12 January 2012

Week 17

Outfit consists of:
Necklace: 1940s book locket found at Jean Jean Vintage
Sweater: acrylic sweater from Romeo & Juliet Couture found at TJ Maxx
Shirt: gray tee found at TJ Maxx
Jeans: dark wash skinny jeans from Domaine found at TJ Maxx
Boots: brown A2 by Aerosoles boots found at Kohls

Week 17 of this pregnancy and I'm frustrated. In my real life, my husband kindly calls me militant about my political views (but I emphasize I don't bring this into my classrooms) so it's no wonder that larger scale issues associated with pregnancy and parenting have more than set me on edge.  I've been lumping these issues together into a category I call the politics of pregnacy, but they really touch on issues of social, political, and medical views of pregnancy and parenting.

What exactly has me angry? Well the issues are broad, but they really boil down to the core issue of how the female body in general, but specifically in relation to child having and raising, becomes public.  In crafting the female body as a publicly accessible entity, women are constantly bombarded by social, political, and medical controls. Already during this pregnancy I've questioned fear-based medical practices associated with prenatal care, the invasion of personal space by strangers while pregnant, and the near constant litany of advice-forcing by every person you've ever known. The last one is yes, a bit tricky, but there's a marked difference between "Hey have you tried this? It worked for me and it may help!" and "You have to do this." or "You absolutely cannot do that."

There's been a few heated and lively discussions on my personal Facebook page about these issues and I've really wanted to have a forum in which to continue them and engage with a broader audience.  I debated starting up a new blog specifically devoted to it, but I barely have time to keep up with one blog. I've also debated writing a series of essays, and I may still do this, but I'm hoping this sporadic series of posts will start as a proving ground for my ideas and concerns. 

Least you be concerned that a vintage clothing blog will devolve into heated political debate, I doubt you need to worry.  I intend for these posts to be infrequent, perhaps once or twice a month to start and if they prove successful I'll schedule a day for them.  What does it actually mean in terms of content, well I'm hoping you'll help with some ideas.  To begin with some topic ideas I've been thinking over, I've come up with:

1. Why has there been a shift in the American medical system wherein pregnancy information relies on fear (food lists, habits that will harm you and your fetus) rather than relaying health and wellness empowering practices? What can I do about this?
2.  What is it about pregnancy that allows for strangers to feel the need to monitor and approve your individual behaviors? How do I get people to mind their own business?
3. How do I raise a child without gendered stereotypes or hetero-normative expectations of love and relationships?
So ladies (and gents if you're reading!) what about pregnancy and parenting have you struggled with?


dkelley12901 said...

Hmmmm...why has there been a shift to fear? Actually, this happened a long time ago concerning pregnancy. I did a paper on this a while ago. When doctors believed that they were professional and midwives were not and therefore could not possibly know what they're doing, because they were women. Things like c-sections became a "fad." There are many procedures that the doctors do concerning pregnancy just because they happen to be "in fashion."

I'm afraid you're just hitting the tip of iceberg Aimee, if you decide to breastfeed you'll hear even more advice (wanted and unwanted) from strangers and doctors once again trying to take the control from you, the mother.

I also think that part of it stems from the way that our society continues to view women, which is as "girls." If you're a girl, you couldn't possibly know what to do or figure it out for yourself...lol. I think you're totally right "lumping" social, political, and medical views of pregnancy and parenting together.
Again, I think its a total lack of respect that U.S. media gives to the female body coupled with the patriarchal culture we live in that aims to keep women subordinate.

And the most amazing thing which you know is that we don't top the list for low infant mortality here in the U.S., so maybe U.S. doctors don't know everything about the female body and its capabilities.

I have a couple of articles on this topic somewhere if you'd like to read them..of course you're going to be incredibly busy soon too, so I'll understand if you pass on them.

Steph said...

Amy, re. "Why has there been a shift in the American medical system wherein pregnancy information relies on fear (food lists, habits that will harm you and your fetus) rather than relaying health and wellness empowering practices?": I honestly don't believe there was a shift *from* a focus on “health and wellness.” Pregnant women in the 50s had thalidomide and etherized deliveries with forceps to look forward to. In the 60s, fetuses were considered a "perfect parasite," and so smoking, drinking and starving oneself in order to not gain more than 20 pounds were all okie dokie with the doctors. Basically, before the 80s, mothers-to-be knew that things could go wrong with a pregnancy but were given the impression that there wasn't anything they could do about it. Then the "perfect parasite" idea went out the window, so what a woman ate became more important. But the pendulum swung too far the other way, and doctors were overlooking seriously unhealthy weight gain. During my sister's first pregnancy in the late 80s, her doctor actually said, "We like our mamas fat and happy. Don't worry about your weight. Just eat well." (She gained 70 pounds.) And that was pretty common among women, at least in her socioeconomic group. And let’s not forget that during this entire time, women were seriously discouraged from breast feeding. Hello, Enfamil!
When I was pregnant with Jackson in 2000, prenatal care seemed pretty common sense: exercise (moderately); eat lots of fruits, vegetables and foods high in folic acid, iron and calcium; stay away from foods that may harbor listeria, etc; don’t smoke; and limit your alcohol intake to the occasional glass of wine. I followed the nutrition advice (not perfectly but generally) in “What to Eat When You’re Expecting,” did prenatal yoga and cardio, took lots of naps, and made Terry clean the cat box (even though I was far more likely to get toxoplasmosis from undercooked meat than from my indoors-only cats. But it was an opportunity to make someone else do the dirty work for a while). 

Every woman has to decide what she is and isn’t comfortable with. For me, I drew the line at reading Mothering magazine. The articles in there made me nuts with their uber-paranoia about everything, including but not limited to vaccines. In my yoga class, there were several women who viewed hospital births as a perversion of nature; I viewed them as a means of increasing the odds that I and my baby would survive delivery. And it’s a good thing I did, because I wound up with an emergency c-section when Jackson’s heartbeat crashed.
Anyway, back to your question. From my perspective, our culture and practices *are* more focused now on the health and wellness of an expectant mother and her baby than they’ve ever been. The fact that lots of hospitals are now ruling out vanity c-sections is clear indication of this trend. Just my two cents.

Aimée - Vint Condition said...

I guess maybe there hasn't been a grand shift in fear since obviously that took place a long time ago with the medicalization of birth and the press from doctors to be the primary practitioners in obstetrics rather than women relying on midwives. I do think, though, there was a shift at some point in the 80s to include more information about pregnancy and rather than framed in an empowering way the structure is there to create fear. For instance, my mother never thought twice about eating deli meat while she was pregnant, but if I ate an improperly heated sandwich I'd have women flying across the room to save my fetus from near certain death.

I also think that they should be lumped together because they feed one another. The medical push for breastfeeding based on sometimes questionable studies has resulted in a major political agenda which has resulted in a type of social hysteria where women are berated and attacked by other women if they opt out.

I'm interested as well in your experience Steph since it seems so vastly different from what I've seen locally. I wonder if it has something to do with the rural nature of our area (the same rural origins that have me fretting majorly about gendered behaviors and heteronormative approaches to childrearing). Now we know that women should gain 20-25lbs typically during pregnancy, but we also know that information should be adjusted for women who are underweight or overweight and that's just not happening. Additionally we (as a whole, not me individually) are frequently given advice not to exercise. Additionally, c-sections are still quite high here (I'll have to go find my hospital information sheet for exact figures) and women are increasingly choosing (or their doctors are) to have inductions. The general consensus, for instance, when I tell people that my due date is my dad's birthday is that I should just schedule my induction for that day. I've been told this roughly 10 times already and there's no sense in the conversation that inductions should, by nature and practice, not be used for solidifying a due date.

So while I don't think that this blog or these posts can contain the entirety of the subject matter or even, for that matter, scratch the surface, I am interested in actually having conversations about them. I guess this would be more or less a forum for these issues that have been buzzing around my head. I have always been interested in issues of public controls on the female body but until now my focus has really been on the front of access to education and pregnancy prevention as well as other issues surrounding sexual assault.