Tag Archives: pregnancy

We Asked One Woman (Me) Why Birth Control Is Great And Here Was Her Answer

24 Jul

So today Buzzfeed published a post with the title “We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.” And like, first off, where do they find these women? Are they living under a rock in Arizona where they don’t actually know what Buzzfeed is and don’t understand that their images will be fodder for a million internet feminists/misogynists/what-have-you looking for easy prey? Or are they so secure in their beliefs that they actually just don’t give a fuck? Are they hoping they’ll convince other women to join their YAY BABIES BOO BIRTH CONTROL tribe? I mean, I sincerely hope it’s the latter, but I don’t know. Some days I just don’t know.

Also why are so many of them standing in front of the same white brick wall? Did Buzzfeed recruit them off the street and then take them to the same weird alleyway to photograph them? Do they all work for Buzzfeed? IS THIS A CONSPIRACY? Someone should look into this and get back to me stat. Meanwhile, on with the feminist rants.

So, first up, I’m assuming that what many of them mean by “birth control” is “hormonal birth control,” based on responses like this:

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So, real talk: I actually do have a sincere amount of empathy for these women. Hormonal birth control is not for everyone. I know plenty of women whose bodies just can’t handle artificial hormones, and the range of their reactions to the birth control pill and/or hormonal IUDs and/or shots or patches have ranged from migraines to decreased sex drive to severe mood swings to recurrent panic attacks. NONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE COOL, AND WHAT UP IF HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL IS MAKING YOU FEEL TERRIBLE THEN I FULLY SUPPORT YOU NOT USING IT.

BUT.

BUT.

THERE ARE SO MANY FORMS OF BIRTH CONTROL THAT DO NOT INVOLVE HORMONES.

Like condoms, for one. No, they’re not as effective as hormonal birth control, but they are still PRETTY DAMN EFFECTIVE. If, for whatever reason, the pill et al are not for you, then condoms are an extremely viable alternative. “OH BUT MY DUDE DOESN’T LIKE TO GET IT ON UNLESS HE’S BAREBACK.” That’s cool! I mean, I mostly think it’s kind of a dick move (pun SO intended) for a dude to pull because it puts the onus for contraception almost entirely on the woman, but I get that this is a genuine issue for some couples. The good news is that you still have options – for example, a copper IUD, which is super effective and is totally non-hormonal. Or the sponge, which contains spermicide but no hormones. Or a cervical cap or diaphragm, the latter of which should be used in conjunction with spermicide but the former of which can be used totally chemical-free!

OR (and I know I’m about to get a lot of shit for this) the dude can just pull out. Like, if he is a trusted partner and you both know that he can pull out in time and you’re both STI-free and blah blah blah, this is actually totally an option. If done properly, the rate of success is pretty high. I say this as a person who used this as my primary form of birth control for like three years, and it’s not like I have fertility issues. I got pregnant literally the first time we didn’t use any form of contraception, so it’s not a case of “well sure he pulled out, but maybe you just wouldn’t have conceived anyway.” You guys, my body is a conception machine.

So, like I said, I feel for these women on some level and I support whatever choice they want to make about their body, but also I think they’re spreading gross misinformation about what “birth control” actually is.

But some of these other women? I am digging real deep in the empathy vault in an effort to not just scream WRONG YOU ARE WRONG WHY ARE YOU SO WRONG PLEASE STOP BEING WRONG but you guys, I am having a pretty tough time. To wit:

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WHAT IS ALL WORTH IT. Risking pregnancy every time you get it on? Having more children than you can afford and living in poverty? Struggling to be able to pursue any dreams or goals beyond “have lots of babies?” Never sleeping again? PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IS WORTH IT BECAUSE I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

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BIRTH CONTROL IS NOT A ZERO-SUM GAME. You can use it sometimes, and then not use it when you want to get pregnant. IT’S NOT LIKE YOU TAKE A PILL AND BAM YOU WILL NEVER EVER HAVE A BABY, WHAT THE FUCK DID THEY TEACH YOU IN HEALTH CLASS.

Oh and I am not even touching the whole “my body is a gift to my future husband” thing with a ten foot pole. Except to relate this anecdote from when my now-husband and I were planning our wedding and the priest wanted us to sleep in separate bedrooms in the months leading up to the wedding. The reasoning he gave was this: “I want you to think of your sex as a gift. Now [turning to my husband] have you ever received a gift that someone else had already opened, then wrapped up and then re-gifted? How would you feel about a gift that’s been re-gifted seven or eight times before you finally receive it?”

He may as well have just pointed to me and yelled “WHOOOOOOOOOOORE!”

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That’s awesome! Devoid of any context, I would fully support the message this woman is holding up. Also, her hair is really fucking swag.

BUT HOW IS TAKING BIRTH CONTROL NOT A MINDFUL DECISION AND A WAY OF ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. This actually kind of breaks my brain. Like, the only way of accepting “responsibility” for sex is to get pregnant? THAT IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE MODEL TO WORK WITH.

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I mean, I guess? But like, do you also think that hair growth isn’t a condition that needs to be fixed? Or nudity? Like, you are just never going to alter your body for your own convenience because nature or god or whatever?

I don’t really think of my fertility as a “condition that needs to be fixed” so much as “a reality about my body that I prefer to have control over.” BEING IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN BODY IS SO AWESOME, YOU GUYS. I DON’T GET HOW ANYONE COULD DISAGREE WITH THAT.

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I guess when you think your husband owns your body, then you also believe that he owns all of your unfertilized eggs. So.

(At first I accidentally typed “unfertilized effs” and actually I’m pretty sure that’s what my body is full of)

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I LITERALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS.

YES. YOU CAN CHOOSE NOT TO USE BIRTH CONTROL AND STILL BE A FEMINIST.

CONGRATULATIONS.

NOW LET’S ALLOW OTHER WOMEN TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES.

FEMINISM, Y’ALL

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I know that what she actually means is that she has enough self-control not to be a slutty slut who has hot sex whenever she feels like it. Which is stupid and nonsensical because ALL women have that control should they wish to exercise it – it’s not like those of us getting it on are doing so because we are slaves to our own desires. But I’d rather think that what she’s saying is that she has total control over her own body and can stop eggs from being fertilized or whatever using her intense MIND POWERS.

She also never farts because CONTROL.

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… I actually think that she just said that birth control makes men feel like they can get away with rape.

I just.

I can’t.

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I also fully don’t understand this one. WHAT SYMPTOMS. WHAT PROBLEM.

MY PROBLEM IS THAT MY OVARIES ARE FULL OF EGGS AND MY BODY WANTS TO MAKE BABIES ANY TIME IT SENSES A SPERMAL INTRUDER AND I DON’T WANT ANOTHER KID RIGHT NOW. SO YEAH, CONTRACEPTION ACTUALLY DOES TREAT THE PROBLEM.enhanced-buzz-14348-1406076618-8

Hey man. You do sex your way, I’ll do it mine. If sex was meant ONLY to create life then god wouldn’t have invented the multiple orgasm, just saying. Or gay people, for that matter.

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Real talk: they’re both. Take it from someone who’s been there, done that. Kids are awesome and magical, but they will get all up in your shit and you will never have a moment to yourself. I love my kid and all, but when you’re considering what to get me for my birthday just know that I’d rather not, at this moment, have another creature in this house who will look me full in the face, grinning broadly while doing exactly what I told him not to do, just fucking WAITING to see my reaction. One of those gifts is enough for now.

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Arguably cooler, but also a bajillion times harder to rear and exponentially more expensive.

Call me next time your pet gerbil has a meltdown in the candy aisle because you won’t buy him the chocolate he wants and oh my god you need to get your grocery shopping done but everyone is staring at you and whispering and you know you should just leave but then you won’t be able to eat for a week.

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I actually agree that no one is ever really ready for kids. Nothing in this world can prepare you for what it’s like to go weeks without sleep and spend your days being screamed at by a tiny tyrant. By the same token, nothing can prepare you for the super intense love you will feel for your kid. It’s kind of a two-sided coin.

But legit that doesn’t mean that people who don’t want to have kids are wrong or misguided or just don’t understand how wonderful babies are. Some people don’t want to have kids and that’s their choice, end of story. Go read the fucking Handmaid’s Tale or something and then we can talk about what it would be like to live in a world where women have no bodily autonomy.

ANYWAY.

Everyone has a choice and gets to make their own choice and that’s rad. I’m glad that these women have all considered their options and decided what makes the most sense for their bodies. And I guess the argument could be made that they’re not trying to convince other women that they shouldn’t use birth control either – I mean, they’re just saying what works for them, right? But I think that when you photograph yourself holding up a giant white sign explaining why you don’t use contraception, then it definitely seems like you’re trying to change the opinion of women who DO put up the no-baby shield. And that’s a pretty shitty, unfeminist thing to do.

Also I really want to organize a basic sex ed class for all of these women and explain to them how their body works and what contraception ACTUALLY means because I am sincerely sad that a lot of this seems to be a grey area for them. WOMEN EVERYWHERE: YOU SHOULD EDUCATE YOURSELVES ABOUT YOUR RAD BODIES. IT CAN ONLY LEAD TO MORE HAPPINESS.

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You’re Supposed To Gain Weight While You’re Pregnant

5 Jun

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When I saw that A Pea In The Pod Maternity is selling a shirt that says “Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny,” I pretty much lost my shit.

Wake me up when I’m skinny.

Like, are you kidding me?

First of all, thank you for contributing to fat-phobia and promoting the idea that women shouldn’t be seen or even awake unless they’re acceptably thin. But, you know, not too thin. Like the chair, the porridge and the bed in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, women must conform whatever size the male gaze has decided is juuuuust right. Spoiler alert: you will never achieve this size, because only fantasy women are ever the “right” size. If you’re a living, breathing, actual human woman, you will always somehow be the wrong size.

Second of all, you are a maternity store. Your job should be to create clothing that makes pregnant women feel better about their bodies, not worse. I mean, this shirt basically says, “I Feel Fat And I Hate It.” It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s gross and oppressive and sends so many damaging messages about women’s bodies.

Third of all, the Sleeping Beauty Diet is an actual thing and it’s gross. Apparently a favourite of Elvis Presley’s, the Sleeping Beauty Diet involved being sedated for several days at a time. It works on the rationale that if you aren’t awake, you can’t eat. GENIUS. Except, of course, it’s super unhealthy and it can cause brain damage and gah why do I live in a world where people think it’s a good idea to starve yourself while under sedation. In fact, that’s what the diet should be named – the old Sedate ‘n Starve. Like, let’s call a spade a spade here.

Fourth of all, can we stop pathologizing weight gain? Weight gain in general is not a disease, and in this specific case it is actually encouraged. You are supposed to gain weight when you’re pregnant. That’s how your body makes a healthy baby. It’s also how your body stays healthy during your pregnancy – because like it or not, your fetus actually acts as a parasite, and your body will prioritize its health over your own. If you are not taking in adequate baby-growing nutrition, your body will start depleting its own stores of calcium, iron, etc. in order to help the fetus grow.

In the 1950s, women were told to gain no more than 15 pounds while pregnant. In fact, my grandmother’s doctor told her that if she gained more than that, her husband might leave her because she was too fat. These days, it’s recommended that women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. I myself gained 45 pounds (and I gave birth a month early, too). At every doctor’s appointment my nurse would high five me after weighing me and tell me that I was doing a great job. I was a fucking rock star at gaining weight. I would hear other pregnant women echoing my grandmother, saying they only wanted to gain 15 or 20 pounds, and I was like, whatever, bring it on. Bring me all the butter and all the cheesecake and all the crème brûlée, because I’m about to gain all the weight.

And yet, after I gave birth, I felt super weird about my body. It was totally foreign – not the body I’d had before, and not my pregnant body, which had felt wonderfully voluptuous and life-giving. My body felt like an ugly deflated bag. Later that week, when I left my son at home with my mother while I went out to buy nursing bras, I started crying when the sales clerk told me that I should wait until I had the baby before figuring out what size I needed. Because I still looked pregnant, even though I wasn’t. And even though I knew that it was normal and healthy to look like that at a week postpartum, I was still ashamed of my body. As much as I wanted to own how real and perfect and fine my post-baby body was, I still struggled. I suspect that most women do.

There is so much pressure on women to lose their “baby weight” as soon as they give birth. I mean, the tabloids are always publishing pictures of so-and-so in a bikini only six weeks after giving birth, or what’s-her-name’s postpartum diet and exercise routine. As a society, we seem to care more about how quickly a woman’s body can snap back to what it was before pregnancy than we care about the actual product of that pregnancy – you know, the baby. And that is super fucked up.

Pregnancy is body-changing event; there’s just no getting around that. Your body will forever be altered after you grow a baby in it. Can we please start trying to embrace that fact, instead of holding women up to impossible standards? Can we start talking about how you might never lose the “baby weight” and that is totally fine and your body is wonderful no matter what size it is? Instead of fear-mongering about women’s postpartum bodies, can we start talking about how wonderful they are even after (especially after) they’ve been stretched out, widened and sometimes thickened by pregnancy? Because they are wonderful – you used that body to make a whole other human being. And like I don’t think that that’s the pinnacle of a woman’s existence or the best thing her body will ever do, but it’s still pretty fucking rad.

So hey, Pea In The Pod Maternity? How about you stop making women feel crappy about how they look? How about you start making clothing that celebrates how rad women’s bodies are? Because right now we really, really need that.

45 POUNDS LIKE A CHAMP

45 POUNDS LIKE A CHAMP

UPDATE: Pea In The Pod has apparently pulled the Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny t-shirt.

 

 

 

It’s Okay To Feel Weird About Your Pregnant Body

23 Feb

Dear Fug Girls,

I like you. I like you a lot. I’ve been reading your site for, like, probably ten years now. I remember the days when Jessica wrote X-Files recaps for Television Without Pity (and those were some good days!). So, suffice to say I’m a pretty big fan.

And, as a fan, I want to tell you that what you wrote yesterday about Kim Kardashian wasn’t cool. Like, really not cool.

I get that hearing women talking about their weight can be stressful, maybe even triggering, and that one of the ways to deal with that is through humour, but I don’t think that it’s ever okay to make fun of a woman for being uncomfortable about her body. Because you know what? Everything in the freaking world is conspiring to make her feel uncomfortable about her body, and mocking her is not helping.

Look, pregnancy sucks. I mean, in some ways it’s kinda neat, but in a lot of ways it sucks big time. Your body, which has probably remained fairly static for most of your adult life, is suddenly taken over by a parasite and starts expanding in all kinds of weird ways. And suddenly, it’s not your body anymore. I mean, it is, but it’s totally unfamiliar to you, and also its housing a weird tiny thing that kicks and squirms a bunch. I spent a lot of my pregnancy feeling like the dude in Alien, to be honest, although thankfully I gave birth to an actual human being who was surgically removed from my abdomen rather than bursting out in a totally badass, metal way.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that even though I’m a thin woman, and even though my pregnancy weight looked perfectly fine on me, I still felt uncomfortable gaining weight. And I am not someone whose appearance is routinely picked apart by tabloids. I am not someone who felt obligated to prove that she’s “bikini ready” at six weeks postpartum. So if pregnancy made me feel weird about my body, I can only imagine how hard this must be for Kim Kardashian.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know a whole lot about Kim. I know that she’s with Kanye West, and I know that she’s done a bunch of reality shows, and I know that people love to hate her. I know that people like to make comments about how she’s famous for “nothing” (which is a hilarious criticism, because if anyone offered to let me be famous for nothing, I’d be like, “sign me up, bro” – who wouldn’t want to get tons of money for doing nothing?), although the number of times I see her out promoting stuff make me have a hard time believing that she really does nothing. I know that she’s a woman of colour who’s got hips and boobs, and I know that she’s already endured tons of criticism about her size from the media, long before she ever got pregnant. I know that she’s a woman, and as such she’s going to be scrutinized and mocked and ridiculed far more than her male counterparts.

At the end of the day, I’m just not really interested in shaming anyone for their feelings. Especially when those feelings have totally valid roots in the way our media and culture treat women. If Kim Kardashian wants to talk about how gaining weight while pregnant is upsetting, then more power to her. I’ll be happy to tell her a thousand times that she looks fantastic no matter what. Because there’s absolutely no good that can come from telling someone that their feelings are wrong, or bad, or stupid.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you guys will consider this the next time you post about someone’s weight gain. I mean, as much as I know that making fun of the way people dress is your gig (and usually it’s a pretty funny gig!), maybe you’ll be able to be a bit more empathetic the next time something like this comes up.

Sincerely,

Annabelle

p.s. The pants were pretty ugly, though, I’ll give you that

p.p.s. Say hi to the Mulder and Scully action figures for me! I hope they’re locked in an eternal embrace now that they’re retired from TWOP

p.p.p.s. I kinda hope these crazy kids make it, not gonna lie

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ETA: Go Fug Yourself put an addendum on their post, which is pretty awesome:

** I may need to clarify that I am not trying to say that pregnant women can’t be thrown off by the changes in their bodies. But there is a difference between that and denial. To me, wearing those pants doesn’t say, “I am feeling awkward about my changing form.” Rather, that garment, to me, is a fingers-in-ears scream of, “LA LA LA NOTHING IS
CHANGING AT ALL.” My point was, don’t let denial get in the way of biological necessity — and also, those trousers are odious. But the former is dipping into armchair psychoanalysis, so I apologize if I overstepped…

The Myth of the 39th Week Abortion

29 Sep

If you are a Canadian living in Canada (or even a Canadian living abroad, or maybe even a non-Canadian), you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Motion 312. I know I have!

In case you’ve been living under a rock and/or you’re not up on Canadian politics, here’s a section of the motion that should give you a good idea of what it’s about:

That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;

 (i)            what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,
 
   (ii)            is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iii)            what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iv)            what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

You can read the full text of the motion here, on Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s website.

The Conservative government has been quick to point out that this is not a motion put forth to criminalize abortion, or even reopen the abortion debate. They want you to believe that they simply want to update the 400 year old definition of what a human being is.

The issue is that this motion could pave the way to giving personhood to fetuses, which would certainly cause legislation to be passed on when and how abortions can be performed.

Currently, abortion is not limited by law in Canada. This means that you can have an abortion at any point in your pregnancy, right up to the moment when you give birth. By ascribing personhood to a fetus, the Canadian government would begin moving towards criminalizing abortion. Because, of course, having status as a “person” would mean that the fetus would be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And on the surface, that seems pretty reasonable. I mean, a typical pregnancy can go to 40+ weeks, but we all know that a baby born earlier can often survive with little or no medical intervention. My son was born at 36 weeks and, other than a little time on the C-PAP machine (which was more likely needed because of my c-section than because of his premature birth), he was totally fine. I even have a friend whose daughter was born at 25 weeks gestation and, while she obviously needed a lot of medical aid in the beginning, she is now two years old and thriving.

So how, in good conscience, could we allow women the legal right to abort a fetus that could survive outside of the womb?

I’m here to tell you that we can, and we should.

When I was pregnant with Theo, I had my first ultrasound at 11 weeks gestation. I’d had some bleeding early on in my pregnancy, and, going into the ultrasound, I was terrified that they would find something wrong with him.

The minute the probe hit my belly, though, itty bitty Theo appeared on the screen. He was perfect; all blobby torso-head and stubby little limbs. When I saw him, I laughed with relief, and when I laughed, he jumped, waving his arms and legs in protest. We watched, mesmerized, as he wriggled around, his heart a flickering beat in the middle of his chest.

To me, in that moment, he went from being two-lines-on-a-pregnancy-test-morning-sickness-and-achy-breasts to being an actual little person. Seeing him on the screen made me fall in love with him.

And this is the problem: if my feelings could make me believe that a baby the size of a fig is a person, then someone can likely argue that any fetus, at any gestational age, is a person. If I, a staunchly pro-choice feminist can, under the right circumstances, believe that a fetus of 11 weeks gestation is a person, then it’s not impossible for our government to come to the same conclusion.

Yes, I understand that in M-312 they promise to examine “medical evidence” in order to decide whether or not a fetus is a “person” before birth, but really, you could find “medical evidence” to back up just about any claim.

Would they say that a fetus is a person once it can survive on its own, outside of the womb, without any medical aid? Because there is honestly no foolproof way to test this.

Would they say that a fetus is a person once it reaches viability  at 24 weeks? Because the truth is that only 50% of babies born at 24 weeks gestation will survive, and those that do live are likely to have a lifetime’s worth of medical complications. As well, dating ultrasounds are not very accurate, especially once a woman enters her second trimester. Without knowing the exact date of conception, no ultrasound tech could say for certain whether a fetus is 23 weeks or 24 weeks.

Would a fetus become a person at 20 weeks, the age at which some studies have said that they can feel pain?

Would a fetus be declared to be a person at 19 weeks, which is the gestational age at which, if a Canadian woman miscarries, she becomes eligible for maternity leave?

Would a fetus become a person when their heart starts to beat, when they start to grow limbs, or even from the very moment of conception?

You could find medical evidence for all of these claims, but there’s no way of empirically proving when a fetus turns into child, except for the moment of birth, when they begin to live independently of their mother’s body. So, ultimately, the decision would, at least in part, have to be based on the emotions of the committee appointed to decide when personhood begins.

Pro-life advocates would like you to believe that abortion is too common in this country, that people use abortion as a form of birth control, or that it’s wrong to abort a fetus because it could grow up to be the person who cures cancer. Most of all, they want you to believe that women in Canada are actually aborting fetuses at 39 weeks gestation via intact dilation and extraction (more often, and incorrectly, called partial birth abortion).

First of all, let’s look at the prevalence. In 2005, the last year for which this data is available, the abortion rate was 14.1 abortions for every 1,000 women – so, 1.41% of Canadian women had an abortion that year. You guys, that is not a very big number.

Of that number, only a tiny percentage – in 2010, it was something like 0.2 percent of the TOTAL NUMBER OF ABORTIONS – were performed after 21 weeks gestation. I am having a hard time finding actual government statistics for this, but I got that number from a pro-life site, so I doubt that they are underreporting.

Regarding the use of abortion as the only form of birth control – I have honestly never known anyone who has done this. Abortion is still a painful medical procedure, and it’s not something anyone wants to go through. My other issue with this line of thinking is that it’s a way of saying that some abortions are okay, but some are wrong. Like, if it’s your first abortion and it’s because the condom broke and you took the morning after pill and for some reason that didn’t work, then it’s fine to have an abortion. But if you’re not careful with your birth control and you’ve have multiple pregnancies terminated, then it’s wrong to abort. As this brilliant article says, there should be no hierarchy of abortions. On demand, without apology.

The any-fetus-could-grow-up-to-cure-cancer argument is one of my favourites, only because it totally ignores the fact that, if the woman does terminate her pregnancy, maybe she will be the one to go on to cure cancer. Maybe the financial burdens of having a child would have made university impossible for her, or maybe the mental distress of carrying an unwanted pregnancy would have meant that she wasn’t up to the task of higher education. Maybe raising a kid would mean that she couldn’t spend hours and hours in a lab looking at test tubes or whatever the fuck it is researchers do. We so often hear about the fetus could-have-beens, but no one ever talks about what greatness the mother could have gone on to achieve.

And, finally, the 39th week abortion. The great myth of the 39th week abortion. This myth exists because technically, legally even, it could happen. Yes, it could happen – but it doesn’t.

I challenge you to find me an incidence of a healthcare professional who provided an abortion at 30+ weeks, because I doubt you can. Even second trimester abortions are hard to obtain in Canada, and women often end up being sent to clinics in the States if they are over 20 weeks gestation. The vast majority of these women are choosing to terminate that late in their pregnancy because they’ve only just learned that the fetus is severely or fatally impaired, or that there’s a significant health risk to the mother, or both.

I promise you that no one gets to 39 weeks of pregnancy and is suddenly like, gee, I’ve been meaning to get this thing aborted, I guess I should stop putting it off!

Finally, criminalizing abortion won’t stop it from happening; history has proved this time and time again. What it will mean is that women will be forced to seek out unsafe abortions with possibly life-threatening consequences. Sadly, this is an indisputable fact.

I’ve never had an abortion, and I hope I never will. I would frankly be beyond horrified if a woman terminated her pregnancy at 39 weeks. I’m still glad, though, that it’s possible from a legal standpoint. I’m glad that there are no laws that say what a woman can or can’t do to her pregnant body, which, by the way, is still her body. Because once you start creating that legislation, no matter how well-meaning it is, it’s a slippery fucking slope. A slope that ends in the Handmaid’s Tale. Kidding. Well, mostly kidding.

How To Talk To Pregnant Women (or, everybody just relax)

10 Sep

I don’t know what’s in the water these days, but it seems like a ton of my friends are having babies this year. I’ve been to three baby showers in the past two weeks alone.

Of course, since I am a super self-involved person, all of this baby time has brought me back to those oh-so-special days when I was gestating Theo. Watching my friends get advice from other friends and acquaintances (and sometimes total strangers) has reminded me of the things that I found super unhelpful to hear while pregnant, and  also the things I actually found helpful.

So! I’ve made this useful little guide for you!

First of all, let’s start out with the basics:

1. DON’T: assume someone is pregnant, unless they actually, like, TELL YOU THEY ARE PREGNANT.

I know that this one seems obvious, but, sadly, it still needs to be said.

DO: WAIT UNTIL THEY TELL YOU THEY ARE PREGNANT. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

(A brief anecdote: the first time I went out without Theo was about a week after he was born. I went to a fancy baby store to buy a fancy nursing bra. I was trying to figure out my size when the clerk helpfully told me that my chest would be bigger once I had the baby and my milk came in.

If you ever want to see a woman who is recently postpartum cry horrible hormonal tears in public, please go ahead and ask her when the baby is due. It makes her feel really great!)

2. DON’T: talk about how huge your friend’s belly is.

Some women probably (maybe?) like this, but definitely not all of them. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to be sure which category someone falls into until you actually say it, so it’s best just to keep your mouth shut.

DO: tell her how beautiful and glowing she looks. Basically every woman loves to hear this. I know, I know, a while ago I was all, try not to give people appearance-based compliments, but I think pregnancy might be the exception to that rule.

3. DON’T: tell her, Wait until the baby comes! You will feel so differently about everything! 

While this is probably true (although maybe not – everyone’s experience varies), it is super annoying to hear. Also, it’s totally unhelpful – it’s really the kind of thing every parent has to figure out for themselves.

DO: share your experiences of what your expectations were like while pregnant, and how things were different once you had the baby. It’s helpful to hear stories about specific things that people have gone through, and it’s much better to hear it phrased as here’s how I felt rather than here’s how you will feel.

4. DON’T: tell someone how bad worrying is for the baby.

I heard this a lot whenever I tried to communicate my pregnancy-related anxieties to people. I found it really unhelpful because, while I understand that what these people were trying to do was get me to relax, what they were actually doing was give me one more thing to worry about . Like, great, I’ve still got all these other things I was feeling anxious over, and now I have to worry about whether all this anxiety is hurting the baby. DOUBLE WHAMMY.

DO: ask your friend about specific anxieties they are having, and, if possible, talk them through. If you have something from your own experience that you can relate this to, that is super helpful! If their anxieties seem overwhelming or debilitating, suggest that they talk to their doctor. Above all, remind them that being anxious while pregnant is very, very common.

5. DON’T: talk about how figuratively shitty everything will be once the baby comes.

It’s true that things will be super nuts once the baby comes! But chances are your friend already knows that, and doesn’t need to be told to get in all their sleep/having fun/quiet alone time before they pop. Also they are probably happy that they’re going to have a kid, so it’s not really cool to make them feel as if they’re making a huge mistake. They’ll have plenty of time to figure that out on their own (kidding, kidding).

DO: tell them how literally shitty everything will be. I feel like the copious amounts of poop my offspring produced was a huge surprise to both of us, especially Matt. I remember him looking at the meconium and saying, it’s like a jet of concentrated evil coming out of his backside.

6. DON’T: tell pregnancy horror stories.

No pregnant woman wants to hear about all the terrible, horrible things that could possibly go wrong while the bun is still in the oven. Sure, some people enjoy hearing these kinds of gruesome tales, but there is a time and a place for everything. Talking to your knocked-up friends is neither of those.

DO: try to keep things positive.

If the desire to tell scary stories comes up as the result of a pregnant woman confiding in you about a specific issue she’s having, please, please don’t tell her that a friend of a friend experienced exactly the same thing with tragic consequences. Try to keep in mind that it’s pretty unlikely that you’re a medical doctor (and if you are, you should be dispensing medical advice, not anecdotes), and b) you’re almost definitely not this specific person’s doctor. Instead of scaring your friend, reassure her that everything is likely fine, while at the same time urging her to talk to her doctor or call the hospital.

7. DON’T: go on and on about how happy your pregnant friend must be, or else say things like, gee, you don’t seem very excited about this baby.

DO: keep in mind that pregnancy can be an emotionally conflicting time for a lot of women. Many people find pregnancy to be traumatic for all kinds of reasons, ranging from  body image issues to past complications or losses.

Just offer a warm congratulations, and then follow your friend’s lead. Making them feel like they should be happier than they are can add an extra layer of guilt onto what might already be a complicated situation.

8. DON’T: be judgmental or rude about parenting choices.

This goes for everything from formula feeding or hospital births to co-sleeping or having a round-the-clock nanny.

Here’s the thing: you don’t know what in this person’s life has lead them to this decision. Sure, maybe it’s a decision you wouldn’t have made, and maybe it’s something that you disagree with – but as long as they plan to keep their child safe, warm, happy and fed (and chances are that they do), then it’s none of your business.

DO: offer advice and resources if the person seems open to it. Tell them about your own experiences if they want to hear about it. If not, just bite your tongue, and keep in mind that things change so dramatically with the arrival of a new baby that many of your friend’s plans will probably end up flying out the window anyway.

9. DON’T: just flat-out contradict someone if they say something that you know is wrong or inaccurate.

Honestly? This will just make them feel stupid and maybe a little defensive.

DO: explain to them why it’s wrong and offer information and resources to back your claim up.

For example, I had a friend who was told that if the baby only nursed on one side per feeding, she should pump the other breast once the feeding was done so that she didn’t get mastitis. I explained to her that up until about six weeks, milk production is hormonally driven, but after that point it becomes supply and demand. If you are nursing your baby AND pumping, then you are signalling to your body to produce more milk. This is fine if you want to keep frozen milk on hand for a babysitter, or for when you return to work, but it’s not necessary if you’re feeding on demand, and definitely won’t prevent mastitis.

I also told her that she should do whatever she feels comfortable doing, and that she’ll figure out what works best for her once the time comes (this sentence in particular is key).

Also, keep in mind that there is a study to back up just about everything, so your friend might already feel like they are well-educated on whatever it is you’re talking about. If they aren’t interested in what you have to say, then maybe just let this one slide. Pick your battles.

For example, if a person has decided after a lot of research that they think it’s best for the baby to dangle out a second-storey window from a Jolly Jumper harness, that argument is definitely worth pursuing. If it’s something more minor, just let it go.

10. DON’T: stick to only pregnancy and baby-related topics.

Seriously, this gets really annoying. When I was pregnant, there were days when I felt like I was nothing more than a gestating uterus on legs. It’s not that I never wanted to talk about pregnancy and babies (because I totally did!), just that that wasn’t all I wanted to talk about. Sometimes I wanted to feel like a smart human being with a smart human brain who thought about smart human things.

DO: keep in mind that your friends are people first, and pregnant ladies second. Try talking about a range of subjects, including but not limited to: books, movies, food, deep philosophical thoughts, Shakespeare’s plays, why Richard III maybe wasn’t such a bad guy, the weather, interior decorating, Wes Anderson films, why Wes Anderson should make a film about Richard III, etc.

Now go forth and converse like a normal human being with your pregnant friends!

Also, feel free to add suggestions for additions to this list in the comments.

“Hmmmm I’m feeling a little TOO content with my pregnancy. I wish someone would say something SUPER JUDGMENTAL to me right now.”