Stop Should-ing on Pregnant Women

It’s hard to be a pregnant feminist (read: pregnant woman). All the demands and restrictions, shouldn’ts and responsibility; it’s enough to drive a woman to smoke!

We shouldn’t dye our hair, have too much sugar, soft cheese, rare steak, certain fish, many kinds of herbs and teas (one site I consulted listed pretty much every herb and included ginger and “medicinal amounts of garlic”, whatever that is.), one friend even told me (unsolicited) that he read somewhere that I shouldn’t drink pop. We shouldn’t have vigorous sex, or bend over in certain ways later into our pregnancy, or sleep on our backs, or stomachs or change the cat litter, or be around paint fumes, or be in a hot tub or carry heavy things, etc etc. When I googled “pregnant women shouldn’t…” I learned we shouldn’t actually  “eat for two” (in case we might have misunderstood that expression and just listened to our bodies) and of course the most frequent and stern of warnings and judgments are reserved for pregnant women who drink! 

But it doesn’t start or stop there either, before getting pregnant I had many people tell me to start all of those restrictions before trying to conceive, to detox and take folic acid and take 9 months of self-control and self-denial and add another 6 pre-pregnant months to that time period. Oh but wait, once you’ve done that successfully and been given the miraculous opportunity to give up control over you body and survived the pain of child birth, now you need to give up your sleep, your breasts (for at least a year), and — according to many books regarding bonding with baby — your bed, definitely your arms and most potentially your career for another year. How long has it been now? Long enough to have forgotten who you once were?

Do men experience any of this should-ing from people? Do people really pay anything more than lip-service to the WE is “We’re pregnant!”? Do they insist that dads-to-be experience the same time period of self-sacrifice? Do they even know, as fellow pregnets blogger Ruma wrote of in Men and Women – Equal rights (or responsibility?) for the unborn child, the effects a father’s smoking or past and present lifestyle choices can have on the unborn child?

I think as a feminist and a survivor of violence, I have leaned to wear my smoking like a badge of independence, leaned too much into the autonomy and righteous rebellion I feel when smoking, wearing my attitude of “it’s my body and smoking is me asserting my choice to do with my body what I want” knowing full well that I could choose smarter things to do with it. Healthier things. But if I have to take responsibility for cultivating such a silly attitude, the world has to start working with me/us and not against me/us.

Maybe if society would stop should-ing all over pregnant women, our urge to push back would subside; the need to assert our freedom to make dangerous choices would leave us; the smoke would clear and we could be treated with the care strangers seem to show for our unborn children.

Do people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with your body make you wanna smoke? What are your triggers?