When I first found out I was pregnant one of the first questions everybody asked was when I was going to write this post, the sequel to the one I wrote about my wedding.
I would have written this piece sooner, but I was too busy in my first trimester being sick. If there is a bathroom, I have been sick in it. You could say I was experiencing my own version of sick and the city- literally.
While most women are quick to bask in the joy of their pregnancy, finding out about mine was strangely frightening.
Not only did I never want to get married, I also never wanted kids. The two desires, or lack there of, were definitely connected for me. When I was a little girl playing with my dolls, I always pretended they were other people’s kids. As an adult I lumped getting pregnant in the same category as getting married, and slapped a big fat “no thank you” on both options.
Of course everything changed when I met my husband. Because when you meet the right partner, when you meet your match you stumble onto the discovery that you actually do want many of the things you thought you did not.
What has been feminist about my pregnancy? For starters, being in control of my fertility and being able to decide the timing of it. Because such a large part of my job focuses on US foreign policy on global reproductive health and rights, the importance of women being able to access birth control, of women being in control of their reproduction has just been magnified ten-fold for me in my own pregnancy.
I think about women and girls, currently about 200 million according to experts, who wish to either delay or prevent pregnancy but lack access to contraceptives, all the time. I think about women in Bangladesh giving birth on the floor of their homes with no skilled birth attendant, no pre or post-natal care.
Being able to determine the number and spacing of children for women is key to our empowerment. If we lack decision-making power over our bodies, we pretty much lose control over everything else in our lives.
As my husband and I make daily decisions centered around our growing family, these links could not be more glaringly clear to me. It frightens me to think of how many women have this choice taken away from them.
I spend a lot of my big fat feminist pregnancy also thinking about maternity leave and child care, and how the majority of women do not have either. I cannot tell you how much of my twenties I spent yapping away on why I did not want to have kids because I wanted to have a career, and how many women I have seen disappear from their jobs because they had children. I blamed children for taking away women’s careers.
Of course now being thirty-one years old and pregnant, I realize it is not the women or the babies that are to blame. It is our societies. Lack of maternity leave, lack of paid maternity leave, absence of paternity leave, not being able to make your work hours more flexible, not being able to afford child care, not having insurance coverage, the list goes on and on and on.
Society not only does not support childbirth, women are actually punished for having children. We lose out on promotions and jobs all the time because we have kids.
Since announcing my pregnancy, I cannot tell you how many friends and readers have shared their nightmare stories of how they had to leave their jobs after giving birth, how their bosses would not let them adjust work hours etc. And America has one of the worst records in this regard. It is insane to think about how women are systematically punished instead of being rewarded for raising the next generation of the human race.
Aside from these worries and concerns, I spend a lot of time with my hands on my growing belly. The experience of pregnancy, of literally watching my body change in front of my eyes, making more room for my baby, has been simultaneously scary and beautiful. I wonder why women do not talk about pregnancy all the time! It is so fascinating. I am fascinated by the whole process. I cannot believe how many women go through pregnancy alone or married, in partnerships or not.
Sometimes I feel bad for my husband that he has to watch my pregnancy instead of being able to experience it. Often he will ask me what it feels like to have a baby inside of me, if I think about it during the day. I do not always know what to tell him. How do you answer the question, “what does pregnancy feel like?” I say my stomach feels firm and I picture the baby like the images we have seen in the ultrasounds. I tell him I am just as curious as he is. I am just fatter.
The majority of the emotions I experience are so overwhelming though, I cannot even articulate them. In a good way, I think maybe a large part of the pregnancy is meant to stay between the mother and the baby, like our little secret.
As the trimesters progress and the books and blogs keep getting read, what I think about more and more is the day I will get to meet my baby. I just cannot wait. That is what I think about more than anything.
And you can be sure the first thing I will hand my child will be her feminist onesie, the first thing I bought during my big fat feminist pregnancy.
*This post of mine was also published on Forbes Woman & Ms. Magazine.
11 thoughts on “My Big Fat Feminist Pregnancy”
OMG Anunshay this is such a sweet blog! This brought tears to my eyes. I am one of those 20-year-old’s yapping away about how I do not want to have kids. Maybe one day I will grow up to be like you! You are awesome and I can’t wait to see your baby!
Francesca, you are too cute! Thank you for your comment and for reading my blog 🙂 You are going to make an awesome feminist mommy, I know it!
Well said, Anushay. Love the balanced view about pregnancy – weighing the good fortune of having a child as a woman in a country where we can assert certain controls over our reproductive rights vs. the misfortune of working in a corporate world that punishes women for the inevitable physical/emotional aspect of bearing a child.
This was such a cute read!
I have a friend that is just like how you used to be–not wanting kids or marriage. Perhaps I’ll forward this along to her. 😉
Very well said Anushay, specially about the feeling of pregnancy not being experienced by men. They can just see, hear from thier partner and imagine. The most horrible thing is that from ages, men were even kept away from the other joys they could experience! Like witnessing thier own child birth and parenting their own baby. You know what South Asian culture is like. Men are just not allowed to take up these roles, depriving them further. And that is the real challange for feminist like us. Not only we need to fight for our own reproductive and maternity rights, we need to fight for the right of men, their right to be an equal parent and the right to experience all the joys that parenting brings.
Your experience reminds me of my days. Yes, it is a privelage that not many women like us get to choose when we want to become mother. And I feel so lucky that I was in India. I could also take support of family and was able to hire a domestic help. This allowed me to be back at work after three months of my maternity leave. At that time I did not feel much like feminist, but now I can see that my actions were.
Well, lastly yes, you are at such stage in your life where there is no going back. You are a changed person for ever. The level of sensitivity that pregnancy and parenting brings was never there before with us, even though we loved children of our sisters or brothers. It is a beautiful feeling. But it makes you vulnerable too. I was never afraid of taking risks in life, but now I am for the sake of my child.
Take care Anushay and keep writing…….
This was a beautiful piece and I also enjoyed Tulika’s comments. How much I miss you both.
Since I got married 2 months ago (whow, that still sounds slightly weird to say!) my husband and I have continuously been asked ‘when are you going to have a baby’.
My response is ‘Wow! Hold on and wait a minute there!’. As you highlighted, thank goodness I can say ‘wait a moment, I will PLAN this in my own time with my husband’.
But there is another point that this question has highlighted. Here in Africa (and I believe even in my own Western culture still to a degree) there are two opposing stand points that we as women has to content with.
1. A woman is not fully valued as a ‘woman’ if they haven’t had a baby. That we have not fufilled our ‘ascribed roles’ if we haven’t given birth, therefore we have failed some how.
2. Yet, two have a baby is not economically valued nor assisted. In fact, as you put it Anushay, we are punished.
Can we ever win?
Sarah and Tulika! Thank you ladies so much for your thoughtful and right on comments. Thank you so much for reading and supporting my work, and making your excellent points about the worth of women without children, and not allowing men culturally to be as full of parents as women. How I wish we could be in some coffee shop in Brighton talking these issues over in person…And Ms. Rank, a round of big fat feminist congrats to you!! The baby question a second dafter getting married is super annoying, and unfortunately does not go away. I used to find it so rude! It really is no one’s business.
Anushay, I absolutely love this article written by you and I agree with you one hundred percent! I admire your strenth and ability to bring this issue to the forefront so that people can get a better idea of what a woman would have to deal with while pregenant and the socities take on that. Being pregenant is not an easy job, especially in a place like America where you are expected to do a mans job!!! I guess I should say the aftermath of child birth turns out to be the worst. With no maternity leave, zero paid leave and zero sick time ( beacuse you have used it all up), it just brings a huge toll on the mother herself. I have been meaning to approach this matter ever since I returned to work after giving birth but couldn’t find a better approach.
I should say I have been lucky through my work as I was given the option to work from home during the first year after the birth and I have to say not evryone is blessed. I feel sorry for the single mom, wives or girlfriends whose husbands have joined the military and that leaves them with very few options.
I stumbled on your blog today by chance and I am very happy that I did. I think this issue deserves a more prominent place.
Thank you so much, Nitisha for your comment! I agree with you about military wives. I honestly do not know how they do it, and I think their issues deserve an even more prominent place, especially with their added emotional stress. Thank you for reading my work and I am so glad you enjoyed the post!
Your article is too good, but the abstracts art pictures are not. Anyways, I agree with your point of view.
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