difficulty falling pregnant. That’s why I am so supportive of IVF. Strangers (even friends who have dared not ask for fear it’s too private) assume I had my twins via IVF. I did not. And I would be willing to shout it from the rooftops if I had.
I have seen people close to me finally get their wish to be a parent thanks to this miraculous medical procedure. A few of the beautiful mums in my twin prenatal class had their multiples thanks to IVF and I know just how eternally grateful they are that the procedure exists.
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During the last six months I’ve had to stop drinking. Pregnancy and alcohol are a “no-no,” and I haven’t felt like it anyway.
Enforced “dryness” has been interesting. It’s made me think twice about who I want to socialise with and also made me reflect on the drinking habits I’ve established over the last few years.
When you’re not drinking and hanging out with people who are, and “getting on it,” the scene quickly becomes intensely boring.
It would have seemed like an innocent enough question.
Standing at the supermarket checkout, struggling slightly with a bulging belly as I hoisted heavy bags into the trolley, with no children in tow: ‘Will this be your first baby?’
The answer should be simple. If a one word response will suffice, I’ll have no problem. No, this is not my first baby, my first pregnancy. It is my seventh.
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I recently let the world know that I am expecting twins.
I had read the chapter on pregnancy and other people in my new bible, ‘What to expect when expecting,’ by Sharon Mazel and Heidi Murkoff so had braced myself for some inappropriate tummy touching and some well-meaning pregnancy advice.
I thought I was prepared. How wrong can you be?
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One of the rudest things you can do is tell a parent how to raise their kid. But that’s not the case when it comes to how to bring it into the world in the first place.
Everyone has tips on birth, sometimes insisting their way is the only way to do it. Have candles and incense. Have stirrups and steel. Do it with hot towels. Do it to music. Breathe like this. Think like that. Take drugs. Refuse drugs. Have a Caesarean. Be induced. Make a video.
Then there’s the row over where it’s best to give birth. In a private suite. In a public labour ward. In a birth centre. And, to much ongoing controversy, in the home.
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Of the sixty-eight squillion pieces of advice doled out to pregnant women, perhaps the most useless is the message to stop playing competitive sports. While the advice is well intended, it’s completely unrealistic given that pregnancy itself has become a competitive sport.
The sport of pregnancy is complex and not for the faint-hearted. There are a number of fast-changing rules that change depending on the context. First, there are the weight trials. This can take one of two forms. The first form is the competition to see who can put on the least amount of weight during their pregnancy.
My wife Kasey first became aware of this one when she caught up with a former school friend for coffee who breezily confided ‘I only put on 10 kilos when I was pregnant’.
The two greatest experiences of my life occurred in a birthing suite.
The birth of a new baby is an exhilarating experience that produces emotions from deep within your soul.
Yet somehow I think the emotions that child birth produces in woman are even more significant. Obviously pregnancy causes massive physical change but less obvious is the enormous emotional change having a baby ushers in.
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