Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Lily didn't have a miscarriage, she had a son

Lily Allen's Channel 4 series began as a pretty standard reality show about a pop star launching a new business and ended as one of the most affecting depictions of losing a baby I've seen on television.

For the most part Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags took the same approach as every other contemporary fly on a celebrity wall show.

We watched Lily shopping (glamorous), chopping vegetables (normal), putting on make-up (vulnerable), losing her temper (fallible) and hugging her friends (loveable) and were treated to a few neat soundbites about the horrors of the public life along the way. So far so Jordan.

What did give the programme a spark was Lily's raw, bright personality, a compelling combination of confrontational defiance, insecure neediness and a quality which we see very rarely on reality programmes - self-awareness.

Admitting that she didn't have the drive for a long career in the music industry, Allen was hoping that a quiet domestic life in the countryside with her builder boyfriend Sam Cooper ("the person I want to spend the rest of my life with") would bring her contentment.

At the same time she seemed disappointed about the lack of glamour and showbiz whirl in her new venture, a vintage clothes shop she was launching with her older sister Sarah.

Allen was clearly at a crossroads, but all the tumultuous inner-turmoil she was nursing melted like ice cream in the sun when she discovered she was pregnant.

Despite having suffered a miscarriage two years previously, she was relentlessly upbeat about her prospects second time around, and entered into a daydreamy reverie.

It was heartbreaking watching her open up and bloom, knowing all the time what lay ahead.

Lily lost her baby son after six months of a buoyant pregnancy. She went back in front of the camera after eight weeks' grieving, comparing herself to a soldier who had set off for war and returned a "completely different person".

Wounded and exposed, she found it impossible to speak about her son without crying and referred to her old self distantly, chastising the younger Lily for not appreciating what she had.

It was a raw and affecting portrayal of loss - not just of a much loved baby, but of a future, the imagined salvation Allen was pinning her hopes for a centred life on. The previously girlish, giggly mother-to-be was replaced by a crushed soul.

A fiercely protective Sarah also rightly noted that the term miscarriage, bandied around the media whenever a baby doesn't make it to full term, is inappropriate.

"She was in labour for a long time, she bore a child, she saw his body, she named him," said Sarah angrily.

"It really frustrated her when she read in the Press that she'd had a miscarriage. That word doesn't hold much resonance when it comes to how that person is feeling or what they're going through."

Sarah's quite right - Lily didn't have a miscarriage, she had a son. Many women will be grateful to Sarah for pointing this out, and also to Lily for making clear how facile is the notion that a woman should brush herself down, throw her chin up and move on once the physical pain of such an experience has passed. Most of us understand this but it's amazing how many people offered such advice to two friends of mine who suffered very similarly to Lily. I hope they were watching on Tuesday.

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