Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Feminism and having babies part 1: pregnancy

Last year I grew a baby. This meant I spent most of the year feeling sick and getting gradually larger. It was rubbish. Show me a woman who says she liked pregnancy and I'll show you one who has forgotten what it was really like.

People said I glowed. That was nice of them, and maybe it was true, but it couldn't make up for the fact that I felt like shit for eight whole fucking months (it didn't kick in for the first month). 

Unfortunately the utter shitness of pregnancy was compounded by the fact that my darling spouse decided it was a good time to leave me for someone else, transforming the shitness of pregnancy into something horrendous.

I was shocked to find that, having always prided myself on being independent and able to look after myself, I literally couldn't do this. And the person who was supposed to be there to step in and let me lean on them had left. It was just my luck that the one time in my life that I needed that support it wasn't there. 

Pregnancy and feminism

I have been musing a good deal on pregnancy and how, if at all, it relates to feminism. 

What my sad little tale told me, and why I tell it here, is that during pregnancy women are not equal to men. In some ways we're much greater, because we're doing this incredible thing of bringing a life into the world, and in other ways we are lessened because creating a new life is such debilitatingly hard work. The combination of sickness, tiredness and crazy hormones meant there were many days when I just wanted to curl up and cry. And that was before the really bad stuff happened. 

When I was pregnant, I wasn't the same person I had been. I could do a day's work, and I could go to the gym, and I could cook dinner, and I could be sociable, but I couldn't do all of those things in one day anymore. Just one of them took it out of me.

Of course, now I have a small baby to look after I don't get a chance to any of those things - ever - but that's part 2.

Sometimes I needed physical support, but more often I needed emotional support. I couldn't do it alone. I felt vulnerable and dependent - feelings that were foreign to me. I was a very different person to the pre-pregnancy me, and it was scary.

Enough about me...

Below is an interview with the feminist Naomi Wolf. She talks about how pregnancy made her a completely different person. 

What really resonated with me personally was when she said: 'My husband is next to me and I'm stunned to find that I need to lean on him. I'm not free, strong, brave.' I recognised that feeling of no longer feeling free, strong or brave.

This is a successful, confident and wealthy woman. She is an influential feminist, who gets paid to spout about female empowerment. And yet even she found that when it came to pregnancy, she needed to lean on a man.  

Our need to lean on men* when in this vulnerable state doesn't mean we're inferior in any way. It's simply that what we're growing is so incredibly knackering that we need a bit of help. Men don't have to go through pregnancy - do you think they'd fare any better if they did?


I didn't have a partner to lean on when I was pregnant, and that was awful, but I did find I had people to lean on - lots of them. Family, friends, colleagues and and people I hardly knew but now count as my friends. It felt like I had lots of people cheering me on and willing me to succeed.

* Obviously if you're pregnant and your partner is a woman, then you need to lean on her and not a man. Congratulations - she's probably a lot better at it.

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