Monday, March 28, 2016

Pregnancy, Breasts, and the Special Tragedy of Being a Large-Breasted Pregnant Woman

My friend Lindsay likes to remind me not to get too upset about the myriad horrifying bodily changes that occur during pregnancy. After all, I'll lose whatever dignity I have left when I finally expel this baby.

Too late. That total loss of dignity might already have come. Last night I began unapologetically brushing my nipples with a hairbrush. As it turns out, itchy nipples and breasts are among the most common pregnancy side effects, particularly for large-breasted women. And one of the things you quickly learn if you suffer from this symptom is that nipples are remarkably hard to scratch. Thus the brush.

My 32DD breasts have grown out of control during this pregnancy, resulting in a G-cup that shows no signs of ceasing its expansion. I have nightmares about being eaten by my breasts. I worry I might literally tip over at some point. I monitor them for signs of growth. I plead with them.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Zika FAQ for Pregnant Women: Here's Everything I Know About Zika (So Far)

Google Zika. The first thing you'll find is a “reassuring” reminder that there's not much to worry about if you're not pregnant. But what if you are?

Welcome to the world of useless advice. Mainstream pregnancy sites are filled with hollow information. “Zika might cause birth defects in babies,” they tell us, “so take reasonable precautions.” What precautions? What birth defects?

More clinical sites such as the CDC and Mayo Clinic don't offer much help, either. “We don't yet know whether Zika will come to the U.S.” “We don't know how many pregnant women will be affected,” they say.

And then there are the “natural living” sites. They tell us that Zika is a government conspiracy, or that it doesn't cause birth defects and that, in any case, bug sprays don't work and pesticides will kill your baby.

So pick your poison: Confident paranoia that leaves you comfortably able to do nothing. Uncertainty about what to do and when to do it. Or maybe just a hefty dose of confusion.

At first glance, Zika might not seem like a weird issue to cover on a blog about pregnancy and feminism. But the dearth of reliable medical advice, the condescending and judgmental advice so many "green" websites are willing to dish out, and the intense paranoia so many pregnant women feel absolutely matter. The challenge of finding good medical advice that blends what's good about natural healing with the best of modern science is a recurring theme in feminism.

Moreover, women deserve to spend their pregnancies happy, not in a state of terror or locked in a basement afraid of going outside. I've spent endless days researching Zika statistics. It's hard to find specific and clear information. I think my readers should benefit from my obsessive research tendencies. Here's everything I know so far.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Informed Consent and Childbirth: Why We Need to Stop Talking About What Doctors 'Let' Us Do

"My doctor won't let me have a vaginal birth."

"My midwife says she'll let me eat during labor, but only if things are progressing quickly enough."

"I have to have an episiotomy if I push for longer than 45 minutes."

Every time I hear comments like these, a part of me dies. Since when did pregnancy mean that your body no longer belongs to you? Whatever happened to informed consent? And why are doctors, who should not want to force anything on anyone else's body, embracing this language?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

5 Simple Rules for Interacting With Pregnant Women (Or, Pregnant Women Are People, Too)

People, especially men, really do not like it when you tell them what they can and cannot say to pregnant women. Something about pregnancy stokes a collective sense of ownership that pregnant women learn to expect--and dread.

On social media, reactions to my blog fall into two distinct categories. Women who are pregnant or who have been pregnant loudly cheer just about everything I say. People who have never been pregnant react with fear and frustration. "But what CAN I talk to pregnant women about?" "Now I'm terrified to touch a pregnant woman!" "Why are pregnant women so demanding?" 

They keep missing the point, which is that pregnant women are people, too. The rules for how to treat them are exactly the same as those for interacting with any other human. The problem is not that pregnant women require special rules. The problem is that people must be reminded of these rules at all. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Things Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman: 30 Ways to Make a Pregnant Woman Hate You

This week, three different people have forced me into conversations about my breasts. Despite my attempts to steer the conversation elsewhere, I've repeatedly found myself fielding others' inaccurate, offensive, and intrusive comments about my body. This is par for the course when you're pregnant. You might think that telling a woman her breasts are enormous is a great compliment; but if she's struggled with back pain and unwanted attention because of those breasts, you're just drawing attention to a source of misery--not to mention commenting on a private area of her anatomy.

The same is true of so many other comments people direct to pregnant women. I've had a handful of comments that were clearly designed to be hurtful, or even threatening. In most cases, it's simple ignorance with a side of narcissism. So if you can't resist talking to pregnant women about their pregnancies but don't want to destroy relationships or hurt feelings, here are the comments pregnant women are sick of hearing.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How to Respond When People Ask if You're Pregnant (Whether You're Pregnant or Not)

One of the many ways our culture reminds women that their bodies are public property is by openly--and often repeatedly--asking them if they are pregnant. Asking a woman if she's pregnant is always a recipe for disaster. Most well-mannered people learn never to do it. Not all people are well-mannered, of course, and I've come up with a foolproof response to these questions whether you're pregnant or not.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gift Ideas for New Mothers: Focus On Her, Not the Baby

Looking for a great gift for a woman who's just given birth? You don't have to navigate the horrors of the baby aisle. In fact, the nicest and most helpful thing you can do might be to get her something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the baby.

Three years ago, one of my neighbors had a baby. I got her a bunch of baby clothes and assorted baby supplies. This week, she brought home another baby. I'm giving her a gift card for a massage. Now that I'm pregnant, I understand the need for women to be differentiated from the children they bear.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pregnancy Etiquette Rules Every Pregnant Woman Wishes You Knew

Procreation is arguably the most important thing we do. Parents' decisions shape the future and shift the direction of our society, so it's understandable that so many people are interested in others' pregnancies. There's no shame in telling a pregnant woman that she's glowing, offering to bring her food, or dropping off a few baby gifts. Sadly, many people show their interest in pregnant women by offering judgment, stereotypes, and a hefty dose of condescension. 

We intuitively know that it's unkind to comment on someone's weight or ask about her sex life, but this common sense seems to disintegrate in the presence of pregnant women. A woman's decision to become pregnant does not mean that she is now public property, nor that she desires an onslaught of commentary from people she does not know. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Pregnancy and Fatphobia: 5 Reasons It's Sexist to Comment on Pregnant Women's Weight

"I feel bad for you, with all the weight you're going to have to lose when the baby comes."-- Close friend

As early as we can talk, most of us learn that it's never acceptable to comment on someone else's weight. Yet something about pregnancy sends common sense, decency, and basic etiquette packing. Suddenly women's bodies are subjects for public consumption and discussion. This tradition is the product of sexism, sizeism, fatphobia, and a bunch of other ugly societal norms that harm women.