Monday, 11 February 2013

The Public Shaming Of Chrissie.

Last week, I was watching the Project with my eleven-year old son Max. Media personality Chrissie Swan came on and was tearfully interviewed about being photographed by paparazzi while she was sitting in her car smoking a cigarette.

Chrissie is pregnant with her third child.

Max couldn't believe it.

"She SMOKED when she was PREGNANT!? That's so bad. That's so wrong."

I felt uncomfortable. Turned to him and told him that yes, she did. He just shook his head.

Thing is, I smoked when I was pregnant. With him. I'm not proud of it. Smokers are idiots, and pregnant smokers are a breed of their own.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with Max, I stopped smoking. Being nauseous all the time helped, but as time went on and the cravings returned, I started up again. One a day, I allowed myself. And I never smoked the whole cigarette ... hidden away in my backyard, hunched shamefully over a huge belly like the dirty secret it was. I was still part of a rehab program, after battling addiction for almost a decade. I've known pregnant women who shot up heroin, took cocaine, ice, pills, you name it. It was common for them to come in to rehab at the very end of their pregnancies, to try and get clean before the birth so that DOCs wouldn't take their babies away. Smoking was the least of their problems.

Yesterday I went to the toilet in a shopping centre and came face-to-face with this:

Smoking during pregnancy is "a thing." Women are trying to stop. Chrissie Swan is not Robinson Crusoe. Whenever anybody I know is trying to quit smoking, I give them my biggest pep talk and sympathies. Because it's SO HARD. Out of everything I have given up, smoking is up there among the worst. When I finally gave birth to Max, I quit cold turkey (again) because I didn't want the maternity nurses to see me going outside for a smoke and think I was a bad mother. I took it back up eventually, then quit. The biggest reason I don't take up smoking again is the horror of trying to quit again.

I'm not defending Chrissie or myself. Am I? I'm not sure. I've taken this quite personally. I owned up to Max, said that I smoked when I was pregnant with him and I was so sorry. Told him that it was so hard for me to not do it and I had no excuse and I'm so lucky that he was born so fit and healthy. He was shocked.

"Geez, mum. Lucky I don't have asthma."

Last week I listened to Sami Lucas and Yumi Stymes on Mix 106.5 talking about Chrissie smoking while she is pregnant. I sat judging Sami as I heard her judging, but then she started to cry. Told her listeners that she's been trying to fall pregnant for years and she just can't comprehend how a pregnant woman can put her unborn baby at risk like that. I stopped judging her.

We are all so quick to judge each other.

The people behind Woman's Day magazine bought the photos of Chrissie smoking in her car for $55,000. The issue hit the newstands today. They've thoughtfully put the photo in a break-out box on the front cover with a yellow arrow pointing to it and the headline:


I flicked through it in the newsagent this morning, then put it back on the shelf. I never buy Woman's Day because it's shit. The accompanying "article" uses quotes from Chrissie's Project interview. (Chrissie lost a bidding war for the photos.)

A pregnant woman smoking is confronting. Tobacco companies reaping profits from death is insidious. And fifty-five thousand dollars for photos of a pregnant woman smoking (under the guise of "news") - is disgraceful.


Why Are We So Angry At Chrissie Swan? by Clementine Ford

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