By Anushay Hossein, Commentator, Writer & Activist
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.