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Tulip Siddiq: I was having to answer vital emails after an emergency c-section

MP says marginal nature of her Hampstead and Kilburn seat meant she raced back to work too early

19 February, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Tulip Siddiq

MP Tulip Siddiq has told how she felt under pressure to rush back to work after the emergency caesarean birth of her daughter Azalea before feeling ill.

She told the House of Commons that the vulnerable nature of her majority in Hampstead and Kilburn constituency meant she took only six weeks off work following baby Azalea’s arrival in April 2016. Ms Siddiq was speaking in a parliamentary debate in which she called for new measures to help new mothers working as MPs.

“I will not go into the exact details, but I will say that I had a 40-hour long labour which resulted in an emergency c-section, after which I caught an infection and so did the baby,” said Ms Siddiq. “The Royal Free Hospital, which is amazing, looked after us for nine days, but even in those nine days while I was in the hospital bed I had to handle emails and sign things off from my office simply because there was no one else to do it and I could not nominate someone to take care of crucial matter.”

Tulip Siddiq brings baby Azalea to meet former colleagues at the Town Hall 

The former Camden councillor added: “I am not describing these details because I want sympathy; I am describing them because before I had a child I had never quite realised the physical impact pregnancy has on the body. I was quite old when my younger sister was born, so I had been around babies and children, but I still did not realise quite what would happen to my body going through a 40-hour ordeal and an emergency C-section. I could not move from the bed and had to ask everyone for help, which was definitely not easy, as I am used to doing things for myself.”

Although Ms Siddiq now holds 15,560 majority after last year’s snap general election backfired on the Conservatives, the constituency was considered a three-way battleground in 2010 and a Tory target seat in 2015.

“I represent a marginal seat—the lady I took over from had won the seat by only 42 votes, and I had won by only just over 1,000 votes—and did not feel that I could neglect my constituents, so I came back to work very quickly. As a result, because my body had not recovered, I developed a serious case of mastitis,” she said. “Anyone who has had that will know what it does to their body. When I went to the GP, they made it very clear that I had got it because I was overworked and exhausted and because I had gone back to work very early.”

WATCH: Tulip Siddiq’s speech on the challenges facing MPs who are new mothers

Ms Siddiq told the Commons: “I was getting emails saying, “Why didn’t you turned up for this vote?” even during the six weeks that I had taken off following my emergency C-section. I was being asked why I had not voted in a certain way or why I had not turned up for a certain meeting. Anyone who knows the constituents of Hampstead and Kilburn will know that they look up their Member’s voting record to see whether they have turned up to vote or not.”

The MP is now campaigning for a form of electronic voting to aid women who want to take longer periods of maternity leave but need to take part in votes of national importance.

She said that local Labour members and campaigners had always been aware that she might start a family soon after her election to parliament. “I had a lot of support from my constituency Labour party when I ran to be an MP. As I was a young woman, they thought that there was a chance I would have children. Questions were raised about that, but the chairman—David Queen, who sadly died a few weeks ago—was a real feminist. He said, “What is the problem if we have MPs who have children? It is good for the constituency.” He said that politicians with children apparently got more votes, although I do not know if that is true.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the baby whisperer

TULIP Siddiq said more home working could help MPs getting back into the job after childbirth.

She gave the example of a meeting she had with Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the charity worker being held in Iran, and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, at her home in Swiss Cottage.

“I had the meeting—with a tiny baby in my arms—with Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife had just been detained in Iran, and with the leader of the Labour party in the room. While I breastfed the baby, we discussed the Iranian authorities and the revolutionary guards, and talked about how we could get my constituent back into the country,” she said. “At one point, my baby was very unsettled but I had to take some important notes, so I said to my right honourable friend for Islington North: “Could you hold the baby for a bit while I write these notes?’ The baby had been quite unsettled, but for some reason, as soon as I handed her to him, she settled down and went to sleep.”

Jeremy Corbyn settles Azalea

Ms Siddiq added: “Perhaps there might be a kinder, gentler cuddling, which she preferred; I do not know what it was. That was a defining moment for me and my motherhood. Both the men in that room demonstrated a serious comradely spirit to me. They took the time to come to my house because I did not feel that I could leave it, and they did not bat an eyelid while I breastfed. That is the kind of ethos that we need to bring into this House, to show people that a female MP who has an urgent case involving a woman being detained in Iran can still fulfil her duties.”

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