A Pregnant Woman’s Body Belongs to Everyone….Apparently.
‘It’s your body and only you get to decide what happens to it, no one else.’
I was on the brink of adolescence and having a girl to girl chat with my mum. This was important stuff, it was about the changes a woman’s body undertakes, and it was about respecting myself and about listening to my instincts.
It was a sentence that would run through my mind for years to come; on first dates with boys that were getting too carried away, when getting extra piercings in my ears and considering a tattoo, when over eating or under exercising. From the moment I was old enough to make decisions, not always smart but mostly considered, my body was my own to do with as I pleased and anyone else who thought differently got a big F.U. That was until I chose to become a mother…then I handed my body over to the whole world.
When can you start calling yourself a mother?
When your baby says ‘mama’ for the first time? When you first cradle your newborn in your arms? When you start buying little knitted booties for your wriggling growing bump? Or earlier than that, much much earlier?
I’ll tell you. From the moment you hold that little white plastic stick in your trembling hands, staring at the two blue lines slowly appearing before your eyes, that’s when you become a mother. You are the first person to know that no more will it just be about you, that from that very second you alone have the full responsible of keeping another human being alive, and yes…before you hear their heart beat, feel them wake and sleep within you or see their beautiful face, you will die for them. Completely and utterly, no questions asked, you will die for your child before anything happened to them. Because you alone know them better than they will ever know themselves, because you and your child for nine precious months are one person. They will grow as you grow, they will breathe through your breaths and their heart will beat alongside yours. But that doesn’t matter – because apparently everyone else knows better than you how to look after your unborn child.
Society, the media, your family, the internet and even strangers in the street suddenly have an opinion on what you should be doing, and they aren’t afraid to tell you. Your body is under the control of others. For nine months it’s no longer just a home for your unborn child, it also belongs to the world for everyone to remark on, touch and judge as they feel fit.
And apparently that is okay.
Society has grown a great deal over the last fifty years. Women are just as likely as men to excel in the world of academia and business. We are respected in the work place and admired for more than just our beauty and bodies. We have a brain and are trusted to use it. Until we become pregnant, that is. Then apparently we haven’t a bloody clue about what is going on and we need every Tom, Dick and Harry to remind us on a regular basis that what we choose to do has to be right for our baby. As if the aching, squirming, growing bump that we have been carrying around for months is not enough of a constant reminder.
Every day there are news stories about mums-to-be drinking excessively and taking drugs, and I will be the first to agree that using any harmful toxic substances when pregnant is a big no no. Of course it is…does it even have to be spelled out? Most women take being a mum seriously, they are pregnant – not stupid. They would no more go on a Tequila binge when expecting, than they would give their newborn a bottle full of Mojito. Neither would they crush an E tablet into their home made puree or replace the baby’s dummy with a fag to suck on. They know what they do to themselves, they do to their baby – so they don’t do it. And they don’t need a condescending politician or old lady strangers in the street reminding them all the time either. Pregnant women make calculated decisions about what is best for their baby and what is best for their bodies. Their baby, Their bodies. But you wouldn’t guess pregnant women know what they are doing judging by the daily comments they receive.
Things you would never say to a man or non-pregnant woman, but are regularly said to pregnant women:
– Should you be eating that?
– Shouldn’t you be doing more/less exercise?
– Wow, you are huge!
– Wow, you aren’t very big!
– Let me pat that tummy of yours.
– I don’t think you should be doing that in your condition.
– Are you still working?
– Sit down, come on, sit down.
– Should you be driving with that huge stomach?
– Should you still be commuting with all those people?
– I read that you shouldn’t be doing that any more.
– You shouldn’t stand like that, it’s bad for your back.
– Are you allowed to take that?
– You shouldn’t be drinking that.
So next time you see a woman waddling along, minding her own business, keep your mouth shut. Don’t think that she hasn’t thought about every little action she has taken that day, researched every morsel that passes her lips and agonized over every decision she will take for the next 9 months. It’s her body, and until that baby is out in the real world, it is her responsibility alone. Your well meaning comments are an insult to her intelligence and a lack of respect about her abilities to be a mother…before she even is one.
‘It’s your body and only you get to decide what happens to it, no one else,’ my mother once told.
Little did I realize that comment was not only about respecting my own body, but about others respecting it too.