pregnancy

Jesinta Franklin: "I'm so grateful to be pregnant, but I wouldn't say it's been a fairy tale."

Content warning: This story contains descriptions of miscarriage and suicide, and may be distressing for some readers. If you need support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

When I spoke to Jesinta Franklin, she was heavily pregnant but still months away from any form of maternity leave.

The 28-year-old model and business owner, who is expecting her first child with husband and AFL player Lance “Buddy” Franklin, made a point of letting me know she’s always hot and sweaty these days.

“You’re glowing,” I told her. She thanked me before laughing and drawing attention to the button on her dress that was forever popping open. As I started asking about how she’s found her pregnancy, my previous compliment felt kind of irrelevant because, well, not every pregnant woman glows. Not every pregnant woman, Jesinta included, enjoys pregnancy very much at all.

Rebecca Sparrow describes the unique, but universal experience of losing a baby in the video below. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

“It’s been interesting, because there was such a long journey to fall pregnant – and I’m so grateful to be pregnant – but I also can’t say I’ve 100 per cent loved being pregnant. I wouldn’t say it’s all been a fairy tale,” the Olay ambassador said.

“There’s this big fantasy around what it is to be pregnant and you only ever hear the stories about it ‘being amazing’ and how you’ll glow, and my experience hasn’t been like that. Once I started speaking to other women about it, I realised a lot of people have the same experience, but I feel like there is this expectation that you have to say it’s amazing, so that’s what we say.

“But it’s OK to say it’s not, that you’re not enjoying it and you’ve found it really difficult, or ‘I feel uncomfortable’ or ‘I’m not feeling good about my body’. I think there’s a massive stigma around it, that it has to be this magical time where you float around in floaty dresses.”

Since announcing her pregnancy on her lifestyle app in August 2019, Jesinta has been open about what her and Buddy’s experience of infertility looks like. Behind every bump, there is a story. Theirs reads: Two-and-a-half years of physical and emotional challenges, and three miscarriages.

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On top of wanting to start a family, Jesinta was also having “one of those years”.

“There was so much going on with our fertility, and my auntie took her own life and my mum got cancer, and it made me go OK, this is what’s important in life and the rest can just fall to the wayside,” she said.

“There are so many more things to be worried about than an article that’s been written or my husband leaving his dirty footy socks next to the washing bin, not IN the washing bin.”

Then, it happened. But as any woman who’s experienced pregnancy loss knows, seeing those two lines on a pregnancy test – again – doesn’t relieve you of your anxieties. You carry them with you. They’re an escape plan for when things don’t work out and the familiar pain returns. Jesinta said, for her, she only started to “feel better” 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

“In the early days, [pregnancy] was so stressful, just because I didn’t know what was going to happen. This is my fourth pregnancy and I still don’t have a baby, so there was a lot of anxiety in the first few months. Every twinge, every feeling, everything made me worry and overthink.

“You don’t want to start to envision a life with this baby in case, you know, this baby might not be in your life. I really wanted to wait to announce our news at 20 weeks when you have the full anatomy scan, but the media had already gotten a hold of it.

“At 20 weeks, you see all the fingers. All the toes. You see how the heart’s working, and the lungs, the brain, the liver. That’s when I started feeling a lot better… to connect more and think about the future. Things like, what it’s going to look like, what are we going to call it and how we’re going to parent. But you still have this thing in the back of your mind.”

Like many women, Jesinta’s been working full-time throughout her pregnancy. As her GP told her, “being pregnant doesn’t mean you’re sick, it’s not an illness”. But unlike many women, work for Jesinta involves having her photograph taken; for global advertising campaigns, at events she’s required to attend, for social media. And, by paparazzi, without her knowledge or permission.

On that, she said: “It’s certainly different and sometimes confronting being in front of cameras when there are so many changes happening to my body. I feel quite outside of my body and uncomfortable in ways.”

In other ways, Jesinta doesn’t mind being uncomfortable, because it’s what it means to have a baby.

“I’ve gone from a B cup to a very large E cup, which was a lot. I was buying bras every two weeks in the early months because they were growing so rapidly. I always knew I would put on weight, and there are lots of stretch marks, but all of that stuff, I quite enjoy.”

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“I would do nothing to jeopardise this baby’s life. If that means putting on weight, I’m putting on weight. If that means 100 new stretch marks, I’m getting 100 new stretch marks. It doesn’t matter to me.”

 

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Once their baby arrives, Jesinta hopes she and Buddy can have a little bit of time off, “even just four weeks so I can be in my little bubble.” Thinking about what kind of parent she wants to be, Jesinta said she thinks it “will be her biggest challenge”.

“It’s harder and harder now with technology and the digital world, and thinking about the media and how much we expose our children. I think it’s going to be hard to parent in this day and age. Then, on the flip side, one weekend, [Buddy and I] were staying in this baller villa, and I turned to my husband and said, ‘in one generation, look at our upbringing compared to how our child is going to be raised… how are we going to navigate this with our children?’

“I don’t want my children to think a lavish lifestyle is the norm. That’s not how we were raised. We were raised on properties in hand-me-down clothes or op shop clothes. Very simple. We were allowed to have our childhood. I want my children to have that too.”

Towards the end of our conversation, we circled back to the idea of being obligated to be grateful, and all the complicated emotions women experience bringing new life into the world. For Jesinta, that list includes jealousy towards other women whose fertility journeys were ‘easier’ than hers.

“I know that sounds a bit… selfish. I feel slightly jealous of people who fall pregnant on the first try because I feel like I was robbed of so much joy and excitement in this pregnancy. When we found out we were pregnant [this time], it was like ‘here we go again’.”

“I lost a little bit of my innocence, over the last two-and-a-half years, that positive outlook. I had to protect myself. But in a sense, I’m also grateful because maybe if I’d been able to fall pregnant easily, it would’ve been harder for me to come to terms with the changes to my body and my life.

“It’s definitely coming back now though, that joy and magic. It’s starting to come back.”

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637. 

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Feature image: Instagram/@jesinta_franklin.

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