Pregnancy Is Not A Joy: Pandora Sykes On Motherhood Myths
“I would never say pregnancy is a joy, because I personally don’t think it’s a joy. I think it’s a means to an end, a conduit to something else.”
London-based journalist, co-host of The High Low podcast, and former fashion features editor at the Sunday Times Style, Pandora Sykes is nearing the end of her first pregnancy.
And while the bonafide #GirlBoss says she feels an immense sense of attachment to her unborn baby girl, a love she describes as “one of life’s great indescribables,” she also admits the past months have not been easy.
But no one talks about that. Especially not female media personalities, who are expected to model the joys of their emerging motherhood; not the physical aches, uncomfortable body changes and unwanted comments being a mother-in-waiting attracts.
Well, that is, except for Sykes, who will let it be known that pregnancy isn’t always a blissful experience, and that’s okay.
Intrigued and inspired by her gloriously rebellious attitude, I sat down with Sykes to pick her brain on all things pregnancy, being in the public eye and beyond.
You have a theory about pregnancy being the last obstacle to gender equality. Can you explain that?
“It’s so physically debilitating. You can’t go to every event, you can’t travel after several weeks, and then of course, you take time out to have the baby. While a woman is doing all that, the guy gets to carry on doing exactly what he was before.
I’m normally quite energetic, but pregnancy has absolutely slowed me down both socially and professionally in the past five or six months. In that sense, it limits a woman in a way it can’t limit a man – just biologically.”
How has your body changing affected you?
“You don’t fit into any of your clothes which is an odd sensation for someone who works a lot in fashion. It can make you feel fed up. It’s not particularly fun putting on two or three stone, but it’s coincided with me feeling a nesting instinct and focusing my energies in decorating my house instead of decorating my wardrobe. By in large I haven’t had any meltdowns, but I am operating with an unbelievably small wardrobe right now.
Before, I definitely didn’t ever think about my size or the space I took up or didn’t take up. But now because of the physical discomfort, there’s a lot of feeling very aware of my size.
I’ve had a lot of responses from women saying, “I feel really shallow saying this, but it’s been really hard watching my body change.” Everyone says it’s just for nine months, but nine months when you’re living in it day to day is a really long time to feel like your physical home is not your own.”
What do you think it is about pregnancy that makes people feel like it’s okay to comment on your body?
“Pregnancy is such a public thing. You literally see a woman growing before your eyes, so it’s assumed that the discussion would be public rather than personal.
A woman is desperately trying to process both what’s happening with her body and her brain and being confronted by her otherness can be quite exhausting and frustrating. Sometimes you want to walk in a shop and not have someone say, “Oh my God, look at you!” or “Wow, it’s so big!” You don’t want that to be the first thing people think about.
What I have found quite annoying is when people talk about my bump as if it’s independent to my body. You wouldn’t say that about my bum or my face so if feels odd that you would say that about my stomach. But then some people don’t find that weird or don’t find it offensive at all. I think it’s very individual.”
What do you wish people did differently in reacting to pregnant women?
“To be honest, the best thing a person could do is to not make any body commentary at all. Anyone wishing you well on your way is lovely, like when strangers say something like, “Boy or girl?” or “Good luck.”
It’s those comments I’ve had from a homeless man on the street who obviously has much more to worry about, or the DHL man commenting when I open the door that I find really unifying.”
You previously shared news about your sister being unable to have children after undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. How has this affected the way you talk about your pregnancy?
“I know firsthand that pregnancy is not a given. That’s why I tried to be quite careful. I don’t really like it when people use their pregnancy as an accessory. I think it can be quite insensitive or even a bit crass.
When I have spoken about the symptoms or downsides to pregnancy as it were, it’s not a case of feeling sorry for me. I’m very lucky this is a choice I had the ability and freedom to make. It’s not something everyone has, and I think if you don’t have someone in your life with that then you’re not so aware of it. I am incredibly aware of it.
Personally I don’t subscribe to the idea that being a mother is a woman’s whole identity. I think of those who are childless, but who mother and are maternal in other ways feeling excluded from that narrative.
My approach is to wear my pregnancy lightly. I take the piss out of my experience a lot and I’ll speak very honestly about it, but I don’t want to go on about it and be sanctimonious about it. I don’t want to pretend that I have the answers because I’m just one woman with one pregnancy.”
Images via Pandora Sykes.com and Instagram
Comment: What was your first pregnancy experience like?