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The Politics of being Pregnant


Soldier of the One

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Am doubtful whether this should go in Snark or Chatter since the personal and political intersect a fair bit... so mods, please move accordingly if necessary :)

A few of you might remember that over the summer, I announced that I and Mr. Soldier were starting to TTC. Lo and behold, I have an Arrow in my Quiver! We obviously are very happy and feel very blessed.

I feel that gestating a child is between me, DH and... no-one else. Yet as a feminist, I've been perturbed to note how people respond to my pregnancy and it makes me reflect a fair bit on the politics of pregnancy. (This is my first Arrow, can you tell? :whistle:)

See... I have an accomplished career in my own right. Got a Master's, finishing a second Master's this year. Hold a public and responsible job, am an educated woman and made huge sacrifices to be where I am today.

And yet, people respond as if this pregnancy of mine is the Biggest Achievement Ever!11!!!1

All of a sudden, people see me as a 'real woman', and I get 'appreciation' for fulfilling my 'calling' in life. People are overly sympathetic (which is wonderful) but I wish I had had more of that sympathy when I was struggling to attain some of my other life's goals, which were far more difficult than getting pregnant. I've also gotten some of the 'how can you be pregnant in your job?' responses.

I'm not even showing yet and I already feel objectified. I can only imagine this getting worse once you start to show.

Mind you, I am separating my irritation with certain natalist or anti-feminist responses from my actual deep joy and gratitude over being pregnant. Just want to make sure I don't come across as ungrateful or whiny because I am not. I just would like to hear from other women (pregnant or not, fertile or infertile) whether they have had similar experiences or have faced similar judgment. Or whether anyone has any theoretical or practical insights to share.

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As a pediatric nurse in an office, pretty much everyone wanted to weigh in on my pregnancy, but honestly it didn't bother me at all. It was the best when my 100 lb frame was getting that second trimester pudge and the parents that I didn't know as well would give me that weird look- are you pregnant or getting fatter?

But in all seriousness, I think everyone responds to the pregnancy attention differently- being in a field with mostly women made it easy. I enjoyed being doted on. I think it's a good idea to come up with some responses!

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Yeah responses... I am usually not so quick on my feet when it comes to clever responses.

The doting is nice. The judgment - not so much :)

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Well, creating a human being is a pretty big achievement!

I understand what you are saying and I would just take advantage of it now because when the baby comes the "overly sympathetic" part will most likely stop. I remember being called several times a week when I was on maternity leave. Complete disregarding that I probably needed more help now than when the baby was inside and not keeping me from being at work.

Congratulations!

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As someone in their mid 30's without kids, I can say that to some people, it doesn't matter that I have a graduate degree, own my own house and two cars, have a stable job that has allowed the previous, and I'm decent in my field of art on the side, I'm nothing. I'm nothing to them because I am single and have no children, and even worth less if my joint issues are acting up.

So, to sum it up, to a large part of our society, the only worthwhile thing a woman can do is have kids.

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Congrats! The only thing I ever encountered during any of my pregnancies was complete strangers feeling the need to comment on my size and feeling like they could just walk up and touch my belly (so rude). It was exteremely annoying but the only thing I ever really did was to roll my eyes and walk away. By that point I usually did not have the energy to argue with people. Wishing you an easy pregnancy and good luck with the second Master's! :)

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I hear you.

My mom spent a huge amount of time telling me about all my cousins' pregnancies. But when I asked about the one cousins PhD in some sort of neuro molecular biology mom said "huh?" Like it never dawned on my mom that my cousin was an incredibly smart, accomplished woman. No, no, the only thing that mattered was she managed to spawn.

*sigh* The politics of pregnancy are painful. I've never particularly wanted kids, so I've been able to side-step the question. I've never arranged my life to have kids because, well, I don't want them. But it gives me a good "I'd have to sell my business" or "I don't have time for a 2nd full time job" or "It won't work with my current situation" out when people start asking "WHEN!?"

One of these days I'm just going to burst into tears and tell people that it's tragic and we can't have kids.

I have a huge amount of respect for women who have kids and still manage all of the politics and their homes and their lives. It's mindboggling to me that you all manage so well.

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As someone in their mid 30's without kids, I can say that to some people, it doesn't matter that I have a graduate degree, own my own house and two cars, have a stable job that has allowed the previous, and I'm decent in my field of art on the side, I'm nothing. I'm nothing to them because I am single and have no children, and even worth less if my joint issues are acting up.

So, to sum it up, to a large part of our society, the only worthwhile thing a woman can do is have kids.

This. It breaks my heart and infuriates me. I was getting the 'when are you going to start having kids, tick tock, tick tock' thing more and more. And then I am married and, well, apparently, fertile, and desiring of children. Not everyone has that luck or that desire.

I am sorry, Wolfie. I think what you've achieved is awesome. Heck, my hubby and I rent and we don't have a car! :)

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I hear you.

My mom spent a huge amount of time telling me about all my cousins' pregnancies. But when I asked about the one cousins PhD in some sort of neuro molecular biology mom said "huh?" Like it never dawned on my mom that my cousin was an incredibly smart, accomplished woman. No, no, the only thing that mattered was she managed to spawn.

*sigh* The politics of pregnancy are painful. I've never particularly wanted kids, so I've been able to side-step the question. I've never arranged my life to have kids because, well, I don't want them. But it gives me a good "I'd have to sell my business" or "I don't have time for a 2nd full time job" or "It won't work with my current situation" out when people start asking "WHEN!?"

One of these days I'm just going to burst into tears and tell people that it's tragic and we can't have kids.

I have a huge amount of respect for women who have kids and still manage all of the politics and their homes and their lives. It's mindboggling to me that you all manage so well.

Yeah well, never mind the achievement of getting a Ph.D. :rolleyes:

If you don't want kids, that's great because your needs line up with your reality and isn't that what we want for all people? But yes, there is an awful lot of judgment if you choose to be childless. As for managing: I have no idea if I will yet! Mainly, I'm dealing with nausea and exhaustion and it's been quite challenging, professionally. We'll see how I hold up when I've popped out my Arrow :)

I just feel that even in this day and age, there's very much a Continuum of Approval for women, and it runs like this:

>be feminine >slender >beautiful >fertile >heteronormative married >breeder. Then you get your Gold Star of Approval!

Ladies, thank you all for the congratulations and well wishes :)

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One of these days I'm just going to burst into tears and tell people that it's tragic and we can't have kids.

I have considered doing this, also. :lol:

Congrats, Soldier!

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Thank you, Lainey. We're thrilled in a totally awesome gender-neutral, blissful way! Never mind the external politics :)

And DH has been an angel and is shouldering most of the domestic duties. See, fundies? The perks of an egalitarian marriage!

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If you don't want kids, that's great because your needs line up with your reality and isn't that what we want for all people? But yes, there is an awful lot of judgment if you choose to be childless. As for managing: I have no idea if I will yet! Mainly, I'm dealing with nausea and exhaustion and it's been quite challenging, professionally. We'll see how I hold up when I've popped out my Arrow :)

I did forget the congrats. But that's awesome (actually, you're the second person to share their happiness at a new Arrow today).

I just feel that even in this day and age, there's very much a Continuum of Approval for women, and it runs like this:

>be feminine >slender >beautiful >fertile >heteronormative married >breeder. Then you get your Gold Star of Approval!

Yeah. Exactly. The thing is... I failed at being feminine and slender and actively made the decision trying to be An Acceptable Girl was way more work than I wanted to take on.

About the only thing I managed is "heteronormative married" and even then I'm not sure how 'normal' my marriage is. (But we're happy, so opinions aren't welcome :) )

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Yay for happy, non-normative marriages. We need more of them. And thank you for the congrats!

This could inspire me onto my whole feminist 'high-heels/make-up' rant. How often professional women (and in any case, all women) are expected to wear high heels and make up in order to be 'acceptable' and look professional. I really resent that. Being an Acceptable Girl takes a lot of energy and costs a lot of money: dieting, hair removal, beauty and make up products, clothing, uncomfortable shoes. It's like our modern-day corsets and chastity belts.

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As someone in their mid 30's without kids, I can say that to some people, it doesn't matter that I have a graduate degree, own my own house and two cars, have a stable job that has allowed the previous, and I'm decent in my field of art on the side, I'm nothing. I'm nothing to them because I am single and have no children, and even worth less if my joint issues are acting up.

So, to sum it up, to a large part of our society, the only worthwhile thing a woman can do is have kids.

Well said. Over the years I have become much better at dealing with this sort of discrimination but it still grates.

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Good luck! Yeah it seems like everyone at my office expects that "all women want kids (plural)" and will argue with you if you don't. Ex-DH kept stringing me along about kids for years so that plus the constant questioning at work left me a basket case. When I remarried, current DH & I conceived a honeymoon baby, but I STILL got asked when we'd try to have kids anyway. Now they are asking when we'll have #2. Uh, like never. This also includes a male manager who told me that I "looked good for my age" yesterday & should have another. WTF?????

As far as advice, if people touched my stomach, I'd touch them back on theirs. If they kept trying to be pushy about touching, I'd tell them that unless the put the baby there or were going to help get him out, hands off! Good luck with everything!!!!!!

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I get what your saying. I am also expecting and just starting to announce the news, plus, husband and I finally got married after 5 years, so the "you're a real woman now!" coupled with "oh, finally your relationship is legitimate!" thing is grating as all hell. Yeah, because clearly I have done nothing worthwhile in my life, what with the professional degree, demanding job, homeownership, etc. Fortunately, my parents are sane people who are proud of my life choices, but the response from friends and colleagues has been...eye opening. Even more so when I tell people that I dont plan on quitting said job and that hubs is planning on dialing back his practice to stay home part time that first year. That gets a shocked reaction.

I should add, this is a very wanted pregnancy after 4 yearss of trying and several rounds of lower impact fertility treatments, so the pregnancy itself is a great joy (other than the constant nausea)

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Aww meda. Great news and to you Soldier of One.

A new generation of awesomeness.

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Thank you, OkToBeTakie. Here's to a generation of feminist babiez with critical thinking skillz!

Meda, I am so sorry to hear of your issues but oh so happy to hear that you're expecting! Congratulations! May the pregnancy go easy for you and may you deliver a healthy and beautiful baby!

And yes: my husband is also considering scaling back once baby is due. Oh, I can't even add that to the mix because people will be like: 'what??!?' I also kept my maiden name upon marriage so that already makes me a crazy feminist of course. The politics of names - that could be its own thread :)

Quincygal: thank you for your well wishes!

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Thank you, OkToBeTakie. Here's to a generation of feminist babiez with critical thinking skillz!

Meda, I am so sorry to hear of your issues but oh so happy to hear that you're expecting! Congratulations! May the pregnancy go easy for you and may you deliver a healthy and beautiful baby!

And yes: my husband is also considering scaling back once baby is due. Oh, I can't even add that to the mix because people will be like: 'what??!?' I also kept my maiden name upon marriage so that already makes me a crazy feminist of course. The politics of names - that could be its own thread :)

Quincygal: thank you for your well wishes!

Oh yeah...keeping my name to. I momentarily forgot about the lectures that decision brought on. "but you and the baby will have different last names!!!!!!oh noes!!!!!" my personal favorite: "but wont the school be confused when your register the offspring and your names a different?" :doh:

and soldier of one, congrats to you also. I'm told motherhood is even more political. :D

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As someone in their mid 30's without kids, I can say that to some people, it doesn't matter that I have a graduate degree, own my own house and two cars, have a stable job that has allowed the previous, and I'm decent in my field of art on the side, I'm nothing. I'm nothing to them because I am single and have no children, and even worth less if my joint issues are acting up.

So, to sum it up, to a large part of our society, the only worthwhile thing a woman can do is have kids.

So Much This!

When I was in my 30's I also had a degree, good job and owned my own house. All I ever got was "Why aren't you married yet?" When I finally did get married it was "When are you going to have children?" No one is interested in the traveling I have done or the literacy programs I work with or the mentoring I do. Now that I am approaching my mid 40's people are starting to ask "Who is going to take care of you in your old age?" As if having kids is a viable retirement plan.

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Tee-hee for political motherhood! My husband is rooting for a girl and *shock of horrors* we might consider passing on my last name to the child instead of his (for profoundly personal reasons but also from the awareness that it is existentially unfair that society expects women to give up their last names by default). Imagine the shock waves of disapproval this will create. I can't wait! (Not really, actually, because if we do decide that, it's not done to be provocative or controversial at all).

People are so stupid when it comes to women and their names. As if marriage and motherhood is entirely dependent on subsuming your name. Eek.

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So Much This!

When I was in my 30's I also had a degree, good job and owned my own house. All I ever got was "Why aren't you married yet?" When I finally did get married it was "When are you going to have children?" No one is interested in the traveling I have done or the literacy programs I work with or the mentoring I do. Now that I am approaching my mid 40's people are starting to ask "Who is going to take care of you in your old age?" As if having kids is a viable retirement plan.

IceTwinkie, I have no words. It's cruel, vacuous, ignorant and completely negates who you are as a person. People are stupid :(

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***disclaimer: about to get gushy***

I'm so excited for you and Meda! Before I had my kids I was not one of those women who melted at the sight of babies or paid all that much attention when I saw a pregnant woman. After the rabbit died, it was like a switch was thrown in my brain and everywhere I looked I saw the little tyrants, and I turned to mush. I became a stereotypical pregnant mess :D My pregnancies were difficult, but I have never felt more beautiful in my life than I did when I weighed 165 (I'm 5 ft tall and was a little butter-ball) and was waddeling around like a duck. And I got a little kick out of the look some people had in their eyes when they saw how HUGELY pregnant I was and how helpful complete strangers could be ( BTW don't get used to that cause once you actually have the baby those same people will watch you struggle with a stroller, diaper bag, groceries, and a screaming infant and just keep walking. Seriously, I think I became invisible at those times cause nobody played good samaritan). The weirdest encounter was at Wal Mart when a lady asked to rub my stretched and very sore belly for good luck. She asked while rubbing FFS. After natural childbirth -not planned by the way I begged for drugs- I felt like superwoman and had so much energy I could have done yard work. I know I'm rambling, see what just the talk of pregnancy does to my brain :roll: Anyway, congrats to you both again. Much health and happiness!

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Awww thank you, Laura Oz! It's great to hear positive pregnancy stories without the patriarchal BS attached :)

My breasts have never been this big. It's amazing! :D

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I, too, am recently happily pregnant after trying for a loooong time. Mostly, everyone has been supportive in a non-offensive way, though interestingly, my in-laws' reactions were a lot more effusive than my own parents'. (My extremely liberal, professional parents are being very supportive, but my much more conservative, Catholic MIL cried upon hearing the news, and calls nearly every day now, which isn't exactly helpful.) The only comment that I've gotten so far that really bothered me was from a friend on FB that more or less said "About time." Not only does that belittle the validity of the rest of MrShadowy and my almost 12 year relationship before children, but I am pissed at her for not even considering what we might have gone through TTC. What if we were never successful? The whole relationship means nothing? Arrgh.

On another note, I, too, kept my maiden name, and we are not yet sure what we are going to do about miniShadowy's last name. It's very funny, however, that the whole last name issue has come up more than ever now that I am filling out medical paperwork quite often (shopping different docs/hospitals at the moment), and explaining, my insurance is through my husband, no, the last name is not the same... over and over.

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