I have to write one more post because Anonymous came back and responded in the last set of comments. I guess I should explain a bit more what set me off, because it certainly wasn't just one belly-rub, or one little comment, and I think this will help show where I'm coming from.

We all dislike an exhibitionist. We all think it's rude when someone has a "me me me" attitude where their needs come before anyone else's. It's unfortunate that these people exist, but the truth is they don't exist that often. Human society just wouldn't work if they did.

The problem is, a minority of women think pregnancy gives them a unique license to drop all they ever learned about basic courtesy. It does not. Pregnancy gives women special needs - it makes them big and heavy, puffed, sick, uncomfortable, emotional, vague and stupid, clumsy, or sometimes all of the above - and those needs deserve consideration. It's the women who want special consideration above and beyond those needs who are in the wrong. Above and beyond those needs, they are only due the same consideration as the next person on earth.

--

The first comment that raised my eyebrows was so blatantly shocking that it was impossible to get annoyed about. A woman expressed frustration that her own mother was refusing to be "relegated to second tier" within the family hierachy now that she, the daughter, was pregnant. Clearly, this woman had it in mind that the moment she conceived, the whole, extended family would stop in its delicate orbit and gravitate towards her. The former matriach, meanwhile, was to be stripped of her title and cast to one side. Thanks for everything mum, but I've got these two lines on a stick say you're obsolete. This seemed so insane, my reaction was almost scientific. "That's fascinating," I thought. "The human mind is actually capable of that pattern of thought. Just astounding."

--

There was a "why should I take care talking about my baby around my sister-in-law who is infertile and just had a miscarriage after IVF?" comment. You know the type - where the person posing the question asserts that it's their right to enjoy pregnancy in any way they please and bugger everyone else. I would hope that if her sister-in-law had lost a live baby after birth, or been diagnosed, perhaps, with some form of cancer, she would understand that the situation deserves respect. If so, then she is simply ignorant on the subjects of infertility and miscarriage, and should ultimately - after having things explained - be forgiven her folly. But there's a cynical little piece of me that wonders whether that would make any difference. Perhaps, I thought, she would insist on her "right" to act in any way she pleased even in the face of overt and universally recognised grief. Because, you know, she's pregnant.

--

A woman turns up at my sister's vet clinic. "I'm pregnant," she says, pushing to the front of the desk, "and I have an appointment with my obstetrician. The cat's got blood in his poo. I'm just going to leave him here." As she turns to go, the stunned receptionist says, "Wait! We need you to sign him in!" "I haven't got time for that," she replies. "Here - take this business card. Call me."

My sister rings the number on the card and the husband answers. "Well I don't know what's going on," he says. "Do we have your permission to run tests?" my sister asks, but the man refuses. "I don't know anything about it. You'll need to talk to my wife. No, I don't have her number." My sister smiles sweetly and requests a phone call from the dear woman. "She's pregnant at the moment," says the husband, as if this is relevant, "but I'll pass it on."

At 8pm my sister, none the wiser, hands the case over to the emergency clinic. The next day the woman is furious that her cat hasn't been cured and magically returned home. "The cat seems normal on examination," explains my sister. "We don't know how to treat without at least a proper history and we need your permission to do further tests. I did phone your husband, but I was told I'd have to wait for your call, which I have been doing." "Well I'm pregnant!" the woman says, as if that explains anything, and continues to complain long and loud. She gets cranky when someone asks her to pay the overnight hospital fee, basing her argument on the fact that she's with child. My sister asks the other staff if this is reasonable behaviour. They confirm it is not. But why did she have to ask?

--

The stars of Juno (in the top video on the page) muse about what it would be like if they were expecting. "Pregnant women are treated as these, like, Holy Vessels," they joke. "You could really lord that over people." They laugh. But in real life, some people don't seem to appreciate it's just banter.

I can see why - the Cult Of Mummy glorifies a woman's maternal role to an unreasonable degree. To the Cult, pregnant women are Holy Vessels, and not just people, like they were before, but with temporary special needs. No wonder a few women get sucked in to thinking of themselves as Godlike during pregnancy. They've been brainwashed. And it's high time that brainwashing was undone.

--

Mr Bea asks me what I think of the view that women become selfish in pregnancy. "We do a little," I reply, "but mostly it's just a new-found willingness to assert ourselves for the sake of our child, and in the face of our new set of obstacles. Yes, I do need to sit down. No, I can't wait another forty-five minutes before eating. You're asking me, at six o'clock, to do an impromptu three hours of extra overtime? I hope you're kidding. It can be quite disconcerting when former doormat types suddenly start standing up for themselves, but it's perfectly fair, and in some cases long overdue. Unfortunately, we all get a bad name from those women - the ones who cross the line."

--

Finally, there was an article in a parenting magazine along the "it's not my problem other people can't conceive and you can't make me show any sympathy towards them" lines, and then I walk with a woman who rubs her belly, which is fine at first, but it just stretches on and on and on as if she doesn't feel she can move her hand away for a single moment of the waking day... and at that point I snap, and I write the first post.

And then I get a comment that really sets me off, and I really snap, and I write the second post.

So you see how it happened.

--

Today I am calm again. The world mostly knows that there are limits to decent social behaviour, even for pregnant women. The Cult Of Mummy, I believe, is once more on the wane, and after its damage is repaired, I look forward to a future where women are celebrated in all their roles - as daughters, as wives, as friends, as productive members of the workforce, yes - as mothers, but most of all, as people who deserve respect like anyone else around them.

Anonymous - I appreciate your coming back to make that comment. Too many people won't reconsider their words, once said, and I have more respect for that than I can express. I do appreciate your view. I was harsher and more sarcastic in the first post than was warranted, and I hope things are clearer now. As for the future, I wish you nothing but the best.


24 Comments

Bea said...

I'm commenting to add that I was also pissed off recently by completely unrelated things, connected to my coursework.

1. Did you know that some early IVF clinics made women sign paperwork as a condition of treatment, in which they agreed to a) have amniocentesis performed if they fell pregnant and b) abort the foetus if it was "defective"?

2. I was reminded of the now-obsolete practice - described by one author as "familial slavery" - of forcing eldest daughters to remain unmarried and living with their parents in order to act as designated caregiver in their parents' dotage.

All in all, my anger threshold was in serious danger of being breached.

Bea

Not on Fire said...

I get your point. This is the sort of attitude that is so self-centered as to be baffling. It makes me think of an editoral in our local paper where a woman complained about not being able to send peanut butter sandwiches to school any more. After all, it was not her child that would die!

serenity said...

I get where you're coming from - for me anyway, no explanations are needed.

And it's why I'm struggling with "playing the pregnancy card" in my current work situation. Because I too abhor the "Mummy Cult" mindset.

That I am pregnant is NOT an excuse for why I can't do my job properly.

I've posted about this today. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

stacyb said...

hi bea, just wanted to say thanks for stopping by and leaving your supportive comment...and congratulations on your pregnancy!

andrea_jennine said...

Just catching up after the weekend; well said, all of it.

Beagle said...

I suppose I'm missing all the "fun" having a private blog and all.

I would find a virtual fist fight on my own blog too upsetting. I get riled up enough when I come across them elsewhere.

I don't really get why the "Allies" of the internet are even reading infertility blogs.

whattoexpect said...

First off, well said. I get where you are coming from.

Second, one of the fun things about living in a country where a whole lotta women have each had a whole lotta babies is that those matriarchs are exceptionally talented at putting the "woe is me" would-be Mummies right in their places.

I actually heard a woman tell another that when she's had seven children, then she could talk.

Cracks my shit up to see it happen. Good for them.

Despite how big you might feel, the universe has actually failed to revolve around you.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I'm with Beagle-why are these women here? They obviously aren't trying to actually have empathy for our situations!!

Bea said...

This is an adaption of my comment on the last post:

I'm not sure why Allie is here myself, but I'd like to think that if she doesn't identify with the topic directly, she may be searching for information in order to help support someone she knows. Anyway, since I don't know, benefit of the doubt and all that. Hey - she used a name, not just "anon"! That's a kind of courtesy. It would be horrible to think people read infertility blogs just to take pleasure in others' misfortunes.

And I also think the first reaction a lot of us (people, that is) have when someone points out that we should be more mindful of others is to get indignant out of guilt and try to talk about how it's not our problem. Hopefully, on reflection, that passes.

Bea

Jess said...

I was stunned (in a good way) that anon came back. Very nice of her, and big, too.

I'm sorry your anger threshold is being challenged, Bea. Nobody needs more of that than necessary!!

I cringed with that m/c story about someone's sister. And the vet story, too. Oh dear. Some people.

Bea said...

I wanted to drop in just to highlight the good counterpoint that I thought came out of this discussion, because I don't think I made enough of it.

In some cases, pregnant women may have a heightened need to bond with their children before birth, due to special circumstances. This is not because they want to strut or draw attention, and is well above what would be considered a "normal" need to bond.

I think the basic idea behind what I've said encompasses this scenario, in that I've emphasised mindfulness and consideration according to needs. If you go out, mindful of those around you who are experiencing infertility and loss, and weigh your needs against theirs, your needs may indeed be greater. Therefore it's hard to make snap judgements about individual situations based on looks alone.

When you're suffering, you do expect other people's actions to hurt sometimes. That's life, and everyone accepts this. Even if we're in pain, others' needs can be greater than our own. But what no-one should accept is a complete disregard for their feelings.

Bea

Bea said...

I know - I'm hogging my own comments section, but I don't have everyone's emails. Also, I'm going to duplicate another comment, because the argument seems to be getting spread across posts and I think this bears repeating:

I wanted to drop in just to highlight the good counterpoint that I thought came out of this discussion, because I don't think I made enough of it.

In some cases, pregnant women may have a heightened need to bond with their children before birth, due to special circumstances. This is not because they want to strut or draw attention, and is well above what would be considered a "normal" need to bond.

I think the basic idea behind what I've said encompasses this scenario, in that I've emphasised mindfulness and consideration according to needs. If you go out, mindful of those around you who are experiencing infertility and loss, and weigh your needs against theirs, your needs may indeed be greater. Therefore it's hard to make snap judgements about individual situations based on looks alone.

When you're suffering, you do expect other people's actions to hurt sometimes. That's life, and everyone accepts this. Even if we're in pain, others' needs can be greater than our own.

But what no-one should accept is a complete disregard for their feelings. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not aware of the extent of the problem of infertility, and worse - a minority of pregnant women seem to think that theirs are the only feelings that matter.

Bea

The Town Criers said...

Well, holy shit. You take a break over the weekend and look what you miss.

First off, I think your analogy with lollies was perfect. Your mother didn't say "never eat a lolly in public! The poor sugar-free children!" What she told you was to be discreet in your enjoyment of your own life. And that is a good idea in every sense of the word. Smiling--that's fine. Running through the food store announcing your happiness to others--not so much.

You didn't say never to touch the belly, it was simply the difference between moderation--a touch--and the continuous rub. You didn't say, "don't wear shorts." You said, "don't flaunt your body." And it's a good rule.

I think we forget that we can be discreet and it doesn't distract from our own happiness. When I got engaged, I was well aware that others were not engaged and wanted to be. So I didn't hide it, but I kept it balanced. I may talk about the wedding, but I remembered to ask them about their life, their job, their boyfriend. I didn't hold my ring in front of their face, though you can bet in the privacy of my house I stared at that hand long and hard. At the end of the day, regardless to how I presented my news, I was still engaged and still deeply in love. Not shouting it to the people at the grocery store didn't take away from that.

I'm sorry that you were bashed in your own space. I never really understand that. I don't have a lot of time in my day. I certainly don't have minutes to use for making other people feel like shit. When I can't add to the discussion or if I feel pissed after reading, I walk away rather than wasting more time.

Though perhaps I should be shittier :-)

Topcat is fiery, said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geohde said...

Bea, I missed the fuss, but I wanted to say that I've always found you pretty reasonable and fair minded.

J

Isabel said...

You are so right about it being a transition to suddenly have to set new boundaries: No I can't eat what you're offering me, I insist on something else, no I can't participate in what you are proposing, we must do something else or I won't go... That was so hard for me. Now I just say: Does the baby look like he wants to do that? But at first it was so hard, especially since I looked the same (big fat and bloated, thank you IVF).

Ellen K. said...

Re: one of the comments, I didn't know dowager traditions still existed, but apparently I was wrong.

Samantha said...

This has been quite a thread indeed! You are skilled at remaining so even-handed with things, even when things started to heat up in the comments section!

I think this also relates a lot to Mel's post with Carolyn Hax's column. How we react to things is filtered through our own personal experiences. In that case, one viewed IVF as a slap in the face discounting her adopted brother. Here, it can be tempting to view a pregnant belly rub as a slap in face to an infertile woman. Intention, and empathy, from all parties, is worthwhile.

Mel said...

I never actually realised before today that some women do that.
I was just at the post office in line and the line was maybe 5 people long and a women at the end was saying "i'm pregnant, i can't wait in this line". She wasn't heavily pregnant, she looked very trim so if she hadn't announced it I wouldn't have known and she actually got ahead of everyone behind me in the line. I thought she was going to try the same shit with me but I got served before she had a chance.
Most of the people in line were women too so how did she know one of them wasn't on IVF or just had a miscarriage or even had a baby just die.
Some people don't even think a miscarriage is that big a deal. Some people don't consider it a real baby, that you didn't know the baby so how can you be sad its gone. Or the worst one " At least you know you CAN get pregnant now" Do they think that perhaps the person is thinking that they might never be able to carry a child to full term, that maybe they are terrified that if they do get pregnant again that they will miscarry and that it made them an absolute emotional wreck the first time that they honestly do not know how they will handle it if it ever happened again.
They don't get that it still hurts like hell.

Anonymous said...

Can I say, that at 8 mos pregnant, I was speeding about 15 miles over the limit and got a ticket and tried the "I'm pregnant" line and the cop said "All the more reason you shouldn't be speeding."

I didn't feel entitled so much as hopeful it might give me an out. But he had a great point.

Karaoke Diva said...

I started getting really wordy with my response, so I just made a post in my blog. :-)
http://karaokediva.blogdns.com/?p=1586

MrsSpock said...

I say, very well said. It's just plain simple good manners, just like mama taught.

The gal at the vet is nuts, using pregnancy to weasel out of personal responsibility. Geez, should I have used that as an excuse last night at work? I can't take on that extra patient- I'm pregnant.

SaraS-P said...

indeed...respect need not equal all out worship

Bea said...

When we first started trying, back when I thought a spontaneous pregnancy was, at the very most, only a few months away, I asked a favour of Mr Bea. "If I start turning into one of those obnoxious pregnant women who has to let everyone know she's pregnant all the time, will you slap me?"

"I don't know," he replied doubtfully. "I've put so much effort into not slapping you for being obnoxious in the past. You're asking me to undo a lot of training."

Back then, I was worried about irritating people. Infertility has made me realise it's much more important than that.

I want to make a closing statement on the debate. The bottom line is that we should all be mindful of how our actions affect other people, and pregnancy doesn't get you out of that. It's easy for women to believe that it does - amidst the turbulent storm of twentieth-century feminist politics, this is one of the myths which has surfaced and is still bobbing hopelessly about on the top of the water.

Of course, we should remember that some women face unique circumstances with their pregnancies, which may lead to a heightened need to bond with their unborn child through belly-touching. The basic principle - considering the needs of others as well as your own - still stands, but the "proper" actions will be different where the needs are different. This makes it hard to judge individual cases from the outside, but that's a problem we run into in every facet of life.

I have also tried to stick to debating the general rule, rather than the minutiae of its application. The readers and commenters here come from all parts of the globe, and for that reason, it's just not going to be possible to agree on a specific code of conduct. You wouldn't act the same way in Adelaide as you act on the streets of New York or Dehli, pregnant or otherwise. Some commenters (on the blog or by email) have acknowledged this by prefacing their thoughts with, "I come from such-and-such-place..." If you're reading this debate and your disagreement lies in the detail, just keep this in mind.

Others have openly admitted that, whilst they agree in principle, they're just not sure where the line should be drawn. Nevertheless, as Dramalish most eloquently put it, "smug is smug". I have yet to come across a society where people are allowed to do as they please without regard for the strangers around them. This applies to invisible as well as visible problems, and whilst ignorance of the fact that infertility exists is forgivable, it ought to be remedied.

Since nothing new has come up in this debate for a bit now, I'm closing off comments. If you have something to add, you are welcome to email me. I will add your comment if it adds to the debate.

Bea

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