I’m assuming a whole bunch of these posts I’ll make on this grand adventure of realisation to the extent of women’s body policing and sexism I am about to experience you’ll nod and tell me you told me so. And sadly, that’s just how it’s gonna be, I spose.
One of the most infuriating things for me in the first trimester was that whole not telling anyone thing til you hit the 12 week mark. Actually, it’s had me raging mad for weeks and weeks. It’s a whole lotta bullshit, that, that serves to make other people feel better and bright and shiny about my experience. There’s no way that shit is about me.
For example, on news that I was indeed pregnant, I discovered, much like getting engaged, I was suddenly completely behind on everything. Apparently, if I want an OB (and I do, see yesterday’s post about some potential complications plus my age etc), I need to book in with my Dr of choice at 6 weeks or else they get booked out. And I’d know which doctor I want because … ???
I couldn’t book an appointment with my GP until I was 7 weeks along and the OB doesn’t see you until 10 weeks so that’s a long time to go in your beginning stages without really any advice, guidance or help if it’s your first time if you don’t tell anyone. Am I supposed to have just gone to a couple of books and muddled through on my own?
And of course, no matter how much I tried to be all “hey this is not a thing until like 8 months along, I can totally just go on with my regular daily life like nothing is different, cause that’s what I’m supposed to do, right?” I felt dreadfully ill most of the time, unbelievably tired, I have a cold that doesn’t go away (8 weeks now – I think it’s just another pregnancy symptom and it does allow me to not have to supersmell all the time), I can’t sleep and then I need to sleep all the time, and pregnancy brain … I was dropping balls all over the place. And … I’m supposed to just … offer no explanation?
BUT … I’m also supposed to suddenly go off coffee (that one is hard to hide in an office situation when you are known as the local caffeine addict snob), alcohol, soft cheese, unknown if unwashed salad, prepared salads, uncooked eggs, smoked salmon, anything that has been in your fridge for more than 24 hours etc etc (try looking unsuspicious at a convention with that list). And what the fuck is with every vegetarian option at a restaurant being pregnancy unfriendly??? Seriously?
You know what? I’ve just felt like a big fucking liar for the last 2 months. This whole not telling people means you have to lie, all the time. How is that more palatable? And people get suspicious (I’m sure a bunch of my Twitter followers picked up on the clues) and start asking you outright, like “Why aren’t you drinking coffee, Alisa?” Which is like … if I was going to tell you, I would tell you, right? But instead I had to look people I really like and respect in the eyes and lie. It made me feel like shit, every single time.
And here’s what makes me angry about that. You don’t tell people you’re pregnant in the first trimester “in case something happens”, right? I’m going through this experience regardless of whether or not you know about it. I’m on the train and it’s left the station. No matter the outcome, this is real and valid to me. Now if I tell you and then I have to … untell you? … then you have to deal with the yucky unhappy icky things related to “something happened”. If I don’t tell you, and something happens, you get to go on with your life and not deal or interact with it. But for me, I was already on the train, regardless, I have to go through it. And the not telling others is about sparing them “unnecessary” emotions.
So, if you don’t tell anyone and you can’t talk about being pregnant, does that mean it’s not really real until the second trimester? If people don’t want to hear about it til they know it’s “stuck” then … what is it when it’s the first trimester? Not something we want to take seriously until we know for sure it’s going to work out happily? We don’t want to be a part of the unhappy stories of first trimester pregnancies. And for me, then, the whole discussion about how evil murderers women are if they have an abortion in the first trimester becomes so unbelievably fucking hypocritical. YOU DIDN’T EVEN WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE IT ANYWAY!
One of those, either way women’s experiences must be denied, things.
It won’t surprise you then that I decided “fuck that” and did it differently. There’s no way I would have made it through that first stage without my friends. I did need the reminder that “this too shall pass”. I needed suggestions and help on finding ways to make it through the day. And what’s normal and what’s not. And a shoulder to cry on. Most of that, of course, was C, who has been brilliant and kind and patient and got himself a loyalty card at the pharmacy round the corner for his midnight runs already. One night, he gave up rugby training to lie in bed and hold my hand and watch DVDs all night with me cause that’s all that was left that could be done. I also had to tell a few people I’m working on projects with because I became flaky and unreliable at working to deadline and I needed to be watched, with that suddenly unreliable pregnancy brain. It was really clear something was up. There really was no way to hide it. Plus, in publishing you work on 12 to 18 month timeframes and I have a huge chunk of time about to come up in which I won’t be working, really. And I needed to start troubleshooting on that with authors.
I can’t imagine not being able to access and lean on my sisterhood. I think that must be one of the cruellest ways to control women – to shut them down and tell them they shouldn’t share (and validate) their experience with anyone. I don’t think I would have made it through without my friends. And I feel very angry that anyone else should have to feel that they should have to be able to do it on their own.
Incidentally, thank you to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post – I think there is a big difference between drive by lobbing of advice bombs and being engaged in a conversation in which you’re invited/asked to share your experience.