There’s lots of inspiring posts by bloggers and feminist commentators on the web about the way pregnant women are monitored and socially controlled. Notions of success and failure as pregnant women (and as parents) are omnipresent and heavy to shoulder, and many of us uncritically and despite-our-critique internalize and suffer through them. If you’re a feminist who is or who has been pregnant you know what I’m talking about.
During our most recent appointment with the fertility doctor, I willingly (because I want to have a baby) entered into a space where no critique was off the table. My food intake, movement, use of substances like alcohol, sleep and weight were critiqued. Pretty painful and non evidence based statements about the relationship between weight and miscarriage were made (for the record, there is no link between being overweight and miscarriage although there is to being seriously underweight). I was told to make my body like “fertile ground for a baby to grow”. My male bodied partner was asked two questions and fleeting attention was given to his diet. It was all about how I might succeed or fail in my fertility and it was, almost 100 percent, about how that was squarely on me.
This is not really radical or harsh. It’s the norm. Women’s bodies, always under scrutiny, become even more pressured and framed as public property open for discussion (by family, co-workers, friends, doctors, strangers) when people become aware that you are trying to become or are pregnant. If you are already fat, people feel incredibly entitled to comment. Every mainstream book and article drips with judgement for fat bodies. And to resist this in any way is seen as irresponsible and un-motherly. People will give you props if you wholesale drink the koolaid, no questions asked. Be a good girl, be ashamed of your fat.
Here’s where it gets complicated for me. I want a natural birth as much as possible. I am very medically phobic and want to minimise the involvement of obstetricians and interventions in my birth journey. This means doing everything in my fucking power to avoid gestational diabetes, which pretty much boots you from the birthing centre. I am very, very worried about GD. Medically I’m in a “risk category” (we could talk for a long time about how these are used to frighten mostly women, and mostly women of colour regarding pregnancy).
I’m choosing to address my concerns by exercising and eating well but I have to wonder at how much GD is shaken like an angry fist of the gods (mostly by obstetricians, GPs and birth lit) rather than just put on the table as a necessary thing to negotiate much like fatigue and morning sickness. It’s a thing that bodies do, but unlike nausea and tiredness, GD is directly linked to weight and weight is an issue through which we can control women.
It features more thought, but the politics of pregnancy are pretty deep. I am privileged in that I have enough able bodiedness to avoid some of the worst of it, but I definitely get some blowback.
For some interesting reading about how fitness is a site of failure and success in fertility and pregnancy, you can always read Alice MacLachlan’s words over at Fit Is A Feminist Issue.