One of the things that surprised me about being pregnant the most wasn’t the swollen ankles, constant sickness or any of the other fun and slightly gruesome symptoms. No, it was other people and in particular middle-aged men – oddly enough.
From the day I began to properly show and it became obvious I was definitely pregnant and not just a bit more portly than usual, people began to make the most intrusive and ridiculous comments. The fact that strangers make comments and ask questions was not a total shock as there are plenty of blog posts, comedian’s sketches and references in general pop culture about this. However, the fact that the worst culprits were middle-aged men who were complete strangers was not something I was prepared for.
A few examples?
A male cashier in a supermarket asking if I was married or if I was a girl in trouble.
A male colleague asking if I plan on breastfeeding whilst making squeezing motions with his hands against his chest.
Another male colleague saying that I was selfish if I did breastfeed as my boobs should only be for my husband.
Asked by a man in a hospital waiting room if I was planning on using curry or sex to ensure baby arrives on time.
Being asked what pain relief I plan on using so many times – being told an epidural was overkill and made me pathetic – being told that I was going to rip myself a new one and would need everything going – being told that if I took anything I would be being selfish and damaging my baby. All by men, who, coincidentally had NEVER given birth.
And my personal favourite; whilst enrolling a man’s son at the college I work at the father asked me if I planned to deliver vaginally… and if so would I “be making” my husband watch? He then went on to explain that if I did I should expect him to cheat on me because it was “messed up” to expect any man to deal with that and not stray… Needless to say this man’s son and I were both sat with our mouths open and looking totally confused by his comments.
These are just a few examples of the top of my head, the ones that stuck with me the most. Now you may ask why I have only picked on the comments made by men? Because there were definitely unwelcome comments from women as well, ones that made me stop in my tracks and my jaw drop. But the reason I am picking on the ones from men is how they made me feel, I will try to explain this.
Firstly, when a woman makes a comment generally I felt happy answering back in whatever tone matched my mood at the time. Also when a women made a comment it had usually followed a conversation with them about childbirth or rearing, so I assumed it was made from a place of concern or interest in being helpful (I know this is not always the case).
Secondly, when a man-made these comments it was always completely out of the blue – I had never preceded these events with a conversation about being pregnant. Why did they feel like they had the right to suddenly ask extremely personal questions?
The scariest part is that when these men made comments or asked questions I was alone, or the only other people around were with the man. This made me feel very vulnerable and in a few situations a bit scared to respond without receiving retaliation.
Surely, by now, people are starting to understand that it is not acceptable to ask personal questions or judge extremely personal things about another person. I mean, what if I walked up to the security guard in my local supermarket and asked him what sexual position he preferred most? Or if I asked a male colleague whether he preferred to hang his penis to the left or the right in his boxers? Or perhaps asking a bus driver if he intended to make his wife go with him to a painful and invasive hospital procedure for support, and if he was then explaining why he was a selfish twat. Do you think this behaviour would be acceptable to these men? Do you think that they would just smile sweetly and change the subject for fear of my reaction? No, I don’t think so either.
So WHY is it still seen that pregnant women are almost public property? Why do you have the right to ask what I plan on doing with any part of my body? Why do you have the right to judge me for choosing one painkiller over another? Simply because I managed to grow a human inside me does not equate me to a vending machine that you get to poke and prod and input commands to your hearts desire in order to get a yummy goody out of me.
So from one woman to all the men (and women) out there, please, please do not ask or make invasive comments about a pregnant woman’s body or what choices she may make. You may not be so lucky and get one who is be brave enough to bite back and not just whimper and run away. ALSO (and more importantly) you have no right to make those judgements or ask for that information.