We don’t owe the birth of our baby to anyone other than us.
February 6, 2020
Being a female, there’s an ingrained sense of ‘owing’. We owe it to other people to cover up our bodies, not to make them uncomfortable. Whether that be a big busted lady daring to wear a shirt, or a breastfeeding mother just wanting to feed her infant.
We are taught we owe people protection of their comfort to the detriment of ours. The unwanted sexual advances that we try to rebuff, yet the person continues to penetrate our personal space. Often forcing the woman to do that coy, awkward ‘please leave me alone‘ smile. Indicating to any females close by that back up is needed to remove this pest who just isn’t taking no for an answer. I’ve been so backed into a corner, owing the, blatantly obvious creep, my benefit of the doubt that he isn’t a creep, that I have eventually after disclosing several times I have a boyfriend (because saying no isn’t good enough, and not even stating a long term relationship is good enough) been forced to utter the words ‘I may as well have a huge, hairy penis, for your concern‘. Disgusted, thinking me rude, he left. Me, the rude one.
Women battle on the daily for our right just to live, to be taken as an equal. For people to stop forcing their ideals, beliefs, opinions and attitudes upon us. There has been progress. I applaud every person that shares naked selfies online, beckoning the shame terms such as slut, attention whore, cheap, trash, no self decency. A night out in town opens my eyes to the clothing young people wear. Clothing being a very loose word for what I see. Bras and pants, covered only with a fishnet dress. One girl wearing stickers over her nipples and a netting type crop top. I love it. Victim blaming is being challenged. People are wearing what they like. Women are breaking free from owing people shit. But there is one area where progress is slow, the parenting and pregnancy arena.
I’ve always been down for the equality of people, yet still raised and constrained like many in society. Conforming to the rules for the most part. After the birth of my daughter, suffering with depression steeped in gender roles and frustration, I thought, fuck all your rules. No one has authority over me anymore. No one will tell me how to feel, to act, to think, to behave. No one will put my interests aside for the benefit of theirs. I am the most important person in my life and nothing should prevent me from seeing this worth, as it should be for all others.
And then I fell pregnant. Then I noticed I was right back at square one with owing people shit.
I knew from conception I was pregnant, I just knew. So I had to make a choice, share or not share? A huge factor in this was what would be the response of others in our choice. Did we owe people the truth? Overwhelmingly, I knew I wanted this news to be between me and my partner for as long as possible. We didn’t owe people shit about our reproductive organs. Yet, when we shared the news, there was a few comments of ‘you didn’t say anything‘. And still I wonder, what right people think they have over the private life of other people, why do they think we owe them any information at all?
People are excited, keen to share in your happiness, for some they may even be heavily emotionally invested. But this still doesn’t give anyone privy to your life, if you do not wish them to have it. We don’t owe anyone a pregnancy announcement.
Having gone through years of hard mental work, self healing, development, understanding and relationship building with my partner, all of which necessary after the severe postnatal depression having our first, my instinct and self knowledge has some pretty definitive opinions about the birth of baby number two.
First and foremost, mum is priority. I know from the first time, if baby is healthy and well, he is going to flourish just fine. But mum? She didn’t fair so well last time. She is top priority. Her mental health is top priority. The impact that has on the family, the partner and, now 2 children, is profound. There’s that saying of ‘happy wife, happy life‘ – usually meant in a derogatory sense to stop your wife from nagging. But we will take it for this use. If your partner is baws deep in depression and threatening to leave or kick you out, imagining all kinds of fucked up scenarios, sobbing, mourning the loss of self, screaming out in confused frustration, then there ain’t no happiness in that household. So ‘happy (non) wife, happy life‘ fits just fine here.
Women often do not get autonomy over their actions, body or mind. Being pregnant, or being around childbearing age, the lack of freedom is even greater. Boundaries are always over stepped. From intrusive questions about when you are having children, to unsolicited parenting advice to those who have children. Or my personal fave, the fuckers who can see into the future and tell me how my baby will behave and how my daughter will react to having to share me with the baby. Sometimes I wonder if people forget that behind the face of a woman there is, in fact a human! With emotions. With feelings. With concerns.
As soon as I became pregnant, I was back into vessel mode. Everything becomes about baby, and family and uncertainty. Have you thought of this? Have you tried this? Where is the baby going to sleep? Question after question after question. Remarks on your body are daily. Of course, your stomach is expanding, or maybe it is not. But do people forget that the person growing that human is there? That these remarks and questions may not be what she wants to listen to. Maybe she wants to be ‘her’ for the day and not the baby machine.
To be pregnant, is huge. A blessing, a gift, a miracle. However, we do not owe others the bowing of our head when we want to complain about it or just be our self for the day or our choices. Stretch marks and itching skin come to mind. They can be painful. Mentally too. Some women choose to keep their vanity concerns quiet, some like to express their upset, in the face of potentially upsetting others. Choosing to say you do not like the changes to your body is completely acceptable, nor do we need to follow it up with ‘but I’m grateful’. We don’t owe that shit either. My sides are quite literally splitting and I am not a fan. I have no idea what my body will look like after this baby, worse I have no idea how I will mentally deal with the change in body.
Family and tradition seem to steamroll over couples, pushing aside their wants and feelings. People seem to want to ‘step up’ into roles or use their role as authority. Pushing in against the will of a couple. And again, feeling a sense of owing it, couples allow it to happen. I’ve had countless messages from, usually, mothers, stating their upset at relatives barging in on family life. Taking control, saying they know best, while the new parents, bewildered confused and insecure, allow the torrent of relative ego to take charge. Often being subject to the most mind blowing ‘wtf’ of advice, statements and ‘back in my day’ bullshit. Pregnant couples often feel the pressure to appease everyone, second guessing what they really want, against their will for others. For some couples, this is ok, they can endure. For others, the strain is too stressful in an already shaky environment.
For baby number two, owing people, isn’t at the top of my list. It’s not on the list. At best, we owe people the comfort of knowing that we are healthy and fine. I understand people are concerned, considering the fucking ride that happened first time. I know and happily soothe the worries of those asking how I am doing, if baby is ok, if I’m feeling ok. I am fine with this level of relationship, I can share with others and keep myself, and family protected.
Protection is a huge things for us this time. The birth of my first left an angry taste in my mouth, after 4 years I’m still making my peace with it. Trying to understand my own thoughts about the event and trying to see what it must have been like for my partner to be in such an unknown situation and watch the person he loves in pain.
This time, I owe myself and my partner the protection, security and intimacy we need to bring this baby into the world and to join our family. My views around the issue are very strong. Currently, and for the last 8 months, I have felt extremely private and protective around the matter, around the whole pregnancy. Speaking at length, I have made it very clear that, unless there is some kind of life altering shift in mood, no one will be invited to visit myself or baby, no one may even be informed of his birth. At first, this felt like an extremely selfish thought. But I can tell you, the thought of birth and sharing our news with the world brings me to tears. I am not ready for it. I know this birth will be a huge trigger for the trauma, emotions, thoughts and darkness I endured the first time. My whole pregnancy has been one giant trigger. So I’m going to say it one more time, mum is top priority.
Unless I am (we are) emotionally ready, healed, I’m not really sure, then the world can wait as long as we see fit, to meet the baby. The only person I owe happiness to is myself, which in turn creates happiness for my family. This isn’t a selfish choice, nor one that I have ‘put my foot down’ over. It’s a mutual, trepidatious decision. The risk of going full speed ahead, sharing before we are ready, is huge. Of course, sharing our news is not going to open to flood gates to the beast of depression. But feeling like we owe people the right to visit or be kept informed about the baby, is strenuous enough that it may tip the scales. In some cultures the mother is isolated for weeks on end, away from family, chores and life. I can see why. Giving birth is hugely exciting, but for some of us, it’s hugely personal for reasons that are hard to express. I do not need to share it with anyone.
Getting to the point of mentally saying ‘no’ to the feeling of ‘but you NEED to share, people will want to know’, became easier the more I traveled into this pregnancy. Selfish isn’t really a word we should use when describing the needs of a person. At times I’ve been recluse, I’ve said ‘leave me alone’, I’ve been at home and prepared no meals, I’ve asked my partner to do more parenting duties because ‘I just can’t’. I’ve been far kinder to myself than I ever have. Knocking down each internal niggle with ‘fuck off’, I’m reliving some harsh emotions right now, fretting over the darkness that may appear, battling the thoughts from 4 years ago that just love to sneak out when anything get too similar to back then. Cribs, moses baskets, baby grows and excited nerves, all from before, are trying to trigger major upset. The fast approaching birth is challenging my stubborn nature of ‘I will not be squashed by depression this time’. Continuing to work and keep communication lines open in our relationship in the face of a swirling wind of change is always at the forefront of my mind.
This pregnancy, for me, has been so internal, so testing, triggering, thought provoking and healing. I do not owe anyone shit at the end of it until we feel ready. That could take 1 minute, 1 day, 1 week. We don’t know. I owe it to myself to look after my mental health, and thus the mental health of my family. That’s all I owe. That’s all anyone should owe.