This morning, on Facebook, I wrote,
I’m not sure why pregnant women are suddenly public social property, but I’m not taking it. I’m not the punchline in a social joke (“better sleep now! hahahaha!”) and I’m not in need of endless fearmongering ‘advice’. On a more positive note, feel free to ask how we’re feeling, if we’re excited, or scared, or tired, or inquire about our future plans, or share your experiences. But also accept that we may change the subject and protect our privacy. As we are entitled to do as autonomous human beings.
All of that was prompted by my friend Mary writing elsewhere that her sleep habits during her (difficult; hyperemetic) pregnancy aren’t really making her all that happy, and a couple of well-meaning and kind people immediately responding with variants on “sleep now! You’ll need it!”
First, I know those people don’t mean any harm. I know that. I believe that. But more than that, I’m pretty sure there’s not a pregnant woman in America who doesn’t know that having babies equals getting very little sleep. Because we aren’t stupid. We aren’t so hormone addled (though we are hormone addled) that we missed that particular memo. So you don’t actually need to say it as the reply to every single thing we say about being pregnant.
Because here’s the thing: when the default conversation around being pregnant comes back to trite and jokey comments about how shitty and hard having an infant is, it ignores and belittles the experience of being pregnant. A coworker said to me yesterday “I don’t know what happened to the Goddess cultures, but if we had it still we’d all acknowledge that you are doing and amazing and powerful thing right now”. She’s right. This being pregnant thing? Totally amazing. Fascinating. My body is constructing another human being while also maintaining all my life functions. And I can still think, walk, talk, love, live while it does it. Absolutely amazing. Also, exhausting.
And limiting our discussions with responses like “don’t forget your prenatal vitamins”, “stay away from deli meat!”, and “sleep now, the baby won’t let you later!” belittles and ignores the realities of pregnancy. It’s hard. It’s amazing. It’s exhausting. It’s wondrous. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating. It’s real, and messy, and true, and necessary, and interesting. It’s more than trite jokes at the expense of new mothers, and warnings about all the ways we might fuck up our children by eating a bite of the wrong food. Give us the respect of responding to what we’re saying with honest reactions, meaningful conversation, and useful stories, and we might have a really heartfelt and interesting conversation about this thing that some women experience, and the unique and personal things that make each woman’s experience different.
But whatever you do, skip the jokes at our expense.