Author: has written 10 posts for this blog.

Brigid is one of our 2012 roster of Guest Bloggers.
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88 Responses

  1. Laura Greenback
    Laura Greenback July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm |

    Why do you think the patriarchy is to blame? It seems like most people treat pregnant women this way because they’re just over-excited and a little clueless. Random people touching my belly sounds like my own personal hell, but I’m curious about your line of reasoning.

  2. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm |

    First of all, yay, a pregnancy post :)
    Secondly, I think it’s important to remember that a large part of the ‘gross’ factor springs from cultural attitudes to women’s bodies. Are maternity pads and lochia more or less gross than menstrual cups and period blood? Are softer, saggier boobs necessarily worse, or could another cultural perspective view them as more desirable? Are our anxieties about cleanliness and odours necessary, or a legacy of decades of savvy cosmetic company marketing? I’m not saying that the leakiness et al of maternal bodies is never shocking, unpleasant etc and it’s really ok to talk about how one feels about it all (more people should!) but I don’t think the ‘gross’ assessment stands up too well to feminist interrogation.

    As for pregnant bodies being public property – yes, that is the case and it’s awful. I had a waiter refuse to serve me rare steak. I had a woman question whether she should be selling me goddamn diet coke. And that was just policing from strangers — it can be far worse from people you know. And medical staff? Well.

    Pregnancy, having people handle your bump etc, can seem like just a warm up for how little your autonomy is respected during birth and the post-partum period.

    I personally think these are reasons for MOAR FEMINIST MOTHERS because, many voices = louder noise. But I totally get why anyone would be feeling anxious about the situation.

    The good news is that feminist and woman-centred parents, medical staff, doulas, midwives, breastfeeding counsellors, childbirth educators etc all exist and if you can find them, they can help navigate the bullshit.

  3. Jade
    Jade July 25, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    Hugs to you!

  4. Jade
    Jade July 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm |

    Well, (hopefully non-intrusive) e-hugs, that is. :)

  5. intrigued_newbie
    intrigued_newbie July 26, 2011 at 12:56 am |

    First time posting on the site… interesting perspective, but as the first commentor said how is there an example of patriarchy?

    Also, in regards to spilt milk, while being a male can’t ever exactly appreciate what it would be like to have someone refuse to sell me rare steak because I’m pregnant, why is it such an awful thing that the person so cares about your baby that they fear (rightly or wrongly) that rare steak may damage the baby? You surely wouldn’t object to them not serving you alcohol I hope? I don’t mean this as an attack, and personal freedom is an issue. I have somewhat strong libertarian tendencies so I hate having people impose their judgements (especially publicly) on others, but aren’t there cases where someone GENUINELY cares about the well-being of your unborn child being a sign of a society who cares about them?

  6. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused July 26, 2011 at 1:37 am |

    Shortly after I told my feminist, then happily child-free PhD advisor that I was pregnant, she nearly grabbed some camembert out of my hands and admonished me for thinking I could eat it. (in case others feel like criticizing me, I did my research and decided that for me soft cheeses were important enough to take the tiny risk).

    But I never had someone touch my belly unsolicited, which is almost too bad because I had planned lots of comebacks (including possibly grabbing their bodies right back). At grad school, I ONLY told my PhD supervisor, and it was funny when about 7 months in the lab secretary timidly broached the subject, saying she hadn’t asked before because people’s weight fluctuates.

    Honestly? People will be asses. Others will be wonderful. But whether to have a child, and then whether to grow that child within your own body, is something that you should TRY to decide based on things other than the asinine reactions of strangers.

  7. Gretchen
    Gretchen July 26, 2011 at 1:56 am |

    I’m getting to the point in my life where pregnancy is becoming a not so distant future possibility/plan and have really similar fears, so thanks for the post!! I’m not looking forward to all of the bodily changes and even more nervous about how my gestation experiences will become public property. I really don’t like being touched by strangers or even acquaintances, so the whole grab- the -pregnant -lady’s -belly, and general questions about boob leaks thing really freaks me out.

    I live in the middle-east, but am from the UK and have seen pregnant ladies be harassed by the touchy feely brigade, and the stream of completely personal questions by strangers- that would never dream of asking those same things to someone not pregnant.

    One of the things my husband and i were discussing was if it would be better for me to be pregnant here or back in the UK (a very privileged option, i’m aware), the whole NHS free healthcare provision is definitely a persuasive reality, but my main question was “how touchy are people here with pregnant women?” he said “not at all”, and that is a major deciding factor for me. The other bonus factor (for once) is my Arabic is only so-so, so even if people are discussing my body i’m unlikely to have a clue, which is also really appealing, NHS be damned!

  8. Marrrg
    Marrrg July 26, 2011 at 2:08 am |

    I had always wanted kids, but honestly when I got pregnant (on purpose) at 23, I had a hard time at first adjusting to the identity shift I experienced, going from “woman” to “mommy”. It was incredibly strange to say the least to imagine I was sharing my body with some other very small person. I refered to him as “the parasite” to jokingly ease the tension. But you know, after a few months I got used to it. There were a lot of very strange and uncomfortable things that went along with that pregnancy and after giving birth. At times I felt very embarassed because I was not married. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that it was so so worth it. I know have three kids, and I would go through a whole hell of a lot worse to have them again. So I guess my main point is, if you do ultimately want kids (or maybe even think you don’t), please do not let fear hold you back from the most satisfying experience that (at least in my opinion) one can have in life.

  9. Arlene
    Arlene July 26, 2011 at 2:24 am |

    All true, but its a matter of how you view it. From experience I can tell you that the belly touching is nothing in comparison to the postpartum “aren’t you smothering him” and all of the old and twisted fingers wanting to touch some of your babies lovely young skin, totally disregarding the fact that babies are real people and that their personal space should be respected. As far as pregnancy being gross – it could be viewed as that. It could also be viewed as completely wondrous. Miraculous, in fact. So what if the postpartum pads are huge? mostly you will be to worried about your bloating breast, which will completely nourish your creation to care about the how many square feet your pad is. People usually ask before they touch your belly, and although saying no is uncomfortable, it is an option. If people are rude enough to touch it without asking – well then you can just go hormonal on them, can’t you?
    Although adoption and having your partner carry the babies are viable options, don’t give up on being pregnant, just because you don’t want people to touch you, or think it might be gross.

  10. Dank
    Dank July 26, 2011 at 3:32 am |

    OP:
    Straight cis men don’t have to pretend it’s not an insult to be asked whose genetic material helped make their baby.

    It’s funny, because if you asked this same question to a straight cis man whose partner was pregnant, it would be one of the worst possible insults.

  11. Roisin
    Roisin July 26, 2011 at 4:30 am |

    One of the things my husband and i were discussing was if it would be better for me to be pregnant here or back in the UK (a very privileged option, i’m aware), the whole NHS free healthcare provision is definitely a persuasive reality, but my main question was “how touchy are people here with pregnant women?” he said “not at all”, and that is a major deciding factor for me.

    I live in the UK and I’m afraid I have to disagree. I gave birth a month ago and had months of people touching my belly, asking me questions and giving me unsolicited advice. It was mainly about my weight and how being so thin wasn’t good for the baby (I had sickness for the whole pregnancy).

    I have social anxiety and in the end I pretty much stopped leaving my house. It was a very unpleasant ten months for me. Now I have a baby it’s all comments about how big she is, whether she’s a boy because she’s not in pink (who knew white suit = boy?) and if she’s comfortable in the carrier I wear her in.

    Judgement happens to women anywhere sadly.

  12. damigiana
    damigiana July 26, 2011 at 5:40 am |

    Pregnancy may or may not squeak any given woman out, but it’s not per se gross. As mentioned before, it’s a natural process. It’s visible (more or less, depending on a number of factors) but the reason it makes your body public is that as a woman in patriarchy your body is public anyway (try and go around with unshaved legs/armpits/facial hair).

    Personally, I was surprised to find out I actually liked pregnancy: I felt physically better than ever before, enjoyed the lack of painful periods, and my sex drive went berserk.

    And I did choose which risks I wanted to run on the basis of reading the medical literature: I drank alcohol in moderation and kept doing a normal life (I don’t eat camembert anyway).

    Best of luck to you and your partner, whatever you decide to do, and best wishes to everybody to have kids when and if they want them.

  13. chava
    chava July 26, 2011 at 5:44 am |

    Yeah, I’m not super down with the idea that pregnant/maternal bodies are “gross,” either. I think our bodies doing things outside of our control is scary, can be unpleasant, painful and shocking–sometimes fatal. But to label that “gross” plays right into the narrative that any expression of female bodies that doesn’t fit into the patriarchy narrative of appropriate womanhood is, well, disgusting. Women musn’t menstruate, we musn’t smell, vomit, shit, etc. Otherwise we’re gross.

  14. chava
    chava July 26, 2011 at 5:44 am |

    patriarchAL narrative. I fail the internetz.

  15. Meghan
    Meghan July 26, 2011 at 6:09 am |

    It doesn’t stop once you have the baby either. You’ll get approving or disapproving stares based on how fast you lose the baby weight (or get back to looking “thin”). If you use any non-mainstream parenting you’ll get comments (I’ve gotten comments for cloth diapers, breastfeeding, and babywearing – the worst offenders are family members).

    I understand that children are the next generation, and maybe some people are commenting from a good place. But, really, unless they offer to help me (either in the moment or a real offer for later), I wish they wouldn’t.

    When my baby was really little (about 12 weeks), and crying I had a man say, “you shouldn’t let her cry like that, my wife never let our babies cry.” I was actively trying to calm to her down…

    Okay this is now off topic, Sorry.

  16. scrumby
    scrumby July 26, 2011 at 6:37 am |

    I think pregnancy is gross, menstruation too. What kills me is the “unspeakable nastiness” reaction. Changing a tampon is no worse than cutting up a chicken or cleaning the gunk out of a clogged drain. Organic matter is often icky but pretending that I my flesh has to be presented as some sort of sterile vessel while you bite into a hotdog is beyond immature.

    Pregnancy freaks me out because there’s something growing inside you. I am a benevolent landlord to the flora in my gut and no one else.

  17. Emily
    Emily July 26, 2011 at 6:50 am |

    For me one of the most difficult things about pregnancy is the body changes. It’s like suddenly being 12 again. Very disconcerting for someone whose body has been relatively stable/slow changing for over 10 years. I hated the early part where I KNEW my body was different, but everyone was all “oh you don’t look pregnant at all!”. “you look the same.” I personally wanted to yell “I do not! I am not the same!”. Once I was really showing I was actually more comfortable with my body.

  18. MH
    MH July 26, 2011 at 7:00 am |

    While I agree that there are all kinds of inappropriate responses to pregnancy, and that many of them are tied up with how our society responds to women, I far prefer the touchy-feely-belly version than the locked-up-in-a-room-for-the-duration version that was common not too, too long ago.

    The thing is, pregnancy is inherently social. Even if you GET pregnant all by yourself with a syringe, eventually there is another person involved (and their presence and preferences become known well before birth, let me tell you!) Motherhood is tough, and you need a support network – and some (admittedly, probably a minority) of the people asking questions are doing so because they want to offer support, and sadly our culture hasn’t really hashed out a graceful way to do so.

    Yes, you’ll have assholes telling you what to eat, or telling you to put hats on your sweltering infant, or whatever. Call people on it, and stand your ground – if for no other reason than that you’re going to need the practice in setting boundaries, believe me.

  19. Miki Mouse
    Miki Mouse July 26, 2011 at 7:34 am |

    I’m currently 39 weeks pregnant and understand completely what the OP is saying. It’s not just about rude people judging you on what you eat etc (I had a pregnant high school student chastise me for drinking a cup of coffee) but even just the questions you find people asking you and the medical information that just isn’t private anymore. I’m an abnormally open person so it really hasn’t bothered me, but I can totally understand how lots of women would be freaked out by it (for example, I was describing what my midwife said about my cervix during my internal exam last week to some of my close family–not a normal conversation topic)
    The OP also never said that pregnant women are gross, or being pregnant is gross. She said that parts of pregnancy are gross, which I really don’t think anyone can deny. Yes it is a natural thing, but so is diarrhea and we’re allowed to think that is gross. Speaking of, two gross things that I potentially can look forward to in the next week are diarrhea and later pooping myself in front of a room of people! (women often get diarrhea shortly before labour starts due to hormones, so I will be quite excited about it if it does happen–and I can admit, that’s pretty gross!! lol)

  20. Bridget
    Bridget July 26, 2011 at 7:42 am |

    I’m with Emily about the body changes. I guess I never thought what I looked like was quite as important to me as it turned out to be…I’m not happy about it, but it’s hard to resist those feelings. I’m going to have my baby any day now and one of the things that scares me is what my body will look like after that. I wish it wasn’t important to me, but apparently it is :(

    I will say, I haven’t had anyone touch me without asking first! And those who asked were friends, not strangers. I did have a guy in the checkout line at Whole Foods tell me “You should take it easy with the coffee, you know,” when he saw me holding a coffee cup (which, as I informed him, was decaf). And a Starbucks barista thanked me for ordering decaf once. Ha.

  21. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date July 26, 2011 at 7:46 am |

    Yes, you’ll have assholes telling you what to eat, or telling you to put hats on your sweltering infant, or whatever. Call people on it, and stand your ground – if for no other reason than that you’re going to need the practice in setting boundaries, believe me.

    This.

    Plus, also, if you can avoid telling people you’re pregnant until well into your pregnancy, there will only be several months for people to be interested in your interesting condition.

    In my experience (of wanted, planned pregnancies), pregnancy is definitely a lot of work, labor is labor, and things do not magically go back to pre-pregnancy conditions two days post-partum. But gross? I don’t ever remember thinking that it was gross.

  22. Florence
    Florence July 26, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    Spilt Milk: As for pregnant bodies being public property – yes, that is the case and it’s awful. I had a waiter refuse to serve me rare steak. I had a woman question whether she should be selling me goddamn diet coke. And that was just policing from strangers — it can be far worse from people you know. And medical staff? Well.

    Ha. At 38 weeks pregnant and counting, I either ask folks whether or not they’re my doctor, or threaten to take a shot of vodka for every piece of unsolicited advice.

    chava: But to label that “gross” plays right into the narrative that any expression of female bodies that doesn’t fit into the patriarchy narrative of appropriate womanhood is, well, disgusting. Women musn’t menstruate, we musn’t smell, vomit, shit, etc. Otherwise we’re gross.

    This, and also what Emily said. It’s disconcerting to see your body changing in some ways in part because you have no control over it. Generally, if I don’t want to gain weight, I can diet or exercise. Generally, I have control of my urinary continence. Generally, my boobs are size X and unchanging. Generally, I don’t retain extra volumes of blood and water below the waist. I think some reports of the changes that the body goes through during pregnancy are overstated due to the novelty of it, and truth be told, many of these things are manageable in the temporary period.

    [The only caveat I have to add to this side-topic is that for those of us who have experienced sexual or bodily trauma, this lack of control can almost take you out of your body at times during and immediately after the pregnancy. Be on the lookout for “blues” or depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy. The hormonal flux can make you experience those old feelings and traumas when they surface very intensely, and sometimes this is harmful and sometimes it is healing. For me, pregnancy has been mostly healing, but I will admit to having extreme apprehension around breastfeeding and childbirthing in general due to bodily shame born from trauma, and nothing rational, statistical, or therapeutic has been able to budge it.]

    Anyway, there’s a lot of commentary around pregnancy and the body, and what I’ve found is that it’s a time for most of the women I know to share their own birthing stories and to reminisce about that era in their lives, to remember their children when they were infants, and even to remember their own mothers, daughters, grandmothers, etc. Sometimes it’s oppressive, yes, especially when you’re apprehensive and have heard the ultimate horror story for the umpteenth time. But otherwise, it’s really quite beautiful to be a part of it.

    Outside of it, if pregnancy isn’t your thing, absolutely do not feel pressured to carry a pregnancy to term. And if you do feel pressured, run in the opposite direction. Time and time again, I hear women saying that it was their experience as a pregnant person that radicalized her feminism and brought home the gravity of the need for true bodily autonomy. This is my experience as well.

  23. Florence
    Florence July 26, 2011 at 7:59 am |

    Bridget: I’m going to have my baby any day now

    Pregnant lady high five!

    and one of the things that scares me is what my body will look like after that. I wish it wasn’t important to me, but apparently it is :(

    During my first pregnancy, this was a major issue for me. But with some mild exercise and my usual (crap) diet, I got back to my old self with some minor tweaks within the year. My breasts were different, mostly just softer and not as dense. My feet were a little bigger. My hips were wider in a pleasant way. I had some stretch marks, but they faded and at this point are largely invisible. It’s going to depend on your genetics a lot too, so I’d talk to bio-family ladies if they’re around to see how they changed through the course of pregnancy.

  24. W
    W July 26, 2011 at 8:16 am |

    Dank: It’s funny, because if you asked this same question to a straight cis man whose partner was pregnant, it would be one of the worst possible insults.

    Um…yes. That is what she said. She said straight men don’t have to PRETEND it’s not an INSULT. The implication is that it IS an insult, and that lesbians are expected to assume people are just being harmlessly curious, whereas straight men can call it like it is and say “That’s offensive”.

  25. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    An alternate view… a while ago, a friend of mine who was pregnant posted a small and completely understandable rant on Facebook in regards to people bugging her to post “Belly pics” along the lines of “When the rest of the world is ready to display their stomachs for the world to see, then I’ll think about it”.

    So, because I’m an asshole sometimes, I decided to take a picture of my not-so-pregnant-just-kind-of-chubby-belly and post it with a caption of “One down, 5,999,999,999 to go”.

    Well, she got a good laugh out of it and made reference to the belly touching thing.. people would ask if they could touch her belly and she would respond “Only if I can touch yours”. She then went on to say “I feel like I’m offending people but I don’t know. Maybe it offends me that you won’t rub me up when I’m not pregnant, lol”

  26. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 8:43 am |

    Okay that was more a cute anecdote than an alternate viewpoint. Need more coffee.

  27. evil fizz
    evil fizz July 26, 2011 at 9:03 am | *

    why is it such an awful thing that the person so cares about your baby that they fear (rightly or wrongly) that rare steak may damage the baby? You surely wouldn’t object to them not serving you alcohol I hope? I don’t mean this as an attack, and personal freedom is an issue. I have somewhat strong libertarian tendencies so I hate having people impose their judgements (especially publicly) on others, but aren’t there cases where someone GENUINELY cares about the well-being of your unborn child being a sign of a society who cares about them?

    This is some pretty convoluted libertarian theory you’ve got working there. In fact, it’s pretty much paternalism incarnate. I’m glad some people feel that their genuine concern is something I should entertain. But, they’re not me, they’re not my family, they’re not my doctor or any other sort of figure who it would be appropriate to engage with me on my health choices.

    I would certainly object to being refused alcohol service by some restaurant employee who thinks they know better than me. Criminalizing the behavior of pregnant women has a truly noxious history in this country and I think you (as an uninvolved member of the public) have to leave women alone.

  28. evil fizz
    evil fizz July 26, 2011 at 9:08 am | *

    in regards to people bugging her to post “Belly pics”

    I can’t be the only person who’s unsettled by belly pics, right? (And here I refer specifically to pictures of the belly where the rest of the woman’s body isn’t visible.) It comes off as this incredible reduction of a woman to her pregnancy rather than a celebration of the awesomeness of pregnancy (which is what I *hope* people are going for).

  29. Natalia
    Natalia July 26, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    I’m going to have my baby any day now and one of the things that scares me is what my body will look like after that.

    It all depends. A lot of this stuff is just genetics at work. It’s all individual and you never know what you will look like – or how much you may or may not like it. I gave birth last week – I do NOT look like my old self, but neither do I look bad. Belly gone, boobs ginormous. Now only if my back didn’t feel like SCREAMING DEATH…

    Also, I’ve *personally* discovered that caring for a newborn means that IDGAF about a LOT of things right now. Well, except for catching up with “True Blood” and filing my articles on time. Obviously.

    And while there are lots of great reasons for pregnancy to be unappealing — parts of pregnancy are just gross, and that’s life — I haven’t been able to figure out to my satisfaction why it’s so unappealing to me.

    Eh. The gross stuff will allow you to laugh at yourself more.

    Also, don’t take one woman’s experience for the Holy Gospel. Some of this stuff is very individual (smelling like soup) and other stuff is pretty basic (lochia! SO much fun!), but you and only YOU will know how to relate to it all should you wind up pregnant/a new mom at any point in time.

    A lot of people treated my body as public property during pregnancy. I shrugged it off. Or yelled at them. Or blogged about it.

    It ultimately just comes down to what you want and what you need. Social disapproval is one thing. Physical restrictions on you are tougher. I’ve been VERY lucky with my doctors so far (and hope to have an article coming out about that soon!) and Spilt Milk is right – the property question is especially salient when it comes to the medical establishment and how women fit into all that. Comments by friends are just the tip of the iceberg.

  30. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 9:18 am |

    evil fizz:
    in regards to people bugging her to post “Belly pics”

    I can’t be the only person who’s unsettled by belly pics, right?(And here I refer specifically to pictures of the belly where the rest of the woman’s body isn’t visible.)It comes off as this incredible reduction of a woman to her pregnancy rather than a celebration of the awesomeness of pregnancy (which is what I *hope* people are going for).

    It IS unsettling.. I like a lot of full body pregnancy shots, because after decades of having the pregnant body hidden and shunned, it’s kind of nice to see it celebrated, but yeah, celebrate the WHOLE woman and her experience. She’s a person, not a walking incubator.

  31. Anon21
    Anon21 July 26, 2011 at 9:25 am |

    Roisin: I live in the UK and I’m afraid I have to disagree. I gave birth a month ago and had months of people touching my belly, asking me questions and giving me unsolicited advice. It was mainly about my weight and how being so thin wasn’t good for the baby (I had sickness for the whole pregnancy).

    No, I think you misunderstood Gretchen. She’s talking about people not being touchy in the Middle East, where she lives now. The (known) touchiness of British people is counted as a point against moving back to the UK to take advantage of NHS care.

  32. Florence
    Florence July 26, 2011 at 9:28 am |

    evil fizz: This is some pretty convoluted libertarian theory you’ve got working there. In fact, it’s pretty much paternalism incarnate. I’m glad some people feel that their genuine concern is something I should entertain. But, they’re not me, they’re not my family, they’re not my doctor or any other sort of figure who it would be appropriate to engage with me on my health choices.

    Ha, no kidding. I wonder whether the pregnancy concern trolls are also after parents who feed their toddlers hot dogs (choking hazard!) or peanut butter before the age of one. Oh, no? They aren’t? So they’re just interested in questioning pregnant women about their dietary habits? HMM INTERESTING.

  33. Bridget
    Bridget July 26, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    Thanks Florence and Natalia (and congrats, Natalia)!

  34. Michelle
    Michelle July 26, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    My fears about pregnancy would have read much like this post prior to being pregnant (I gave birth four months ago). I would say that none of these incidents happened to me – no policing of my intake or touching my body.

    Something I haven’t seen discussed here though is the bonding aspect of pregnancy. When it is a wanted pregnancy, and you are carrying and interacting with the fetus as though it’s a future child, the time that you spend watching it grow, being the only one to interact with him/her, counting its movements, and seeing how it responds to different food intake, etc. while you carry it in your body is a bonding experience that while not necessary, was greather than any other relationship experience in my life (until the child was actually born). Then the experience of birth, where he (I had a son) comes out of your body and you get those first few days of life… I would have adopted had it been necessary to have children. But I would not choose adoption first, without ever experiencing pregnancy, because that was an experience that cannot be replaced with anything else, and certainly outweighed bodily fluids and the fear of what other people would say to me.

  35. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 10:14 am |

    Florence: Ha, no kidding.I wonder whether the pregnancy concern trolls are also after parents who feed their toddlers hot dogs (choking hazard!) or peanut butter before the age of one. Oh, no? They aren’t? So they’re just interested in questioning pregnant women about their dietary habits? HMM INTERESTING.

    Oh.. they’re around. Believe me. They’re around.

  36. Laurie
    Laurie July 26, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    Great post! After about 10 years of soul-searching on my part, my husband and I finally decided to try to have a baby at the ripe old age of 40. I just underwent my second IUI (due to my husband’s infertility), and am waiting to find out if it worked.

    My own deep ambivalence stemmed from the same cultural attitudes described by Brigid. I was less concerned about being treated paternalistically during pregnancy (though that is a concern). My main concern is, however, a product of the same kind of thinking — the noxious, judgmental, and critical attitude towards mothers in our culture. Professionally-minded working mothers are vilified, as are stay-at-home mothers. You are expected to be super-involved with your kids, but you mustn’t fall into the trap of being a helicopter mommy. In some circles, you are bad and abnormal if you don’t have kids or have only one; in other circles, you are immorally contributing to the degradation of the planet if you reproduce biologically rather than adopting. The culture at large also places the responsibility and blame for child-rearing on the mother, exponentially more so than on the father. Working mothers can face skepticism on the job — and then there is the fear of not being able to negotiate an equitable division of labor at home. My major fears were being stuck with all the scut work, taking the professional hit, and then being blamed all the time for being a crappy mother. The whole project just seems too fraught with anxiety in our culture.

    Over the years, I have truly reveled in the autonomy and equality I enjoy with men as a professional woman. I have to pinch myself sometimes, because it is truly amazing how far some women (generally privileged women, admittedly) have been able to progress professionally and the degree of respect we enjoy socially and professionally compared to what my mother and her peers went through not so long ago. But over the years, I have come to realize that in many ways I am still a second class citizen compared to my male peers. The decision to have a child is much more difficult and fraught with anxiety than for them — and not only because of the biology of it, but because of the way mothers are treated. Yes, the guys I work with generally do pitch in and structure their work lives around their kids to a degree far greater than my father’s generation of men — but still, the social perils and the judgment they face are still substantially less than what I face. My husband’s attitude is, “Of course, we should have kids. We’ll take it one day at a time, it will work out.” But I feel that I am the one on the firing line of social expectation, not he. It’s no coincidence that all the men I work with have 2 or more children and none of the women have any.

    But finally I have said, “Screw it. I’ll go through the IUI process and let the chips fall where they may. If all the guys I work with can take parenthood for granted, why can’t I?” And now that I’ve made the decision (finally), I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve enjoyed the major shift in perception in thinking of myself as possibly a mother, including the excitement of possibly bearing so much responsibility (jointly with my husband) for another human being. And although I don’t harbor any mystical, “woo woo” attitudes towards female physiology, and yes, I think many aspects of pregnancy and childbirth are “gross,” contemplating the stages of pregnancy and childbirth has given me a new appreciation for my body. (FWIW, I think sweating is “gross” too, but I still appreciate athletic endeavor. I don’t think it’s necessarily anti-woman to find bodily fluids generally off-putting.) And while I appreciate that our planet is overpopulated with billions of people, I can’t help but feel excited about personally creating a new life; and while I attend to eschew irrational mysticism, in this case, I can’t help but be taken with that primal feeling of power the possibility of pregnancy has given me.

    So anyway, long story short, I can relate to the apprehensions and fear that Brigid describes. It is ironic to me that we women are often under so much pressure to reproduce, even as our culture seems to make motherhood as unappealing as possible.

  37. Laurie
    Laurie July 26, 2011 at 11:44 am |

    Also, in regards to spilt milk, while being a male can’t ever exactly appreciate what it would be like to have someone refuse to sell me rare steak because I’m pregnant, why is it such an awful thing that the person so cares about your baby that they fear (rightly or wrongly) that rare steak may damage the baby? You surely wouldn’t object to them not serving you alcohol I hope?

    I feel compelled to join in Evil Fizz’s answer to this. It is massively insulting for a stranger, like a restaurant server, to presume that he cares more or knows more about what is best for a woman and the fetus she is carrying than she does. For example, I would object most strenuously if a server refused to serve me alcohol during pregnancy. The studies I have read indicate that moderate alcohol consumption has no effect on fetal health, and in fact, one study shows that babies of mothers who have 1-2 drinks a week during pregnancy actually fare better than the babies of teetotallers. Chances are, the stranger on the street has not thought or studied as much or as deeply about the risks and trade-offs of a particular activity than the pregnant woman herself. It is paternalistic and insulting to assume the pregnant woman doesn’t know what she is doing.

    This kind of behavior also creates a culture of control over pregnant women and their bodies. This can range from social control (“Do you really think you should be having that glass of wine/playing that game of baseball/entering that place with cigarette smoke, etc. etc. etc.”) to actually arresting pregnant women for child endangerment. It bears noting that there is an endless list of things that someone somewhere thinks a pregnant woman shouldn’t do. It is not okay for strangers (or friends, or really anyone other than those whose advice a pregnant woman solicits) to weigh in on how a pregnant woman should live her life. The idea that the Nosey Parker Waiter really, really, really cares about the “unborn child” doesn’t make it okay for him to interfere in a pregnant woman’s decisions about her body and her baby.

    It also bears noting that when a woman is pregnant, the fetus is not the only one affected by her decisions. The woman is still important too! Yes, a woman can choose follow every existing pregnancy guideline to the letter (although some may be contradictory, so maybe it is an impossible task). But a lot of us may undergo a cost-benefit analysis and make decisions about what, on balance, will be best for both ourselves and the fetus. For example, I intend to stay in my high-stress job. Even though stress is not ideal for a developing fetus, it is more important that I nurture my career and keep my income than it is to have the absolutely ideal, encased in bubble wrap, pregnancy. Another person might occasionally choose to indulge in Camembert or have a glass of wine or whatever. Women who make these kinds of decisions do not need others injecting themselves into this kind of personal weighing of costs and benefits.

  38. Lucy Gillam
    Lucy Gillam July 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    Ha, no kidding.I wonder whether the pregnancy concern trolls are also after parents who feed their toddlers hot dogs (choking hazard!) or peanut butter before the age of one. Oh, no? They aren’t? So they’re just interested in questioning pregnant women about their dietary habits? HMM INTERESTING.

    Oh, they do that, too, if the parent in question is mom. Nothing mom does is ever right. Dad, OTOH, gets Klondike bars for changing a single diaper.

    And yes, btw, I very much WOULD object to someone refusing to sell me alcohol because I was pregnant. There is no evidence that one glass of wine every so often while pregnant is at all damaging, and even if it were, I object to a stranger making those decisions for me.

  39. Laurie
    Laurie July 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm |

    I understand that in many parts of Europe, it is perfectly normal for pregnant women to drink a glass of wine every so often, or even regularly. In fact, the evidence regarding the dangers of alcohol consumption relate to very high levels of consumption. The problem is that no one has defined exactly what level of consumption is safe, versus unsafe, so a lot of pregnancy guidelines advise no alcohol consumption ever during pregnancy.

    Typically, Americans have a Puritantical, perfectionistic, all-or-nothing attitude that tends to demand perfect compliance with avoiding anything that could under certain circumstances be potentially unsafe.

  40. Ismone
    Ismone July 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    intrigued_newbie,

    Yeah, first of all, most of the people who offer that sort of advice don’t know what they are talking about.

    And second of all, some women who look pregnant either miscarried or just gave birth. I lost a pregnancy at about 9 weeks (although it was a missed miscarriage, so I didn’t learn until 12-13 weeks), and I still looked pregnant. I cannot imagine the rage and tears that would have resulted if someone had tried not to serve me coffee or alcohol. I fucking needed it. (And I am not a public crier, but hormones OMFG.) Fortunately, I wasn’t that obviously pregnant, so the only person who noticed and said anything to me about it was a marshal at a courthouse. I asked if I could sit in a chair near the guard station (wasn’t sure if it were reserved for some purpose) and he said, sure, anyone in a mommy shirt can sit wherever she wants. Fortunately, my hearing isn’t great, so I didn’t register what he said until later, and no crying ensued.

    In short, wrong. Wrong answer.

  41. Azalea
    Azalea July 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    intrigued_newbie:
    You surely wouldn’t object to them not serving you alcohol I hope? I don’t mean this as an attack, and personal freedom is an issue. I have somewhat strong libertarian tendencies so I hate having people impose their judgements (especially publicly) on others, but aren’t there cases where someone GENUINELY cares about the well-being of your unborn child being a sign of a society who cares about them?

    If a woman wants to drink while pregnant, it has been argued here that it would be wrong to say anything to her about it, her body her choice.

  42. Ismone
    Ismone July 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    Oh, and also, you know what is universally bad for pregnant women? Elevated cortisol levels, caused by stress, caused by EVERYONE TELLING THE PREGNANT WOMAN WHAT TO DO.

    You probably harm the pregnancy more by pissing off the mom then you do by serving her that steak. Also, cortisol depresses the immune system.

  43. Azalea
    Azalea July 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    Andie: It IS unsettling.. I like a lot of full body pregnancy shots, because after decades of having the pregnant body hidden and shunned, it’s kind of nice to see it celebrated, but yeah, celebrate the WHOLE woman and her experience.She’s a person, not a walking incubator.

    SO how do you feel about sonograms? A picture of *just* the fetus inside the uterus.

  44. Florence
    Florence July 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    Azalea: SO how do you feel about sonograms? A picture of *just* the fetus inside the uterus.

    CREEPY.

    LOL, I had one of those late-term 3D sonograms, and it freaked me out so much that I kind of which I hadn’t. The baby’s face looks all muddled and squishy in there.

    /tangent

  45. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    Azalea: SO how do you feel about sonograms? A picture of *just* the fetus inside the uterus.

    A sonogram picture is a little different.. it’s a focus on the fetus as a separate entity. Taking a sonogram photograph (depending on the context) doesn’t reduce a woman’s worth to a single body part.

  46. Azalea
    Azalea July 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm |

    Florence: CREEPY.

    LOL, I had one of those late-term 3D sonograms, and it freaked me out somuch that I kind of which I hadn’t. The baby’s face looks all muddled and squishy in there.

    /tangent

    I *wanted* a 3-D sono but I thought it was creepy, not because the idea of the picture itself was creepy but we would see his face one second and when she went to take the picture he’d move and his butt was on the screen. lol something about having my son’s framed fetal booty on the mantle just said “weird.” I found it safer to take take pictures of my belly because then we could just assume he was facing the camera.

  47. Kris
    Kris July 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    I have mixed feelings about this. When I was pregnant, I got so damn tired of the incessant questions. I actually didn’t get much touching, but I dreaded being around strangers because I don’t like being asked personal questions by people I don’t know, and my visible pregnancy was always a talking point. I joked about getting a t-shirt made that said “I’m pregnant, my due date is 9/24, and we don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.” My doctor assured me that caffeine in moderation was fine, but I got constant dirty looks when I drank coffee.

    HOWEVER…. now that I’m a parent, I understand it, to some degree. I think the motivating factor is that adults as a community are generally interested in and protective of small children (not every adult, but many). There have been a couple of times when my son has been helped by a kind stranger, and I’ve done the same when I’ve seen a toddler about to fall or run out of a playground or whatever. There is this feeling of community oversight for all children that I think is really, really positive even if it can sometimes be intrusive. I would rather tolerate the excessive interest of strangers in my belly bump/baby/toddler and the personal questions and even the busybody “are you sure you should be drinking that?” questions, if it means that those same strangers will automatically keep an extra eye on my son when we’re out and about.

  48. Kris
    Kris July 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm |

    Laurie:
    I understand that in many parts of Europe, it is perfectly normal for pregnant women to drink a glass of wine every so often, or even regularly.In fact, the evidence regarding the dangers of alcohol consumption relate to very high levels of consumption.The problem is that no one has defined exactly what level of consumption is safe, versus unsafe, so a lot of pregnancy guidelines advise no alcohol consumption ever during pregnancy.

    Typically, Americans have a Puritantical, perfectionistic, all-or-nothing attitude that tends to demand perfect compliance with avoiding anything that could under certain circumstances be potentially unsafe.

    So so true….. in fact my OB suggested occasionally having one glass of wine or beer because it’s a good stress-reliever, and that there is absolutely no evidence that small amounts of alcohol have ever been associated with problems.

  49. Jadey
    Jadey July 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    @ Kris

    Right, but what if you were out having lunch with your child and a stranger came by and said, “No, I don’t think he should be eating that” and “are you sure he’s old enough to use a knife” or “I’m just going to put some sunscreen on him” or similar concern trolling or intrusiveness? There’s helping and then there’s helping. Invasions of privacy and excessive and misinformed judgements about parents’ choices don’t help, and I think we can do away with that without also doing away with people continuing to make genuinely helpful interventions in a potential crisis moment (says someone whose 8-year-old life was saved by an observant stranger in a pool).

  50. Roisin
    Roisin July 26, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Anon21: No, I think you misunderstood Gretchen. She’s talking about people not being touchy in the Middle East, where she lives now. The (known) touchiness of British people is counted as a point against moving back to the UK to take advantage of NHS care.

    You’re right, apologies. I read it as “there”… I blame a month of sleep deprivation! :)

  51. Spilt Milk
    Spilt Milk July 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    @Kris I don’t see it that way. I guess I’d prefer support for my parenting to take the form of *support* — how can I help you? What do you need? Rather than be expressed as a kind of ownership of my fetus/child and therefore have people feeling entitled to act like they know better than I. It’s paternalistic.

    I get what you mean about concern/involvement from others and when that’s offered from a position of honest concern and honoring of mine and my child’s personhood, I love it pretty hard. Often I don’t get that though, and the experience is more akin to being policed or concern trolled. My kid cried A LOT as a baby, and I so wish I had a dollar for every time someone came over to tell me what I should/shouldn’t be doing, or even to say ‘your baby is crying’ when I was actively working to comfort her! The people who asked what help I needed or offered emotional support were in the minority I’m afraid.

    Sorry this is an epic comment but I also just wanted to say — bodily changes in pregnancy can be discombobulating. My pro-choice convictions were strengthened even further by pregnancy because it’s an experience Ican’t even imagine enduring against my will, but because I very much wanted it, I was able to embrace it. Not everyone enjoys pregnancy, for sure, but most ppl find it at least has some redeeming features.

  52. Laurie
    Laurie July 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    My pro-choice convictions were strengthened even further by pregnancy because it’s an experience Ican’t even imagine enduring against my will, but because I very much wanted it, I was able to embrace it.

    Yes, yes, and yes! I have had some people in my life who have said, “I guess you’ll have to re-think your stance on your abortion now that you are trying to have a baby.” And I’m like, “Huh??? It’s the opposite.” The more I read about potential restrictions on my diet and lifestyle, the many at-times debilitating symptoms of pregnancy, the changes I can expect to my body, the risks, the complications, not to mention the experience of labor and delivery itself, the more I am convinced that this should never be forced on anyone who doesn’t want it.

  53. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    I have to object to the idea that 1-2 drinks per week during pregnancy can be better for a fetus than drinking 0 drinks per week during pregnancy. Individual OBs have differing opinions on whether alcohol is harmful during pregnancy, but Fetal Alcohol Syndrome does exist.

  54. Jadey
    Jadey July 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    tinfoil hattie:
    I have to object to the idea that 1-2 drinks per week during pregnancy can be better for a fetus than drinking 0 drinks per week during pregnancy.Individual OBs have differing opinions on whether alcohol is harmful during pregnancy, but Fetal Alcohol Syndrome does exist.

    But that sounds like you’re assuming an exact 1-1 ratio of molecule of alcohol to degree of harm to the foetus, where any consumption causes some harm. It’s true that *no* alcohol consumption makes the issue of FASD moot, but it seems that there is a threshold for harm and that some levels of alcohol consumption will not cross it.

    Also, there are multiple consequences of alcohol consumption – if stress relief is one and stress is also harmful to foetuses than it is plausible that a certain amount of alcohol consumption could sometimes be more helpful than none. (Again, assuming those relationships hold true, which I don’t personally have the research to speak to, but the logic is sound.) We consume chemicals all the time that have ameliorative effects providing they don’t exceed certain levels (the exact threshold for which might depend on the individual).

  55. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm |

    TW for suicidal thoughts

    Jadey: Also, there are multiple consequences of alcohol consumption – if stress relief is one and stress is also harmful to foetuses than it is plausible that a certain amount of alcohol consumption could sometimes be more helpful than none.

    This is how I justified the occasional cigarette during my second pregnancy, which was stressful as shit seeing as the ex and I were splitting up.

    In the long run, I figured having a cigarette to calm myself would do less damage to my daughter than throwing myself into oncoming traffic (a thought which occasionally crossed my mind) would have.

    Am I proud? Nope. But at the time I had to do some risk assessment.

  56. Jadey
    Jadey July 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    @ Andie

    *hug* Otherwise known as choices made in real life. I’m glad you’re still around to talk about it.

  57. Andie
    Andie July 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    @ Jadey

    Thanks :-) Me too.

  58. Brenda
    Brenda July 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm |

    This is just to say that I might love Laurie just a little. No one has so succinctly and wonderfully stated most of my fears and concerns about having a child in one wonderful post.
    Thank you so very much.

  59. Bunny
    Bunny July 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm |

    There are many, many reasons not to judge on a pregnant woman consuming something you might not think she should be having. First and foremost is, obviously, it is her body, her pregnancy, you know nothing about it and it is none of your business.

    But then there are other details in there, too. For example, I found the above comment about refusing to serve a pregnant lady a rare steak really surprising. I (having elected not to have children) had no idea rare meat was a risk factor. Especially considering that my mum had a pregnancy-long constant, insatiable craving for raw meat. She has told me more than once about standing in the kitchen, chopping beef up for dinner and popping raw, bloody lumps into her mouth like they were crisps.

  60. Kate
    Kate July 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm |

    The thoughts in the article are really familiar to me – they’re thoughts I’ve had a lot. In the last year I’ve entered a committed relationship with someone who has two older kids and is Done – that in combination with my own ambivalence means I’ve happily settled into the decision that I will probably never be pregnant.

    I hate, though, that that seems to put me in the ‘anti-babies’ camp. I get the ‘you can’t understand’ camp – sure, I can’t. I can listen and empathise, but it’s a bodily experience. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to add. Babies and children and pregnancy and parenthood are all awesome things, and I hate that not choosing them seems to mean that I hate these things.

    Anyway, all that is to say, I think there is a place for the non-pregnant and the non-mothers in this. Someone I work with has just gone on maternity leave, and there were a few times when I’ve helped her change the subject when people crossed her boundaries. I’m not very close to her, so I didn’t feel ok confronting those people for her, but I have done so in the past for my pregnant friends. Because it’s not about ME, I can make it abstract. Generalisation, but I find that the people who are doing things like touching people without asking, or judging food choices, are thinking in the abstract anyway. They are not thinking about the parent as a person, but as a womb pod, so the argument can usefully be about studies of FOE and theories of bodily autonomy, rather than about this glass of wine right here. I only do this with people I’m close with – I don’t want to speak for people who want to speak for themselves. But there are other ways that the non-pregnant can offer support, that go beyond ‘don’t be a dickhead yourself’.

    And yes, people may genuinely care about that child and be concerned. That’s great. But it doesn’t mean they get to step in. If they ARE going to come around and cook dinner for the pregnant person, AND offer to babysit every night for the next ten years, THEN they might get to choose what that person eats. Otherwise, butt out.

  61. Kate
    Kate July 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    Bunny:
    There are many, many reasons not to judge on a pregnant woman consuming something you might not think she should be having.First and foremost is, obviously, it is her body, her pregnancy, you know nothing about it and it is none of your business.

    But then there are other details in there, too.For example, I found the above comment about refusing to serve a pregnant lady a rare steak really surprising.I (having elected not to have children) had no idea rare meat was a risk factor.Especially considering that my mum had a pregnancy-long constant, insatiable craving for raw meat.She has told me more than once about standing in the kitchen, chopping beef up for dinner and popping raw, bloody lumps into her mouth like they were crisps.

    A lot of it is more about food hygiene than anything inherently bad about raw steak. (I have been doing a lot of googling for my pregnant friends, so they don’t freak out. Now my google account thinks I’m pregnant and I know how to tell a pearl clutching website from the front page).

    Although, I believe there’s a risk of toxo with raw meat? But, as with things like Listeria (in raw milk products and cold hams, etc) it’s a fairly low risk. Seems to me like it’s that person’s business if they want to risk it, the same way crossing the street or driving or leaving the house, ever, is. All those things carry low risks of terrible events, too.

  62. Amanda
    Amanda July 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    Yes, being pregnant makes other people think that you are public property to be touched and petted. People will ask you what you intend to do with your breasts, uterus, and vagina (e.g. breastfeeding and birthing questions). People will impart “wisdom” to you from their own pregnancy experiences that may leave you nauseated and put-off by their forwardness. People will pet your belly, try to mentally measure how big you are, and then respond if they think you are too big or too small and ask you every day “are you sure you’re not having twins?” as if you and your doctor are incapable of managing your own medical care without a random stranger in an elevator’s help.

    That lasts for 9 months.

    What lasts forever for me as an adult adoptee? People asking me why I don’t look like my family. People finding out I am adopted and deciding that it is automatically my duty to educate them about anything they want to know about adoption or being adopted. It makes me a deserving recipient of uncomfortable, probing questions. People wanting to know who my “real parents” are and why they didn’t “want me.” People ask me to rate which family is better. People make racist, classist, adultist, and sexist assumptions about my families or other families impacted by adoption. I won’t even get into the rampant institutional discrimination against adoptees.

    Adoptive parents are also asked why their children don’t look like them. Where the “real parents” are and if they’re in “real bad shape.” They are constantly asked uncomfortable inappropriate often times racist, classist questions right in front of their children.

    I know many Donor Conceived folk and it’s no different for them.

    I won’t lie, I am not a fan of Donor Conception or most types of adoption. But adopting isn’t necessarily a way to escape discomfort and people who are rude and annoying. Adoption has its own unique set of lifelong challenges, especially because it involves parenting a child who has lost so much (yes, even infant adoptees). I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about adoption, surrogacy, or donor conception to read the voices of those who have lived it: adoptees, sons and daughters of surrogates, and the donor conceived.

  63. evil fizz
    evil fizz July 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm | *

    I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about adoption, surrogacy, or donor conception to read the voices of those who have lived it: adoptees, sons and daughters of surrogates, and the donor conceived.

    Amanda, anything in particular at the top of your reading list in these categories?

  64. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat July 27, 2011 at 12:05 am |

    Thank you for voicing all this so succinctly and clearly. I was just having an unpleasant* conversation with my mother about the fact that the decision to be pregnant and/or raise children–or not–doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everyone’s all up in that business. And, as the pregnant person and future mother, everyone’s going to tell me what to do. I don’t like that. In fact, my mother was accusing me of only wanting not to have kids because everyone expects me to. (This is a factor, but I’m angry that not wanting to conform to expectations somehow makes my VERY PERSONAL CHOICE less valid!)

    The kicker? She almost died having me. Why on earth WOULDN’T I be wary of pregnancy?!

  65. Azalea
    Azalea July 27, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    Amanda:

    I know many Donor Conceived folk and it’s no different for them.

    I won’t lie, I am not a fan of Donor Conception or most types of adoption.But adopting isn’t necessarily a way to escape discomfort and people who are rude and annoying.Adoption has its own unique set of lifelong challenges, especially because it involves parenting a child who has lost so much (yes, even infant adoptees).I encourage anyone who is interested in learning about adoption, surrogacy, or donor conception to read the voices of those who have lived it: adoptees, sons and daughters of surrogates, and the donor conceived.

    I am assuming here when you say surrogacy, you are not including strictly gestational surrogacy (where all gamete comes from the people who intend to raise the child). Because I have considered gestational surrogacy in the very possible event that I will not be able to carry another baby to term.

  66. Arlene
    Arlene July 27, 2011 at 3:55 am |

    evil fizz:
    in regards to people bugging her to post “Belly pics”

    I can’t be the only person who’s unsettled by belly pics, right?(And here I refer specifically to pictures of the belly where the rest of the woman’s body isn’t visible.)It comes off as this incredible reduction of a woman to her pregnancy rather than a celebration of the awesomeness of pregnancy (which is what I *hope* people are going for).

    It can also come off as celebrating the most amazing miracle. It sounds cliche but it is. I have a picture from my first belly, which I took, and in which you can see nothing but my belly, my feet and my partners feet. First family picture.

  67. Laurie
    Laurie July 27, 2011 at 6:11 am |

    Brenda, THANK YOU! You made my day. It’s nice to hear that I am not the only one who has felt this way!

  68. Laurie
    Laurie July 27, 2011 at 6:29 am |

    Part of the whole agony of choosing parenthood for me has also been related to the issues Amanda raises about adoption and donor concpetion. (My husband is infertile so I can’t have kids the old-fashioned way.) I have read a LOT of blogs by angry adoptees and angry donor-conceived children. (Evil Fizz, you may want to start with a blog by a woman who goes under the handle of Cryokid.) (I have also read things by people who are glad to have been adopted or donor-conceived, but their voices seem to be fewer and farther between on the internet.)

    I have worried a lot that my child will be angry or upset or resentful at having been donor-conceived. It is another aspect of the fact that choosing to become a parent is an incredibly morally fraught decision. No matter what you do you are potentially doing something morally wrong — adding to an overburdened planet, creating potential identity problems from the outset by conceiving your child with donor sperm or by ripping a child from his or her home country, or failing to adopt children who need adopting. I think you can drive yourself a little crazy trying to make sure that the circumstances of your child’s conception and birth and upbringing are always 100% ideal. On the other hand, that shouldn’t be an excuse to not grapple with the issues at all.

    Ultimately, I think having children is an inherently narcissistic act. (I actually got that line from my mother!) Most people aren’t conceived or raised in ideal circumstances. I certainly wish my mother had chosen a better father for me (or the person I would have been if she had chosen to reproduce with a decent human being). For my own part, I am choosing to stop agonizing, throw my hat in the ring, and do my best. A large part of my decision is derived from my conviction that my husband was absolutely born to be a fantastic father, the kind of father I wish I had, and I am excited to give my future offspring the opportunity to have that kind of father-child relationship. Part of my decision is my own desire for a child. Maybe my kid will grow up to resent the hell out of me for this decision, but I think I would rather that than to be too frightened to do anything. I am choosing to engage with life and all the rough-and-tumble, less than ideal compromises that entails.

  69. Gretchen
    Gretchen July 27, 2011 at 8:11 am |

    @Roisin, sorry for the late (possibly way too late reply). I didn’t make it clear in my post, i meant the people where i’m living in the middle-east aren’t touchy with pregnant ladies, whereas i have witnessed how touchy people are in the UK, and despite the financial benefits of the NHS, am thinking i would rather be pregnant here than in the UK.

    I know that no matter where i am people are probably going to piss pregnant-me off, but my main reason for thinking about staying in the middle-east is purely to do with my anxiety with being touched by strangers, which is actually considered fairly inappropriate here.

    I’m sorry you had such an isolating experience, the lack of boundaries of strangers with a pregnant woman’s body is one of my main anxieties in the idea of getting pregnant. It’s shameful that the choices left open to pregnant women are basically grin and bear it, be judged as being a total bitch (and terrible future mother) when open about physical boundaries, or isolation.

  70. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 8:33 am |

    Evil Fizz:

    Here are some blogs to start with:
    http://adoptioncritic.com/
    http://adoptiontruth-casjoh.blogspot.com/
    http://canadianbanishedmother.wordpress.com/about/
    http://aislin13.wordpress.com/
    http://73adoptee.blogspot.com/
    http://bisforbastard.wordpress.com/
    http://thequeenofdenial.wordpress.com/about/
    http://antiadoption.wordpress.com/me-myself-and-i/about-me/

    A REALLY good book on adoption/first mothers stories:
    “The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women
    Who SurrenderedChildren for Adoption in the
    Decades Before Roe v. Wade”

    And here’s my story (it’s long so I apologize):

    I am adopted, and I can tell you that for me, being adopted is quite confusing. It wasn’t when I was a child, of course, since I was raised religiously (Protestant) and the whole thing was simplified for me: “God made you in someone else’s tummy for us”. As I got a bit older it changed a little “Your birthmother couldn’t take care of you but she loved you so much she gave you up so that you could have a “better life””. It was always “God’s Plan” so I never questioned it. I never questioned what a “better life” meant, nor the reasons my first mother couldn’t care for me.

    I do question now. I know much more now, and I don’t fall for the cute little adoption quotes anymore. I have met my first mom, I searched for her and finally called her. I think I may have made her day by making that call, if not her whole life. She had been waiting since I was old enough to find her. It was a closed adoption. She was poor and very young and had no choice. Her mother told her she couldn’t come home with a baby. Her family was religious and against abortion. So she only had one choice: Adoption. It probably made sense to her at the time, to make the “loving” choice. She did love me, and according to the rest of the world, giving me the best life meant her giving me up. So she did.

    Yes, I have had a “good” life. I have never worried about money or food or whether I could afford to go to college. To some, my issues that probably stem from adoption are minor: severe fear of rejection, clinginess, social anxiety, fear of failure, fear of not living up to my parent’s/society’s expectations, etc. I always felt different, and even now I wonder sometimes if my parents wish I were more like them (I’m the polar opposite of both of them), or if they are disappointed that I didn’t have similar goals that they did. I’m in counseling finally, and hope to overcome these things, as they affect my life and relationships greatly.

    Knowledge can equal pain. Sometimes it hurts to learn, and sometimes it is easier to remain ignorant. Sometimes, sometimes I wish I could go back and just believe in what I was told as a young child, go back and let it be so simple as “God forming me inside someone’s womb especially destined for my adoptive parents.”(yes this is something we are told). That makes it simple, pretty, not painful. But I can’t be ignorant anymore, I understand that the reason I am with the family I am with is because they had something my first mother did not: stability, marriage, and money. I realize that my first mother didn’t keep me because to society she was an “unfit” mother. So she gave me to “fit” parents. That’s a hard reality to deal with.

    I love my parents. My sister/s and brother/s are also adopted. They love my parents, I think. But we are not close in the way that other families I see are. I don’t know if that is just the way my family is…or if it’s because we are adopted. I will never know. I just know there is something off sometimes, no matter how much love there is.

    I rarely talk about this with others, as they tend to ignore or try to cover my feelings up. Most respond hastily that if I hadn’t been adopted I wouldn’t have had all the nice things I had growing up, all the opportunities to travel and see things, wouldn’t be going to college, etc. Perhaps they are right. I don’t know, maybe I would have had none of those things, or all of them. What I’m starting to realize is that maybe it shouldn’t matter.

    I am a domestic adoptee (united states) and we both still live in the states. Adoption is simply complicated no matter which way you want to look at it. My views on adoption have changed so much since I was a child, but it’s still a bit murky. I believe many adoptions are coerced, that for most it is perhaps not a choice, but a lack of choices. This bothers me greatly, especially considering one of those women was my mother, my first mother. However, I also see my parents. They did not know what they were doing, whether clouded by good intentions or religion, I don’t know. They meant well, they wanted children and wanted to give me a good home and raise me well in their eyes. And I love them and they love me. Adoption is such a gray area, there is no black and white. In an ideal world, the only adoptions that happened would be uncoerced by anything including finances. But we don’t live in that world yet. So I try to focus my criticism on the system, and not the adopters or the adoptees, or the mothers. They are all victims of the system, we all are. (Yes I realize that there are adopters who knowingly are coercive and deceptive, but I believe most are like my parents, and simply wanted children and wanted to give a baby a home).

    They did what they did, and I can’t condemn them. I condemn society for not giving my mother a chance in the first place, and for not making it easier for parents to care for children no matter how great their needs.

    On a last note…some pet peeves I have personally:

    The word “birthmother”. I still say it sometimes as it’s been ingrained in my head because it’s what everyone used when explaining adoption to me as a child, but I have come to find the word offensive. It seems to imply that my first mother was nothing more than a vessel who gave birth to me, and it’s not true. For those who want another term, I have started trying to use “first mother” or simply “mother”.

    The often-used quote: “Parents are the ones who raise you, not that give birth to you”. I heard this a lot growing when I questioned about my first mother. It’s a pretty saying, and in many situations it may be true. But it’s again, a gray area. My first mother thought about me my whole life, so did her family. I was never out of their minds, always worrying, not knowing how I was or where I was. I think that “counts” too. Maybe they didn’t raise me but they cared.

    Adoption IS a feminist issue.

  71. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 8:48 am |

    Forgot this one. It’s also a good blog:

    http://austinholistic.blogspot.com/2011/03/talking-openly-arbout-regret-and.html

    My original comment still hasn’t posted though…

  72. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 8:49 am |

    Forgot this one. It’s also a good blog:

    http://austinholistic.blogspot.com/2011/03/talking-openly-arbout-regret-and.html

    My original comment still hasn’t posted though…

  73. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 8:56 am |

    I’ll try again…maybe if I post in two parts. I’m used to adoptee’s voices not being heard though.

    Book: The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler

    Blogs to look at:

    http://adoptioncritic.com/
    http://canadianbanishedmother.wordpress.com/about/
    http://antiadoption.wordpress.com/me-myself-and-i/about-me/
    http://www.thegirlswhowentaway.com/
    http://bisforbastard.wordpress.com/
    http://mybirthnameisallison.wordpress.com/about/

  74. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 8:57 am |

    Never mind. Sorry for double posting. The original comment never showed the “awaiting moderation” note that it usually does so I figured it was too long to go through. I just woke up so…my fail.

  75. Lucy Gillam
    Lucy Gillam July 27, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    (I have also read things by people who are glad to have been adopted or donor-conceived, but their voices seem to be fewer and farther between on the internet.)

    I am not saying this to belittle the feelings of adoptees or donor-conceived individuals who are angry or unhappy, but representation in internet writing is not a really good way to determine how much of a given group feels what way, for the simple reason that people don’t tend to write about things that they don’t have much anger or angst about. Happy, content people don’t usually start blogs about the things that make them happy and content, at least not on sociopolitical/identity/similar issues. I sometimes talk about being adopted on my blog, but seldom much above the level of, “here’s an amusing anecdote/funny thought/frustration about medical history.” I had a generally positive experience being adopted, and being adopted isn’t like cooking or writing, where I can instruct others. So I don’t write about it much.

  76. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 9:11 am |

    “I am not saying this to belittle the feelings of adoptees or donor-conceived individuals who are angry or unhappy”

    Lucy, that’s exactly what you are doing. The reason we take to the internet is because EVERYONE in the real world completely ignores us.

    I’m so sick and tired of people saying that adoption is not an issue because there are not that many people (aka you are the only one) who have these problems. And on a feminist blog no less!!!

    I’m really too pissed off right now to write. Maybe later. I really did not expect one of the first comments after an adoptee post, on FEMINISTE of all places, to remind us how our experiences don’t fucking matter.

    If those aren’t enough blogs, there are hundreds. If you want scholarly articles, I can provide in a month or so once I have access to my university’s databases again. I wrote a paper last semester on this issue and there are (unfortunately very few…the subject is still taboo) studies on adoptee trauma as well as first mother trauma.

    Read the book by Ann Fessler if “a few blogs” are not enough. She did a lot of research and a lot of work went into the book.

    Are you pro-choice? If you are then ignoring COERCION is messed up. The pro-lifers sure love adoption. It’s about the RIGHT kind of parent to them…the perfect Christian, married couple. Why do feminists ignore this?

    I’m too hurt by the reminder that this is all ignored by most. I couldn’t even find a counselor where I used to live that would touch adoptee trauma. Hopefully in a big city I’ll have more luck. Stop ignoring us.

  77. anonadoptee
    anonadoptee July 27, 2011 at 9:23 am |

    I am currently tired and pissed, and apologize for the derailing. I won’t post about adoptee issues here, but maybe someday there will be a post for hurt adoptees and mothers who lost children on a feminist blog like this. Sexism and the idea that a perfect mother is one that is married, well-off, and “pure” promotes our culture of adoption and people ignore that, especially feminists. I doubt it will show up here but I can hope right? Sorry again for the derail.

  78. The Nerd
    The Nerd July 27, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    It doesn’t end after birth. Maybe your body gets a break as the focus of all the attention, but suddenly everything child-related that you happen to do in public is considered public domain. EVERYONE has an opinion on how YOU should be raising YOUR child. And if you happen to tell them they might not know all there is to know about your situation, you’re “smug”.

  79. Colombiancoffee
    Colombiancoffee July 27, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    I think that the idea that pregnant women’s bodies are public stems from the idea that all women’s bodies are public property and subject to public opinion. From the way a woman dresses, whether her breasts are natural, to poignancy people seem to think it is ok to have a say or opinion on all of these things

  80. Kris
    Kris July 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    I think there’s two separate issues here. First, the idea of *children* being communal property and everybody having a collective responsibility to look after them. I think this is good, although it can be taken to extremes. So as a mother, I don’t mind when an adult is a little bit intrusive in the interest of my child’s safety. I’ve given my son peanut butter since he was very young (with my doctor’s approval, based on recent research). But I understood when another mom at the park saw him eating peanut butter and asked me about it because she thought it could be dangerous.

    The second issue is the idea of *women* being communal property, unable to make their own decisions, requiring supervision and direction. This is paternalistic misogyny.

    The problem is that when a woman is pregnant, people who (I think) wouldn’t normally question a woman’s actions, do so because they are motivated by issue #1. I don’t like it, but I understand where it’s coming from.

  81. Lucy Gillam
    Lucy Gillam July 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    I did not say you don’t exist, that you don’t have reason for your feelings, or that there aren’t many of you. I said, specifically in response to the idea that the person I replied to hasn’t found many people who were adopted or donor-conceived writing about their experiences on the internet, that people don’t tend to write about things about which they are happy and content. That is ALL I said, and ALL I meant. If you research any issue primarily by reading blogs or searching Google, you are going to find things that are critical or negative. People who have an easy time conceiving don’t usually write blogs about it.

  82. Bippy
    Bippy July 28, 2011 at 11:03 am |

    Having given birth a couple of weeks ago I was fascinated to read this, but also rather saddened that the OP has, on the basis of selected other women’s accounts of their own pregnancy, decided in advance how her own will be, and thus decided against the whole business.

    As a feminist you should know that there is no one single ‘female experience’. We all experience things in different ways, whether pregnancy, birth, periods, sex, etc.

    My pregnancy was a completely amazing time of my life. There was no ick factor for me at all. I stopped sweating and could bin my deodorant, my hair and skin looked amazing, my orgasms were more intense, my sex drive was off the scale, I didn’t have a day’s illness, not a single cough or cold and not a minute’s nausea or tiredness… there were no downsides for me at all. I think it would have been very sad if I’d allowed other women’s experiences to predetermine my own.

    Funnily enough NO-ONE touched me inappropriately at all during my pregnancy. Even my own mum asked me for permission to touch my bump beforehand! Nor did I get any unsolicited advice from strangers. I don’t think I radiate an especially FUCK OFF kind of aura, but if so I can recommend adopting one, it clearly works wonders.

  83. Jadey
    Jadey July 28, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    @ Bippy

    But your experience isn’t a guarantee either. It’s not like those bad experiences *don’t* happen quite frequently, even if they didn’t happen for you (congratulations, by the way). You say you’re irritated that your experiences aren’t represented here, but why are you using your experiences as a way to undermine other people’s? You’re falling into the very same trap you just described of over-universalizing and prescribing for others based on what happened for you.

    Also, don’t suggest that the reason some people experience invasions of their bodily privacy is because they don’t have the right “aura”. That’s blaming and shaming.

  84. Florence
    Florence July 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm |

    Bippy: My pregnancy was a completely amazing time of my life. There was no ick factor for me at all. I stopped sweating and could bin my deodorant, my hair and skin looked amazing, my orgasms were more intense, my sex drive was off the scale, I didn’t have a day’s illness, not a single cough or cold and not a minute’s nausea or tiredness… there were no downsides for me at all. I think it would have been very sad if I’d allowed other women’s experiences to predetermine my own.

    Hey, that’s awesome! My mom always said that she felt her healthiest and most beautiful when she was pregnant. My sisters and I, however, have had crappy pregnancies, felt like crap, sweated like pigs, had complicated births (I really hope the imminent birth that *should* happen sometime within the next week isn’t complicated by any pop-up health issues). Ditto on the orgasms, though. My god.

    Just as the experience of women differ, I think the individual pregnancy experiences differ as well. How much stress do you have in your life? Are you financially stable? Do you have a loving partner or someone you trust who is helping to care for you? The pregnancy I had where I was unstable, single, and depressed with no support or healthcare was really fucking awful. But by contrast, this pregnancy, where I’m pretty stable, have a loving partner, and dependable healthcare has been almost issue-free. That doesn’t mean I *love* being pregnant — it’s kind of a pain in the ass — but I have been able to bond with the baby and rest like I need to and feel relatively good.

  85. Bippy
    Bippy July 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm |

    @Jadey You seem to have misinterpreted everything I said there. There was no prescribing or undermining going on. I acknowledged that everyone has their own experience; I am presenting an alternative viewpoint that’s all.

    @Florence. I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes well, and god luck with the birth!

    Good points about what else is going on in your life. In fact, my pregnancy took me emotionally through the most unhappy time of my life probably. My partner suffers from severe depression, and was only diagnosed and put on medication about a week before I found out I was pregnant. It was all very well me having a great sex drive and looking great, but my partner has no sex drive at all and barely noticed I existed physically; for most of my pregnancy he was emotionally incapacitated, unable to show me any feelings at all. It was a very isolating and painful experience but somehow I found a reserve of strength within myself to get through it all.

  86. Martha Plimpton on being bugged about having babies

    […] no secret that, once a woman is pregnant, her body becomes public property. Strangers feel entitled to touch baby bumps, or ask how far along a woman is, or inquire as to […]

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