"I even have stunt towels because hey, doesn’t every family have pure white towels?" ... Chrissie Swan

Chrissie Swan

You wouldn't think it would be a matter for public debate, but Chrissie Swan felt compelled to make a live cnfession after being caught smoking while pregnant by paparazzi in Melbourne.

In a teary admission on her radio program this morning, Chrissie told her listeners that she had "struggled terribly with totally giving up cigarettes" since finding out she was pregnant with baby number three.

Swan said: "Up until about six years ago I was what you call a full-time smoker. I really gave it a nudge in my 20s, as a lot of us did."

"Then I met 'the Chippie' (husband Chris) who has never smoked and I cut back a lot ... then I got pregnant with Leo and I quit completely for a couple of years, which was fantastic."

"Now sadly, I picked it up about a year ago and I was what I would call a 'not really smoker'. I never smoked at home and I never smoked around my family. I'd just sneak a few here and there and I know I'm not alone in this."

"Mainly I would do it in the car, in fact, I would only do it in the car when I was certain that I was alone.''

Her third pregnancy, she said, "was a massive surprise" - "I tried to go cold turkey like I did with Leo and I was confident that I could do it, but I couldn't do it. I just failed and failed, time after time. I'd win for a few days then I would have a cigarette and feel terrible and racked with guilt and I would get stressed out and hid have one again. Giving up is so hard and I’ve really learned that in the last six months.''

Swan was adamant she is not using excuses: ‘‘These are not excuses, there are no excuses for smoking, absolutely none. I don’t have one.’’ She said she looked online for ways to quit and learned the first step was to find the right time - but her hectic schedule was her downfall.

‘‘Ordinarily that would be the easiest step of all but at the time I was so busy and had so much on. I had two radio shows, Can Of Worms had just started, a new TV show, interstate travel every week, a weekly column, a relationship, a house to run - I was selling my house, I was trying to find somewhere else to live - I have a four-year-old and Kit wasn’t even one-year-old yet and there didn’t seem to be any time at all, let alone the right time, so I kept trying and falling down.’’

 

Swan says she would beat herself up over her constant failure to not light up and would make deals with herself to justify the habit.

‘‘The constant disappointment and feeling of failure made me come up with a compromise with myself - so stupid - but I made a deal I would go easy on myself and smoke a few a week, only when absolutely necessary. After work. Alone in the car. And I figured it couldn’t do any damage and let me deal with properly quitting when I wasn’t so busy later on.’’

It was only after she was snapped by paparazzi mid-puff that she was confronted with being exposed.

‘‘Well, two days ago a photographer followed me in my car after work and took a photo of me having that sneaky cigarette - it was my first for the week. I begged for the photographers not to run the story because I know how bad it looks - it is bad - and I told them it was a deeply shameful secret, that no one knew I was having these five cigarettes a week. Not my mum, not my best friend, not my partner...because it’s so the secret that is the most shameful - is the hardest to ask for help about.

Holding back the tears, Swan did not hold back on her shame, saying: ‘‘Here’s the truth. Obviously I know it's wrong I’m not an idiot, no smoker wants to smoke - especially when they are pregnant - but it is clearly an addiction and a very serious one - because it can cloud your judgment and make the unthinkable somehow okay.

‘‘As a listener to this show, you know I’m devoted to my children. I would never do anything to harm them and yet, here I am having five cigarettes and justifying it. It’s madness, I cannot explain it.

‘‘I knew it was wrong that there is so much terrible judgment that only awful people and bad parents and idiots and bogans smoke during pregnancy - and I didn’t feel like I belonged in any of those categories - so I kept it all under wraps and dealt with it how I could.

‘‘I felt there was no-one I could confess this to - no-one I could say ‘what can I do? This is hard for me’. I was able to give up so easily with the others so I self-analysed and decided that this way was the way I could get through it and keep the show on the road, in terms of work and family commitments, until the forced cold turkey of hospital.

Swan signed off with: ‘‘So here I am. I’m so embarrassed. I’ve never said that I was perfect but I'm also kind of relieved that I’ve been forced to come clean - but is it just me or is it easier to give up cigarettes?’’

Essential Baby runs Chrissie's weekly for Sunday Life magazine. Chrissie's honesty and sense of humour makes her one of our most popular writers and we're not surprised that she has treated this apology with similar candour.

Nicotine addiction is just that - an addiction, and Chrissie is not the only mother to struggle with it. She has since deactivated her Twitter account in the wake of inevitable public backlash. We wish her all the best in trying to quit, and for the rest of her pregnancy. You can also read what Essential Baby members are saying about this story on our forums.

Note: Smoking while pregnant can harm your baby. If you are a smoker and are pregnant or thinking of conceiving, contact QUITline for help and support.