Sunday, October 27, 2013

the actual deal with pregnancy

Since first learning about him, I've always thought Descartes was an idiot. Mind/body dualism made no sense to me; who I am is so much about lived experience - lived experience is how I understand feminism, and the experience of ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ community. It's how I make sense of the world, and where I fit (or don't fit) in it.

Then I got pregnant. And my body began to change. Fast. And all of a sudden, there was a gap between my mind and my body, and I started to feel like a crazy person, without cohesion, unable to make any sense of myself. In my mind, I'm still me; the same me I've fought to be since I was listening to Channel Z in the dark until midnight. But my body is someone else's; I wake up sore from someone else's movement, and my stomach and boobs get bigger with someone else's growth. I feel like they don't belong to me anymore, but I have to carry them around and be judged by them; defined by them. People who don't know who I am look at me and see a pregnant woman; that's all I am. And my dissatisfaction; my desire to be seen as me first, makes me feel like a bad mother.

I've been trying to figure out if this is what a feminist pregnancy is, or if this is anti-feminist pregnancy and all about feeling sexually invisible and undesirable, and really, I don't know. Maybe it's both. I do know that I want to be pregnant, and that I want my daughter to have a completely open-ended future, and that I will fight to the death for her to have it. I know it's a privilege to be a parent, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a particular privilege to be her parent. But I don't want to be defined by her; especially not by her not as an individual but just as something that came out of me. I realise now that as much as I love my relationships; being Vincent's wife, my sisters' sister, my parents' daughter etc, that I've never felt defined by them, or ever wanted to be. Being a parent; more specifically, a mother, threatens to define me. As far as I can tell, the women around me accept that, or welcome it (unless they just don't think about it), and it makes me feel separate from them, and think I'm doing this wrong. But I don't feel entirely wrong. I feel like being a separate person, undefined by my reproductive choices, is a fair thing to want. And I feel angry that I didn't know it might feel like this. Pregnancy is an incredibly personal experience, and one that must be different for every person. But I can't believe that there aren't more women who have been through it who haven't felt this way, and if there were, that they didn't say anything about it. In all of the conversations I've had about pregnancy, I've found one woman - one, who is struggling to reconcile head with her changing body. And I've been too afraid of being judged to say to the rest that I resent some of this; that I hate not being me, and that I want to do it all differently.

I don't know if this even makes sense; it's come out weird because I feel it so strongly, and because just saying it feels like an act of defiance. In the same way that it feels like a betrayal of my daughter in what she might see as the role of a traditional mother, it also feels also feels like I'm protecting her and her right to be herself, independent of anyone, including me. My feelings are about me - I'm not pretending they're about anyone else, but my right to feel them go so much further than me, and the best idea I have of things going further than myself right now is my daughter, in my uterus right now. My emotional state makes it hard to think about what I want for her for too long because the waterworks start, and it makes me feel guilty because I can't bond with her in the state she is now and I don't really know why; people always say a woman becomes a mother when she becomes pregnant and a man a father when the baby is born, but it's not true for me - I'm just an incubator who feeds her and carries her around and tries to bond with an idea I have of her, which is her in a few years, not her now, and I try to pretend she's strong and defiant in there and doesn't need me to be all maternal but I can't help feeling like she's on her own and vulnerable because I'm thinking of her as an idea and not what she is. But I know I want complete freedom for her, including gender fluidity, and the chance to be whatever she wants.

I'm going to end on a rant so I don't feel so sad. Since being pregnant, I've noticed more and more that people are using sex and gender interchangeably; from the research I've done, it seems to be an American thing, like saying disoriented instead of disorientated. Except that it's really different. I'm so tempted to be an asshole when people talk about a gender scan, and ask them what the machine looks like, and how sad I think it is that even babies in utero are subject to social construction. The reason it bothers me so much is because understanding feminism and LGBTQ rights depend on the distinction between the two. Sex refers to the junk a person is born with. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles conferred on the sexes, or a person's personal experience of their sex. When we use the two interchangeably, we make sex seem like a biological destiny that determines who we are and what we are able to be like. I completely reject this for myself, and the thought of my daughter having this foisted upon her makes me want to go off into the Amazon rainforest right now.

It's so much more comfortable being a cockhole than an isolated mind with a baby on board.

Friday, October 11, 2013

don't judge me

1. I'm almost certain people aren't judging my food choices, but I can't help feeling like they are. I bought a coffee for my mother-in-law yesterday, and because I didn't want the person behind the counter to think I'm drinking coffee during pregnancy, I got a drink for myself, even though I didn't actually want it. Today I got a burger from a takeaway bar (I feel like I'm going to be stoned for just writing that), and I felt like people were watching and disapproving the way we all did when those photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones, smoking when she was about to pop, came out. The thing is, I actually eat pretty healthily but no-one ever believes me - which is can be hilarious and frustrating, like when my Dad gave me a lecture about my health and diet and then served up dinner; a (yum) seafood curry and rice with NO vegetables in it. Since being pregnant, I've eaten even better, but no-one ever sees it, and then when I'm sitting here eating Doritos (which have never tasted so good), I feel as if someone's going to bust down the door and say "do you know what's IN that?!". So: I am eating lots and lots of vegetables. At least two servings of fruit. Tons of other good stuff. And I am also eating lollies (a little dollar bag from the dairy every other day). And Doritos. And today I ate a pineapple burger from the takeaway bar. So.

2. I'm watching X Factor. I watched it last night. I will probably watch it next Thursday and Friday too.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

then/now

I wish I was the kind of person who does those visualising exercises to help clarify where she would like to be in however many years time, and that sort of thing. Not that I don't like seeing life unfold as if it's just happening and not the result of a million little choices and chances; I just think it would be interesting to see what kind of person I was to want whatever I thought I wanted, and how much of a fortunate failure I might be. What I'm really saying is, this time last year I don't think I had much of an idea that right now I would be sitting in a deck-chair pretending to be a pregnant Sophia Loren (I really just mean that I'm barefoot with sunglasses and an off-the-shoulder top, and that I bothered to fix my hair - okay, I bothered to fix the front and sides, which I thought was normal until my sister told me otherwise) in the afternoon sun, watching Joe bask and eat his paws, waiting for Vincent to come home with the dinner his Mum is making for us, with a faint smell of cat shit riding the breeze (Joe chased a cat into the shed earlier, and it seems the cat may have shat itself while waiting to make its esacpe, which it finally did about ten minutes ago, two hours after Joe chased it in. Cat lovers may not enjoy this story, but I think the whole episode was hilarious, and life and tv being as they are, you have to get your kicks where you can).

I remember the feeling of being young so clearly. Vincent played a quintessentially '90s sounding song the other day, and the feelings of being an adolescent came flooding back with it; those of longing, and desperation for life to start. That was the last time I think I visualised my future; but it was never a specific place, or situation. It was always a vague sense of glamour (HA HA) and ALWAYS dominated by Shakespearean romance, although rather than being an active participant, I always seemed to cast myself as an object of loving obsession. I shudder at the patriarchal traditions associated with weddings, but I should be more forgiving; though a feminist now, the time when my mind was most romantically active, all I dreamt of was the male gaze.

The male gaze is not a problem for the pregnant woman, except in that the fact it isn't a problem is, really, a problem. When you become pregnant, you start to become invisible; like you're being benched for a while. I've been watching Sex And The City when Miranda's pregnant with Brady, and being benched when you're single and really not wanting to be benched looks like a fucking pain. The general perception of pregnant women is so incompatible with the tidal wave of hormones and blood booming around her body. They dance around the subject politely and allude to it as delicately as possible on pregnancy websites, and it does no-one any favours. I think the real reason women used to go into confinement was because the men they were tied to lacked the time, energy, will or ability to have sex with them when the women wanted it, and times were such that no-one questioned them when they said it was for decency and health. Foiled by men AGAIN.

On Sex And The City, I've just had epiphany after epiphany while watching. I wrote a long post about what I realised about singles and couples and how much sex they have and why they sleep with the people they sleep with, but didn't publish because I'm not sure if it's a revelation or just crazy-talk. In any case, I think I know now why single people sometimes sleep with idiots, and it makes sense. (I'm still confused as to why people who are usually in relationships do it.) I also think I realise now how much more sex people in relationships probably have than most single people (that might sound obvious, but I truly assumed that most single people were having maybe less weekday sex, but just as regular weekend sex, just with lots more people. Generally speaking, I now believe that to be untrue. I think my views were swayed by how much sex my best single girlfriends have - more than other singles - and how desirable I think they are. If that makes sense.) Anyway, it's all kind of information I could have used yesterday. I'm afraid now that I was one of those awful smug-marrieds at Magda & Jeremy's house, who thinks their mostly coupled experience is the norm. Now I realise if there's going to be any kind of norm, it should be that of a single person, because that's how we all start out, and while some people have never been in a relationship, no-one in the world has not been single.

Now I think I was best not to publish the last epiphany, because that one looks like a huge, ridiculous generalisation - I know some people don't care at all about sex. However, it is what I learnt from Sex And The City, so it sticks until I learn something different from Girls. (I'm joking. Mostly.) Watching has also been making me really miss my girlfriends, and cocktails (which, with the exception of Tom Collins, I haven't drunk regularly for years... mmm, Tom Collins), and cafe breakfasts, and being bothered getting dressed up, and a relatively flat stomach. Those were the DAYS.

Now I'm sitting on a deckchair in the evening sun with an empty bag of Doritos and a glass of water that was mine until Joe started lapping from it, having only brushed my teeth (since getting up) two hours ago. Two of my best friends turn thirty tomorrow. I'm not wishing to go back in time (although that would be fun), though I'm thinking of ("some", crucially) of it wistfully. But I am really looking forward to when we're together again, maybe in our mid-thirties, like the SATC girls, with all of the knowledge and epiphanies that will make us better people and better friends (I had more to learn than any of them), drinking cocktails made with less and better alcohol than we used to use, dressed in more and looking a million times better for it, and hopefully not having to put fingers down each others' throats at any point during the night.

I really want to post THIS version of THIS song but record companies blah blah blah so...