Just how long has Kate Winslet been pregnant?

The illusion that it has been an unnaturally long pregnancy has been exacerbated by Ms Winslet's frequent observations, quoted extensively in the media, on impending motherhood

Perhaps it is a weakness for celebrity magazines that warps one's sense of time, but it seems to me that the actress Kate Winslet has been pregnant for at least 18 months. It is surely a year since Ms Winslet appeared on Parkinson, contentedly patting her already considerable bump. So I will be poring over OK! and Hello! with more enthusiasm than usual when the inevitable pictures appear, just to make absolutely sure that her offspring does not have large ears and tusks.

Perhaps it is a weakness for celebrity magazines that warps one's sense of time, but it seems to me that the actress Kate Winslet has been pregnant for at least 18 months. It is surely a year since Ms Winslet appeared on Parkinson, contentedly patting her already considerable bump. So I will be poring over OK! and Hello! with more enthusiasm than usual when the inevitable pictures appear, just to make absolutely sure that her offspring does not have large ears and tusks.

The illusion that it has been an unnaturally long pregnancy has been exacerbated by Ms Winslet's frequent observations, quoted extensively in the media, on impending motherhood. There were more earlier this week, when she was reported to have said that she does not intend to have pain relief when she does finally go into labour. Women were made to give birth without epidurals and the rest, so they should bloody well get on with it, she said, adding that if she needs help during labour, she will call her acupuncturist.

She also said that acting has provided plenty of preparation for childbirth. For example, she spent eight hours in a tank of freezing water during the making of Titanic.

My wife read that and made a noise conveying exasperation, ridicule, scorn and sympathy, all at the same time. "Ffffggghhh," I think it was. Or it may have been, "Pppwwwfff." I mean, talk about making yourself a hostage to fortune. You might as well find a gloomy cellar, shackle yourself to the radiator and write your own ransom note.

Besides, if Ms Winslet wants to be glib about pain relief, she ought to know that I needed a mobile epidural and six syringes of pethidine to get through Titanic and still found it an excruciating experience the like of which I never, ever want to endure again.

On the other hand, my wife was right to leaven her ridicule with sympathy. Kate Winslet does not have a clue, poor lamb, any more than I do, what childbirth is like. And she is not the first pregnant woman to come over all gung-ho about rejecting pain relief; in fact there is an organisation devoted to it, called the National Childbirth Trust.

Eight years ago, while expecting our first child, my wife and I attended NCT antenatal classes. I remember learning only one seriously interesting fact in those classes, and I still repeat it at every possible opportunity. It is this: if a man's bladder were powered by a muscle as strong as the uterus, he would be able to pee across the Thames.

But while I am grateful to the NCT for arming me with that conversation-stopper, in most other respects I consider it irresponsible. For it seemed to me that women were being brainwashed, in the nicest possible way, with lots of camomile tea, into thinking that if they opted for pain relief during childbirth, they would in some way have failed. One of our group, who had a traumatic birth despite as much pain relief as the hospital could muster, was later assailed by serious post-natal depression. Carrying into labour a skewed set of preconceptions cannot have helped.

By some exquisite irony, the only one of our NCT group to give birth quickly, without complication and without pain relief was my wife, who, alone, had stated in advance that if she felt like it, and if it happened to be on offer at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, she would bury her head in a bucket of opium. She has now given birth three times - straightforwardly in hospital, by Caesarean section under general anaesthetic, and straightforwardly at home. Anything can happen.

Nevertheless, we sincerely hope that, after all this time, Kate Winslet gets the birth she wants and is not made to realise that she has been talking so much gas and air.

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