What has been feminist about my pregnancy? For starters, being in control of my fertility and being able to decide the timing of it. Because such a large part of my job focuses on U.S. foreign policy on global reproductive health and rights, the importance of women being able to access birth control and be in control of their reproduction has just been magnified tenfold for me.
I think about women and girls, currently about 200 million according to experts, who wish to either delay or prevent pregnancy but lack access to contraceptives. I think about women in Bangladesh giving birth on the floor of their homes with no skilled birth attendant, no pre- or post-natal care.
Being able to determine the number and spacing of children for women is key to our empowerment. If we lack decision-making power over our bodies, we pretty much lose control over everything else in our lives. As my husband and I make daily decisions centered around our growing family, these links could not be more glaringly clear to me. It frightens me to think of how many women have this choice taken away from them.
I also spend a lot of my big fat feminist pregnancy thinking about maternity leave and child care, and how the majority of women do not have either. I spent much of my 20s yapping away about why I did not want to have kids because I wanted a career. I saw many women disappear from their jobs because they had children, and I blamed those children for taking away their mothers’ careers.
Of course now, being 31 and pregnant, I realize it is not the babies who are to blame; it’s our society. Lack of maternity leave, paid maternity leave, paternity leave, flex hours. Unaffordable childcare and insurance coverage. The list goes on.
Society not only does not support childbirth, women are actually punished for having children. We lose out on jobs and promotions because we have kids.
Meanwhile, I spend a lot of time with my hands on my growing belly. Sometimes I feel bad for my husband, because he has to watch my pregnancy instead of being able to experience it. Often he will ask me what it feels like to have a baby inside of me. I say my stomach feels firm, and I picture the baby like the images we have seen in the ultrasounds. I tell him I am just as curious as he is. I am just fatter.
As the trimesters progress, I cannot wait to meet my baby. And you can be sure the first thing I will hand my child will be her feminist onesie–the first thing I bought during my big fat feminist pregnancy.
Cross-posted, in an edited version, from Anushay’s Point
Photo courtesy of the author