In praise of badass pregnant women

I recently watched The Night Manager mini-series. Although most of the hype focused on male leads Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie (a.k.a. Loki vs. House), I was equally fascinated by Angela Burr, the character played by Olivia Colman. Angela Burr is a British intelligence officer who won’t let anything stop her from tracking an international arms dealer…even being pregnant. Her persistent prenatal pursuit called to mind Marge Gunderson from the movie Fargo. My husband suggested they get together and start a badass pregnant lady club. Colman’s portrayal even inspired fans to suggest she should be the next James Bond.

Meanwhile, the perception of the pregnant women at my workplace was quite different.

Two of my coworkers have gone on maternity leave in the past few weeks. For at least a month prior to their actual departures I heard multiples comments (some to the expectant mothers but mostly to other people) on the theme “I can’t believe she’s/you’re still here.” The implication was that once women get too pregnant they are incapable of doing anything but sitting around and waiting for their babies to come. That is, of course, bullshit.

Yes, some women experience complications that force them to go on bedrest for portions of their pregnancies. And, yes, there are some jobs that are not safe for pregnant women to perform. (Some would probably argue that pursuing an international arms dealer and his gang should be one of those.) And, yes, pregnancy includes some physical discomfort, such as having one’s feet swell to such an elephantine size that you can’t stand up for long periods of time. However, despite those things, the majority of pregnant women can continue to be productive members of society even as they reach full-term.

Pregnancy is not a sign of weakness. Pregnancy is a sign of strength. A pregnant woman’s body is making a new human, which is pretty much the most badass thing a body can do. And, yes, when that task is done she will be in great need of rest and recovery, but until then you’ve got someone whose hormone-fueled nesting instinct is commanding her to get things done. Get out of her way, and let her do them.

When watching The Night Manager I told my husband that either the actress was pregnant or she had an impressively realistic pregnancy pad. I was thrilled to learn that it was the former.

Olivia Colman and Hugh Laurie in The Night Manager

After Olivia Colman was given the part of Angela Burr she found out she was pregnant. She dreaded telling director Susan Bier, but when she did, Bier had the genius idea that a pregnant Angela Burr would bring a “weird power” to the part. Thank goodness for that. Otherwise the world would have missed a fantastic performance by Colman and the creation of Angela Burr as a badass pregnant lady.

The next time you see a pregnant woman, offer her your seat, but never underestimate her. And if you are an international arms dealer, you should probably run.

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