Pregnant While Feminist


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Pregnant While Feminist | A Practical Wedding

Egalitarian Pregnancies

For years, as we’ve talked about egalitarian partnerships and marriages, I’ve wondered if there was a deep, dark secret that no one wanted to mention.

Pregnancy.

I mean, let’s be real: in mixed-gender partnerships, there is only one of you that even has a possibility of knocked up. It’s not like you can talk it over and decide that your husband is really going to be way better at pregnancy, so that’s going to be his job. (And even though I can’t personally speak to same gender partnerships, it’s still usually just one of you having a baby at a time.)

All this time, my secret worry was this: after all of the years of chore balancing, feminism, and building a partnership where we took on tasks and roles based on what we were good at, not based on cultural assumptions… if you get pregnant, isn’t that all over, short term? The dirty secret is that biology isn’t egalitarian, right?

Wrong.

Well, I mean, right that David can’t get knocked up. I did, in fact, read the biology textbooks correctly on that point. But I was dead wrong that pregnancy couldn’t be egalitarian. It turns out that the existence of egalitarian pregnancy was the real deep, dark, never-discussed secret.

I’m going to be blunt: my pregnancy has been hard. It’s not something I have enough distance from to write about in detail, but suffice to say, very difficult. To add to that, I was dealing with the somewhat more public than usual (hey internet!) cultural narrative that pregnant women have a perfect life, which starkly contrasted with my reality this summer. To be pregnant in this particular cultural moment (if society deems that you check the right age, social, and economic boxes) is for people to assume that you have it all, and that you’re glowing with joy at every moment. It’s pregnancy, redefined as a status symbol. This, of course, is total bullshit. It also pits women against women, while stripping pregnant people of the agency to feel whatever they feel. In short, it’s damaging as hell. It can take a hard pregnancy and make it hard in a sort of awful psychedelic 3D.

But through it all, I wasn’t alone. Well, at first, I was. The first trimester can be a profoundly lonely time. Often very few people know what’s going on, and all your partner can see is that you seem to have a sort of ongoing flu. The reality is locked inside your body, which can be confusing and isolating. But then. A difficult second trimester rolled around, it turned out there was one other person living inside the bubble of my experience: David. He did the chores when I couldn’t, listened when I needed to talk, and kept going for me. If pregnancy is a small otherworldly orb of experience, I discovered that there is space for your partner inside that orb.

Recently, a member of the APW community emailed me commenting on my pregnancy announcement post. She said, “It’s so nice to know that I’m not a freak of nature or a failure as a woman just because I sometimes wish that my husband could do this pregnancy thing instead of me, or at the very least take turns with me.” And then it hit me: the secret truth is that our partners can, sort of take turns with us. Mine did, in very real ways this summer. In the worst of it, partners can climb inside the experience with you, lift you up when you can’t lift up yourself, and walk the road right next to you. No one had ever told me that. I hadn’t ever imagined that. But it’s true.

This summer, though a deeply difficult and often uphill struggle, hit me over the head with a surprising truth: pregnancy can be a profoundly feminist experience after all. (Pro tip: If you want this, start by marrying a feminist. Or converting one.)

The Less Feminist World

But here is the catch (and isn’t there always a f*cking catch?): the world isn’t a very feminist place. And when you’re pregnant the world is really not a feminist place.

I wish I could make a list of all of the gender-based assumptions and comments that I’ve been hit with since becoming visibly pregnant, but really, who has the time? I’d like to tell you that as an ardently feminist woman who fills her professional life with writing about ways to upend the cultural narrative, the assumptions and comments didn’t build up like slow lead poisoning, causing me to crack under the pressure. But why bother lying to you?

What I can tell you is that the comments never seem to stop coming, and they are almost never directed at male partners. Questions like: Are you going to stop working? Are you going to take the kid to work with you? You don’t want someone else to raise your kid for you, do you? Since you’re pregnant, you’re feeling sort of dumb and incapacitated, so I should probably think for you, right? I can totally give you daycare suggestions—are you looking for one day a week daycare or two? What are you eating—is that good for the baby? Lady PUT DOWN THAT STARBUCKS CUP, you horrible person. Don’t hurt yourself, you might hurt the precious baby (forget about you). These days, you’re only interested in baby stuff, right? You are getting the most expensive possible crib, right? You’re not getting a crib at all, are you? WAIT LADY, I HAVE A QUESTION!

While your mileage (should you find yourself pregnant) on what questions want to make you gouge out your own eyes with a fork may vary (and perhaps you find all the questions suggested above to be charming), my mileage was pretty shitty. I wanted to know why David wasn’t being asked the same questions. It seemed bad enough that I had to be the one in maternity clothes, why couldn’t they at least bother the hell out of him with mildly offensive questions, and leave me alone?

Why did no one assume he’d be doing legal work with a baby minding itself in a playpen in the corner of the office? (You might answer: because that’s absurd! But it’s of course equally absurd to imagine the kid untended in a playpen in my office.) Why did no one assume that his life was suddenly consumed by shopping for baby stuff? (Fact: he actually cared more about shopping for baby stuff than me, because he actually likes shopping). Why was no one asking him to give everything up, while assuming that I had obviously given everything up already?

Of course the gendered flip side of this is equally shitty. Pregnancy (perhaps particularly egalitarian pregnancy, I don’t know?) is an emotional ride for both partners. You’re both standing on the edge of a cliff, with zero idea of what the next part is going to feel like, and no way to confirm that you’ll fly instead of fall. You’re both staring down one of the hugest changes in your life. But no one considers how this affects men. I mean, maternity leave is a terrible enough proposition in this country, but forget paternity leave—that’s not even part of our cultural conversation. Sure, the pregnant lady might have less energy to devote to things right before the birth, but the other partner has zero constraints on time and energy, right? Not to mention that the rituals of support for pregnant women in our culture rarely extend to men. They get a back slap and a cigar, and everyone moves on.

Women: We never stop talking to them about pregnancy. Men: Carry on as usual, and buck up about it.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I wish I could wrap this up for you with a kicky conclusion, or a nice solution. But I don’t have much.

What I do know is that I want to tell everyone I know about how egalitarian partnerships support pregnancies. I want to take out a (APW?) billboard that says “EGALITARIAN PREGNANCIES EXSIST!” Possibly the back of the billboard will say “YOU DON’T HAVE YOU TO GIVE UP WHO YOU ARE TO BE PREGNANT!” But I don’t want to drive up the birth rate or anything.

But as for changing the cultural narrative, I’ve got nothing. Yesterday’s post on name change suggested that we take up the mantra, “You don’t get a say,” when people try to intrude into our choices. And as much as I enjoy the image of yelling that at the next person who criticizes my… anything… that’s not quite what I want. I don’t want to shut people down; I want to change the conversation. I don’t want to tell people to shut up. I want to stop being treated as nothing but a vessel, like my person has ceased to exist, ceded entirely to the yet-to-be-born. I want to remind people that I’m still right here (and I’m allowed to buy cute maternity clothes damn it, without somehow damaging my future kid with my lack of womanly sacrifice. Don’t get me started on the zillion and one shaming conversations I’ve been subject of on that topic). I want the idea that we’re planning on using childcare to not be taboo or shameful. (I’m an ex-nanny for goodness sake. I don’t feel guilty about childcare, and I don’t want to have to pretend that I do.) I don’t want the assumption to be that everything is changing for me, but nothing is changing for my partner. I want David to be offered some damn support.

In the end, I always wanted to be a person that had a kid. I still want to be a person that has a kid (at least when I’m not freaking out). After all, I love kids more than anything. But I never had any desire to stop being Meg and start being Mother instead. And now, super pregnant, none of that has changed.

What should change, if you ask me, is the conversation.

Photo: Emily Takes Photos (APW Sponsor)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

    “I don’t want to shut people down; I want to change the conversation. ”

    I think is a crucial thing to mention, because most people are just trying to be excited for a pregnant person, and communicate that in some way. We need to teach people how to do that in a way that isn’t borderline offensive, sexist, or presumptive, about who feels what, and who will do what.

    Once you become aware of how presumptive these conversations can be (and thanks, Meg, for raising the awareness) it can be hard to know what to say to a pregnant person that isn’t any of the above. And there is always the possibility of not mentioning it… but then, that seems rude too. Silly to ask what you’re doing over the holidays without acknowledging your world is about to change, right? Any tips gratefully received.

    • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

      I think that Meg’s email gives us some guidance:

      1. Congratulate the couple on their pregnancy–not just the physical bearer of the child
      2. Ask how it’s going for both of them in a way that is open to hearing any answer, and doesn’t assume anything. Listen to the answer with your whole heart and soul open.
      3. Realize your own choices for how you will handle (in no particular order): birth, breastfeeding, weaning, diapering, work, baby butt care, swaddling, sleeping, child care, material toys are made of, stroller style, preschool choice, etc. etc. etc…. are just that: your own!
      4. Watch the documentary: BABIES, and be amazed and humbled by the universality and utter individuality of the human experience
      5. Ask the person not physically pregnant how they’re holding up and how they’re finding this whole thing.
      6. Assume that all parties are intelligent adults who will do all in their power to be the best parents ever–in the way that works for them.

      Meg? Would any of this work for you?

      • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

        Obvs, I meant Meg’s post not email. Brain fart.

        • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

          I got that! But it also made me think how it often feels like Meg is writing to us each, personally, you know? That’s why I love APW!

      • meg

        I think open ended questions (vary by how well you know the person) always win the day. The same stuff we’ve all learned with weddings, applies here.

        How are you feeling physically?
        How are you feeling about the pregnancy?
        What are your plans for after the baby comes?
        Is there anything I can do to help you? (Perhaps offer specifics here: I’d love to babysit, can I bring you food after the birth? I live near the hospital, call me any time while you’re there if you need something.)

        These are basically the exact same questions I suggest during wedding planning, since it opens you up to actually share in the person’s unique experience without assumptions or judgement, and to support them. Usually if you start there, they feel heard, and further questions become less of an issue. If you then follow up with “What crib are you getting?” they’ll already feel like you are hearing them without judgement and feel fine saying, “Actually, we’re not getting a crib!”

      • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

        Ooh, seconding the “Babies” documentary. I can watch that when I’m stressing about all the little things regarding impending parenthood and come away with only one calm thought: “Man, okay. I’m worrying about this way too much. The baby will be FINE.”

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          I actually cried a little, while watching it, before I got pregnant. With relief, mostly.

          I mean, that kid shares her bathtub with a goat and is fine! My future-hypothetical kid will probably fine too!

          • meg

            Frankly, the kid who shared her bathtub with a goat seemed slightly more well adjusted than the doted on children… :)

    • rys

      “I don’t want to shut people down; I want to change the conversation. ”

      Yes. Please do!

      I suppose I’ve been “lucky” in that I have several friends who have not been reticent about their awful pregnancies — neither expected it per se, and the experience challenged them significantly. I’m grateful they were open about it, doing their bit to shift the conversation….it’s ok to think of the fetus as a parasite, because, well, that’s what it is. And sometimes that parasite feels less like a child-to-be than one of those terrible worms you can pick up when eating rotten fruit in the jungle. And that’s pretty sucky. And even if you’re physically feeling fine, the comments, oh the comments. Yikes.

      Also, can we have some posts about converting feminists? I’d love to hear from people who have converted feminists, be it their partners, parents, friends, whomever.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

        The foetus is NOT a parasite. For starters, parasitism is a relationship between 2 different species….
        Maybe it can feel like that, pregnancy is known to be uncomfortable, but one thing is to use it as a metaphor and another one is saying IT IS.
        Also, you could argue that a foetus is exactly the opposite, since as per the biological definition a parasite “does not contribute to the survival of its host”, and in this case, the foetus is actually ensuring your survival, biologically and evolutionarily speaking….

        • KB

          Whoa, I can see this argument tripping, stumbling, and taking this post way off the other side of a cliff – the assertion that a fetus/baby (whatever you choose to call it/he/she) is or is not a parasite is a loaded, ad hominem argument and, really, besides the point. I think what might be more on point is to say that it’s hard to bond with your future child when you FEEL like it’s sucking the life out of you in that it’s already taking advantage of you, making you tired, inducing all sorts of changes that you were intellectually but not emotionally prepared for, and converting you from an independent person to this macro-level idea, aka The Vessel. And then you feel like a horrible, terrible person because as a mother, you’re supposed to love it/he/she from the get-go and you can’t help but think “Dear God, am I broken?”

          I’d like to point out, though, that our own mothers probably felt the very same way – but they just chose not to talk about it. I mean, I can’t imagine my mom being like, “Yeah, it was awful when I was pregnant with you, I totally questioned my sanity and well-being as a person.” And I might be sad and somewhat traumatized at that – but I’d also like knowing that it ain’t just me. And that, you know what, it worked out fine in the end.

          • Kristen

            I so completely agree. This has been one of the hardest things for me about being pregnant. Intellectually, I know there’s a baby growing inside me, but emotionally, I just feel like crap. There’s this weird thing when you almost feel like your body is betraying you because it’s doing SO MUCH that is out of your control, and it’s just plain taxing. I’ve had those moments when I’m puking and just feeling miserable where I just think, “Why did I do this again?” And then the guilt comes because we’re supposed to love this baby from the very beginning. And honestly, at 10 weeks pregnant, I’m not that attached yet. It feels more like the never-ending flu than carrying a baby.

            All that is to say I never knew how crazy and conflicting the emotions of pregnancy are. No one tells you that part; they just focus on how insanely happy you must be every second to be bringing life into this world. The reality is that sometimes it can be lonely and sanity-challenging and HARD. I love the idea of a world where there’s room for all of those feelings, both good and bad.

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            @Kristen – I didn’t feel attached to my baby 10 weeks along. Or 10 weeks after she was born, either, if we’re being honest. But I gave it space, and time, and now I think she’s the cutest, bestest baby ever.

            I felt like a failure for a long time because I didn’t love her for months after she was born, and I wish I could have been more kind to myself. I got there in the end, and I think as long as you act kindly towards yourself (and the future kid, of course!), everything will probably be fine! Eventually. (Again, it took me months and months to get to this calm place.)

        • rys

          I just want to clarify that “fetus as parasite” is a metaphor several friends have used. I didn’t intend to state it as a reality nor imply anything more than it’s a way of thinking about pregnancy that my friends have expressed to convey their experience — and been critiqued for — that helped me understand how they felt, as KB writes, like a vessel that a) didn’t feel great and b) that other people (often strangers) took to mean they had a right to comment on how the “host” could and should feel, behave, look, etc.

        • meg

          Lets use it as a simile then, shall we? The biological truth is that a fetus drains a lot from the mother, and can in fact, kill her during both the pregnancy and the birth (something we don’t have to think about so much these days, but is a truth). None of that means women who say that don’t love their kids, but it can feel like a reality during pregnancy. It’s not something I say, and it’s not a helpful argument, so let’s let it go as “something we’ll allow pregnant women to feel as needed.”

          • rys

            Simile = as/like, d’oh. My 7th grade English teacher (and I) thank you for correcting my word usage :)

          • Class of 1980

            We do entirely forget that pregnancy is a risky thing, and that before modern medicine, it was risking your life.

            Nowadays, the challenge is to just keep up with regular life. Pregnancy wants you to sleep and slow down. I worked with one pregnant lady who had a neat trick. She used to lock her glass-enclosed office and sit at her desk with her hair swinging over her face and a pen in her hand looking like she was working. She was taking short naps!

            Anyway, I would HOPE most pregnancies are egalitarian! The whole point of it taking two people to make a baby is that the non-pregnant partner has to step in and pick up the slack for the pregnant partner.

            As far as I’m concerned, any husband/partner that doesn’t do that isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.

          • Class of 1980

            Well, it looks like a fetus CAN actually be a parasite in certain conditions where twins are conceived.

            This is the most bizarre story I’ve ever read.

            http://www.momlogic.com/2008/12/one-year-old_girl_is_pregnant.php

  • jelena

    This is a great post, but I hit a discordant note twice in the beginning as the term “gender” was mis-used in a very critical way. In some “mixed gender” couples, both partners may actually be able to physically carry a child given that gender is associated with the behavioral/cultural/psychological definitions of one’s sex as opposed to a physical sexual definition.

    • meg

      True! There are tons of ways to use the terms, but inside the LGBTQ community I operate within in San Francisco, the terms mixed-gender and same-gender couples are the terms of choice, so I used them here. Obviously gender is a complicated issue, and other people may use different terms, and terms of choice may change over time.

      • A Different Annie

        I’d tend to echo Jelena’s sentiment all the same, though: certainly not objecting to the terms “mixed gender” or “same gender” at all–simply to the assertion in the post that “in mixed-gender partnerships, there is only one of you that even has a possibility of [getting] knocked up.”

        This is not true of all mixed-gender partnerships.

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      Ha, I’ve actually been thinking about those terms a bit when we’re talking about “finding out the sex.” (Something that will hopefully happen this next week!)

      I use the term gender when referring to it sometimes, then think about “what if my baby is one sex but identifies as another gender?” But then I notice that typing, “We’re not sure what to do about the sex” or “We plan to share the sex with everybody!” could be misinterpreted in hilarious ways.

      I’m sure our future child will forgive me. ;)

  • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

    Rock on, David and Meg. Just keep doing what works for you and leaning on the people who provide the kind of support that actually helps you get through. There is no “right way,” just the way that will be right for you. There are so many weird scripts in our culture–some of which seem to have been written centuries ago, and never dusted off for revision.

  • http://www.thequestionnowbecomes.blogspot.com alloallo

    I’ll tell you what, I wish there was an egalitarian way to do fertility treatments. If anyone somehow has that one figured out I’d be dying to know how it goes.

    • kayakgirl73

      I concur. The poking and probing was awful. I felt like a pin confusion. The hormones from the meds were a roller coaster. He did try to be as supportive as possible, but just once I wish he could have had his blood drawn, and an internal ultrasound all before 7:30 am.

    • meg

      I can’t speak from experience, but Ariel wrote a lovely post on Offbeat Mama about her partner supporting her through fertility treatments entirely. That she just showed up in body, and he did all the logistical and some of the emotional heavy lifting. Thats really what I’m speaking about here too. The poking and prodding and awfulness has all happened within my body, but it turns out my partner is able to share that load. (Your results obviously may vary! This is just my personal experience.)

      • http://offbeatbride.com Ariel

        Ooh, here’s a link to that post:
        http://offbeatmama.com/2010/05/coming-out-of-the-infertility-closet

        The co-parenting dynamic we established during IVF set the stage for our co-parenting dynamic after my son was born. I did all the biological stuff (breastfeeding round the clock) and my husband took care of most of the other stuff (ie changing diapers, preparing food, cleaning the house, etc).

        Once we were done breastfeeding, the parenting weight was distributed along less biological lines, which was a relief.

        • meg

          I have a friend who’s husband changed EVERY diaper during breastfeeding, because “if you’re handling what’s going in, I should handle what’s going out.” Then, after breastfeeding was over (didn’t totally work for medical reasons) he did the nights for nine months, to make up for the nine moths of pregnancy he couldn’t carry for her.

          Sniffle.

          • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

            Awwwwww! That is super sweet.

            Baby H is still nursing, and we do have a somewhat bio-driven plit of duties – A cleans my pump pieces, gives H her vitamin drops…. A changed all the diapers while on paternity leave, in a similar in/out logic, and he still changes them more often than me. This is something I’ll loudly note when I reply to my grandma’s recent letter asking if A ever “helps with diaper changing.” Sigh… grandmas…

  • Peabody_Bites

    Yes Meg. Yes yes yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. Not a very articulate response from me, but pretty heartfelt. Thank you so much for going before us (me) and kicking aside the reductive cultural constructs to demystify pregnancy and strip it back to the core of what really matters – a small person being born to you and David. Much like you did for weddings, really.

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    I love this post. Like, I want to print it out and highlight half of it and put it on the wall it’s so awesome. What blows me away is how amazignly balanced and thought out your perspective is, and it’s so right on: start treating pregnant women as whole human beings, and start offering support to the other half of the couple.

    My only experience with pregnancy as yet was brief and mostly upsetting, having a first trimester miscarriage. It was also enough to confirm that a supportive partner who is a present part of the experience can make things egalitarian. After the miscarriage I noticed a similar trend in the comments from those who knew: I was overwhelmed by people checking up on me, making crazy intrusive/offensive comments, and yet no one inquired after Bunny or tried to support him (and seeing as he was dealing with his own experience as well as taking care of a hysterical partner he definitely needed some outside support). The whole narrative needs a retune.

    • meg

      Oh, that hurts so much. God, after a miscarriage, the partner not getting enough support and care? That rips up my heart (and does not exactly surprise me).

  • Senorita

    This is what I hope for!
    Well, the egalitarian part.
    I’m so sorry that your pregnancy has been so difficult, both physically and socially. If my response to hormones (both natural and in convenient, pill form) is any indication, I am in for a very rough ride when my time comes. My fiance always jokes, “I want to have your babies” and he really would if he could. But despite the whole, not having a womb thing, I know that he will be there supporting me in every way possible every step of the way. I’m glad to hear that really makes the difference I hoped it would.

    p.s. you really wanna start some s***, just tell people that your partner is going to be a stay-at-home dad while you go back to work, now that’s been a fun conversation.

    • http://letsbeamie.wordpress.com Amie

      The man and I have talked about this option many a time with each other, our parents, and friends. We both see the value in how the one that can work from home, will. The decision on who it will be is going to be based on where our careers are at the time. I will take at least a 6 month parental leave, but he can also take a parental leave after mine and work from home after that.

      It’s looking like it would be him, not me, spending more time with the babe. We haven’t had any raised eyebrows, or scrunched noses at this. Then again, I’ve brought it up with my female friends who are also really power career driven, and my parents are feminist.

      I agree that some people are still stuck on how it has to be Mom who stays home. But what if Dad’s job can be from home, and Mom makes more money?

      • R

        Heck, Dad can be the one that stays home even if he makes (made?) more money. When my mom went back to work so that my dad could quit his job and start his own business, she made 1/3 of what my dad’s salary had been. My sister and I had both started elementary school by then, but he did all of the before/ after school childcare/ soccer practices/ girl scout meetings- there wasn’t any room in the family budget to pay someone else!

        Even after my sister and I both went to college/ moved out/ etc., my dad still prefers working from home. And my mom still enjoys working in an office and interacting with lots of people. So while income can be a driving force (and can certainly make it easier to justify a less typical decision), I’d like to also introduce the idea that personal preference/ working styles can also drive the choice of who (if anyone) stays home.

        • Marina

          Yup. My husband made half again what I did. Also I loved my job and he could barely tolerate his, plus not having a distinct schedule and doing housework drives me crazy while he finds it relaxing. It’s meant tightening our belts a lot, but the decision for him to be a stay-at-home-parent was pretty clear and straightforward, though not financially-driven.

      • Caroline

        That’s nominally our plan. After a maternity leave, I head back to work, and he is a stay-at-home /work-at-home dad. Ideally, he will have launched his own business by then, and can be at home parenting half time and we will have a nanny there the other half to let him get solid work done. It has to do both with career salary expectations, entrepreneurship dreams (he has lots, I have none) and temperament (I need a LOT of external structure and he needs very little.)

      • MDBethann

        My DH works from home full time and that’s before we were married and we still haven’t had kids yet. I have about an hour commute each way between my home and the office. Guess who will be doing the daycare run and doctors appointments much of the time? My darling husband. And while he now makes more than I do because of his field, for much of the time, our salaries have been pretty similar. But where we live, it’s pretty pricy, even without kids, to live on just one salary.

    • Class of 1980

      I don’t understand why anyone would have anything to say about the husband staying home with the baby. He is the other parent.

      • Senorita

        You would think that would make sense, but what I usually here is a “Just you wait” with the smile that says “I clearly know more about your family’s preferences and values than you, you silly naive girl. Apparently, the actual bringing home of a real child will be enough to scare off any man from the crazy thought of full-time child-rearing.

  • http://www.somervillebeat.com Lakelady

    LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!

    This is what makes me keep coming back to APW over one year after my wedding. Thanks for writing it.

  • Laura

    Great post! I’m really sorry that you’ve had such a tough pregnancy, and I’m so happy to know that your partner has been so supportive.

    Pregnancy and motherhood in North America seems to come along with a cultural construct of guilt. Guilt if you work, guilt if you stay home, guilt if you co-sleep, guilt if you get a crib. Guilt if you breastfeed, guilt if you don’t. When there’s this unspoken idea that the slightest mistake you make could IRREVOCABLY SCREW UP YOUR CHILD FOREVER AND IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT, mothers feel huge pressure to do everything perfectly. Which is of course impossible. But if you are perceived as making even a tiny mistake, people feel like they have the right to comment to save both you and your baby from the horrible fate of imperfection.

    When I was a teacher, I saw what a strange family dynamic this can cause. Because no child is perfect. Yet during parent teacher conferences, when you present a parent with their child’s imperfections, (as in “Johnny is a good student overall, but English is just not his strength”), parents perceive it as a comment on their parenting skills. If Johnny is bad at English, it means that they went wrong somewhere. They didn’t get him enough tutors or play him enough Baby Mozart. The thought that Johnny is just maybe not very good at English is not acceptable. If he is less than perfect, it implies that his parents are less than perfect too. Mothers especially take the brunt of this. If your child’s grades are low, other mothers might be reluctant to befriend you. Unfortunately, this can lead to denial and teacher-blaming: “You’re not challenging him enough.”

    The thing is, kids are pretty resilient. A few parental mistakes are not going to screw up a kid forever, and chances are that Johnny will go on to become successful even if he is bad at English. This cultural narrative of “perfect parents (ESPECIALLY perfect moms) = perfect kids” puts completely unrealistic expectations on the entire family.

    • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

      It strikes me that this “I AM RESPONSIBLE” martyrdom dynamic is a really weird brand of narcissism wrapped in a “selfless” cloak.

      • Lethe

        This comment totally wins the “most true thing I have read all year” award.

        I think this dynamic may be a consequence of the cultural narrative that women have to give up so much/all of themselves when they become mothers. If you feel you had to give up the things that were the foundation of your identity for your kid, then Johnny BETTER DAMN WELL BE GOOD AT ENGLISH or what was the point of it all!?

        • Laura

          Yes. As weird as this sounds, some parents were actually relieved to find out that their kids had learning disabilities, because that meant their child’s performance in school wasn’t “their” fault. On the flip side however, sometimes finding out about learning disabilities came with even more shame, because it meant that you must have done something REALLY wrong to screw up your kid so bad.

      • Laura

        I totally agree!

    • KB

      Totally this. My mom asked me a couple years ago if she was a bad mother because she worked all the time when I was little. It kind of made me snap my head around and go “WTF?” and then I found out she’d been watching Oprah :-p I actually told her, honestly, no, I didn’t like day care. I didn’t like being the last one picked up at almost every day or feeling like scheduling my pick-ups and drop-offs were a huge fight-inducing thing.

      But, you know what, it doesn’t actually matter what I did or didn’t like – now I’m a successful, self-supporting, emotionally stable adult with a good relationship with both my parents. I’m not an axe murderer, I’m not “damaged,” I didn’t join a cult. So, do I wish she and my dad would have done things differently? Yes. Do I blame them or think it negatively affected me in any way? Hell, no. And I think the answer would probably be the same no matter if he or she stayed home, home-schooled me, took me to work, whatever. I think a lot of the guilt, whether self-induced or put on by other people, is all for naught because, in the end, it is really, really hard to screw up your kids when they see that you’re trying to do what’s best.

      • meg

        I think you’ve hit something here. Because, seriously, we don’t always get what we want. And raising our kids to think they are always going to get what makes them the happiest is a setup for disappointment later in life.

        I mean, not that we should just screw with them to make them miserable, and obviously we should try our best. But seriously: we don’t always get what we want (but we hopefully get what we need). Ha.

        • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

          My mom stayed at home until my sister started 6th grade then went back to work part time until she was in high school. …but my sister used to ask if she could go to day care because she wanted to play with other kids everyday instead of coming home. lol

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            My dad worked from home and my sister had a nanny (working from home doesn’t equal full time care for a toddler) and I demanded to be put in after school care one year, because I wanted to play with the other kids.

            It turned out to be not as awesome as I thought it was going to be, but still.

          • meg

            I HATED not going to pre-school every day, like the kids whose “mom’s worked.” I complained all the time.

        • MDBethann

          I think the most damage we cause for children is when we let them think they CAN have everything they want and that everyone always wins. Life doesn’t work that way, as much as we may like it to. I know the idea behind a lot of this is to teach kids self-esteem, but it seems rather false to me because then we create unrealistic expectations. Should we do everything we can to help our kids succeed? Yes. Should we do the work for them? No. Is it okay to let them fail and make mistakes sometimes so they learn from them and hopefully become resilient and learn how to deal with things they don’t like? Heck yes!

    • http://woodentable.blogspot.com Lindsay

      As a new mom of an 8 -month-old, Laura’s comment about guilt was spot on. As an introvert, I had a lot of stress throughout my pregnancy related to the attention and comments that people felt entitled to make. Much like how WIC makes you think you need so many things for your wedding, the baby industry does the same. But not only do you need all these things, but you have to behave and parent this way. After my daughter was born, there were other issues too, particularly around low milk supply and breastfeeding. (Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, there is guilt. Just realize now that you can’t win either way.)

      But with time, I have gained some perspective and the confidence to think — and sometimes say, like, out loud! — that I am doing and have done what I feel is best for my child.

      So my humble advice, based on my personal experience, is as follows: DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. Screw what other people think and follow your own instincts. And you know what? There will be times when you do something and realize afterwards that you wish you had done it differently. And that’s okay! So you change for next time. I’ve found that parenting is a lot of trial and error. That realization was liberating for me too.

    • meg

      I work really hard to just shake the guilt bullshit. On some level I have an advantage, in that I’ve been working closely with kids on and off since I was about 11, so I really understand that they are just small people: resilient, and imperfect. All you can do is love them up, and do the best job you can. They are who they are born to be.

      So my personal rebellian is to try to cut the guilt crap. It helps no one.

      • Hannah

        Beautiful.

    • Maddie

      If there’s one arena in which I’m SO glad to have been raised by a teenage mom, it’s this. Statistically, I was raised on conditions that should totally mess up a kid: mom in high school, parents not married, we moved around a ton, my mom remarried, my parents worked, you name it I endured it. But you know what? They didn’t screw me up. Maybe that’s because my parents primary standard for me growing up was that I didn’t turn into a douche bag (seriously I think that was like, the only rule was that I had to become a good person). Or maybe it’s because if you fill a kid’s life with enough love, the details of how that’s expressed can be secondary.

      • KTH

        “if you fill a kid’s life with enough love, the details of how that’s expressed can be secondary.”

        This is amazing. I want this written in giant letters on a nursery wall.

    • Marina

      Relevant link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-keith/new-moms_b_1850227.html

      My favorite quote: “You can’t win at parenting or homemaking. If you think you’re winning then everyone else thinks you’re a dick.”

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      If you read the baby books (and I read all of them. Seriously, dozens of them. I had a problem.) some of them actually say, in words, that if you do this/don’t do that you WILL RUIN YOUR CHILD. Seriously. It’s absolutely crazy making. (One of the worst ones was being told if you were too anxious while pregnant that could ruin the child’s brain / emotional reactions for life. THANKS BOOK, that didn’t add to my anxiety at all…

      • http://www.agaishanlife.com Revanche

        My poor mother pretty much went to her grave blaming herself for my brother being an asshole because she was “unhappy while carrying him” and she had been convinced that had irrevocably effed him up.

        Uhh no, Mom. Y’all did the best you could with him but he was pretty much bound and determined to go the way he wanted which was down Crap Lane to CrapperVille!

        And that was before the baby books. I can’t even imagine how you’re still sane after the books!

  • North Star

    I haven’t had any children yet but my husband and I would like to be parents. I’m so glad to “A Pratical Wedding” is discussing this as I often wonder how I can deal with the cultural narrative on pregnancy with its concern in whether a woman is making an appropriate level of maternal sacrifice and its need to advise women of the “correct” way of doing things. There’s definitely a narrative on doing weddings the “right” way but the narrative on what pregnancy should be seems even stronger and more fraught with emotion. I’m excited to read these posts like this before I have children as they give me hope that perhaps we can change that narrative so that it will be more supportive of both partners and less judging of maternal choices.

    • http://akc09.livejournal.com Annie in LA

      If it’s at all comforting, my experience in pregnancy so far is that the cultural narrative you’re talking about isn’t necessarily inevitable or all-encompassing. A lot might just depend on the people you’re around. If they were the kind of people who were cool and respectful and supportive of what you wanted to do with your wedding, chances are they’re not suddenly going to jump down your throat and become different people once you’re pregnant.

      I may have just been incredibly lucky so far (and I still have a few months to go, so it may ramp up as I get bigger), but I keep waiting and bracing myself for the rude comments, and so far there just… haven’t really been that many. I also find that laughing and saying, “Well, we’ve got our plans, but when push comes to shove, you do whatever works best for your family, right?” works wonders.

      So though everyone’s mileage may vary, that struggle is not inevitably soul-crushing by any means. :)

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I think it depends on the culture you are living in. I was only touched once without asking during my whole pregnancy – and that was by a clerk in an airport in Mexico. I live in Western Canada, and on the whole, we’re a reserved lot big on personal space and boundaries. I had a lot of internal issues while pregnant, but in world around me was pleasantly quiet about everything.

  • http://abbyspolitics.blogspot.com Abby J.

    I admit, the cultural narrative that being a pregnant woman completely opens you up to public ownership of your body makes me really nervous about childbearing. People seem to feel like they get free rein to make any number of intrusive/offensive comments and to judge you when you don’t agree with their preconceived notions. Politicians, particularly in the current American political climate, feel like they can make all sorts of laws governing how you treat your body and how and where you give birth, even how you pay for it.

    Damn, this is a cultural climate that needs to be changed. If the process of bringing our future children into the world has to be so fraught, no wonder many people feel trepidation about it. What a well-timed post, Meg! My husband and I are planning to start a family in a year or two, which is going to be on the horizon sooner than we think, I am sure. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one quietly freaking out about these things.

  • KH_Tas

    Not 5 minutes before I read this post, I saw a response to a former sports teammate’s post on facebook (paraphrased) ‘oh it’s not like your marine biology degree means anything, being a mum is all that matters about you, isn’t it’.
    So, in other words, topical from APW (again, funny how that works). Bravo for another excellent post and here’s to changing the conversation!

    • meg

      DAMN IT. No one said that to her husband/ partner I betcha.

      • KH_Tas

        I’m pretty sure he gets to continue to be himself, yes

  • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

    This is a great post Meg.

    I think that a lot of people try to shame and scare pregnant women whatever they do. I’m a firm believer that there are different paths that are right for different people and that maybe you start out with some ideas about what you’er going to do as a parent but those can change, or not, and either way it’s okay and more importantly most of the time its not really anyone else’s business.

    However I feel like I’ve gotten rather a lot of shit from people for not being ‘feminist’ enough as I enter motherhood. From my early twenties I knew that I wanted to have children and I wanted a life that would support me mostly staying home with the kids while they’re very little. I have made a lot of choices in life in my career and in my marriage with that goal as a primary factor in my decisions. I don’t think everyone want’s to do that, nor can they, nor should they – but that’s what I have always really wanted to do. When I tell that to some women they get angry at me: I had one woman tell me that it made her want to punch walls, I’ve had people tell me that I will lose my identity to my kids, I’ve had people’s eyes glaze over as they automatically reduce me into some kind of lame 1950′s housewife stereotype and write me off.

    Often times I’m scared to share my plans for motherhood with other mothers because I am afraid that if what I want to do is different than what they’re doing they will interpret that as a negative comment on their parenting, which it’s not meant to be but I’m sure that it happens.

    But different people are different – they have different needs and baggage and histories – and all of these things lend themselves to different parenting styles and choices and I think that SHOULD BE OKAY. I’m not making the choices that I’m making to be a good woman or a good mother, I’m making them because they are what I want and what I think will keep me the most healthy – and making healthy choices – no matter what a person’s choice is – is the most important thing, in my opinion.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Good for you for doing what seems right for you and your family.

      It’s funny how you can’t win. I am waffling about returning to work after my year long mat leave, and I’m being shamed about returning to work. It’s all in your community’s standards, I know, but it’s really offensive no matter which side people are criticizing you on.

  • Amy

    I was so, so surprised by how utterly rotten pregnancy made me feel. I lost 20% of my body weight due to morning sickness and the weird cultural narrative then meant acquaintances *congratulated me* on not gaining too much weight, and *looking so great!* during pregnancy. Meanwhile I could barely get off the couch, and eating was an extreme challenge for the first 5-6 months. It was horrifying to me that people thought this was a good thing – that it meant I’d lose the baby weight so much faster! Um, yeah, no.
    I found it equally weird when picking out daycare that the owners of many centers themselves mildly shamed me about working after my son was born. Um, how are your bills paid people?!?! In our neck off the woods nanny=good, daycare center=bad, with a healthy dose of class/money condescension thrown in. Sigh. It helps to have a few good girlfriends with a healthy attitude, but man, if one more person told me how I should just stay home with the kid until grade school I was going to smack someone.

    • BB

      I’m so sorry to hear you have had such a bad experience! I hope that you are now able to eat more, because you’re right, that’s not healthy for you or the baby. Also, it’s so messed up that as a culture we are so superficial and vain as to think skinny always = good. Finally, Don’t guilt yourself about daycare. You have to do what works for YOU/YOUR family, not what works for others. I grew up in daycare in a “nanny” neighborhood and never felt deprived. It allowed me to interact with other kids from many different walks of life and forced me to learn social skills, as well as independence from my parents. As long as you love your baby and do what’s right for you and him/her, you are being the best mom you can be. Goodluck!!

    • meg

      THE DAYCARE CENTER SHAMED YOU FOR USING THEM? Sorry, I just had to go slam my head on the desk.

      We’re starting tours, and I just vowed that anyone who makes shaming comments won’t be watching my child.

      • Amy

        Yup, the daycare owner said something along the lines of “well, you may work for now, but you won’t be able to once your child is older or you’ll never be able to host play dates”. Um, yeah. I’m still amazed I didn’t cry.

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          I’m amazed you didn’t barf on them, because that comment is majorly gross.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Please tell me you’re not going to use them?

          • Amy

            Nope! We moved towns and the options for daycare got a lot more plentiful and a lot less insane thankfully. We’re now at a lovely daycare where my son is thriving and doted on :)

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        Finding a daycare has sucked SO HARD. Especially in a city in the middle of a huge baby boom, so there are like, 3 options total. (I wish I was kidding.)

  • http://www.breakingdownthebank.blogspot.com EmilyEF

    I feel like this (like so many other posts APW offers us) is a very unique feminist post because it wraps up with very concrete goals for what the author actually wants. It’s impossible to change the conversation about pregnancy if we don’t know what we want it to change to. I’m not pregnant, but I hope to be, someday. I don’t know how I’ll feel then, but I do know that when I congratulate my pregnant friends now, I wish they would/could tell me what they want and need in order to feel supported. Our cultural narrative offers us so few examples of how to approach an egalitarian pregnancy, and some of us are just not good at thinking outside the box. Hopefully more posts like this will help me not to just stand there blinking and silent the next time a friend announces a pregnancy.

  • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

    “I don’t want to shut people down; I want to change the conversation.”

    This will probably sound familiar to other APW Nerdfighters (I know there’s at least one of you!).

    There’s a quote by John Green from his book Paper Towns that simply says, “imagine others complexly.” Simple quote, but a bit harder to actually practice than it is to say. Internally, we know that we as people are so much more than what others might see or hear from us. However, externally the primary ways we connect are to find similarities in others to comment/ask about, and then relying on what we know from past experiences and stereotypes in order to phrase those thoughts or questions. The problem comes when we hone in on one aspect of a person (pregnant, engaged, disabled, etc etc etc), and let that be our entire frame of reference for all of their actions.

    There’s always going to be some level of disconnect, unless you’re within that close circle of people who really know you as a more complicated human being. Even then, I think it’s not possible to completely reconcile your internal image of yourself with others’ image of you – but that’s not super relevant to this topic. I’ve just been writing quite a bit about it recently.

    I think part of the change in conversation comes from understanding that other people don’t really know us as well as we like to think, and understanding that we don’t know others as well as we like to think either. That and knowing that the truth resists simple answers.

    When I got about a month away from the wedding, the “are you excited” question started coming so often that I almost wanted to stab everyone that asked it. Trying to hold the idea that people are just looking for a way to connect with you is a bit difficult, but I accomplished it by rephrasing my answer to the question. Instead of the flat, “yea, totally,” that I kind of blew people off with, I answered, “Yes I am, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.”

    I ended up avoiding most of the stock questions about weddings that people ask after that. The people that were genuinely interested or open to that idea asked me why it was complicated, opening a better conversation. Those that didn’t went away looking slightly confused but no worse off for the day.

    There was a small percentage that continued to ask questions that made me want to stab them. I didn’t, because those people are also complex human beings who probably have their own reasons for asking the questions. But I really, really wanted to.

    • Jess

      Yes, there are other Nerdfighters on APW :)

      And I think your point is a key part of why people ask easy questions and make assumptions about how other people feel. Unless you’re genuinely close to someone, it can be almost impossible to know the right question to ask.

      • meg

        The right question to ask is ALWAYS, “How do you feel?” Because you *don’t know.*

        • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

          THIS.

          My sister-in-law recently had a much rougher second pregnancy, compared to her first. For either pregnancy, I really didn’t know the questions to ask so I took a backseat and listened to all conversations rather than put a foot in my mouth. However, both my sister and my stepmom (both have had kids) always led with, “how are you feeling?” At which point my sister-in-law would give a huge sigh of relief and be able to rant as much as she wanted. It’s pretty much the only question I will ask in regards to pregnancy now.

          How are you feeling/How do you feel seems like a good question to ask in pregnancy. I think it’s good in weddings too. It leaves room for more honest answers.

          • Colleen

            I think that’s true, although I know I saw complaints on message boards from other pregnant women who were sick of being asked, “How are you?” all of the time. I also had more than my fill of the question, and I think that’s largely due to the tone used by the asker; there seemed to be an underlying assumption that there was a correct response for me to give. Now that I’m on the other side with my 2 year old and 8-week old, I get the same question, and I get the impression that acquaintances are disappointed when I say I’m doing well. With our first, we actually lied about her sleep habits when people asked because a baby who sleeps well is also not the “correct”/relatable answer. (Other conversational issues i’ve dealt with include: comments that now we’re “a real family” because we have a boy and a girl, being asked while still in the hospital if we would have more, comments that I’d lost weight/I keep losing weight/any other comments about my body/weight, and eye-daggers aimed at my husband when I tell people our unmedicated birth story. In actuality, he was an amazing support for me, and believed I could go med-free even though I wasn’t convinced but wanted to. That example of his full-on spousal support was what this piece most reminded me of. He really carried me emotionally through that experience while I did the physical work, and I know it was challenging for him to decide what was him supporting versus what was him pushing. And now he gets the evil eye from people.)

          • Alicia

            For me that was the dreaded question, because I felt like shit for 12 weeks non stop, I was barfing, had heartburn… headaches, all basic flu symptoms, it was endless as far as I felt. I wanted to be the fun happy pregnant person, but mostly I felt like my insides were battling my sanity.

            So when every day at work the same 2 people would walk up to me and say feeling better today? I would want to scream, because I could only say… sick, I am so not a complainer and I felt like all I could do was complain about all my aliments, I had nothing positive to say, and it went on for weeks, well into my second trimester, where I then was told every day… oh you should be feeling better by now.

            So for me, how are you feeling? is a question I will never ask my co-workers, a close friend who doesn’t feel awful complaining about how much being pregnant actually sucks for her, maybe… but even then it is a question I will try to avoid.

            Instead I ask… How is your day going? Because that gives you the chance to talk about something other than pregnancy, or is open-ended enough that if you want to say you feel like shit you can.

        • Jess

          I can’t reply directly to Colleen, but I was going to echo her comment about hearing other pregnant women complaining about being asked how they feel. But maybe you just can’t please some people! “How do you feel?” or any variation certainly hasn’t bothered me so far.

    • KTH

      Yay Nerdfighter/APWers! And that quote from John Green is so fantastic and really makes you stop and think. And then think a lot more. And then act like a much better person.

  • KB

    Can I also echo the sentiment that it’s totally not fair when society isn’t totally ignoring a man’s role in his partner’s pregnancy, it’s putting the same sexist bull*&$% on them that’s creepily like the same wedding bull*&$%? Like, “Oh, she must be driving you crazy with the nursery thing,” “You know you’re never getting sex again,” “You should read those books or she’s going to nag you to death.” Oy vey.

    Also the idea that if it’s a boy, you’re the one teaching him how to throw a football, and if it’s a girl, she’s Daddy’s Princess and you’re going to fight the teenage boys off with a shotgun. Why can’t the Mommy teach them a spiral or lecture first dates within an inch of their lives??

    • http://twitter.com/barnswallowkate barnswallowkate

      We didn’t find out the sex of ours because I didn’t want to deal with those comments, but I just realized all I’ve done is defer those comments until immediately post-birth when I’m going to be sleep deprived and in pain. Oops…

      • meg

        You know, one of the reasons we DID find out the sex (long story, not going into all of my reasons publicly) is I realized tons of people were treating being female as a disease. “Well, you don’t want to find out the sex, because if it’s a girl, then people will give you piles of pink things and gender up the kid, and how terrible.” And I realized I DON’T think being female is an illness, and that’s sort of how it was being treated, and I didn’t like that.

        • Marina

          … Woah. I had never realized it before but that is EXACTLY what those comments are doing. Mind blown.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          This is a really interesting point; I’ve never thought about it in that way.

        • Laura

          That’s a valid argument – but from my perspective this isn’t selective to having a girl-child. Girl or boy, there are consequences, positive and negative and neutral, I suppose, to learning and telling the sex, which is exactly what the above poster has said. I find it hard to believe that people would actively choose not to find out the sex just in case it’s a she. You may not have meant it that way, but, to tentatively invoke Freud, (respectfully) I’m getting a semi-reaction-formation-y vibe from this comment. Yes/no/maybe?

          • meg

            People *totally* avoid finding out the sex partially to avoid piles of tutus at the shower. I absolutely get that, a thousand times over. But, for the above reasons, that wasn’t my headspace with it.

            The bottom line is, the gender ramifications and assumptions for boy babies are far less intense. They are THERE, but they are less intense.

        • http://twitter.com/barnswallowkate barnswallowkate

          This is really thought provoking. I’ve absolutely seen what you’re saying – that kind of low-level misogyny is all over our culture. Yet part of why I didn’t want to know was in fact to avoid tons of pink dress gifts if it’s a girl. It doesn’t make a lot of sense because I like plenty of traditionally feminine things, including pink and dresses! I think having a girl would be so awesome so it’s not like I’d prefer a boy. Plus once the kid is old enough to decide what they like to wear, I won’t say “No sorry that pink dress is too girly” because that would be awful. And it has been bothering me that gender-neutral often defaults to male – it’s ok to put a girl in a blue shirt but god forbid a boy wears a pink one, it might have girl cooties! Somehow I am simultaneously saying “Traditionally feminine things are good!” and “But I don’t want them!” and I’m getting confused.

          I think I was trying to avoid saddling the baby with “boys are like this, girls are like that” messages before it even takes its first breath, but that’s something we all hear from the world our entire lives. We’re going to have to constantly demonstrate to this kid that girls and boys can be however they want. Maybe it makes more sense to start dealing with that up front instead of trying to put it off. Additionally, if people make outright sexist statements now they’ll be doing me a favor. I won’t have to pretend they’re worth spending time with (or, if spending time with them is non-optional, I can start the education/smackdowns now).

          I doubt we’ll go find out now but I’ll at least keep this all in mind once the baby arrives.

          • meg

            Whoa! To clarify: I don’t think people don’t want to know it’s a girl because THEY don’t want a girl! But I think when people are trying to avoid gender ramifications for their unborn kids, we’re all very aware that the gender ramifications for girls are harder to deal with, because we live in a somewhat sexist culture. I get that! Feminist choice FTW! I just realized that for MY feminism, I didn’t want to avoid finding out the gender if the fear was “It might be a girl and people will react badly by giving us tons of pink crap.” Because for me, internally, that was saying having a girl was more problematic, and I didn’t want to do that. I’d rather start the push back early.

            Just different ways of looking at the same problem and trying to solve it.

          • http://twitter.com/barnswallowkate barnswallowkate

            I can’t reply directly to you, Meg, because we’re too many comments into the thread, so this will have to do. I think we’re in complete agreement, sorry if that wasn’t clear. I was just trying to work out why I was afraid of possible pink baby things despite liking pink things myself.

            The low-level misogyny I was talking about is the general scorn for traditionally feminine things – like when you were saying there is a fear of getting pink/gendered things, and how being female was being treated as an illness. I guess depending how you look at it, though, that scorn for pink things really could be scorn for the boxes society puts girls in, not scorn for the girls themselves. I didn’t mean it was misogyny in the “People don’t really want girls” sense.

            Does that make more sense? I’m not sure I’m explaining myself properly. The short version is: I see what you were saying about fear of pink presents = saying having a girl is more problematic. Since I agree that having a girl is not more problematic, but I was scared of pink presents, I was glad you made me think about it.

          • meg

            (I know. Secretly I’d LOVE to get a box of tutus as a gift. I mean, I think I’m not supposed to say that as a liberal, but TUTUS!)

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            @Meg re tutus. We didn’t find out the sex in part to make sure we didn’t get overly gendered *everything*. (Of course, all the hand me downs are gendered, and that’s fine.) Also, because the kid wouldn’t stop moving during the ultrasound and we had no choice, but after I got over the initial disappointment, I quite liked not knowing.

            But I may have since gone out and bought a couple of tutus, because they are adorable. Especially in teal.

          • http://twitter.com/barnswallowkate barnswallowkate

            One last attempt to clarify because I’m still not sure it’s clear if someone reads this later: my original comment should have said “low-level SOCIETAL misogyny/sexism” as opposed to individual sexism. Ok I am done!

            Related: just last night someone told me if we have a girl they’re going to buy us this bib that says “Mommy + Me = Broke Daddy.” Sigh.

        • KB

          Totally think the clothes example works the other way though because of my parents’ experience. Not to freak you out or anything, but my parents had a sonogram, the doctor said I was a boy, everyone gives them boy stuff, etc. Then I popped out and I was a girl. Cue: Whaaaa…?

          Mad props to my parents though for decorating my nursery in a gender-neutral “jungle” theme. Although they play it off as a feminist choice now, I secretly think it was actually the least hideous wallpaper at Hechinger’s at the time…

          • KH_Tas

            *makes note to decorate future un-conceived kid’s bedroom in jungle theme*

        • sarahdipity

          This was one of the reasons we didn’t find out the sex of our chid and definitely the only one we normally told people who inquired about why we were waiting. But I don’t feel like it was treating being female as an illness. First off I am female and I dislike large quantities of pink and figured that later on a daughter might prefer pink but until a preference was made clear there was no reason to have tons of it in my house. I strongly feel that you can be a good girl without being girly. (At least I hope so since that’s how I was for large parts of growing up.) Secondly I also didn’t want gendered clothing for a boy. Little boys should be just as free to dress up in tutus if they want to just like girls shouldn’t be required to.

          However the best and biggest reason that we didn’t find out the gender was that I really wanted a girl and not finding out helped me to realize that there were always going to be things about my child that I wasn’t gong to be able to control/change. It really helped me let go of my dreams of having a little girl and by the time we had our baby I was just eager to meet the baby and no longer had a preference.

          Our son will be 4 weeks old tomorrow. It’s definitely been a crazy crazy adventure with amazing highs mirrored with amazing lows. The one thing I’d say is that while all the dumb comments really got to me while I was pregnant (I hated being pregnant), I have found that having a small child has made me so grateful for the kindness of random strangers and people we don’t know super well. People have gone out of their way to help us and made me feel so much less alone this month. Plus the last 4 weeks have just reaffirmed and demonstrated in new ways how amazing my husband is. It makes me tear up just thinking about it.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          @barnswallowkate – THAT’S what I object to – not to the colour pink, but to the weird hostile “cute” slogans. Like the “My Mom is MILF” and anything to do with shopping and “Smart Like Dad” in blue and “Pretty Like Mommy” in pink. Ugh. There is so much gross crap out there.

      • Laura

        Hopefully with a physical baby in front of them people will be less inclined to say anything…I hope! Best of luck to you.

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    I find it really interesting how you feel that David has really been able to be a part of your pregnancy. I’ve quipped a few times about how I’d be a better non-gestational parent than a gestational one…unfortunately, I’m in a heterosexual relationship so that’s not so much an option (I’d say I’m marrying an emerging feminist so the education on some topics is still on going…). Although we’re choosing not to have children of our own (tubal ligation next month, thank you Obama!), I find this sharing of an individual experience really calming? in some way. If this experience (along with weddings perhaps) that is usually so female focused can be shared by both partners then it provides hope for so many other life steps and challenges.

    Well done. Both you and David. :-)

  • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

    This post makes me think 3 things:

    1) We need sexier/cuter maternity clothes options.
    2) A few years ago BUST magazine ran an interview with a few photos of a very pregnant comedian (maybe Samantha Bee?) standing on a ladder, eating paint straight from the bucket. It was ridiculous and so funny, and a great comment on how pregnant women ARE and ARE NOT supposed to behave. Injecting some humor into the cultural conversation wouldn’t hurt.
    3) I’m surprised more pregnant women don’t commit violent crimes, after hearing the comments they put up with.

    • meg

      1) We actually just need less shaming about choosing to wear cute maternity options, if you ask me. My maternity clothes are CUTE, and the number of comments I’ve gotten about how “Really I should just wear exercise pants and save money for the baby,” are pretty horrible. Mostly, oddly, they’ve come from pregnant women.
      2) Yes!!
      3) Yes.

      • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

        Re #1: Oh dear Lord. That makes me feel really sad, about what those women must be thinking to/about themselves, that they need to reinforce ideas about sacrificing for yourself because the baby is obviously more important.

        NO. Babies need moms who feel good about themselves, try to enjoy life, and don’t sacrifice everything including their own happiness. In other words, role models.

      • KTH

        #1 is just crazy! Every time I see a pregnant lady wearing cute maternity clothes, I think “Oh man, I hope I will look that cute when pregnant! I should ask her where she got that…”

        I mean, if you WANT to just wear sweatpants sometimes, go for it. But if you want to dress up fancy and feel adorable, you should absolutely be able to do that too!

      • Marina

        Cute maternity clothes are an absolute necessity. Being able to put on cute clothes when I felt shitty saved my sanity, I swear.

        • meg

          Agreed. Best money I ever spent, hand to god.

      • KC

        #1 is COMPLETELY INSANE. Maybe it’s run-of-the-mill I-don’t-feel-good-in-my-maternity-clothes-so-no-one-should jealousy? (I say this because I think jealousy makes most people act completely insane, so it’s my go-to “hm, could it be?” option when something makes no sense at all)

        Rock the cute maternity clothes! Rejoice that there are more options than in years gone past!

        (and possibly a snarky response to crazy people: “Well, I wanted to be sure that my baby looked cute even before it’s born, so it doesn’t have self-esteem problems when it emerges…”)

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          It’s so hard to find cute maternity clothes in Canada. Almost all my cute maternity clothes were bought on trips to the States. I am envious.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        I’m glad you explained this because I was wondering what tactic people used for shaming someone for choosing to wear cute pregnancy clothes.

        • Shiri

          Yeah, ditto. That didn’t even occur to me and is horrrrrrrifying.

          • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            Yes, I couldn’t figure out how cute clothes could be dangerous to a baby. That shame approach certainly hadn’t been on my radar.

            I think a woman feeling good about her look and style while pregnant is a great thing. I would hope to feel that way too and would love to wear cute clothes while pregnant…

      • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

        Come on people, you can get so many cheap cute maternity (or just oversized) clothes at places like Ross now. Just… cute shaming, really?! Just… no.

      • Class of 1980

        Okay, shaming over cute maternity clothes is a new one for me!

        I’ve worked with tons of pregnant women in my life. How would they have come to work without nice clothes?

        Color me confused.

      • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

        Um WHAT? I don’t even understand…

      • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

        I can’t believe people actually say that! F that noise.

  • http://weskislow.com meghan

    As a feminist woman who has been pregnant, I also at times found it to be annoying that people assumed certain things about me, my partner and how our lives would be after baby. HOWEVER, I liked talking about my pregnancy and how our lives would be different after the baby. I did not find it overly difficult to take things with a grain of salt and move on. Some of the comments were a bit of comic relief. Some were helpful. Pregnancy can be a unifying experience.

    I actually felt that talking about it might change some of the conversation and give some of the commenters something to think about.

    I am also fairly certain that as long as you are walking around with a basketball sized abdomen protruding in the world that people are going to make comments.

    • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

      I’ve tried to have this attitude, so far mostly with success. To just listen to all the advice/anecdotes/whatever and not let them affect me too much. Some of the stories I’ve gotten from my grandmothers have been really interesting, and I feel like I’m in a new secret club. Others? Um. Less so. But I’m trying to be aware that I am SHOWING and therefore commentary is UNAVOIDABLE, so to just embrace the goodwill and shed anything else. (Have I mentioned I hate people intruding on my personal space and also small talk? That’s a thing.)

      I do find myself trying to change the subject pretty often, though. Either because I feel guilty dominating conversations (as the only pregnant person in almost ALL my circles), or because I know my pregnancy and child-rearing decisions do not reflect the status quo. And I’m very sensitive to causing motherguilt.

      Were there a way to talk about parenting without people becoming prematurely defensive about their own choices…oh, man. That would be bliss.

      • Hannah

        Premature defensiveness. That’s what my comment (far below) is about. So destructive. Thanks for this comment.

    • meg

      I have not at all found pregnancy to be a unifying experience. In the least. The opposite, in fact. Divisive, full of judgement, full of intentionally hurtful comments—often from perfect strangers.

      • MDBethann

        Meg, that is such a shame. There are so many young 20 and 30 something women in my office who are pregnant (been cycling through for years now) and at least around here, I’ve never heard people judge or be hurtful – I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that. Most of the time, people are happy for the mom-to-be and we wish them well. I feel bad for the dads-to-be around the office because they just sort of disappear for awhile and we don’t know why – just figure they took a long vacation, since there’s no outward sign that they were expecting, like there is for the moms-to-be.

        After reading this post and the comments, I made sure to ask one of my nearly-due colleagues today “how are you feeling” (I got a crappy and ready to be done answer) instead of asking whether she was happy or excited. Turns out, she’s had a rough-ish pregnancy and is ready to be done; she didn’t hate it, she just said it’s likely more physically taxing in your 30s than in your 20s (she’s in her mid-late 30s) and she’s ready to be done and meet her son.

    • meg

      Also, it occurs to me re: the comment below, that the way people support a pregnancy that’s generally on the rails is going to feel different than the way people support a very difficult pregnancy. Or perhaps they way they support them is exactly the same, and that’s the problem?

      Also, it’s important to note that women with difficult pregnancies (and now I’ve talked to lots of friends who had difficult pregnancies in different ways) usually don’t like talking about their pregnancies (as you noted), because they’ve learned that within a sentence someone is leaping to judgement or giving them orders on what to do. So that, also, is going to influence people’s experience.

      The sad thing is loads of women have really hard pregnancies, and we don’t have any context for talking about that.

  • Jess

    I’m halfway through my first pregnancy and I find it so fascinating the things that are the same and the things that are different, depending on circumstances, the people we know, and the ways our bodies deal with the same experience. I have to say, I was expecting negative comments out the wazoo – intrusive questions, assumptions, belittling comments about my husband’s role, etc. Now, I’m not yet obviously pregnant (I haven’t had a single stranger ask/comment yet) so I know this may change when I’m obviously showing. But I’ve been SO IMPRESSED at the non-judgmental, open questions and comments I’ve gotten from coworkers and my church community. So far people are simply happy for us and invested in my welfare. In most of those situations, my husband is not with me, but I’ve fielded lots of questions about how he’s doing and how he feels about it – all asked without obvious assumptions behind them.

    Just last night my husband was sharing a conversation he’d had with a coworker – someone who, like my husband, grew up without a dad in the picture, but who’s already well into the parenting experience. The coworker was super opinionated about the responsibilities of fatherhood and had a lot to say. My husband seemed to genuinely enjoy this/be interested in what he had to say and we ended up having a great conversation about what parenthood might be like for both of us. While he’s been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about my pregnancy, in many ways its been a completely different experience for both of us and it was great to learn more about how he’s dealing with it as the partner. Also, he said that he realized how important it is that we have 9 months to get ready – it really takes all that time and work to get there, for both of us.

    • http://www.icookwithwine.com Melinda

      Thanks for this Jess – I’m at the same stage and having a similar experience – I was kind of wondering if I was oblivious or missing something! The world has changed a lot already in regard to gender roles and pregnancy and while I too still have those moments Meg mentions, it is pretty rare compared with more non-judgmental questions and personal stories. But I have really tried during this experience to keep an open mind about everyone else’s good intentions as well, because truly, most people are trying to help, however misled their efforts may be. But I’ve definitely been pleasantly surprised.

      Like Meghan above, I’ve enjoyed talking about the pregnancy and our future plans – I haven’t 100% decided anything yet and it helps to talk it through. But all of the people I really care about have been very supportive when discussing the options, including utilizing childcare and having a partner who might be more responsible for child-rearing. My husband will be an older dad too, and he received a lot of positive support from friends and family on that endeavor, especially when he opens up about his concerns.

      I don’t doubt Meg’s experience and agree that it would be nice if everyone took a more open-minded and egalitarian view on the pregnancy experience, but I did want to share my positive experience too – it can happen!

      • Jess

        Glad I’m not the only one! I’ve definitely prepared myself for negative comments in the hope that they don’t sting quite as much. I work in a children’s library and I KNOW that as soon as I show more obviously, I’ll be getting comments every single day. I hope people continue being just as supportive of you!

    • meg

      To be clear, we have a SUPER open minded and supportive friend group. But the cutting comments are still around, and hurt loads.

  • Laura

    This is a great and very relevant post for me, and I’m not pregnant nor planning to become so soon. However, my sister-in-law is dealing with a tough pregnancy in a number of ways, and other family members are having a tough time responding to it. I am going to think about how I can better support both my brother and sister in law, even from a distance. I’m living in both a physical and cultural space where everything about pregnancy seems to be sunshine and puppies, and this gives some much needed context.

    • meg

      This. I think if you’re having a normal easy pregnancy, things are very different, because there is a cultural narrative that mostly explains and backs up how to support you. I don’t know that you can compare the response to a hard pregnancy with the response to a more normal pregnancy, because it’s a bit apples and oranges. There is also a narrative for one, and not a narrative for the other.

      • Jess

        FWIW, I am 16 weeks pregnant & have had a “very easy” pregnancy (physically) thus far–aside from some major fatigue during the first trimester, I’ve overall felt mostly fine. We also had absolutely zero problems conceiving, & weren’t even really “trying”–we were just “not-not trying.” Besides completely fortunate, what I feel most of the time is crazy guilt & confusion over how to dialogue with friends who are pregnant, have been pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant who have *not* shared my experience. One good friend struggled for a year & a half to conceive; others have been so sick during pregnancy that they’ve been hospitalized.

        Additionally, frankly, the fatigue was quite enough for me. It sucked, a lot. & even though I haven’t been ill, I still find much about pregnancy uncomfortable. Point being, I have had about the “easiest” pregnancy of anyone I know (so far, knock on wood), & I still don’t think the cultural narrative supports my experience. I am *not* a glowing shiny picture of health & happiness.

        None of this is to minimize your difficult experience, but to say that I’m not sure the cultural narrative really supports *anyone*.

        • meg

          Totally. On all points.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Easy and difficult don’t have to be related only to the physical side of pregnancy. I had, physically, a breeze of a pregnancy, and I worked up to the day before my water broke (and was still planning on another week of work!). But I had an emotionally challenging pregnancy, and dealing with that was totally a separate thing, compared to say, my friend who had to be hospitalized for extreme nausea. I mean, they both TOTALLY suck, but they suck in different ways.

          And yeah, the cultrual narative is totally not helpful for either.

          • meg

            Yes.

        • Class of 1980

          The fatigue is normal. Nature wants you to sleep more right now.

          For some reason, even though it’s supposed to happen, I don’t think it’s common knowledge.

      • Victwa

        I guess. I don’t know. I had an easy pregnancy in that I had no real physical stuff apart from being, well, pregnant. And I still HATED BEING PREGNANT. I felt lots of guilt about it and felt like I couldn’t talk about it because yeah, there are many, many women who have things much worse than I did with their pregnancies, but pretty much within 6 hours of delivery, once the epidural wore off and I could walk? I was rejoicing in how I could MOVE again, and I was SO GLAD TO NOT BE PREGNANT. And there’s not really a cultural narrative that supports people complaining about their easy pregnancy because they just didn’t like being pregnant.

  • Laura

    Hm, thought-provoking. A couple of them (oh how I love a good enumerated list):

    1) Even my most forward-thinking friends always seem to “correct” me with, “Well, *she* had/is having the baby” when I say something like “He had a baby last year” or “They’re having a baby in November.” What the heck? I’m obviously not referring to the physical act of *having* babies – I too was awake for that biology lesson. There seems to be this cultural denial that the non-birthing partner has anything to do with a child coming into the world or surviving in it.

    2) It doesn’t always have to work out this way, but, having just visited two sets of new parents this weekend, both of whom have been highly egalitarian in their pre-child lives, it seems, to an outsider at least, that an unequal load does need to be carried by the birthing-parent in the form of breast-feeding (if you decide to breast feed). Sure, you can pump, but that also takes time and effort and can’t be performed by someone who isn’t lactating. Clearly there are other jobs that can’t be shared either, but this one really stands out as the chief post-natal responsibility of whoever gestated the child. So… no big take-home here, just an observation.

    3) I may have converted a feminist partner :D

    • Victwa

      It’s true that I’m the only one that can breast feed/pump, but last night, I had relatively uninterrupted sleep from when I got into bed until 5:30am, and I have a 2 month old baby who woke up very hungry at 2:00. Having pumped before going to bed meant that my fiancé got up and attended to the 2:00 feeding. I personally think the breast pump is very, very key in terms of adding to the egalitarian possibilities of baby-rearing. I am a better human being when I have had more sleep. A much better human being.

    • meg

      1) To be fair, we ALWAYS say that I’m giving birth the baby, or pregnant. Because I am, and to say “We’re pregnant!” to us, really minimizes the reality of it. We’re both going to have a kid, but I’m pregnant.

      2) Yeah. Tough. I can’t speak to it in first person, but from our experience so far, if you have to do one thing, your partner can pick up a lot of the rest of the load, which can help a bit. IE, you breast feed, he cooks, cleans up, does the laundry, etc. We’ll see!

      3) YAY!

      • Laura

        Re: 1) I definitely know what you mean – *you* are certainly the pregnant one, make no mistake. But let me give a pinch of context: Another student in my PhD program who started a year before me is taking his qualifying exam the same week as I am – or, a year later than the norm. When someone (not in grad school) asked me why that was, I replied, “He had a baby last year.” Her reaction was the typical, “Well, his *wife* had a baby.” Which made steam come out of my ears, as though his life wasn’t also irrevocably altered by the kid, as though there was no reason that *his* work should be affected. (Luckily, being a rockstar, he’s still going to finish his degree on time, by the way, which is remarkable for *anyone* who becomes a parent in grad school.) My thinking is, good for him for taking the time (paternity leave-ish) to be an active parent in the newborn stage and first year!

    • Marina

      Re: 2, I felt like my husband and I had a pretty egalitarian newborn period. I fed the baby, my husband diapered, rocked, cooked, and cleaned. It took me a few days to realize I had to let go of everything besides breastfeeding and sleeping, because it was so different from how I’d envisioned parenting, but it worked out pretty well.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      2) Can also just be a phase. I mean, the newborn phase is a total blur, and the breastfeeding one is certainly on call in a different way. But it doesn’t last forever! Before too long, baby can go for more hours without eating and eating gets faster, and chores can shake back out in a more egalitarian way.

      (Also? Just tangential, but my kid breastfeeds like a champ, and I can’t pump at all. I think my breasts are too big for the (thankfully borrowed) $350 pump to extract any milk. It’s honestly easier for me to wake up in the middle of the night and feed the baby for 20 minutes than spend hours at a pump. But everyone is so different! YMMV. I just get tired of being told that a pump would change things – even in the brief window where I had a hospital grade pump that worked, it still took just as much time to pump as it did to feed her at night. But I am also on mat leave, so can take more naps to make up for it.

      Man. Everything babies has so many sides of issues to discuss.)

  • http://twitter.com/barnswallowkate barnswallowkate

    So much yes! I’m about 2 weeks behind Meg, I think, based on her announcement post. My pregnancy has probably objectively not been so bad but I pretty much hate it. It’s been hard to wrap my head around the fact that even though my husband has wanted kids his whole life and I just got ready for it in the last year or so, I’m the one that has to be pregnant because of biology. I’m also the more complain-y one of the two of us, so that’s fun for everyone I’m sure. He is really involved and so helpful but it’s not like he can take the hormones/physical discomfort for a night to let me get some sleep, you know? So there are limits to how egalitarian this can get but it’s certainly worth striving for.

    About the Less Feminist World:
    1. So far I haven’t gotten too many rude comments. I think it’s because everything we’re hoping to do is pretty standard for our area and social group. Who knows what we’ll get when we start talking to strangers. I also haven’t had any strangers touching my stomach, so yay for that!
    2. Baby showers, oh god. Why are they just for women? Babies aren’t just for women, neither is the baby party! Sometimes men say “I am glad I don’t have to go because it’s boring.” WHAT MAKES THEM THINK WE DON’T FIND IT BORING TOO. And isn’t it possible that the non-boring part where you socialize with the soon-to-be-parent is something men might like? I’m having my husband, brother, dad and father-in-law come to ours because the first grandkid on both sides is a pretty big deal for them and I want them to get attention and congratulations. I wanted the whole guest list to be coed but it was too many people, and I’m a little disappointed in myself that I’m not changing the conversation more there.
    3. This whole experience has been so profoundly disruptive that I am even more adamantly pro-choice than I was before. No one should have to go through this unless they really, really want to and have the support they need.

    • Marina

      “This whole experience has been so profoundly disruptive that I am even more adamantly pro-choice than I was before.”

      YES THIS EXACTLY. I can’t imagine dealing with the physical issues of pregnancy while also dreading the end result. Really really really wanting the baby was what got me through it.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        YES. I have said this too. Pregnancy and babies are hard, even when they are planned and wanted. And if they’re not? Man. So terrible. Yay choice!

      • meg

        I know, me too. Which is the opposite of what I was expecting.

        (To be clear, I know loads of APW-ers don’t agree with me on this and I don’t expect them to. But still, yes.)

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    I don’t consider myself a feminist and neither is my husband, but when pregnancy was difficult for me, my husband was there to make things easier in whatever way he could. He was mindful of what made me sick and he did more around the house encouraging me to take care of my body and mind because while I did feel like I glowed many days, there were just as many days when I felt awful and questioned whether or not we had made a horrible mistake – thank you pregnancy hormones. While generally only one person is pregnant in a relationship at one time, the other partner can be a huge help and share in the pregnancy in so many ways. I always wanted my husband to feel included, so we shopped together and when his stepmom offered to throw a baby shower, I said only if it was for us both – not a “girls” only event and honestly I think my husband was more excited about it than I was.

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    I love this: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/hello-stranger-on-the-street-could-you-please-tell-me-how-to-take-care-of-my-baby

    It’s a comedic take on exactly what you’re talking about, Meg, about nosy strangers knocking that coffee cup to the ground!

    • Class of 1980

      SO funny.

  • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Ceej

    I’ve found my not-terrible pregnancy to have the opposite impact. That EVERY parent I talk to has had (or has been partner to) a miserable pregnancy. My coworkers come over to “check in” gleefully awaiting stories of throwing up for hours or weird fluids. Every single day. And every single day I disappoint them. I’m also apparently the only woman I know who’s excited to be visibly pregnant and need maternity clothes?

    I haven’t heard any of this maternity-wardrobe-shaming business, though. Is it too dredge-uppy to ask? Mostly based on them being wastes of money? I got a HUGE wardrobe off CraigsList, and lemme tell ya, having cute clothes ready to go has been AWESOME.

  • Marina

    YES. THANK YOU. Both for not turning this into a pregnancy/child blog and also for using pregnancy/children as a lens for talking about what this blog is really about: genuine, truthful, egalitarian partnerships and families.

    I think our culture in some ways sees “mothering” as the only way to parent. I talk with a lot of new mothers about breastfeeding, and one of the things I hear repeatedly is that they want the baby to take a bottle so that dad can bond with the baby. And that makes NO sense to me, unless we as a culture think that because mothers breastfeed their babies, the only way to bond with a baby is to feed it. The things dads can do–diapering, bathing, rocking, playing airplane–are devalued as not “bonding”.

    The other piece of this, about changing the conversation, for me has been a continuation of the skills I learned about changing the conversation around weddings. It felt like a relatively smooth transition for me from acknowledging my husband was an equal participant in our wedding to acknowledging that my husband is an equal participant in our parenting. To me it feels like the same damn thing. One of the things that’s been important to me about both has been to not be shy or defensive about the ways our lives aren’t like the cultural narrative. I’ll talk all day about what a great dad my husband is and how well it works for both of us for me to work full time and him to stay home full time. (I’ve got a half-finished Reclaiming Wife post about it, actually.)

    • Amber

      Having the baby take a bottle makes a lot of sense to a mom who doesn’t want to be waking up every three hours, or who wants to get out of the house without a child tethered to her boob, or who wants to go to work and continue breast feeding. Of course you can bond other ways, but think about how much time feeding takes up, especially in the first few months, so mom does get a lot more bonding time if she alone is feeding.

      • Marina

        I wouldn’t say that mom gets “a lot more” time by being the only one feeding. My newborn ate about 45 minutes out of every 2 hours, which from what I’ve heard is relatively normal, so that’s literally half the time.

        • Amber

          Newborns sleep, what 16 hours a day? So, feeding takes up almost all of the time outside of sleeping, that’s a lot. And if dad’s out working he won’t even be there half the time the baby’s awake. Once you factor that in, it’s a huge difference. And from what I hear of how tiring and draining breastfeeding can be, I’m sure most moms would welcome the relief as well as knowing their baby is getting to bond with his father in another way. There’s no reason to exclude dad from that part of bonding/parenting/raising a baby, so why do it?

          • Marina

            Couple things: unfortunately there are reasons to “exclude” a dad from participating in feeding the baby. Breastfeeding is partially a supply-and-demand system and partially a hormonally-driven system, both of which work best when exclusively breastfeeding. Not to get too specific and off-topic, but especially in the first few weeks giving the baby a bottle can really mess up breastfeeding. (Not to mention if a mom is pumping breastmilk for someone else to feed, she’s still spending the same amount of time she would have spent nursing.) And I fully support anyone who uses formula for any reason, but I wouldn’t say there’s “no reason” not to use it–breastmilk is healthier when it’s an option and that’s a fact.

            I don’t know about most newborns, but mine slept in 20 minute chunks, and only if she was on top of someone. Having someone else hold her while she slept and respond to her every time she woke up was a big deal.

            Plus, I mean, breastfeeding didn’t actually feel like bonding time with the baby to me, especially for the first month or so. It was sweet for the first ten minutes, then boring and sometimes uncomfortable for the next 30. I watched a lot of bad TV. If that’s the only way to bond with a baby, I would have major attachment issues now.

      • Marina

        I want to be clear–I think there are lots of great reasons for parents to decide a baby should take a bottle, of pumped breastmilk or of formula. (Not that it should matter, but my baby didn’t breastfeed for the first two weeks, and currently gets three bottles a day while I’m at work.) It’s just “bonding” as the only reason that just plain seems odd to me.

        • http://www.unfounddoor.com Patricia

          I think sometimes people say ‘bonding’ as the reason to third parties because it is a positive reason rather than the more negative, though often truthful, ‘I need him to do this because I cannot’.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I breast-feed exclusively, and pumping doesn’t work for me, no matter how many hours I sit with that stupid thing attached to my nipple. Does this mean I bonded with my baby faster? Hell no. I had PPD and breastfeeding just felt like a physical act, not an emotional one. (Also, a good excuse to watch a lot of tv.) David bonded with the baby quickly and easily, and feeding or not feeding her had nothing to do with it. The difference, to us, between cuddling and feeding and just straight up cuddling, is that straight up cuddling was more enjoyable anyway.

    • Jess

      I totally agree with you that feeding is not the only/primary way to bond with a baby! I plan to go back to work after maternity leave, so I’m planning to pump anyway (if it all works out), but even if I were staying at home, I’d want the option to pump so that I could leave my husband and baby alone for a few hours and have ‘me’ time. I want them to also have a relationship that does not include me (because I think that will give my husband more confidence doing things that he might otherwise leave to me) and part of that is about bonding (the rest is about ‘me’ time!)

    • MDBethann

      Maybe the “bottle feed so Dad can bond” comes from the social-cultural language that one of the (many) reasons women should breast feed is so they can bond with their baby?

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    This post actually makes me feel more comfortable with the idea of being pregnant and having a child. My husband and I are totally not planning to have kids in the next few years, but sometimes I’m afraid that I won’t ever be ready. (I love taking my own naps; having a glass of wine whenever; not carrying a diaper bag on a plane.) People always say “being a parent feels so different from anything else you’ve experienced,” but this post makes me feel like even if it’s different, it’s still you. And not you alone–your partner is there with you (emotionally, physically, whatever) and your growing family can be whatever it has to be that works for you.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      For me? With a six month old? Being a parent feels kind of like being me with a cute person who now lives with us. I still read, nap, sleep in, exercise, do oil paintings, travel, even have sex. I don’t feel, if I’m being honest, like I’ve changed almost at all.

      Okay, our day to day lives have changed (I’m on mat leave) but I fundamentally don’t feel like I’ve changed at all. YMMV, of course, but this is my experience.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    I saw someone mention somewhere that people always pat the uterus carrying the child and say “good job” or something to that extent. But nobody ever pats the testicles that provided the other half of that child and say “attaboy!”

    Right now we’ve got an egalitarian dissertation going at our place. No, he can’t write it for me. No, he can’t defend it for me. But he can proof read it for me. He can provide me time and space to write it. He can give me foot rubs to calm me down about preparing to defend it.

    While there are a lot of things that can be divided any which way you want, there are things that just can’t. And so we support the person in those things which are uniquely theirs any way we can.

    • meg

      Exactly. Exactly.

    • Laura

      Aahhh the defense, the defense! Only 17 hours to go for me!!! (Well, defense of my dissertation proposal, not the finished product, but that’s the only defense they make us do.) And guess who just took out the trash, scooped the cat poop, swept up, gave me big hugs, and promptly left the house (for a man-date) to let me practice in peace? Best. Support. Ever. We are lucky.

      • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

        Good Luck!

      • KEA1

        WOOOOOOO! Good luck! To both of you, actually. And YAAAAAAAY fabulous support systems! %)

  • October12

    “I don’t want to shut people down; I want to change the conversation.”

    I had an easy pregnancy. I loved being pregnant, actually, and miss it almost daily 11 months later. As a result of the easy pregnancy, I ruminated a lot on how weirdly pregnant women are treated. I wanted to change the conversation, and tried with the people closest to me, but then I got to a point where I was tired and wanted to just shut them down. I didn’t want to be *just* the pregnant woman, I still needed to retain that which makes me, me. I had friend tell me that “You can’t be here!” when he ran into me at a local brewer where the husband and I were long time regulars one night, because everyone knows that pregnant women shouldn’t be in the presence of alcohol. Thank goodness my empty half pint glass had already been removed from the table, can’t imagine what would have happened then.

    I’m still tired. I’m tired of explaining our choices (because they really are *our* choices, we’re doing our best to carry egalitarian pregnancy into egalitarian parenthood), I’m tired of not talking about the hard parts, I’m tired of feeling guilty. We are doing that which is best for our family. Some days I’m not so proud of myself for my lack patience some times. I readily admit that I need regular breaks, just because I stay at home with the boy doesn’t mean I don’t need space from him too. I’m tired of getting the hairy eyeball for that. I wonder if I’m cut out for this some days, and I’d like to be able to talk about that without someone making me feel bad because this somehow means I don’t wholeheartedly love my kid. I do, our life is great, but this change is monumental, and no change is ever perfect and wonderful. Those diapers are not filled with rainbows.

    Let’s start by changing the conversation around pregnancy, then move it forward. This parenthood thing is hard, in addition to all the wonderful cliches that exists about how great and wonderful it is. Let’s stop hiding the hard bits, please.

    • http://www.lifeofbridey.blogspot.com Bridey

      “Those diapers are not filled with rainbows.”

      Ha, I love this!

    • meg

      Mmmm.

  • Amber

    There is support for dads at Boot Camp for New Dads: http://www.bootcampfornewdads.org/locations.php, unfortunately it doesn’t look like in Meg’s area. I know they talk about supporting moms-to-be and new moms, how to keep the relationship going, and that dads can be involved even in things that fall on the mom a lot (breastfeeding, etc.). It’s guys-only which is definitely rare in the world of prenatal/childbirth classes and is essentially taught by guys who went through the class before and have now come back with their infants to answer questions, give advice and talk about becoming dads.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      My province’s health region also offers all men classes, pre and post natal.

  • Sam

    Meg, where are you getting your CUTE maternity clothes?

    • meg

      I had a hard pregnancy, clothes were the one thing that made me feel better so I let go of guilt in that arena. AKA, I didn’t only shop at the cheapest places, and it was the best money I’ve spent this year, so eff it.

      Mix of:
      Skinny jeans from gap (actually pretty affordable!)
      Tops and some other skinny pants from Pea and the Pod (sales when I can) (Overpriced. Cute.)
      Maxi Dresses from anywhere, many non-maternity that I already had
      Fill in with $4 tops from consignment

      The nice thing is I don’t need two wardrobes, since I work at home, so I ended up with a few pairs of pants (those have to change over time as you grow), and some tops.

      (Skinny pants for everything, cigarette pants, skinny jeans, just because A) That’s what I normally wear, and I was insistant I was still going to dress like myself, and B) The LAST think I needed was more volume. Ha.)

  • Paige

    Like you, I hated all the stereotypical inquires about being visibly pregnant. My biggest pet peeve was “do you know what you’re having?” and if the answer was not yes, then it was sheer disappointment on the person’s face. “How could we possibly live 9 months without knowing what color of clothes to buy?! Or what color the nursery should be?!” Yes, because those are the most vital decisions to prepare for a baby — a girl could not possibly have blue clothes or a blue room?! I so desperately wanted the conversations to change and to be more interesting! There is more to me, my husband and this baby than clothes (although addicting to shop for tiny pants and dresses)! And by the way, like you said, it’s still me and I have a life outside of just being pregnant!

    So, the unfortunate news here is that when the baby is actually out, the expectations and intrusive questioning get worse. First, there are our parents that have expectations of how things should go and who should do what (because that’s how they did it and they raised us)! Then, complete strangers start in, which is almost like reliving the inquiries when pregnant, except for now because they have raised X number of kids they know better/more. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate advice (when I ask) and don’t be offended when I don’t implement your advice — ha! sounds like wedding planning all over again! Just like every first time mom and dad, you have to learn for yourself. You will many options: instincts of right/wrong, books, health care providers, searching ferociously on the internet for “what’s normal” or sending a quick text to your sister for some help. But, here’s the beauty, ultimately you’re the parents and you get to decide!!

    Best of luck for a healthy remainder of your pregnancy. But especially, best of luck keeping up the feminism when you’re a parent! [It can be rough out there.]

  • Victwa

    Oh Meg. I send you big hugs and lots of compassionate empathy. This whole transition to motherhood thing is a rich experience. And by rich I mean sometimes amazing and sometimes beautiful and sometimes grueling and sometimes downright lame and unfun. I’ve recommended before (and will again) “The Mask of Motherhood”– lots resonates with what you’ve said here, and while I hope that your experience with labor/delivery/newborn-ness is easy-peasy and blissful– well, mine was not, and if you think people expect you to glow with the joy of pregnancy–get ready for even more when the baby is born. At least, that was my experience. Also including a post with some provocative thoughts on the postpartum experience (this touches on some of the themes you bring up) by a kick-ass woman I went to high school with who is now a professor of queer studies at UCR: http://feministpigs.blogspot.com/2012/08/to-women-suffering-from-postpartum.html#comment-form

  • Mel

    Thank god for APW. I loved this post. I hated being engaged (love being married though!) and I hated being pregnant for the same reasons. It was like I was public property and any step off the beaten path, no matter how minor, was SHOCKING.

    We got the same crap for not decorating the nursery as we did for not choosing wedding colors. Sidenote: my 12-week-old son is currently sleeping under my and my husband’s diplomas because…we put his crib where the desk used to be. He has somehow survived.

    BUT: you get to be back undercover once you give birth – you’re a mom but no one can tell just by looking at you.

    Also: it’s 100 times harder to find cute nursing clothes than cute maternity clothes, which I realize is a really mean, depressing thing to say to someone who’s about to have a baby.

    • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

      I recommend Etsy for this, esp dresses.

      Also, practically ANY shirt is a nursing shirt, with a stretchy tank top underneath and the right bra.

      • R

        Not that I’ve availed myself of this particular line of expertise, but the “A Bra That Fits” sub-Reddit has lots of advice about finding cute/ comfy nursing bras. Or turning your own bras into nursing bras.

        Personally, I consider cute bras to be more important than cute outfits. Even if I’m the only one who sees them.

        • meg

          Yeah, long story short, I just bought comfy and cute nursing bras at Target. For $16. (Which is funny, since I had zero luck there for maternity clothes because everything was a ZILLION times too huge for me.)

      • http://www.unfounddoor.com Patricia

        yes! “nursing shirts” are the biggest new parent money-grubbing scam in my experience – provided you can get your boob out of your top, then it’s a nursing top.
        In public, layering is your friend: pull one layer up (so you get a bit of above coverage, which I always felt more exposed without) and one layer down (so you still have something covering your belly) – done!

        • Amy

          Button down shirts ftw. Seriously, I just bought about 5-6 button down shirts, undo them enough to shift over to one side, snap off the nursing bra cup, and voila – nursing top that isn’t hideous!

        • Mel

          AH! But getting your boob out of your top depends on the size of your boob and the shape of the top. Some girls can pop one out the top of a tank or a v-neck shirt. I am not those girls.

          I got some OK nursing tops (and one or two I actually like, even) and plan to go nuts with the layering plan once it’s not so hot in the DC area that wearing two layers will cause me to burst into flame. Also totally agree that cute bras are more important than clothes – but instead of cute bras, sub “supportive.”

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      My six month old baby is still sleeping in a bassinet at the end of the room, and not the (partially finished) nursery because I don’t want to walk up a flight of stairs every time she needs to eat at night. I don’t think she cares. At all.

  • RebeccaS

    I relate to so much of this post. I had 2 pregnancies in 2 years (now I have a 3 year old and a 2 year old) and I really struggled with the weight of the cultural narrative – and how much I internalized it even though I am a strong feminist. I was ready to go into battle to defend my choices. Surprisingly I didn’t get too much pushback on my decisions – drinking alcohol and coffee during pregnancy, home birth, formula feeding, and going back to work full time after 6 weeks. But I struggled with feeling like I was doing too much of the caring work (whether my perspective was accurate or not) and had to express some pretty hard limits during my second pregnancy about what I could do (ie not get up in the middle of the night with my oldest) I feel pretty good about how my decisions played out but i think the process exposed some serious cracks in my relationship. I think being willing to be the millitant feminist and strongly defend my decisions inhibited people from getting too much up in my business.

  • http://www.jandrfoods.com Rachel

    This is what Jon and I needed. We have spent much of the past six months discussing having children, what it means for us, why we might want to wait, how much we enjoy our lives as they are, parenting role and what they mean, etc. This post is exactly what we needed and damnit I am putting it on the refrigerator so the next time an ignorant friend/family member asks me assanine questions that make me want to scream I can just point to it and calmly walk away.

    Meg, thank you so much.

  • Barb

    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/hello-stranger-on-the-street-could-you-please-tell-me-how-to-take-care-of-my-baby

    THIS. And I agree that we need to change the conversation, support one another with actions, and be more open to all the different choices parents make.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    One of my biggest concerns regarding pregnancy has to do with strangers feeling free to touch me. I really don’t take well to being touched without my permission. And feeling like there will be judgment for being so “old” since we won’t be married until I’m 35 and don’t intend to try for kids immediately. I do feel like we’ve got a good headstart on the egalitarian thing though since, while I wasn’t the one finishing medical school or doing internship, we definitely did those together. A friend of my fiance’s started explaining to me once how difficult internship had been and my fiance stopped him. “She knows. She was there.” And he’ll know what pregnancy is like because he’ll support me through that. You know, unless he gets deployed.

    And I just wanted to add that I have hated hearing friends express so much guilt about spending any money on maternity clothes. I don’t know if it was self-imposed or came from other sources, but it made me really sad, so I’m glad you’re standing up for a woman’s right to look cute while pregnant.

    • meg

      If it makes you feel better only two people have touched me without asking: a close family member and a old friend. And I even growled at them “ASK FIRST.” I don’t know why it hasn’t been a problem, but the consensus seems to be it’s my old and well learned “Don’t fuck with me” NYC body language. I don’t even let people in my airspace without a glare, so it’s probably hard to dive in there.

      • Victwa

        I think it’s totally the vibe you project. I am a person with, ahem, rather clear boundaries, and not a single stranger tried to touch me. Well, one woman did as she was hiking by, but I thought she was going to give me a high five for being out pregnant and hiking and I slapped her hand, thereby keeping her from touching me.

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        That does make me feel better, thanks. My chronic bitchface will finally come in really handy!

    • kayakgirl73

      Superfantastic,

      I thought I’d get a lot of comments about being so old but I haven’t so far. I got pregnant at 38 and I’m now 39. We got married at 36. I was 34 when I met my husband,

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        Thank you, that’s great to hear!

  • http://www.unfounddoor.com Patricia

    Oh god, the GUILT. Just so much of it, spread around like slurry, leaving a shitty taste in the mouth and tears in the eyes.

    Something crazy? I was very lucky and had an easy pregnancy (such smooth sailing in fact that I was far too complacent about what comes afterwards) but the postpartum period was extremely challenging and, this is the ridiculous part: now-husband *tried* to make that period egalitarian, take on as much as he could, and I DIDN’T WANT TO LET HIM – because I felt guilty that if I went to bed or had a half hour bath then I wouldn’t be making sufficient maternal sacrifice to earn my Mothering Badge or some shit.

    And it’s only now, 10 months on, I realise that I wasn’t just making a hard time harder for me (us), but I was essentially hoarding the parenting and that’s unfair on him.

    • meg

      “I felt guilty that if I went to bed or had a half hour bath then I wouldn’t be making sufficient maternal sacrifice to earn my Mothering Badge or some shit.”

      Yeah. But that is the cultural message. Literally, also about maternity clothes. If you get some that say FIT YOU and are not hand me downs that are both ugly and really uncomfortable, how are you going to earn that damn badge?

      • http://www.unfounddoor.com Patricia

        Exactly – it is the cultural message that seems to be ingrained into almost every aspect of the pregnancy / birth / parenting continuum and I wish I could get rid of it. I was shocked and a little disappointed in myself that as someone who identifies as a feminist and who devotes a not insubstantial amount of time to navel gazing, I had internalised the narrative to such an extent.

        I suspect it’s all tied together in this unhealthy message – the maternal sacrifice, the pressure to maintain a facade of perfection and ease, and the ensuing guilt which fuels the defensiveness that I see as the root of the incredibly toxic adversarial system that seems to have sprung up in all areas of pregnancy and parenting (from pregnancy health (and wardrobe! I’m astonished by this), to birth, to feeding, to sleeping to solids to childcare… and I’m only 10 months in;)

        Wow. That sounds wholly negative and my experience really isn’t – in fact I’ve found that as soon as I start talking honestly about it, it becomes a unifying thing, and I’ve become much more secure in my own decisions as a result of trying to train myself to disregard a lot of inputs. So in that sense it has been an empowering journey.

        I was the first of my close friends to have a baby and now I have a couple of close friends with young babies and I try to make sure that I’m an open set of ears for them to ‘admit imperfection’ and cry / laugh about it.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Had a really hard pregnancy here, still dealing with some of the physical effects healthwise, actually hated talking about my pregnancy when I was pregnant (now I am happy to share because it was very isolating for me and it is so important to me for other women who are in a similar boat to know they are not alone etc).

    Unfortunately, the cultural narrative we have about pregnancy is just a reflection of the greater cultural narrative and expectations we have about women. I might have said this on here before, but man, I was not born to parent in the twenty-first century. Seriously. Because if I thought the sexist anti-feminist narrative when I was pregnant was bad, what I get daily now that I am a female parent (term stolen from Meg) is pregnancy on steroids. Not only is it true that oftentimes how our kids turn out is taken as a reflection of the parents, it’s a reflection of the MOTHER, really. If a child misbehaves or earns bad grades or doesn’t speak English, it’s because they have a bad MOTHER and not parents.

    Further, while I felt quite isolated during my pregnancy (I agree with Meg re difficult pregnancy can feel isolating and divisive because yes I felt exactly that way), my experience as a female parent is that times ten. I really am not friends with many other mothers (literally I have 2 good friends who have children) because MOTHERS are so judgemental and divisive and catty toward each other. Instead of encouraging each other and being supportive, I more often than not find judgements, comments about another woman’s parenting skills and comparisons of how they are such good parents because they would NEVER do x, y and z like that OTHER mother did and the godawful question that always starts with “What kind of MOTHER would do….”

    So my solution? I do not partake in parental bashing. Period. Yes, there are bad parents and bad mothers out there but I just refuse to participate in it. I can’t. It may not be much but that is my contribution and attempt to transform the narrative into something more positive and useful. I’m interesting in encouraging women to be the best women and mothers they can be whatever that looks like. I am not interested in judging another woman for giving her two year old ice cream at bedtime. Enough is enough.

    • meg

      I want ice cream at bedtime! That sounds like the BEST mother ever. Maybe I’ll have some tonight!

      But seriously, yes this. Other pregnant women have driven me to tears on multiple occasions, with me asking David, “Why are they so MEAN to me? They don’t even know me!” It’s crazy out there.

      • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

        I’m not a mom, I just have one, but this post (and related comments) is kicking me in the heart. I hate that women are judging themselves and each other for not being whatever vision of perfect motherhood they/we idealize. Mothers are human, the Virgin Mary is a myth. As long as people love their kid, spend time with them and try to do their best most of the time, they deserve the Parent Badge, if it even exists.

        I highly doubt most fathers worry themselves over this type of perfect ideal. The standard for dads is so low, it’s like, “Just show up, don’t hit your kid too much, teach them to ride a bike or something,” and you’re an awesome dad! Wouldn’t it be great if women tried to lower their (our) standards to that level?

  • Hils

    My husband commented to me the other day that in every single conversation he has with someone close to him (his family, friends, co-workers) , they only ask about me. No one ever asks how he’s doing. And it made me so sad.

    Of course, I in turn get annoyed how much and often people ask how I’m doing (or say “you look good” or “you sound good”). Let’s just all assume I am. Because that’s what they want to hear and because saying otherwise is too messy or complicated. Even when I AM doing well. Which is sometimes but not all of the time.

    There aren’t truthful, easy, polite answers to these questions. (To my co-worker today, I just finally shrugged and said, “Gassy!”)

    But at least I get asked.

    I guess it’s egalitarian in the disconnect we both feel from the people around us.

    • meg

      Oof. That makes me so sad too, and rings true.

  • http://butnothanks.blogspot.com NB

    I am chiming in with nothing terribly insightful today, except: Thanks, Meg, for your honesty and your thoughtfulness.

  • Hannah

    This is painful for me to say, because hilariously absurd as the idea is, I always had this vague aspiration that through my spattering of insightful comments you and the staff and APW community would, without ever meeting me or having a conversation, develop a deep affection for me. But, what the heck, it might be good for you to hear, because what I want to say is that what you’re doing here IS changing the conversation.
    Let me explain (confess?): I am a pretty dang extreme traditionalist girl. I want to get married, pop out five babies, and hang out in my fixer-upper (which I will transform into a haven a la “It’s a Wonderful Life”), while tending my vegetable garden and homeschooling. Because I go to a college dominated by very driven, brilliant, wonderful, career-minded women, I tend to become defensive about these dreams, and think of myself as the one swimming upstream.
    It is ridiculous how long I have read this blog without facing the truth: successful, career-minded women do not owe me a gracious and enthusiastic support system. They are the ones bucking bigoted cultural expectations. I am the one who owes admiration, sensitivity and support. This post has really helped me to see ways in which I want to change and grow, and ways in which I want our society to change and grow.
    Thanks Meg. <3

    • meg

      Oh, I don’t know. I think we owe you a gracious and enthusiastic support system! Your dreams are just as good and complex as mine, and I’d like a fixer upper too. In theory I even want a lot of kids, or I did before this pregnancy ;) I mean, I think we ALL owe each other that, and that’s how we buck the bigoted cultural expectations.

      Now I should clearly go read all your past comments.

      • Hannah

        Oh, wow. Thanks for the grace you model for us. Seriously, all the grace overflowing from the writers here is so contagious and meaningful. You guys are doing such a big thing!

  • WiscoSweetheart

    This post really resonated with me, as my partner and I have been talking a lot lately about having children. I am an able-bodied woman, and my partner is a physically disabled man, and boy, have we angst-ed over what this will mean for our lives as parents. Regardless of whether or not we have children through my being pregnant (we might choose to adopt instead), there is simply no chance that we will be able to share the physical labor of parenting. It won’t be anywhere near 50-50. It probably won’t even be 70-30. He will not be able to lift or carry our child (at least, not after they weigh more than 10 pounds or so), and he will not be able to push them in a stroller. He will not be able to transport them anywhere, at least not until they can walk beside him.

    In his own life (he has had this disability since birth) and in our lives together, we really resist the idea that his disability is in any way a “loss” either for him or for our relationship. And it isn’t. We’re really happy and functional. And frankly, I mostly love being the one who does the physical labor in our relationship–it makes me feel strong and empowered, and helping him accomplish things he can’t do on his own is one of the many ways I enact my love and commitment to him on a daily basis. But we’re both having a really hard time thinking of parenting in that mindset. I really fear that having a kid will be physically exhausting for me. And I worry that I will resent him for not being able to relieve that burden. I feel so envious of my partnered friends with kids when I see them pass their baby back and forth to each other, or when one of them takes their kid somewhere while the other gets some much-needed alone time (or hell, even some much-needed fix-the-toilet/vacuum-the-floor/catch-up-on-work time). I also think about the things that *neither* of us will probably ever be able to do, like carry around our kid on our shoulders. Do kids survive shoulder-ride deprived childhoods? (Please note sarcasm. I realize I’m sounding a bit ridiculous now.)

    Meg (and those who echoed/elaborated upon the sentiment), I love the idea of working to foster an egalitarian pregnancy and parenting style. I especially appreciated the comments some of you had about the emotional and practical components of said egalitarianism, because in my relationship, there is very little chance of physical egalitarianism. Your comments really are making me think of all of the wonderful things there could be about co-parenting with my amazing partner: he is sweet and always listens when I need to talk (or even sob-yell) to him; he is really good about things like paying bills and making appointments and motivating us to go out and do fun things; he makes me laugh more than anyone else ever has; he is the least judge-y (and most smart-y) person I know. These are all qualities that, it seems to me, would translate well from “good partner” to “good parent.”

    Perhaps the thing is, he and I both need to realize that just like everyone’s pregnancy is different, everyone’s way of being a parent is different. “Parent” is not a static term, nor does “parenting” look the same from one person to the next. Changing our mindset, however, will not change the fact of the unequal burden of physical labor. That’s still there, and it’s still a worry. But I’m glad to have been reminded by this discussion that it’s not the *only* thing.

    • R

      I was listening to a This American Life podcast that had a super sweet story about being a blind parent that I found really, really interesting. Obviously, a completely different scenario, but it really made me think about things that are universal about parenting, and the impacts a disability can have on parenting. (The entire act is also only seven minutes and totally hilarious, so it’s worth a listen)

      • WiscoSweetheart

        Can’t wait to listen–thanks, R!

      • Jess

        I loved that story!

  • Emily

    People actually shame you for wearing cute maternity clothes?! What, do good mothers only wear sweatpants?! If I have to be huge for nine months I am damn well gonna do it in pretty dresses. As an NYC resident, I see women trucking around with baby bumps in six-inch stilettos on a daily basis and I always just think to myself, “You are Superwoman!”

  • Gloria

    read this post with a beer in my hand and my feet up on the coffee table, and i totally put my hand over my stomach.

  • Eva

    Hi there,
    I’m a new wedding graduate and am SO loving everything about this site.

    My question to Meg (and everyone) is this: do you have further thoughts about baby last names that you can share with us? I went into the APW archives and loved all the posts about name changing, particularly regarding the struggle to find a satisfyingly uniting family name. I identify with wanting a joint name, but I can’t fathom a way to do it in the world in which we live.

    I’d love an update on this topic if you’re so inclined.

    Thanks so much.

  • http://heteronormativelovefest.wordpress.com Alice

    Oh my god, THANK YOU. This was exactly what I needed to read today. Because I’m 37 weeks pregnant and it’s my last day of work and I was hoping to work longer but my body had other plans, and the whole pregnancy has been physically terrible, and it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and trapped by the biology of it all. But also because I have an amazing, supportive partner who has been contorting his schedule for months to make it possible for me to keep coming into work, who’s muscled his way into the pregnancy discussions I didn’t want to have and insisted that people talk to HIM, who has been doing all of the housework for months and taking care of me when I can’t.

    Everyone has all these ideas about how it’s supposed to work. And none of it was true for us.

  • Hannah

    Thank you, Meg. I’ve had a lot of these same experiences — the loaded questions where it’s clear there’s only one ‘right’ answer. The judgement around mothers who want jobs, or professional women who want kids. The assumption that childcare is ‘letting someone else raise your child’….

    You put it well in your book when you said that brides to be, like pregnant women, seem to be viewed as a special kind of public property, where everyone gets to share their opinions. I’ve taken a lot of comfort from this, and tried to find humor in the invasive, judging questions/projections, as I think they reflect the defensiveness of other mothers — and their need to affirm their own parenting decisions — more than they’re truly a reflection of how they feel about me and my choices.

    But in the meantime, my husband and I are also working on a list of snarky comments to these offensive questions and comments. I don’t say them out loud, but just having them run through my head allows me to smile a little sweeter and say something dismissive to change the conversation.

    Good luck, Lady. Be gentle on yourself — you’re going to be a phenomenal mother because you’re an inspiring, caring, self-aware and strong woman. The world needs more mothers like you.

  • Emily

    I’m sort of looking forward to the first time someone touches my stomach when I’m pregnant. I plan to touch their stomach in response, as awkwardly as possible.

    Also, this: http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2012/09/17/120917sh_shouts_allen?currentPage=1

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  • KatieZ

    Thank you thank you thank you Meg for this post! I think I read it when I was planning my wedding, which this site totally got me through and allowed me to enjoy. Now that I’m pregnant I needed this, particularly after the looks I got over the weekend when I suggested that my husband, who actually does have paid sick days he can use for paternity leave, may stay home longer than I do since we will miss my income too much, and hey, I like to work! Between that and my doctors appointment, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next six months. I know your thing is not family blogging but wedding blogging but really someone needs to use your formula to start a blog that supports practical pregnant women and mothers. (If you know of one I”m taking any recommendations I can get!) Thanks again.

  • Clara Thompson

    Hello, To all my fellow ladies out there who are still finding them selves of my old situation,my name is CLARA THOMPSON and i am here to tell you all about my life this is my testimony and the great experience i have had with life, i was married for good 15years with no issue(child) i was so worried my husband was getting furious i never blamed him because he was very patient with me since all this years,i needed help so bad i went to different hospitals to see what was wrong with my womb and why i cant give birth to my own baby.the doctors always confirm that i don’t have a problem,it hurts me deep when ever i see my friends breast feeding their own babies and also inviting me for their baby shower and naming ceremonies.i had no option i always attended hoping that one day i will blessed with my own child.my life was turned upside down i was ashamed of my self my mother was putting pressure on my husband to get another wife my husband declined because he truly loves me and wanted me to be the mother of his children,i needed help and had no where else to turn to.till a very good day when i was browsing through the internet i read about a spell caster that helps people to get their lover back win their money back,i never saw anything referring to the help of childlessness i just had to try this great spell caster,i contacted the spell and told him about my problem and he told me that my problem is very easy for him to handle i was shocked and thought maybe he is just trying to take advantage of my present situation,i gave it a thought and finally concluded on giving it a try.i did all the spell caster required and he told me to go and make love with my husband.this happen in June 12-2012 and i got pregnant i was so happy and last year February 22 -2013 i got my first baby girl (DISNEY) i was very thankful to this great spell caster for the great help he has rendered and for coming to my rescue when everything i had turned against me now i have my life back and my husband is so happy with me and he is telling me about having a another child for him as soon as possible.i want to use this medium or opportunity to tell all my fellow ladies who are going through my previous situation that all hope is not lost if you need the help of this great spell caster you can contact him via email extremesolutiontemple@hotmail.com or via phone number on:+2348052168467 you might just be the next to give your own testimony,