Can You Hear The Pregnancy Police?
When you were pregnant, did you hear a voice in your head?
Not the baby or your crazy alter-ego, but the pregnancy police - the voice that made you question each and every thing you ate, that made you fear everything that touched your skin. The voice that said that every choice you make, every step you take could somehow affect the baby.
Most pregnant women hear that voice most of the time. They stop eating sushi, soft cheese, smoked salmon, deli meats and whatever else has been added to the list recently (with or without science to back it up). They stop dyeing their hair, doing their nails, and using makeup. That voice haunted me while I was trying to sleep as I mentally checked off each and everything that I did. But 12 years ago, there were a lot less things to check off than there are now.
But is the voice your own making or is it the collective thoughts of all those people watching you as you have a half glass of wine or use non-organic soap?
Salon contributor, Marie Baca, wrote a very thoughtful piece about her choice of rebelling against the voice; she dyed her hair while visibly pregnant.
Maca says she is "increasingly granola", but the pressures of pregnancy "with all its hysteria and paranoia" made her want to rebel.
"This is a world where having a baby can feel less like participating in an ancient biological process and more like taking on a high-stakes independent research project."
While we are gestating our future Ivy Leaguer, what do we give up? More than just dark roots, Diet Coke and the covering of our under-eye circles. Maca wonders if our desperate desires to be the perfect incubator for our soon-to-be perfect children also means we give up an sense of ourselves as multi-faceted women.
I see how pregnancy can mark the beginning of an identity loss that is never fully recovered. For me, and I suspect many other women as well, the pressure to strip a personal routine down to its barest incarnation seems to come with a parallel pressure to strip one’s concept of self to only one’s role as an expectant mother. The thing is, I’m not just an expectant mother. I’m a journalist who doesn’t want to worry about sweat stains around my armpits when I’m interviewing a source.
This distillation of women into a single baby-making vessel is increasingly part of how we think of pregnant women and mothers, but it's not so easy to think of yourself that way.
The idea that a perfect pregnancy and perfect motherhood exists just barely outside of our control plagues us from the day we stare at a red line developing line on a stick. We hope that by consuming superfoods and avoiding non-organic apples that we can glide into motherhood with a perfect bundle on our arm.
But the truth about pregnancy and motherhood is so much more complicated than that. We have no control over what is really going on in our growing bellies.
I learned that when my placenta painlessly abrupted and I spent two months on bedrest. I did not cause it, it wasn't because of what I ate, what I put on my skin or the amount of stress in my life. It was what it was.
My complicated pregnancy taught me that you have no control over the big issues and once I realized that I could let go of my anxiety about the small things and have a couple pieces of a tuna maki and yes, dye my roots their signature chestnut colour.
Not that I would do that in front of anyone but my husband. Even though I erased the pregnancy police from my brain, I know full well that they still exist.
What did you give up while you were pregnant? And what did you still do?
Want more chaos? Last year, I cried in front of my daughter for the first time. (The post also has one of my favourite comments ever about my apparent habit for disregarding the rules.)