Pregnancy has not changed my life that much, so far. It has, however, attracted more than a few remarks from both acquaintances and strangers. My increasingly evident belly—I am scheduled to give birth by induction in only a few days—leads people to believe that they know something about me and my future. While I vowed not to blog too much about my “ladylike” pregnancy (i.e. it is conformist in a way that reminds me of Edwardian pantaloons), I have a few funny incidents that I cannot resist sharing with you. What’s more, pregnancy is a hot topic online and I should take advantage of some of that hotness. Hissy Fit’s guest posts about the politics of being preggo consistently get hits, though I suspect that at least some of them are from kinkos looking for preg-porn. The top search terms are “sexy pregnant” and “hot preggo bitch.” Those fertility fans must go limp in every body part when they click on the FFG site to find feminist critiques of the cultural construction of pregnancy instead of mounds of fleshly passivity. Their activities lead me to conclude that my blog would be more popular if I posted nude selfies of my enormous belly. Very tempting. I might just do that below.
In the meantime, here are the top five unsolicited comments offered to me during the past months.
1. “Fat Cow”
This observation was shouted out a car window by a young man as he drove past me the other day. Heading home from a long walk, I was slowly waddling across the intersection, my swollen feet barely fitting into unlaced boots. Certain protective readers might be thinking: “What a misogynist asshole! What kind of hatred and assumed male privilege fueled his effort to shame an unknown woman in public?” I cannot disagree with such a reaction, but find myself being more sympathetic, trying to see his comment in a helpful light, as advice rather than denunciation. Clearly he believes that I should lose weight, and this is certainly something I intend to do, first and foremost, by pushing an 8-pound human being out of my body, followed by copious amounts of blood, a cake-like placenta, and about 5 litres of water. Fingers crossed that the twenty-something stranger will be pleased with the results, for that is among the most important considerations in my life right now. Maybe he would even deign to share some of my diet food later? The meal would consist of my placenta, which I am going to have freeze dried for easy consumption. Probably. All sarcasm aside, this man’s nasty verbal assault was instructive, for it led me to wonder if large and luscious women receive public insults on a regular basis. If so, I have a bit more understanding of their situation and increased sympathy for it.
2. “I cannot wait until your life is out of control.”
In this case, an acquaintance was assuming that my current identity as a hyper-productive and organized professor would soon be in a shambles, making her feel rather gleeful. Apparently, becoming a parent is going to “put me in my place,” taking me down a notch or two. Similar comments made by others warned of a radical alteration of lifestyle: “You had better enjoy x [insert enjoyable activity here] now, for you will not be able to do that again for about 20 years.” Guess what I say to that? I say fuck you. I chose to proceed with my pregnancy precisely because I welcome change and challenge in my life. They will not come as a surprise. At the same time, I don’t expect to transform into a useless, unambitious loser just because I have had a baby. Plus I have hired some helpers, including a cleaner and a nanny. That’s right. My hard-won and successful career brings with it a few perks that I intend to exploit to the fullest.
3. “I am so glad that you are having a boy. You will learn just how hard it is to be male in this culture. I’m a feminist but … guys get screwed.”
This off-hand remark assumes that as a feminist, I know nothing about men and have no sympathy for them. By implication feminism is about the plight of women and girls only, somehow at the expense of men. Firstly, to address the personal implications, which are the least important: I do have brothers, male friends—in fact I tend to get along well with men and have had many male best friends over the years—and a male partner who somehow managed to avoid absorbing most of the tropes of dominant masculinity, except a lack of interest in house cleaning. Still, he loves and respects women and not in that annoying kind of way: as a self-appointed care taker of and guidance counselor for supposedly vulnerable and easily distracted young ladies. That kind of “good” man is one of my bug bears, but I digress. Secondly, feminism is not based on the notion of a gender war: male versus female. It is not some kind of oppression contest that lumps all women together. Feminists are nevertheless attuned to the big picture, noticing and critiquing institutionalized sexism and broad articulations of gender, even as they remark on difference. That said, I too am very pleased to be having a boy, mostly because I cannot live through the sheer torture of teenage girl years again. Many women have revealed exactly the same reaction: being a girl and young woman is so shitty that they dread experiencing it in a repeated, even more alienated form with their hypothetical future daughters.
4. “You are going to be a great mother.”
Well I certainly hope not. I will do everything I can to escape the trap of the “good mother” as it is narrowly defined in contemporary western culture. Current maternity involves the qualities of self-sacrifice, self-abnegation, and constant toil. I presume that the taxi driver who made this comment—though he was not the only one to do so—had something like that in mind. I admit that I might be wrong. Perhaps the driver meant that I would be an ass kicking feminist mother bent on undermining gender roles and battling the school board. Yet when the taxi driver in question took one look at my belly, he announced: “I see that you are having a boy by the way that you are carrying.” His insight was based on having had six children himself. With six different women. Apparently all of them were “bitches” who made it impossible for him to be a good father, or to have any kind of relationship with his children. This irresponsible claim gave me pause. I am willing to believe that some of these women were indeed “bitches,” but every single one of them? Who is in fact the common denominator here? Suffice to say that I did not appreciate having this multi-baby daddy think well of me. When I admitted to having a “husband,” he nodded in approval, as if that meant that I was submissive. In contrast, one man who has offered me no advice whatsoever is my obstetrician. My interactions with him are highly medicalized, consisting of tests, measurements, norms, and statistics. Our office visits last about ten minutes, much to my relief because like him I have other shit to do. Though I am a specialist in the history of childbirth and midwifery, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe, I was not able to hire a midwife for my own pregnancy. I admit that I decided not to work with either a midwife or doula because I feared that I would not perform the role of pregnant woman to their satisfaction. Pregnancy and birth are not magical or spiritual events for me; nor do I require emotional support. Don’t get me wrong: I am curious about this process and eager to learn something new through physical experience. But I am not the crying, moody, dependent type and a shitload of pregnancy hormones have not changed that. As far as I can tell they have done practically nothing other than support a growing fetus and stuff up my sinuses for the past 39 weeks, leading my partner to label me “snory dwarf.”
5. “I should have let you get that dog you always wanted.”
This statement was made by my regretful partner. I had often discussed getting a dog, either a mutt or a Welsh Corgi, promising to “feed him and walk him and give him a bath and brush his hair and let him sleep in the bed with us.” My LSP had always refused, in part because he thought that a dog would be too much work and in part because he is a cat person. I also love cats and we have had several over the years but are currently petless, still grieving the loss of our beloved Muffalo. But now that I am providing my hirsute man-cakes with a son, he sees his terrible mistake. He reasonably presumes that a child will be more work than a dog. It is true that I will soon be feeding, bathing, and walking a miniature person who will be less likely to poop outside and stay in a kennel. “Let this be a lesson to you,” I said to my LSP as we drove away from the Babies R’ Us loading zone with $800 worth of strollers and breast pumps stashed in our new CRV Touring vehicle, heading off to Home Depot. “You should let me have what I want, before I come up with an even more diabolical plan.” FHL [fuck his life].