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Pregnancy: show a little respect

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.

2 Comments

  1. Mary Carmen

    Hear! Hear! I kinda still don’t understand why pregnancy conversation tends to go the route that it does. Scott is constantly reminding me and commenting on the amazing thing that is happening inside me and if he doesn’t, the baby kicking like a champ is a great reminder of how incredibly amazing, bizarre, fascinating and unbelievable it is to be creating life.

    I wonder if people dispense well-meaning advice because we have such a blaming culture in many ways. Like, if something should go wrong with the pregnancy or the baby, there must be something that someone did to cause the problem. It could never just be that is what naturally happened. I think that is a hard pill to swallow–when there is no reason.

    I tend to take advice with a grain of salt. Women have been having babies forever without the insight and convenience of modern medicine and science that we have today. They ate what they wanted, drank what they wanted and did what needed to be done and the human race survived. Sometimes too much information is not a good thing.

    My original complaint/observation was more about how pregnancy is completely disrupting (in mostly good, but some bad ways). It affects every single aspect of your life and being and you are no longer in control….just kinda steering the ship while someone else navigates. A lot of what happens is expected, but a lot is quite surprising. I was more observing how things became so completely different so quickly and how it is a hard adjustment to make.

    But, once the baby started moving and becoming active regularly and I can see her responding to our voices and touch…it makes it all worth it and it is a very special, exciting and scary experience.

    Reply

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