It’s no secret that women in the spotlight face constant scrutiny over their reproductive choices. All the tabloids ever want to know is this: is [insert name of every female celebrity here] pregnant? If not, when will they get pregnant? And why?
It’s refreshing, then, to see that Nicole Appleton of All Saints fame has managed to avoid this narrative entirely. In fact, she managed to keep her pregnancy a secret until the exact moment she wanted to share it with the world – which came, incidentally, after the birth of her daughter.
Sharing a black-and-white photo of herself and partner Stephen Haines smiling down at their baby girl on Instagram, Appleton wrote: “After hiding my pregnancy for the last nine months – which was SOOOOO difficult, [especially] keeping her a secret from all my friends – I can finally announce our incredible news.
“Our little girl ‘Skipper Hudson Haines’ has arrived. Stephen and Gene are besotted, [and] I’m SOOO HAPPY!”
Naturally, Appleton’s feed was soon flooded with congratulatory messages from fans and celebrities alike.
“Such wonderful news,” commented Laura Whitmore.
“Just the best news my gorgeous girl,” added Emma Bunton. “We love you so much!”
And Holly Willoughby added: “Welcome to the world beautiful Skipper, you lucky girl – you’ve won the mum lottery. Can’t wait to meet you.”
Buried among these sweet messages from famous friends, though, came those comments from trolls who felt the need to discuss Appleton’s age (the singer is 45). Similarly, most tabloids – after recovering from the sheer audacity of a “secret pregnancy” – made sure to include the musician’s age in headlines announcing her happy news.
Because… well, because the year is 2020 and yet, somehow, our society still thinks it’s OK to push this one narrative on women.
From a very young age, we are force-fed the idea that a woman’s success is based on her ability to stick to the rules set out in an age-old rhyme. You know the one: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.
Essentially, she is taught that she must find a suitable (and heterosexual) partner, marry them, and pump at least two sprogs out. That she should have done this by, ooh, say 30? And that, if she doesn’t manage to do so, that she has somehow failed at life.
It begins in the nursery, with Disney films, fairytales and plastic dolls. It continues throughout our lives, with feverish tabloid speculation. And there’s the endless fertility scaremongering, too, with headlines constantly informing us that our chances of having a baby are extremely slim after 35. That we need to do it now, right now, if we want to do it at all (god forbid your life hasn’t stuck to the correct timeline for milestones, eh?).
That we will regret it 100% if we don’t.
However, as reported by The New York Times, fertility expert Dr. James Grifo recently pointed out that while “pregnancy is one of the riskiest states that most women experience in their lives,” the odds of a calamitous event are still low.
“The average age of my patient is 39, and obstetrically, they do quite well,” he said. “Age is not a reason not to try if you want a baby.”
So why the endless obsessing over strangers’ wombs?
“I’m fed up with the sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism,’ the ‘First Amendment’ and ‘celebrity news’,” she wrote.
This sort of tabloid gossip, Aniston said, perpetuates a “dehumanising view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance… is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go?”
We need more women to, like Aniston, dispute the sexist narratives that are forced upon us. And that is why Appleton’s post is so very, very refreshing.
Because, in taking ownership of her pregnancy announcement, Appleton has denied the press the chance to comment and speculate on her changing body before she is ready. She has made it abundantly clear that she, and only she, is in control of her own narrative. And she’s denied age-shamers, ooh, nine months of needless hand-wringing?
We call that a win for womankind.