I loved being pregnant. I loved feeling the little being inside me moving and growing. I didn't love the aches, the pain, the heartburn. I knew going into both pregnancies that there is a physical toll to be paid for undergoing that much physical change in such a short time. That said, there wasn't much that I truly hated about being pregnant. I only really hated one thing.
I hated being treated like an incubator. I hated that not only did I have to share my body with this potential person, the obvious physical signs of pregnancy meant that I was sharing my body with the world. Intellectually I knew I would be giving up some autonomy to the potential person sharing my body but I was not emotionally prepared to have that autonomy taken by my family or anyone else for that matter.
When I was pregnant with my first child I was working at the Wal-Mart Portrait Studio for the winter. We had no where to keep food except the Wal-Mart employee break room. Technically I wasn't a Wal-Mart employee so their insurance didn't cover any accidents that might happen to me out back so I didn't use the employee break room. Our only options for lunch were either to have someone bring us lunch or go to the in-store MacDonalds.
On one occasion I was leaving MacDonalds with a take out bag. Some pot-bellied, balding, middle-aged man had the audacity to come up to me and say "That food is bad for your baby." I was so shocked that a stranger would say something like that that I didn't even think of a retort. The obvious response being that what I ate was none of his damn business. He wasn't my doctor or my husband or even a friend. His unsolicited advice demonstrated to me, for the first time, how little people respected the autonomy of a pregnant body. I had studied it academically in bioethics and women's studies classes but that is a different experience. Knowing something exists and actually experiencing it are vastly different.
Now that I'm removed from the doubt of my first pregnancy I can look back and see all of the incidents when people were treating my body as a vehicle for my unborn fetus. As much as I love them my in-laws are guilty of this, my co-workers too. Most people are guilty of this at one time or another and it's almost never malicious. They have just internalized the belief that women are simply not able to make their own decisions without help.
We are taught that middle-aged, rich white men know what is best for every pregnant body. This has never been true. Women should be trusted to know what is best for our bodies, pregnant or not.
I hope to empower my daughters to take control of their own bodies. I will do my best to teach them about their autonomy.