Judgment and Pregnancy

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Photo credit: Kit4na / Foter / CC BY

Judgement and pregnancy. Sadly these two things go hand in hand.

Most people are parents at some point in their life. So it’s an obvious fact that everyone has their own opinion on pregnancy and parenthood. 

This has probably always been the case, but the advent of social media has taken these opinions to the next level. Online, these opinions become judgments rather than people sharing their experiences.

These days a woman can’t open her browser without some article or status on social media condemning an element of pregnancy or motherhood. Before, mothers-to-be would be surrounded by supportive family and close friends, not shrouded by a dark cloud of anxiety of people and articles constantly telling them what to do and not to do. 

While you are still basking in the emotional high of your pregnancy, people, sometimes even complete strangers, start to bombard you with their list of rules, judgements, and opinions of everything related to your pregnancy.

“Well, I only gained 20 pounds my entire pregnancy!”

“Are you sure you should be drinking/eating that?”

“You’re taking medication for your nausea? I sure didn’t! That’s bad for the baby.”

“You’re going back to work that soon after giving birth?”

“Working out like that isn’t safe.”

“You’re breastfeeding, right?”

I’m most likely being judged for publishing this post!

Once you become pregnant and your body seemingly doesn’t belong to you anymore,  people feel the right to judge you for just about everything. 

While I am usually good at tuning out the negativity and taking the countless opinions with a grain of salt, I can’t help but feel a growing sense of anxiety. (As if the normal first time mom anxiety isn’t enough!)

Where is this negativity toward pregnant women and mothers coming from? I can’t help but think that all this negativity is rooted in society’s general nonacceptance of and anxiety over women’s bodies and sexuality. The endless criticism women receive regarding the way they dress, their sexual lifestyle, and self confidence leads to the idea that women never own the right to their own bodies.

We continue to sexualize the female body but also demand that women be modest. No one wins. 

This problem only intensifies during pregnancy and motherhood. Pregnant women receive immense attention (both negative and positive) from most anyone. They can’t walk down the street without a stranger wanting to touch their belly, demand their due date, sex of child, name of child, and social security number.

Yet when women decide to celebrate their own pregnancies they are labeled as “smug” or “narcissistic”. 

People love telling you their opinion of baby products, sleep training, breast feeding, baby wearing, and prenatal care. However, when you start discussing your own desires it suddenly becomes too much. 

I find myself being self conscious, not wanting to bore people with baby talk. But am I supposed to shut my mouth for the rest of my life? Silence my own thoughts? Because, yes, while it may not be the number one priority to you, my baby will be my number one priority for the rest of my life. Isn’t silencing women’s voices and not celebrating their autonomy the precise thing we have been trying to move away from?

Most recently I found myself starting a sentence using, “Well, don’t judge me but…”

This was in relation to the small gender reveal party we are having this Saturday. 

Just type in “gender reveal party” in Google and you’ll be hit with a litany of articles complaining about how crass, narcissistic, and unnecessary such parties are. Why all the negativity over a simple party? Why not keep your opinions to yourself? If you don’t want to attend a party celebrating a baby, whether it be a shower, gender reveal, or a sip and see, just don’t go.

On Friday, I have my anatomy ultrasound. The sex of our baby will be revealed, but only my mom will know. On Saturday night our families and a couple of my best girlfriends are gathering together for a night of food, drinks, and cake. The sex will be revealed by the color of the icing inside of the cake. 

I am beyond excited to find out the sex of our baby. I’m not going to hide this excitement! I think it’s fun and only invited those that I know care and will be part of my baby’s future. But you don’t want to know how much I debated whether or not I should have this gathering due to the judgement I know surrounds such events.

Of course no one but you and your family and close friends care as much about your pregnancy and your baby. I get that. But if people don’t care, why all the judgement surrounding your choices?

Maybe part of the preparation of becoming a mother is learning to let go of all the surrounding judgements; to teach you how to live in a world full of critics and still raise your child as an independent self who can be proud of their  confident mother. 

People are always going to have opinions on pregnancy and motherhood.

Decide which ones you trust and want to listen to but always remember your opinion is the most important. If I want your opinion I will ask for it, and believe me, I’ve done plenty of asking in the past few months.

Otherwise I think that most pregnant women and mothers want to share and have a sense of solidarity with others. 

Pregnancy is hard. Motherhood is extremely hard. All women know this. Why can’t we support each other? Why must there be this smug competition between women?

 I’m going to continue to follow my intuition and stay off Google. (or try my best…) But most importantly I’m going to celebrate and love my pregnancy and child with my full heart. 

Stop Apologizing

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How often this week have you found yourself apologizing for your behavior? How many times have you said the words “I’m sorry“? (and I”m not referring to when it was in response to bumping into someone, making a mistake at work or at home, or after a fight with a partner or friend).

I can count at least 16 times.

I apologized for not doing my hair. I apologized for not taking down my Christmas decorations yet. I apologized for wanting to get a fattening appetizer AND an entrée at dinner. I apologized for wanting to talk about something that I’m excited about for longer than 4 minutes. I apologized for wanting to go to bed super early. I apologized for wearing leggings. I apologized for needing to work on some writing on Sunday. I apologized for not being able to hang out with a friend because I had errands to run, laundry to do, and a house to clean. I apologized for having a green smoothie for dinner last night. And many more.

Why am I apologizing for actions that do not harm other people? Why am I apologizing for actions that I enjoy and that make me a happier and healthier woman?

By doing so I’m selling myself short. I’m downplaying my self-worth.

I’m telling the world to not take me seriously.

I’m telling the world that I’m not good enough.

We women live in a judgemental world. Believe me, I can be as judgemental as the rest. The reason for our female to female judgements is an entirely different blog post. But, I think we have a hard time validating our life choices and behaviours because we ourselves are so quick to judge others and in turn we believe others are judging us just as quickly and meanly.

I know I’m afraid of being un liked. But to what degree? To the point that I’m not being my true self? To the point that people will never have the chance to know me? To the point that I’m not giving my self and my life a fighting chance to succeed?

By saying, “I’m sorry, I know you’re tired of hearing about it, but I want to talk about how much I just want to start trying to have a baby again. Just a few minutes okay?” I’m telling my friend that yes, she shouldn’t care about my feelings. That I should be embarrassed to feel like this.

By saying, “Ugh, I know I look a mess today, I just didn’t feel like putting on anything other than leggings and Uggs” I’m telling other women that we should be expected to dress up and look fashionable every single day. That we cannot look beautiful otherwise.

By saying, “I’m sorry, but I have to leave a little early. I would like to write and read a little before going to bed” I’m telling my friends and family that my goals and needs aren’t that important.

When a coworker says, “You look nice today! I really like that dress on you!” and I reply, “Oh, this is what I wear when I’m bloated, it’s just really comfortable” I’m telling them that I don’t deserve a compliment.

I may not always be using the words, “I’m sorry” but I am apologizing for who I am.

It’s time to stop apologizing, to stop being afraid to express who we really are, to stand up for ourselves. 2014 is the year I vowed to respect myself. We deserve to respect ourselves enough, to know that we are enough.

I was inspired to write this blog post after reading this article,written by Brianna Wiest, that has been floating around social media last week. Wiest list 18 things women shouldn’t have to justify.

Below are my favorite 6 things from the article:

Putting themselves first. When Barbara Walters asked Michelle Obama if it were selfish that she openly makes herself her first priority she responded: “No, no, it’s practical…. a lot of times we just slip pretty low on our own priority list because we’re so busy caring for everyone else. And one of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.”

How little or much they’re eating, especially if it’s “unhealthy.” You can eat a big lunch without having to say “I haven’t eaten anything all day” or have some delicious ass nachos without saying “I totally deserve this, I was so good this week, I’ll start the diet again tomorrow.” More importantly, you shouldn’t have to always be interrogated with “that’s all you’re having?” or “you’re going to eat all that?!”

 Not having baby fever. You aren’t more or less of a woman– or person– if having a child isn’t for you now or ever. You shouldn’t have to back it up with the reasons you’re not maternally inclined but will maybe consider it down the road because “who really knows– maybe someday!” when you do really know that you don’t want kids but don’t want to be glared at like a heartless monster.

Enjoying what would otherwise be called guilty pleasures because they’re “girly” things. They don’t have to be “guilty” pleasures, they can just be pleasures. You can enjoy getting your nails painted and wearing a skirt and re-watching 13 Going On 30 a thousand times without floundering in stereotypes.

Amount of makeup worn on any given day. If you want to rock it au naturale, you do that, you beautiful little thing, and if you want to work it like you’re in a drag show, you can do that too. Your face. Your rules.

Being upset about something that warrants an emotional response. You don’t have to apologize for feeling something or acting out on it if it’s real to you. The people who judge you for being a human being, and not being ultimately demure and emotionless and in your place, are the ones who need to apologize.

 It’s time to stop apologizing for who you are.

So what if I like wearing leggings as pants (Blair Waldorf isn’t going to come and chastise me and ban me from NYC). So what if I could watch teen dramas all day every day, they make me feel all the feelings and that makes me happy. So what if some days I eat super clean while the next I want to eat a giant plate of nachos and that’s it? It’s my body and I’ll face the consequences.

It’s time to own up to your actions and stand confidently in front of your choices and the things that make you happy. Don’t put off your happiness because you are afraid.

Respect your choices and they will respect you in return. Happiness and freedom will follow.

Will you join me?

xoxo Katie