In regular jobs, if a woman gets pregnant, it's quite simple. She gets bought a load of chocolate, people pass round a card, then everyone complains that she isn't pulling her weight round the office just because she's up the duff. "She says that the baby's pressing on her bladder and that's why she has to go to the toilet six times a day, but I saw her take an OK! magazine in there, so I think she should be penalised for taking unauthorised breaks". Then the woman goes on maternity leave and everyone steals the office supplies from her drawer and she comes back after six months to find she now has the desk in the corner beneath the rattling air conditioner that probably has Legionnaire's Disease festering inside.
On a soap opera, things are different. The old way to deal with an actress getting pregnant was to make her character pregnant as well; after all, it would save the make up department money on prosthetic tummies. This method went out of favour after Jill Chance on Crossroads was pregnant for over a year (the actress lost her first baby, but then became pregnant again shortly after - the writers just extended the character's gestation accordingly). The other inconvenience is that the actress tends to want to give birth to her own child just as the character is due, which means her availability for huffing and puffing in Weatherfield General may be limited. Natalie Barnes was pregnant in real-life and on the show, but she disappeared to the Cotswolds when it was actually time to force it out.
You also have the problem we currently have in Corrie: a character who definitely, absolutely can't have a baby is suddenly six months gone. Poor Julie went through the trauma of having her reproductive organs removed last year. I bet the writers wish they hadn't bothered now Katy Cavanagh is asking for maternity leave. We've yet to discover how they're going to write her out, but let's hope it's as imaginative as the fate that befell poor Hayley. For obvious reasons, Mrs Cropper could never have a child, so the character was sent to prison while Julie Hesmondhalgh dropped her sprog.
The current default is simply to disguise the baby bump. The trend was started by Michelle Collins over on EastEnders: the Cindy Beale Memorial Handbag has rightly passed into legend. No matter what she was doing - arranging for the murder of her husband, having illicit sex, abducting her children - Cindy's four-foot wide handbag remained close by her side. The handbag has since been passed around, with Carla Connor being a particularly keen user.
Costuming has a part to play in all this. We're used to Julie having eccentric taste in clothes, so her sudden fondness for a cape doesn't seem out of character, and those puffball skirts can hide a multitude of sins. Similarly, Carla married Tony Gordon in an Empire line wedding dress - handy for concealing a tummy, not so good at hiding enormous pregnancy breasts.
If all else fails, just give the character a job that requires her to stand behind a lot of things. Leanne Battersby was working in Underworld the first time Jane Danson fell pregnant; cue her wandering around amidst shoulder high racks of knickers and deploying careful use of a clipboard. For her second pregnancy, Jane was put behind that high counter in the bookies, leading us to conclude that if she decides to have a third baby Leanne will take up a job inspecting sewers and will spend three months with just her head poking out a manhole.
A good trauma can drive a character off somewhere, no matter how unlikely it sounds. Maria finally managed to assemble four brain cells in a line and deduce that Tony Gordon was a wrong 'un, sending her scuttling off to Ireland long enough for Samia Ghadie to have her baby. A similar revelatory moment drove Carla to sun herself by the pool in Los Angeles; I can't help thinking Maria must have been a bit annoyed by this.
You have to remember that a pregnant actress is a fragile thing, too; you have to give her some interesting storylines, but you can't chuck her character under a tram or in a burning bus shelter. Over stress her and you end up with the disaster when Kym
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