I am now 23 weeks pregnant (5.28964 months)! My thoughts continue to abound here in Part 2 of The Pregnant Feminist Series. I invite you to see also Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public and Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal.
Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life
I have 491 friends on Facebook. 84 of those friends “liked” the picture of our ultrasound when I posted it as a means of announcing my pregnancy to the internet (it is the cutest ultrasound picture ever taken, you gotta admit). I am still going out to coffee with people, dinner parties and picnics, staying up past my new pregnancy bedtime of 7:30pm, and making “plans” for abstract things that we’ll just have to do sometime.
But the truth of the matter is that I have been feeling increasingly isolated as my pregnancy advances. It was kind of like, bam! – I hit 30, found out I was going to have a baby – and all of a sudden my life flipped inside-out and upside-down. I started having thoughts that I had literally never had before in my life (hmm, maybe being a housewife wouldn’t be that bad after all…), followed by not being able to relate to people that were once my kindred spirits. And I’m pretty sure that they don’t know what the heck to do with me either.
In my feminist entourage (in what I affectionately refer to as Vagina Land), I have a diversity of men and women that I admire and love. None of whom happen to have children or even plans to have children (happenstance – lots of feminists have or want children!). I have always wanted kids, which was no secret, but it was never even a thought as to whether my friends would want them – it simply was not a factor in my friendship! I believe in personal choices and leading the life you dream of for yourself. If that includes kids for some, great, if not, great. None of my business! As a good friend, I also believe in supporting your friends’ life choices and encouraging them to do what they believe in for themselves. No matter what those choices are. I thought my friends felt the same about me and my choices.
Well…we’ll get to that later.
Yet here I am, pregnant up to the hilt, and finding myself wanting in emotional support and lacking in understanding. How did I get myself into this situation?
It’s not like I hadn’t reached out. Around month 3, I started contacting my friends to tell them my good news. I’m an emailer – always have been – and it’s how I stay in touch with many of my closest friends. I sent off a volley of excited messages calling my friends “future aunties” and including pictures of work we’ve been doing around the house in preparation…but I ended up feeling surprised, hurt and confused by the cookie-cutter responses. I kept emailing. Ultrasound photos, pictures of the belly growing, rants and missives about my changing body, feelings, work and relationships. Everyone seemed happy for me…but happy in the way you’re “supposed” to. Some of my best friends on the planet, the people who know me the best, were using lines on me fit for hallmark cards. I expect that from my coworkers, but from my very best friends??
I figured that my expectations must have been a bit off-kilter to start feeling so upset that my friends weren’t reacting how I was assuming they would. Except the disappointment just kept getting stronger and stronger. A failed attempt at a phone date. A brush-off at a party. And then the clincher – a friend visiting from out of town that missed our rendez-vous leaving me 5 months pregnant waiting on a street curb alone in an unknown part of town in the cold fall rain for over an hour. I was so hurt that our meet-up was not more important to her that by the time she got there I was nauseous, sore and uncomfortable, burst into tears and said that I was leaving. And she just let me go. I haven’t heard from her since.
My heart broke as I cried for hours that evening.
I came to the bitter conclusion: My life is changing. I should expect my relationships to change as well. I realized the big expectation that I had was that my friends would care about my life changing and want to be a part of it.
My life on paper resembles something that many people in Vagina Land have a hard time relating to or not judging – the house in the suburbs, the husband, the dog, the kid on the way (the hetero-normative portrait of conformity). I can guarantee that my life choices were ones rooted in a great deal of self-determined feminist reflection, but the result is the same. I think it is still possible to be a feminist and choose a life that looks like a product of the patriarchy to outsiders. My friends should be the first people to understand that.
And yet here I am, doing the ultimate submissive act for a woman by carrying a child, which in every way resembles that which we have railed against. So I repeat, what are my friends supposed to do with me? I imagine they must feel like they don’t even know me anymore. I can’t blame them, I am changing – I’m not even sure I can confidently say that I know myself these days. I am disturbed by the fact that I have taken more comfort in talking to women that have a much more cookie-cutter view of society than those in Vagina Land. I am unnerved by the fear of bringing this female child into the world. I feel extremely vulnerable and fragile whereas the women of Vagina Land are supposed to be invincible. I am having thoughts and feelings that would be enough to confound any proper feminist.
So should my friends care that my life is changing and want to be a part of it? There will be some that will care and some that will choose rather to just let me go.
I’m not saying that this isn’t extremely painful or sad, but at the same time, I have a new priority coming into my life in just a few more short months. I want my daughter to see what healthy female friendships are like – ones that are the right balance of acceptance, love, caring and support. Anything short of that hardly seems worthwhile.