Thirteen weeks: On rude questions and observations on weight

13 Feb

So the last week or so I’ve finally been telling people outside immediate family about my pregnancy. It means that I’ve had the same conversation about fifty different times over a very short period of time, which starts to get kind of surreal after about repetition number ten, honestly. Most of the questions that people ask are pretty innocuous. When are you due? How are you feeling? Do you plan to find out the sex of the baby? (Okay, that one strikes me as weird because of my feminism, but I’ll come back to that one later.) The one question that has come up a handful of times that I absolutely don’t know how to deal with is this:

Was the baby planned or unplanned?

Um. Isn’t that kind of personal? If I haven’t been the sort of person thus far who favors you with those sorts of details about my sex life, what is it about telling you that I’m pregnant that makes you think it’s okay to ask now? The people who have asked so far have been people I haven’t known very well, otherwise I might well have been tempted to answer with something like, “well you know how it is. Sometimes we just have to tear each other’s clothes off and hump like rabbits, and when that happens who has time for birth control?”.

I also have trouble not seeing the question as a little insulting. Asking implies that you somehow think that I am ‘not the sort of person’ to want to have a baby, which makes me question why. Is it because I’m a feminist? A martial artist? Not overly feminine? And sure, maybe at this point I’m over-thinking. But maybe I’m not.

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Something else I’m discovering is that once you’re pregnant, everyone comments on your weight, and wow is that weird. As a woman, I’m used to the never-ending barrage of media aimed at me telling me that I need to be thinner. (Protip: however thin you are, thinner is better.) But there’s a difference between that and suddenly being faced with real, honest-to-god people commenting on your weight to your face all the time.

And here’s the thing that’s messed up – being complimented on not gaining weight can make you just as crazy as being called a fat cow if you hear it often enough. Because you’re pregnant and you’re supposed to gain weight, so if you don’t does that mean you’re doing it wrong?

“You don’t even look pregnant!”

“I never would have guessed you’re pregnant, you’re so petite!”

“Oh my god, you haven’t gained any weight at all!”

It got to the point where I started to get paranoid. What if I was doing this all wrong? Do I need to eat more? Had I been trying to avoid the “eating for two” trap so hard that I was harming the baby? I only gained 2 pounds the first trimester instead of the expected 4, does that make me a terrible person? When I expressed these doubts to my husband, he kindly refrained from calling me crazy and reminded me that during the first trimester I had been in two different musicals with dance-heavy parts, and don’t I usually lose weight when I do musicals?

Oh. Yeah.

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This isn’t really related to feminism, but pregnancy books are really irritating because they have a habit of contradicting each other. Do Kegels! Don’t do Kegels! Anything but natural homebirth is evil! Anything but hospital birth is evil! Homeopathy, acupuncture, and anti-medicinal woo! Science-based medicine only ftw! Seriously, it would be really helpful if the authors of these books had to state up front what their ideological bias was so that I could decide which chapters in a book to read and which chapters to skip.

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That’s it for now. Stay tuned for next time when I’ll talk about why I am a heartless robot. (Okay not really.) (Except for how I am.)

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15 Responses to “Thirteen weeks: On rude questions and observations on weight”

  1. Doug DeJulio (@dfjdejulio) February 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    On the “planned vs. unplanned”: isn’t the answer really a question of timing?

    I mean, I’m *pretty* sure that *this* pregnancy wasn’t something you were specifically planning twelve years ago. But I’m also betting (call it an educated guess) that you’re pro-choice, which means that if you’re telling people now that you are currently pregnant, then your parenthood is *currently* planned.

    I guess a bunch of people place undue significance on the moment when it switched from unplanned to planned (especially if that hasn’t happened yet). Given that I’m a random stranger on the internet, and given that you’re you, I don’t consider that any of my business.

    (Myself, when someone I don’t know sufficiently well tells me they’re pregnant, my first instinct is to congratulate them, but my second instinct is to clamp down on that until I know enough to guess wether they’d consider congratulations appropriate. Hm, I wonder if this is because I’ve had pregnant women talk to me about adoption, because I do not hide the fact that I myself was adopted and am willing to discuss it… Anyhow, I can imagine a subset of those circumstances in which I’d ask whether a pregnancy is planned, so that I’d know how to proceed with other social interactions, like saying “congratulations”, or preparing to offer emotional support to somebody weighted down by some difficult thinking.)

    (By the way: congratulations! I like children, and I like for them to be raised in households with sane adults who want them, and circumstances lead me to believe that describes your likely future. Thinking about that future makes me a little happier, so, congratulations!)

  2. Mirasiel February 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    I think some of the weight questions/comments come from the fact that some people don’t realise that their image of the *Pregnant* women is usually a woman who is pretty damn far along with the whole thing.

    I really don’t get the “Did you mean to get knocked up?” questions, either you did and didn’t want to discuss it with anyone (who needs to ask) or you didn’t and its a pointless question now, especially since I can already see the answer of “No it was an accident/unplanned/immaculate conception***” being followed up by a really classy “Are you keeping it?” question.

    Honestly though just these first 2 entries already make me glad I’ll never (have/conceive) kids 🙂

    And *Insert deity* do I ever get tired dealing with the lovely comments/insults when I dare mention that life choice (Male btw, my partner has just taken to punching people in the throat now whenever the topic arises)

    *** BTW “No, it was an immaculate conception. I guess someone should let the pope know he’s unemployed now…I want his Hat and his Ring on my desk by Monday morning” should be your new default answer to busy bodies:)

    • Simon February 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      On planned vs unplanned – a decade ago, due to a combination of false negatives on pregnancy tests and birth control that failed*, my wife and I had an unplanned child – via a pregnancy that was not even known to us for the first 6 months.

      The kid is awesome.

      Who cares about the specifics about how it came about.

      * the birth control method in question prevents ovulation, and so the #1 self diagnosis tactic – no period – was not useful

  3. Ivan February 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    OK since I already put the proverbial foot in my mouth let me ask what I wanted to ask the first time (before I went with the default question on the subject): wundergeek what do you think constitutes a ,,planed” pregnancy and what constitutes an ,,unplanned” pregnancy and does the dividing pregnancies into those two categories is viable in your opinion (and please leave out anything from your sex life, you are right it does not concern me).

    Also I hope that the doctor that monitors your pregnancy is a person you know well, because that is the only person who will give you anything resembling an objective information on pregnancy , everybody else just put their own authors tract on the subject of pregnancy out there and do not even bother to mention some of the more unpleasant aspects of pregnancy (like say the fact that no one mentions that a birth can last from a couple of hours to about a day, and yes if it is a long birth the doctors let you sleep between periods of contractions).

    And now looking up at what I wrote I am not sure is it something that is reasonable and/or objective. But that is one of the problems when talking on the subject of pregnancy: it is very much still a taboo topic.

    • wundergeek February 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      See, but asking “planned or unplanned” is an incredibly personal question in the same way that asking someone about their sex life is. If you wouldn’t ask “so how’s the sex thing going?”, then why is it okay to ask “planned or unplanned?”. What is it about being pregnant that puts me in a situation where I should be expected to talk about incredibly personal details of my relationship with the baby’s father?

      Some women are upfront about their pregnancies being unplanned. Great. But if I don’t volunteer the information, don’t ask. That puts me in a weird and awkward situation I don’t want to be in.

      • Ivan February 15, 2012 at 6:56 am #

        OK so I forgot to apologize about asking the intrusive question of was it planed or not. I am sorry about that, it did not occur to me that it is a personal question and that there are people who do not find it comfortable to be asked such a question.

        But you still did not answer my question (probably because I have formulated it properly just now), so here goes with proper intent: The whole planned vs unplanned pregnancy thing, does it matter? Or is it more important that the parents are prepared to have a child in their lives?

        Oh and also here is an apology from me to you for giving you the subtext that I was asking whether or not a feminist(female martial artist, a woman not overly feminine…) would want a child. In my opinion being a feminist or not has nothing to do with a woman’s choice to have or not to have children (or even what number of children to have, it has no bearing on that either).

        Oh and here are two tropes links I think you will find interesting:
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/PlayingWIth/PregnantBadass
        and:
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PregnantBadass (this one has a real life section).

        And on the subject of pregnant martial artists here is a Youtube link:

        • wundergeek February 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

          Thank you for apologizing, but the answer I gave you is all I intend to say on the subject.

  4. J February 14, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Totally get the weight thing. Heard it all pregnancy. Even when we met our pediatrician at 38 weeks, just a few weeks ago, she paraded me around to two nurses and said “can you believe she is full term?” Way to make me feel as if I’ve done pregnancy wrong. I haven’t had a complex about my body for years or anything. Through that experience I realize the best thing to say to anyone ever if you mean it is “you look great” and not add any qualifying stuff afterwards.

  5. lynn February 14, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    I’m currently at 20 weeks, and I’m still slowly telling people.

    I get the comments about “You don’t look pregnant at all” all the time — I take it as
    1. Surprise that I don’t look as big as what people are used to seeing (late third trimester huge belly) or as big as they did when they were pregnant
    2. that I’m still behaving the same way and working just as well as before, which I consider a good thing.
    I don’t think it has anything to do at all with my weight or how much weight they think I ought to have.

    Planned or unplanned however, is a weird awkward thing to ask. Never heard that one.

  6. Andrew February 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Anna, you had me laughing out loud at my desk, especially with your comment of how you’d consider answering the ‘planning’ question to friends. All the best, and looking forward to seeing you the next time we’re back.

  7. Oberon February 16, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    I don’t really care if this comment gets put up or not, it’s really more of a note to you- which is that I had a friend some years ago who tried to stay thin while pregnant, and ended up losing the baby because she wasn’t getting enough nutrition. While you seem more responsible than that, I couldn’t help tossing a cautionary note your way. Hope you and your baby remain healthy and happy!

  8. Kaitlyn February 17, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I feel bad for even wondering to myself “Were they ‘trying’ to get pregnant?” on occasion and I would never dream of asking it! Holy crap!

    People wanting to know your plans is partially the fault of people like me who talk about making babies like other people talk about changing jobs or moving to a new city — it’s this thing I’m going to do soon that’s going to change my life and I’m really excited so I’m going to work it in to every conversation! If you have never mentioned kids before, but other people have discussed with them the whole thing ahead of time, they might think they aren’t the only ones surprised by the news.

    As for comments on size, I usually stick to the positive “you look great” if people have done the “baby bump as only gain” thing. Would that make you feel odd? Even if someone looked “underweight” (and unless we’re talking anorexic, how would I know?) I would use the same guidelines for whether or not I say something as I would for a non-pregnant person who looked worryingly underweight. (Although, for all people, I should have learned to avoid this turn of phrase after I told someone who was much less overweight than the last time I saw them they looked great and subsequently learned they had some sort of undiagnosable wasting disease :S )

    But, I have been known to say something like “You’re 36 weeks? The baby looks like it’s going to be a manageable size!” to mean “You and your birth canal are lucky!” but I will nix that one because, my god you’re right, it could sound like “your baby is undernourished”. Thanks for the view from the other side!

    • wundergeek February 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      See, some women want to be open about trying to conceive. And that’s cool! I’m not about to go around declaring THIS IS YOUR FAULT. Everyone has a different comfort level with this stuff.

      I think “you look great” is an excellent thing to say that manages to be complimentary without being judging. (And for what it’s worth, I sympathize with accidentally putting your foot in your mouth. I once joked that florescent lights were making a friend looks jaundiced and she responded with “that’s because I have jaundice”. Whoops.)

  9. RdGkA February 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    “observations on weight”:
    Maybe it would be good as a general rule: never give a comment on that topic, not in someones face and not behind their back. Not positive – not negative. That would be the 1st step.
    And if in case you know someone who seems to have a problem. Why not tell him/her that like it is:

    _I_ am worried about *that* because I have “experience in” / “read about” *this*

    If the general rule would be followed by us, nobody should feel hurt if someone tells an other persons that he/she is caring.

    On the other hand most people enjoy small talk, a feat I’m totally lacking.

  10. Ceryle March 11, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Then you have a (small but not insignificant) subset of women who LOSE weight while pregnant (I am one of those). I don’t look that way while pregnant – due to other complications, once I am over about 13 weeks, my body actually looks and behaves as if I am about 10 weeks further along than I actually am – but once I have given birth, I have “always” (ok twice) ended up about 10 kg lighter than the start of the pregnancy.

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