THERE is a particular photo of my pregnant mum I've always loved. In it, she has a beehive ''do'', a daisy print mini bulging with the load that is the growing me, and black cat's eye sunglasses. In one hand is a tumbler of gin and tonic; in the other a lit menthol cigarette attached to a long holder, an omnipresent sixth digit on her right hand most of her life.
Years later, as a know-all teenager yet to adopt vices of my own, I pointed out to my mother how irresponsible she was putting my innocent life in danger with her selfish, disgusting smoking habit. ''I didn't know any different, no one did back then,'' she answered dismissively. ''So, I'm not a saint. Get over it.''
It is just as well mum is no longer around to see the controversy surrounding Chrissie Swan, who was caught this week smoking while pregnant. Because something tells me she would be most vocal in pointing out that a woman doesn't turn into the Madonna or Mother Teresa simply by conceiving. Instead, she would no doubt opine, they become stressed, large and generally terrified, all the while remaining the flawed human beings they were before sperm met egg, usually by accident and often while inebriated.
I think my mother would need to be physically restrained upon reading suggestions, as I have this week, that Chrissie Swan is selfish, irresponsible, moronic and should have her children taken away from her. And I'm sure mum would be asking who ordained the righteous chorus out there that believes it has the right to adjudicate on others from such a lofty perch of perfection?
Before I go on, let me confess I don't have children of my own. I am sure this statement means a lot of mothers will deem me incompetent to hold an opinion on Swan's actions. And to them I say, respectfully, ''Up yours, sisters!'' Having a child doesn't make you a wiser, more loving, complete or superior person than me.
Today, it seems that when a woman is carrying a child her body is no longer her own. It's merely a vessel growing a new life, one more important than its initiator's, and one that can be scrutinised and criticised by any woman who has also been pregnant.
You are no longer a woman primarily, but an emerging mother and, as such, should be measured by a new set of rules as outlined by self-appointed martyr mothers who believe they are focused solely on the greater gestational good.
The Swan incident reminds me of a girlfriend who stayed with me several years ago after her husband walked out on her during the third trimester of pregnancy. To cheer her up, I had some friends over for a barbecue, where my friend clutched her one flute of champagne as a prop, a social fortifier, occasionally sipping nervously.
By the time a third woman had pointed out loudly that she shouldn't be drinking, my friend retired to bed, in tears, where she stayed for days. Meanwhile, I took a mental note of each culprit who admonished her, deleting them from my heart and any future invitations to my home.
There was still a vulnerable and needy woman attached to that foetus everyone was so concerned about. A person who had rights, too - and that means a glass of champagne if she damn well wanted it.
Just recalling this incident has got me so riled the twitch has returned. Because, like so many of us who have been addicted to nicotine at some stage of our lives, the desire to light up has never really left me. Five months and 11 days since my last cigarette, I still miss those toxic friends I clung to, believing they alleviated my stress even when the shame and guilt I endured was torturous and intolerable.
Like Chrissie Swan sequestered in her car, I hid my addiction from others, crouching behind rancid dumpsters in alleys outside posh restaurants telling fellow diners I'm catching some fresh air. I've sprayed myself with a large meadow-in-grass worth of perfume to veil my smoky stench and gargled incessantly to disguise the shame of my foul breath.
Do you think I was happy or proud to do any of this? Do you think I didn't see the rotting toes and diseased eyes on the packets I shelled out for? Do you think I wasn't disgusted and appalled with myself?
Swan should not be vilified, she should be sympathised with and supported. As she tearfully confessed, she in no way set out to harm her unborn baby. She felt helpless to stop because she was. It's called addiction and it doesn't just go away because you want it to, or because you're pregnant.
Swan, like millions - myself included - is a junkie hooked on a drug harder to quit than heroin. One that remains legal. She wasn't smoking crystal meth, although, looking at the public reaction to her confession, she may as well have been.
What she was doing was being a flawed human being. Which is what every woman remains, piously pregnant or not.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/soc...#ixzz2KM3MfkYh
So well said