Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rude Things People Have Said to Me About My Pregnancy This Week

Being pregnant is like walking through life with a big sign that pleads, "I'm pregnant, exhausted, and three people have commented on my weight today alone. Clearly I need someone else to be mean to me if I'm going to develop postpartum depression in time for the baby's arrival."

A lot of people have asked me why I think people are so mean to pregnant women. Many of them seem to doubt my stories. This doesn't surprise me, given that women's stories about other forms of oppression are so frequently doubted, too. But if you want to read my thoughts on why people feel the need to be cruel to pregnant women, click here.

So let's take a look at some of the horrible things people have said to me just this week.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Five Forms of Sexism We Expect Pregnant Women to Tolerate

Sometimes I think feminism has forgotten about mothers. Eighty-one percent of women eventually become mothers. Women's status as potential mothers is routinely used to limit their choices, with many employers openly admitting that they won't hire women of childbearing age. Motherhood, avoiding motherhood, and the constant treatment even of infertile women as potentially pregnant may affect more women than any feminist issue.

But as soon as we talk about feminism and motherhood, we're accused of participating in the mommy wars. Men can endlessly post to Facebook about fantasy football leagues, and daily updates about fictional television characters are just fine. Share your opinions on birth, though, and you're just another one of those women whose lost her mind to motherhood.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why 'Are You Going to Work After the Baby Comes?' is Always Offensive and Sexist

Want a simple way to degrade the work all women do, whether paid and outside the home or unpaid and within the home? Ask a pregnant woman if she's going to keep working after the baby arrives.

I know, I know. You're just making conversation. You're curious. You're trying to be nice. The problem is that your "niceness" and "idle conversation" are premised on the notion that women who can quit working outside the home will, and that women who stay home with their children don't work. People don't ask men this question. That's what makes it sexist.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Terror of Life as a Freelancer: Or, Why All Women Deserve Paid Maternity Leave

I love my job. I love that I get to set my own schedule, make my own rules, and answer to no one. I love it even more that I've found a way to succeed in a highly competitive profession. Others put "writer" down as their profession because it sounds romantic and mysterious. I claim it because it's mine. It feels wrong to complain when you are as lucky as I have been, but there's one glaring hole in my otherwise awesome professional existence: I have no maternity leave.

I'm lucky enough to earn a good living at my job, but I've been crunching a lot of numbers lately. It's made me realize that, even when you have savings and work hard and do the right thing, continuing to pay your bills is extraordinarily difficult when you have to take extended time off work.

I'm in good company. Only 13% of American workers have paid family leave, and most of them are upper middle class folks like me--the people who need it the least. If we as a society are collectively unwilling to do something to fix this, it's simply unreasonable to expect that women will be able to be healthy after giving birth, form solid attachments to their babies, and continue paying their bills.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pregnancy is Hard. Why Is This So Hard to Acknowledge?

I always thought I'd be one of those women who loved being pregnant. The idea of a life growing inside of me felt positively magical. After three years spent trying for a baby, my positive pregnancy test seemed like a miracle.

I love my baby. I can't wait to be a mother. But I loathe pregnancy. Private conversations with mothers from all walks of life have revealed to me that I am not alone.

Every mother I have ever known has warned me about the challenges of pregnancy. I thought I was special and different. I thought other women struggled because of their bad attitudes, unhealthy bodies, unsupportive spouses, or shitty doctors. I thought hating pregnancy was a choice. I thought I was too enlightened, too healthy, too good for all of that.

In short, I engaged in the sort of victim-blaming for which I have derided others my entire life. I chose not to believe women, to see them as crazy or inept or dishonest for one simple reason: it made things easier for me.

I've learned my lesson.

I am continually surprised by how much we expect of pregnant women, all while deriding them as hormonal maniacs who are incapable of reason.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why We're Choosing a Natural, Unmedicated Birth

A decade before I got pregnant, I knew I wanted a natural birth. At first, my reason was superficial and a bit silly: I liked the idea of doing something challenging. I saw an unmedicated birth as akin to hiking Mt. Everest or winning a Pulitzer--something very challenging that not everyone is able to do.

When people began to tell me how stupid I was for considering a natural birth, my research began in earnest. That's when I realized that the value of a natural birth is much deeper than just surviving a challenge and showing people I could do something they think I cannot. Natural birth offers numerous health advantages, and it more neatly matches my feminist values.

My decision to have an unmedicated birth has been met with surprising pushback. A lot of people insist it is simply impossible, even though it's what millions of women have done for as long as there have been women. Others become immediately angry or defensive. There's a lot of judgment and blame in birth culture, and I suspect that guilt also plays a role. Women are taught that, no matter what they do as mothers, it's wrong. So when a woman hears my plans for a natural birth, she may see it as an attack on her own birth choices. Because so many women are deprived of any choice at all when they give birth, simply hearing about another woman's plans may trigger feelings of regret, victimization, and inadequacy.

I'm not going to defend my choices any more, and I'm not going to engage in arguments that make everyone involved feel terrible. Birth should be a happy event, not a feud over how best to birth a child. And really, my answer to queries about why I'm having a natural birth should end there: because I want to. Because it's my right. Because it's no one's god damn business.

Like the women who feel judged and shamed for their medicated births, I too often feel defensive. So here's why I'm choosing a natural birth.