32 weeks (8 mo.) has arrived which means we are very close to seeing the shining face of our growing human. For those that do not know, I am finishing up the first semester of my PhD program at UPenn and my partner James is wrapping up his first semester as a Master’s student. We just arrived in Philly from Sacramento this past August 2016, so needless to say we are far from home.
I am writing for many reasons. First, we’ve been and will continue to be fairly private about our journey to parenthood for many reasons. However, there are many moments that I have been shocked and concerned at the lack of knowledge and empathy many people have around pregnancy.
As a pregnant woman of color in the academy, I experience microaggressions almost daily from all sides: professors, well-meaning colleagues, and random classmates who should keep their unsolicited thoughts to themselves.
- I have suddenly lost my intellectual capacity because I’m pregnant.
I fully plan on continuing my PhD program without a break. I am tired of hearing “So, are you going back home?” or “So will you be taking time off or something?” My simple answer: no. I have dreamed of being a professor/teacher/scholar since I was a little girl. If nothing else, having a little one on the way, pushes me even further to be intellectually sharp, critical in my approach, thoughtful in my relationships and intentional about what’s to come.
The last thing I want our baby to learn is “having a child will end all your dreams,” whether through word or example. Folks, sometimes your comments are better left unsaid. So, I will continue to do it all while centering my child, our family and self care first.
Contrary to your own feelings about what this does to my life, pregnancy is not a disruption for us.
I think in people’s attempt to express empathy for the challenges of pregnancy, they simply do not know what to say. Sometimes asking: “Is there anything you need?” will suffice y’all!
2. I need all the advice I can get, especially from people who’ve never had children
Chile. Well-meaning or not, unless a pregnant person asks for advice or is expressing a concern, perhaps you should keep your ideas to yourself. I’ve had many people offer a resource, blog, article or app because they feel like I should know what they know. Some have even added me to Facebook groups on parenting without my consent.
We are already inundated with a TON of information about pregnancy and parenting. Much of that information is also framed for white women & families, which is it’s own challenge in and of itself. Again, ask rather than assume you know what someone else needs.
3. I can’t see you intently staring at my very round belly.
Period. Your discomfort is showing. And if nothing else, it makes me want to stay far, far away from you until forever. Creating life is not something to be gawked at, disgusted with, or shamed.
4. Your food shaming comes from a good place.
Nah. Your food shaming comes from a very personal place that I don’t need to go. The folks who need to be in conversation about a person’s food choices while pregnant do not likely include you. A partner, doctor, friends (who the person chooses to include perhaps).
As you eat your salad and question the choices of the pregnant person in front of you, ask yourself why you feel the need to say something or show your judgement?
Most pregnant folks have cravings that are STRONG and often correlate to something the baby needs. Not only is it ok to indulge sometimes, perhaps the choices are connected to something beyond just “I am craving this right now.”
The worst thing you can do is shame a pregnant person for their beautiful, growing body. Body types vary, fitness levels vary, health plans vary. It is not for you to decide for anyone else but yourself. K, thanks. bye.
5. Your concerns about my marital status aren’t cloaked in racial, gender and age bias.
Yeah. So when my partner shows up to doctor appt. with me, the shocked looks on your faces are infuriating.
You asking “When’s the wedding?” isn’t cute. We have plans, not based on your timelines, expectations nor traditions. K, thanks. bye.
When you discover we are both graduate students at an ivy league, in a happy, healthy relationship and looking forward to our little one arriving, your “Wow. Good for you both” really means you cannot believe that the two of us are in fact all of these things, young and Black.
6. Your desire to know the gender/sex of our baby isn’t alarming.
Y’all. What is it about this obsession with knowing the sex/gender of our child? You should be happy for a healthy baby regardless. We challenge you to shop differently, think outside of the box and consider the fact that sex assigned at birth and gender are totally different things.
We are taught/learn very specific ideas about gender that are often violent. We do not want our little one feeling like certain modes of expression, professions, interests, etc. are off limits because of their sex assigned at birth. Please stop projecting your “values” on others.
7. It’s ok to chalk up a pregnant person’s feelings to “hormones” or laugh at their expense.
I manage depression and anxiety constantly. Being pregnant, this is no different. There have often been times where I have tried to express to a friend or people in community that I was in a depressed space (at that pt. for months) and the response was: “awww. how cute. hormones.”
I’m sorry, but depression and changing hormones are an intense combination.
The reality is, every pregnancy is different. We hear the most about postpartum depression but antepartum depression is also a thing. A pregnant person’s brain undergoes chemical changes during pregnancy- the body’s way of preparing them to multitask and keep a child safe. Those chemical changes last almost an entire year or more after the baby is born.
Dismissing a person’s feeling can be more damaging than you ever know. I’m incredibly grateful for my friends who affirmed my feelings of fear, exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, and utter joy from one day to the next. For a partner who never made me feel badly about my constant emotional flux.
Happy to say I’ve come out of a dark cloud after 2-3 months, but those months were incredibly hard. The academy and being far from home did not make that any easier.
8. There are a lot more physical changes to the body than a growing uterus (it’s not actually our belly!)
Just google this one. You’re welcome.
I could go on, but I hope at the very least this charged you to stop and think about your own actions when interacting with, discussing or exploring topics of family or childbirth. Sending love and positive energy to all the soon to be parents out in the world, the parenting hopefuls, the noxnbinary/non traditional families and even those who cannot or will not have the chance to birth a human. I see you. I affirm you.