Thursday, February 25, 2016

Miscarriage as Shameful: The Real Reason There's a Culture of Secrecy Surrounding the First Trimester

Two years ago, as I was bleeding out what remained of my miscarried baby, one of my clients asked me when Jeff and I were going to have kids. He then proceeded to guilt me for being selfish; had I been a better person, you see, I would have already inflicted my spawn on the world. Our society's insistence that women keep their pregnancies secret during the first trimester creates some really painful, strange, and awkward situations.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Deal With First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms (No Really, These Actually Work)

The horrible thing about the first trimester is that it's the time when you're most likely to feel like shit, but least likely to be publicly discussing your pregnancy. So, because pregnancy must be secret because miscarriage must always be a source of shame, pregnant women are stuck suffering in silence. This means we don't talk to each other like we do about, say, yeast infections, so no one knows what the hell to expect or how to cope.

Women's websites capitalize on this ignorance, selling us remedies that don't work, offering us solutions that are nothing but recycled old wives' tales, or insisting that because it's all "hormonal," it's inevitable.

Some of it probably is. But a full trimester in, I've found a handful of things that work. If you have your own brilliant strategies, please feel free to chime in. After all, every pregnant woman is different, and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Stop Telling Pregnant Women They Look Good 'For a Pregnant Woman'

If pregnant women were really driven by their hormones to act on every emotional impulse they have, several of my acquaintances might already be dead. Yesterday, an acquaintance told me that I look really good "for being pregnant." I did not respond. I paused. I took a deep breath. I went to my happy place (which was, incidentally, a place where I could go full-scale Incredible Hulk and smash him with a chair). I remained calm.

He was undaunted. "Aww...I'm making you blush!" I scoffed, contemplated murder, and smiled. Pregnant women, you see, are expected to welcome public comments and backhanded compliments on their appearance. Otherwise they're bitches and cunts; I know, because the few times I've responded with snark, I've been threatened with violence or called a sexist name.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What No One Tells You About Infertility

Five years ago, I walked into a fertility clinic for the first time. My sister-in-law wanted to have a baby as a single mother, and I wanted to be a sort of fertility doula. Her story ended happily, with the gorgeous little shrieking banshee I call my niece. But it was an uphill battle, and the experience stuck with me.

I never wanted to be one of those women who obsesses over her fertility. The fertility clinic smelled of desperation. The nurses were patronizing; the clinic oozed paternalism. It all reeked of buying a baby at any price. Endless rounds of cancer-causing hormones? Fine. Renting someone else's womb without regard for their feelings or how economic hardship led them to this point? Par for the course. Scrolling through catalogs of semen and trying to find the "best?" Normal.

I had a lot of judgment and very little compassion for women struggling with infertility until it happened to me. I still think the fertility industry is disgusting and exploitative. I also understand why women are willing to put themselves through literally anything, consequences be damned, to get pregnant. If you don't understand this, it's because you have not been there.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

10 Weeks: Intrusive Advice Roundup

The amount of intrusive advice I get from strangers about my pregnancy is stunning. At first, it was charming. After all, they mean well and it's exciting to have people acknowledge that you're pregnant--at first. As the pregnancy progresses, that all changes. Intrusive advice becomes a lot like telling women to smile: an unwanted interruption to which I have to respond, no matter how much of my time doing so wastes.

Because the random people who shower me with advice think they're being nice, I can't shut it down. I have to treat their comments as if they are insightful and helpful, which means wasting even more of my time. The advice-givers seem to believe I don't have any real concerns, and therefore am obligated to respond to each and every "suggestion" I receive. After all, I'm pregnant, and that means I must spend every waking second thinking of the baby. I must not have a job--certainly not after the baby arrives!--or anything I'd rather do than respond to someone dropping some "science" about how heartburn means my baby is going to be hairy.

Most strangely of all, most of the advice comes from men. They've never been pregnant, never will be pregnant, and therefore have no idea how much intrusive advice I have to field. Instead, they seem to see themselves as great witnesses to truth; my doctor, my midwife, the many pregnant women I know, the books I have read...none of them could possibly tell me anything useful. Nope. I need a random, creepy man to explain what pregnancy is really like to me.

So I might make this a regular feature, or I might never do it again, but here is a random sampling of the advice I've gotten this week.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

5 Things No One Told Me About Pregnancy

I spent years reading about pregnancy. I can recite the stages of labor by heart, name the hormones and their quantities that matter during pregnancy, and tell you the exact contents of breast milk.

Yet 10 weeks into this whole pregnancy thing, I've realized I knew nothing. Nothing. Popular culture tells us that pregnant women are hormonal bags full of insanity who spend most of their time vomiting. I have yet to cry, though I do occasionally interrupt phone calls to vomit. Everyone's experience of pregnancy is unique, so I can't speak to what anyone but me will experience. There is no universal pregnancy experience, but some symptoms are more common than others.

A full trimester in, I've encountered some truly bizarre symptoms. Upon Googling them, I realized they're common. Like, way more common than morning sickness and crying at commercials. I sort of feel like I've been kept out of a secret society, and until I realized these symptoms were common, I felt like something was wrong with me. 

If you're pregnant, odds are good you're going to experience at least a few of these symptoms during your first trimester (and while we're at it, here's something no one will tell you: pregnancy symptoms are caused by HCG, which diminishes toward the end of the first trimester. You will feel your very worst when the fewest people know you are pregnant. It gets better, I promise). 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Why Pregnancy is a Feminist Issue

If you listen to right-wing critics of feminism, you'll quickly hear that feminism is an anti-motherhood, anti-family movement, and that there is nothing feminist about getting pregnant. Meanwhile, self-styled feminists attempt to exclude mothers and children from public spaces, and feminist parenting advice is virtually nonexistent. That denial of the transformative feminist power of motherhood is reason enough to call pregnancy a feminist issue, but it's far from the only reason.

I'm Hyphenating My Baby's Last Name. Here's Why Everyone Needs to Shut Up About That.

My husband and I are hyphenating our baby's last name. A couple of years ago, I arrived at what I thought was a great solution to the ongoing feminist baby name debate. My way hasn't caught on, though, so this seems like the best option.

Thing is, when you're pregnant, your choices suddenly become matters of public consumption. People who will never meet my baby, who have no investment in me or in my family, have very strong feelings about what Jeff and I should name our child. Reactions to our announcement have ranged from crying (yes, seriously) to threats of violence. I am a terrible monster who is destroying the world, as are thousands of other feminist men and women who choose to share both of their family names with their offspring.

Here's the thing: if you are not pushing my child out of your vagina, paying the full costs of raising my child through the age of 18, or offering to provide us with 24/7 childcare, you get no say in what our baby is named. If you want to name a baby, have your own.

Don't like my baby's name? That's cool. I'm sure there's something I don't like about you or your name. We're all entitled to our opinions. Basic human decency requires us to keep hurtful opinions to ourselves, and to remain silent on issues that do not affect us.