When Paloma Faith found out she was pregnant in 2016 she had a romanticised view of parenthood.
“I was expecting it to be this glorious thing, becoming a mother,” says the singer. “It didn’t even come into my mind that there would be any risk.”
The reality was very different.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, Faith’s waters broke, but she didn’t go into labour – a condition called premature rupture of the membrane (Prom) – putting both her and her unborn child at risk of infection.
To protect them both, she was confined to bed for three weeks before her daughter was delivered, prematurely, by emergency caesarean.
“My child was actually fine, but I wasn’t,” she says. “I had a uterine infection, I had cystitis quite badly twice, to the point where I was convulsing, teeth chattering, high temperature. And I lost a lot of blood, as well.
“It was as close to death as I’d ever been.”
Determined to be the ideal mother, however, Faith played down her health problems.
“I was trying to be a hero and I didn’t get help,” she says
“I did all the nights myself and I didn’t get to recover, because I didn’t sleep, and then I got post-partum depression – so it was all pretty intense.”
Despite everything, Faith threw herself back into work, embarking on a nationwide arena tour while feeling “devastated and miserable”.
It didn’t help that, in an effort to shield her newborn child from the media, she declined to announce her name or to post family photographs online.
To some newspapers, that was a red rag. Tabloids ran stories saying Faith was raising her child to be gender-neutral, while the singer found herself stalked by paparazzi on the way to the playground.
With hindsight, she realises, “they’re more desperate to get pictures of you when you try to stop them”.
Slowly, however, life returned to normal. Faith’s partner, the artist Leyman Lahcine, put his work on hold to help at home; while the singer ended up having “one of her most successful years” in entertainment.
In 2017, she scored her first number one album, The Architect, joined the cast of Batman prequel Pennyworth, and sang on Sigala’s club hit Lullaby, which spent half a year on the charts.
“Do you know what’s mad about post-natal depression, though?” says Faith. “You spend all this time going, ‘Oh my God, I’m terrible at being a mother. I’m awful.’ Then you suddenly go, one day, ‘Oh, I’d like some more’.”
‘Take away the anxiety’
And so, last month, with her fifth album ready to drop, Faith had a surprise to share with her fans.
“It is with extreme pleasure I announce I am pregnant,” she wrote on Instagram. “This child is so wanted, it’s my 6th round of IVF and [it] was a struggle to get here.
“Being a mother is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, but I will swell up and I won’t ‘glow’!
“I intend,” she added, “to be very real about this with you all.”
It’s important to be honest about the next nine months, says Faith. Prom affects as many as one in 10 pregnancies; while post-natal depression hits a similar number of new mums.
“I want to be open about that and also take away some of the anxiety.”
Besides, with an album due in November and a tour tentatively scheduled for next year, keeping the pregnancy under wraps isn’t even an option.
“It’s going to be obvious that I’m pregnant – and I should really own it, rather than it be something that’s owned by a media that doesn’t necessarily have my best interests at heart.”
Faith’s candour extends to the lyrics on her album, Infinite Things. The title track was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, The Aleph, where one of the characters is granted the ability to see “one of the points in space” where “all the places of the world, seen from every angle, coexist”.
The singer saw a parallel between that idea of simultaneous multiple realities and parenthood – which is “as much about anguish and pain as it is about joy”.
“So it’s like a love song to her [Faith’s daughter] but it’s not sentimental – because it’s like she’s devastated me, and made me feel purposeful and full at the same time.
“That’s sort of what the whole album encompasses, in a way. I’m trying to relinquish the expectation, that a lot of people are raised with, that the only good life is a happy one.
“I don’t think that’s realistic. It’s about the peaks and troughs, because if you didn’t have one you wouldn’t recognise the other.”
Faith started work on Infinite Things last year, but ended up ditching the bulk of the material after Covid-19 struck. The new songs, which she wrote and recorded at home, are more contemplative and conflicted.
The otherworldly If This Is Goodbye grapples with loss and devastation; while Better Than This is a massive musical eye-roll at the state of political discourse.
“There’s so much vitriol and unnecessary anger,” sighs Faith. “Even discussing policy, they just get so personal. It’s just like, ‘I don’t like you’, ‘Well, I don’t like you back.’
“Are we going to discuss the actual problems? There’s no conversation, it’s all so divisive.”
But while there’s “lots of me singing to humanity,” Faith also wanted to experiment with the expectations of love songs.
“Everyone always writes about when they first met, or when they’re breaking up – and they never write about the type of love which is quite common, which is enduring love.
“So I decided to write a bit about that person that you get up with morning after morning, year after year, and go through your swings and roundabouts with, and you’re tied to each other.”
The positive side of that bond is explored on Supernatural, a twinkly, 80s-indebted pop stomper; while Me Time (a lockdown song if there ever was one) examines the “suffocating” experience of being locked up with your family in a “perpetual situation where there was just no variation and every day rolled into one”.
But the quarantine did deliver some positives. Without access to a proper studio, Faith produced her own material in the basement of her London townhouse, renting a microphone and teaching herself how to use production software.
The result, she says, is more intimate than her previous records.
“I think my voice sounds better,” she says, “and that’s a combination of the fact that I was producing the vocals myself, and also the lack of inhibition – because when you’re alone you take more risks, because you can delete it.
“Whereas when you’re in the studio with an engineer, you’re scared to because they never delete anything – even when you ask!”
Infinite Things will be released on 13 November by RCA Records. Tickets for Paloma Faith’s 2021 UK tour are on sale now.