Adele on postpartum depression: 'I felt very inadequate'
The black Porsche Cayenne S.U.V. pulls up to the driveway of my hotel. Adele is behind the wheel and alone in the car. When I get in, she tells me she loves to drive on her own—although there is a discreet security detail in the vehicle in front of us. We’re on our way to Staples Center for the second of eight sold-out L.A. concerts on her current, 43-city world tour. She’s wearing a flouncy white cotton top over black leggings and beige flats. A Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet with colored round jewels is on her right arm. Her hair is pulled up off her face in a loose bun, her huge green eyes are covered by sunglasses, and, makeup-free, she is naturally gorgeous. She is gregarious and totally at ease, and we immediately start to talk about L.A. She recently purchased a house in Beverly Hills, because she spends so much time recording here and got tired of renting houses that weren’t properly baby-proofed, or private enough, or the pool was broken, and it was a waste of money. At the previous night’s concert she gave a shout-out to her new favorite L.A. supermarket—Bristol Farms. She raves about their balsamic cheese (“I ate the whole thing”), and we somehow segue into grooming. She shows me her long fake nails, which she says are coming off straight after the tour. She says she waited weeks to get her eyebrows shaped because the only woman she’ll let touch them lives in L.A. And how, after a month, she shaved her legs because she thought people in the front row at her concerts might notice them when she runs up the stairs to the stage. I ask if Simon Konecki (her boyfriend of five years and the father of their four-year-old son, Angelo) minded her unshaven legs. “He has no choice,” she says. “I’ll have no man telling me to shave my fuckin’ legs. Shave yours.”
We’re in the car for about 10 minutes when she starts talking about the joys and conflicts of motherhood. I say it was brave of her to have a child in the midst of such a big, successful career. “Actually,” she says, “I think it’s the bravest thing not to have a child; all my friends and I felt pressurized into having kids, because that’s what adults do. I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the fuck I wanted, whenever I want. Every single day I feel like that.” I ask if she wants more children. She says she doesn’t think so. I say women often want to give their child a sibling, but since Simon has a daughter from a former marriage who is very much a part of their lives, Angelo already has a sister. “Exactly,” she says, “so that’s my get-out-of-jail-free card. I’m too scared. I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me.” Did she take antidepressants? “No, no, no, no. But also, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant . . . . My boyfriend said I should talk to other women who were pregnant, and I said, ‘Fuck that, I ain’t hanging around with a fuckin’ bunch of mothers.’ Then, without realizing it, I was gravitating towards pregnant women and other women with children, because I found they’re a bit more patient. You’ll be talking to someone, but you’re not really listening, because you’re so fuckin’ tired.
“My friends who didn’t have kids would get annoyed with me,” she continues, “whereas I knew I could just sit there and chat absolute mush with my friends who had children, and we wouldn’t judge each other. One day I said to a friend, ‘I fuckin’ hate this,’ and she just burst into tears and said, ‘I fuckin’ hate this, too.’ And it was done. It lifted. My knowledge of postpartum—or post-natal, as we call it in England—is that you don’t want to be with your child; you’re worried you might hurt your child; you’re worried you weren’t doing a good job. But I was obsessedwith my child. I felt very inadequate; I felt like I’d made the worst decision of my life . . . . It can come in many different forms. Eventually I just said, I’m going to give myself an afternoon a week, just to do whatever the fuck I want without my baby. A friend of mine said, ‘Really? Don’t you feel bad?’ I said, I do, but not as bad as I’d feel if I didn’t do it. Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it; they thought everyone would think they were a bad mom, and it’s not the case. It makes you a better mom if you give yourself a better time. I’m enjoying touring, but at times I feel guilty because I’m doing this massive tour, and even though my son is with me all the time, on certain nights I can’t put him to bed. I never feel guilty when I’m not working. You’re constantly trying to make up for stuff when you’re a mom. I don’t mind, because of the love I feel for him . . . . I don’t care if I don’t ever get to do anything for myself again.” And while she does, of course, have a nanny, she is adamantly not one of those celebrity mothers who hands the kid off to a caretaker after a photo op in a fake playground.
We talk about the U.S. presidential election. “We only know Trump from The Apprentice,” she says, “so we think a reality star is running for president. I just don’t think anybody should be building walls or shit like that right now. I think we need to look after each other. Everyone must vote.” She tells me how, when she couldn’t speak for seven weeks following vocal surgery in 2011, “I wrote everything down. Which is nice, because it was the beginning of my relationship with my boyfriend, and now we have a record of all that for our kids.” She adds that she and Simon are not married, and she doesn’t need it; she thinks having a child together is the bigger commitment. And in her “real,” non-work life, she is fiercely private and so protective of her son that, she says, “I’d sue the fuckin’ ass off anyone that comes anywhere near my child.”
As we pull into the backstage area of Staples Center, she—a 10-time Grammy winner—says she’s “nostalgic” about this arena because the award show is held here. We walk into her large, private dressing room, and I note that she’s taller than I imagined—she tells me she’s five feet nine. She takes off her shoes and walks barefoot on the carpet. The room has white flowing curtains, large sofas, and a TV screen on a wall. In one part of the room a child’s play area is set up with a toy motorcycle, a toy kitchen with little pots and pans and cups and saucers, games, a Crayola box, and books. Rose- and Baies-scented candles are lit, and there’s a full makeup table in another corner. She says we have 20 more minutes to talk, then she has to do her sound check for 10 minutes, then vocal warm-ups for another 10, then we can talk again while she’s having her makeup done. I ask if she’s always this organized. She admits she’s always been in full control and comfortable in her skin. “It’s probably from my upbringing. I come from a very big family of a lot of women who did everything on their own.” (Later, her manager, Jonathan Dickins—the only person she says she completely trusts besides her boyfriend—tells me, “I met her when she lived [in London’s Brixton] above a convenience store, next to a gas station, and she would walk into a room and not give a fuck if she was speaking to the janitor or the head of the record label. That was her at 18 and that’s her at 28: completely unflappable, completely her own woman.”) Adele says, “My entire life revolves around my child, so everything is timed, because he’s on a routine.”
“I COME FROM A VERY BIG FAMILY OF A LOT OF WOMEN WHO DID EVERYTHING ON THEIR OWN.”
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