September 18th: Baby Dakota is kicking all the time, and Dr. Luikenaar is narrowing in on a due date- October 10th? 11th?
I’ve been noticing little decorations on a few postpartum patients’ doors and was flipping through magazines trying to find something comparably adorable but apparently Elle and Vanity Fair don’t have many teddy bears and hearts.
While searching for an envelope at the front desk a nurse warns me against the decorations.
“The patients with teddy bears usually have a baby in the NIKU.”
“What about the hearts?”
“They lost their baby.” Oh shit. I’m grateful I didn’t tape any hearts on my door.
I haven’t heard from Charley so I’m writing him a letter asking him to come to Salt Lake for the delivery if he can make it. I wanted flowers or a letter, but now I just want him. In the middle of watching “Million Dollar Baby” and imagining Dakota as a boxer, I break down. I run to the bathroom and turn on the shower so no one will come in and see me crying. I don’t know why I was crying.
Everything is just happening and I can’t control it.
I check my phone. Nothing. I check Twitter. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “Ever notice that if u get a herd of mothers together they arent physically capable of talking about anything but birth pregnancy & diapers?”
This tweet made me angry, (I don’t ever talk about diapers), but it also isn’t surprising. It reminds me of all the unsolicited comments people- particular white men- feel they have the right to impose on pregnant women (on all women). It also is a message coming from the son of an American presidential candidate who’s a known bigot, racist, and adult trash baby.
It’s representative of the modern men (aka. Trump supporters) who would rather condescend to women than see them (including Hillary Clinton) as complex and intelligent humans. If we talk a lot about diapers and pregnancy it’s because we’re doing most of the work while the men boast and grumble.
Of course some men are better (more empathetic?) than others. The levels of tolerance and esteem for the “pregnant body” differ dramatically from: “I think it’s evolutionary: Since she’s already seeded up, you’re better off looking for sex elsewhere,” to “To be honest I think pregnant women are disgusting. They look awful with their belly button sticking out, rubbing their stomach with that glazed look in their eyes,” (from a single 43-year old guy). “It’s like taking a Porsche, destroying it with an axe, and replacing it with a Dodge,” the man bleats.
“I find the big belly itself very exciting — like some magnificent goddess statue from an ancient fertility cult,” says another man. From yes I love it to no it’s disgusting, it’s obvious that these men have no idea what it is to be a woman much less a pregnant woman. They have no idea what it feels like, and they’re basing prejudice and judgement off of what they see and understand through society and upbringing.
“As men, we would not know what it’s like to carry an eight to ten pound person. In the end, pregnancy may not be all that appealing; but if you think about all the things that woman have to endure to bring life into the world, my appreciation is far greater,” says a 36-year old dad with two kids. And that’s all we can hope for, a man to recognize that he has no idea.
Huffington Post writer, Aaron Grouveia, tried to give a sample of mansplaining about pregnant women to other men: feed her constantly, don’t point out how big she’s getting, say bye to humor and sex, don’t complain and do expect her to be lazy.
Aaron is basically saying that if you’re pregnant you’re a lazy bitch but as a good man, he will overlook this until you deliver. Aaron writes in a manner that suggests he is tolerant and even supportive of lazy pregnant women but that they are incapable of being pleasant and will have to be dealt with accordingly.
No thanks, Aaron. If we are a little hormonal or agro, (I suppose anyone would be if they quit smoking and drinking, transformed into a puddle of hormones the size of a light heavyweight boxer), it doesn’t help that men and women like to poke the belly and say things like, “You’re going to pop at any moment” and “You are so BIG”.
“She won’t let you touch her boobs,” says Aaron. Maybe Aaron’s wife has had enough of Aaron.
Maybe what is important isn’t which men find pregnant women attractive or how to deal with pregnant women but rather, why should a pregnant woman give a fuck in the first place? In what world should any woman value the judgements of various men about her body, her life choices, or her swelling belly?
The miracle of creating something that can kick your stomach in response to a kiss far outweighs peripheral comments like “pregnant women are disgusting”. And when we’re pushing through pregnancy pains the last thing we’re going to give a shit about is a middle-aged man’s grievances with the pregnant woman’s body. At least that’s how it should be, but some women do give a shit and that’s unfortunate.
Unless he’s a seahorse or Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man is unlikely to ever have the gift of childbirthing. While he probably doesn’t want to be stuck with a bulging belly he also doesn’t want to feel inferior or ostracized for lacking this mysterious superpower.
Women’s reproductive and maternal “agency” is often denied and transferred to the agency and praise attributed to fathers, doctors, hospitals, and male deities. Carol Christ wrote: “Giving birth is treated as a disease requiring hospitalization, and the woman is viewed as a passive object, anesthetized to ensure her acquiescence to the will of the doctor.”
Even wise Aristotle had a chauvinistic view on women and their roles as baby makers: “The male stands for the effective and active; and the female, considered as female, for the passive.” It seems the more definitions and labels a man places on a woman, the more he fails to see her in all her complexity.
Ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood wrote that Aristotle conceptualized women’s reproductive agency as “…an adjunct to or mere condition for real agency, which was claimed for the male reproductive role, the woman being substitutable, merely ‘the nurse’ for the male seed. … Aristotle saw the father as contributing the rational element of form as compared to the mother’s contribution of mere matter.”
This wasn’t just a 4th-century BCE problem. This is a long-term societal problem- a Baby Boomer, Gen X and millennial problem.
In April 2014, former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, Boomer Esiason, publically criticized New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for missing baseball season’s first two games in order to support his wife through labor. Esiason suggested Murphy’s wife should have had a C-section to prevent the scheduling conflict.
“Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money,” Esiason said. So according to Esiason, a human soul coming into the world is potatoes compared to the grand world of sports and money. Fuck you, Esiason.
Whether sandals, sneakers or stilettos, men don’t spend enough time imagining what it would be like to walk in a woman’s shoes. Consider that every woman in the world has to live with the awareness that: She is more likely to be objectified (by men and women) than subjectified; that her looks are generally given priority over her brain and spirit; that she may be physically harmed or assaulted, and will always be physically vulnerable; that she has to guard herself against STDs as well as pregnancy and abandonment.
Women enjoy getting compliments for a sexy dress or hairdo, but they also want to be viewed as individuals with their own thoughts, opinions, and worldviews. Perhaps women can even share these opinions and worldviews without them being deemed byproducts of hormonal persuasions.
So I am pregnant and I chose this, but it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally fear abandonment.
If women long for and expect the security of their own children and family, they also are told, and observe through friends and acquaintances, that the potential of being single is very real. And being single and stuck with a child seriously lowers a woman’s attractiveness to future men.
After two decades of dating young men who would casually promise the world then take it away, I’ve developed a few trust issues. It’s not enough to get consistency from a male partner, but I haven’t even attained that with Charley (yet).
Are you wondering how Charley feels about my pregnant body? He says he loves it but he also wants to know if I’ll be able to get my pre-pregnant body back. He says he understands that this is hard, but he wishes he too could relax and watch movies all day.
I wish Charley would read the baby books. I wish he’d buy a crib. But with or without him, I have a little girl kicking my belly and a nearing labor to contend with, and that’s more than diaper talk.
*the cover picture is a portion of Jan Van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Wedding Portrait”, from 1434
*In April 2017, I made my story into a book. To read “Notes On a Hospitalized Pregnant Woman”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1521096910/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_awdb_x_Dcg-yb990NBWB