June 15 So with any new "hobby" or activity, I like to buy all the books on a topic. In this case, I bought two books about the physical aspects of being knocked up, then 4 more about motherhood and it's role in society (you can take the woman out of the women's studies program...). Basically these books, notably What to Expect When You Are Expecting, are designed to scare the living shit out of you.
The more I think about these books, the more I had to wonder why: Why are there so many rules? Which rules are steadfast, and which ones are more like guidelines? Why does this book contradict The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, and more to the point, why does What to Expect contradict itself? Then too, I consider which things my friends have decided to follow. One friend didn't eat a single slice of pepperoni or an ounce of feta during her pregnancy. Another drinks regularly, if not in teensy amounts. Another one has sushi once a week, and doesn't give it a second thought. In Europe, women are told to avoid leafy greens during pregnancy (possible pesticides) but then I suspect that Japanese women aren't giving up sashimi for nine months either. A woman on a local DC blog ate swordfish and had a shame attack.
I think these books, and the shame attacks come from two places. Number 1 is obviously fear, particularly for us first-timers. We don't really know what the hell we are doing, and don't want to mess up our unborn child. But the other source of these issues is pretty clear, and it's about control.
I believe that, because the one thing no man can 100% have control over is the reproductive process, is exactly the reason that so many mandates, both medically and legislatively have been handed to women in the past two centuries in America. (And, by the way, this would make a great thesis topic - or perhaps something I could play with for a potential dissertation topic, if it hasn't already been covered). The edicts, from late-term abortions (called partial birth abortion by people who made up this word, despite its lack of medical existence) to how one should be allowed to give birth, or also whom should be allowed to give birth, or not give birth are all examples of control being practiced. I would love to say that all of these notions are actually borne from advancements in medical science, but most of them are not. Science is not bias-free. Not all bias is intentional, but it exists. Take, for example the man who invented the knee replacement. Pretty handy, but his one-size fits all device didn't take into account that women's knees act differently and are smaller. Clearly not a case of intentional bias, but this is still gender bias, as the assumption of "standard" was the male knee. And if you consider that for so long in the United States, the medical profession has been dominated by men, certain outcomes will result, even if there was no "harm" intended.
Let's start easy. Let's talk about the food. Don't eat meat, don't drink, don't eat some cheeses, don't smoke, no sushi, no refined flour or sugar...am I getting them all? There are sure to be more.. Okay, none of these things in excess is particularly good for you. Smoking is downright bad for you, and that one I get - you shouldn't do that if your are knocked up or not. But the other ones are more modern additions to the list of do's and don'ts. Now, the weird thing about most things you are told not to do is that they have not been tested. Obviously no one wants to be the guinea pig for how many shots can junior sustain and still turn out healthy, and because of this, most of these things lack definitive proof. Does this mean I'm going to waive my middle finger in the air and live off of beef jerky sticks and PBRs for the next few months? Of course not, but then I wouldn't do that normally, and I don't need a scary bossy book to tell me to not do that.
The other thing I am fascinated by is the actual birthing process. OB-GYN vs. Midwives, hospital birth vs home birth (or water, or all manner of other options). I recognize that I am wading into waters fraught with debate, but that's what I like. I'm meeting with a midwife. For me, I don't want to be treated like I am sick, and I really believe that child birth is such a natural process and that in the majority of low-risk births, there is really no reason for a high level of medical intervention. Women have been giving birth literally forever, without the benefit of a lot of modern machines. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-science or anti-doctor, or likely even anti-pain killer, but I do know that I don't want to be treated like I am sick, and it will forever annoy me that pregnancy is considered a disability via law, when it seems to be the most natural thing in the world. More about this topic to come.
Now, please remember, if you followed all the books by the book, or you chose options different than those that I'm making, that's totally fine! It's your experience, and you should be able to choose to give birth how you want, in the manner that suits you best. But I hope that you were able to make the choices you wanted to because they are the ones that you were most comfortable with - that's what I think every woman should be able to do. There is so much wrapped up with control and the reproductive process that I am positive this topic will come up again for me.
As I dig though these issues, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. I have an inkling to write a feminist version of What to Expect, but instead I'll just through out ideas here.