In a recent interview granted to Financial Times, Adichie makes the first ever public statement on her pregnancy and her new status as a mother. She also reveals why it has taken her this long to comment on the life-changing experience.
Adichie has been very private about her pregnancy. After news of her pregnancy came out [read here], she did not make any official statements and generally kept away from the public eye. Even after the child was born, Adichie returned to work without so much as a peep about her experience as a new mom. To some people, this silence seemed a bit unusual given the African cultural practice of publicly celebrating motherhood and the global celebrity culture of publicizing pregnancy and motherhood—think of Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Blake Lively, Black Chyna. The list is endless.
Thanks to the interview we now know more about why she chose not to share the news of her pregnancy with the public. As Adichie explains to David Pilling who runs the famous Lunch with FT series, she is not into making pregnancy into a public spectacle.
“I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy.”
She is right. We do live at a time when pregnancy is something that celebrities are expected to act out for the public to see. There is even a whole industry around it. This puts pressure on women to live up to some abstract expectation of what it means to be pregnant. She also points to the double standard inherent in this culture. “We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood.”
Going “into hiding,” as she puts it, was her way of keeping her experience as “personal as possible.”
Here is the full quote from Pilling’s account of his conversation with Adichie:
Our drinks appear. Drostdy-Hof turns out to be a mouth-puckering South African chardonnay. The color of her Chapman matches her shoes. “This is just very sugary, very sweet. I would probably have a glass of wine, but I’m breastfeeding, I’m happy to announce.”
It takes me a moment to process. Adichie, 38, is famously protective of her private life. I had no idea she had a baby. Is this my world scoop? I ask. “This is the first time I’m saying it publicly. I have a lovely little girl so I feel like I haven’t slept … but it’s also just really lovely and strange.” Her voice has a wonderfully rich timbre. When she says “lovely” — soft and round as a peach — it feels like a gift.
“I have some friends who probably don’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby. I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy. We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood. I went into hiding. I wanted it to be as personal as possible.
“In this country of mine that I love,” she goes on, sliding to a halt on the word “love”, “people think that you’re incomplete unless you’re married.” Her husband, also a bit of a secret, is a Nigerian doctor who works in the US, where Adichie spends time when she’s not in Lagos. Can I ask the baby’s name? “No, I won’t say,” she says with a disarming smile.
So much about Adichie’s life is inspiring. Her decade-long rise to being one of the world’s most successful fiction writers, her feminist politics, her mentorship of young writers are just a few ways that she stays connected with a global community of fans and readers.
Her new status as a mother is clearly another avenue for her fans to connect with her. But how much is Adichie willing to open up public access to this part of her life and to make motherhood a part of her public identity? Should she?