Pregnant Women Need Empathy, Not Opinions

Respect our bodies and our choices

I’m eight months pregnant. At this point, it’s hard to miss my huge belly. Yet, there are occasions when I feel invisible.

I’ve experienced different pains during pregnancy—nausea, migraines, vomiting, hip pain, leg pain, back pain. I’d never felt so tired in my life.

I’ve tried my hardest to be there for loved ones, to do my best at work, and to care for the new life growing inside of me. I’ve experienced beautiful moments, such as listening to my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Yet, there have been situations when I wished I had a magic remote control to shut people up.

I’m appalled by the lack of empathy toward pregnant women. For instance, taking public transportation has been a daily struggle. In Barcelona, public transport signals seats reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with reduced mobility. These seats were rarely available. Passengers avoided making eye contact with me so that they wouldn’t have to give up their spot. I don’t know if this is true for women in other places, but it has been true for me. If these people had a watermelon pushing down their organs, maybe they’d understand why I wanted to sit while on a 30-minute ride.

During my pregnancy, I was struck by how some were more interested in telling me how to feel, what to do, and how to do it instead of listening to how I felt. Listening to my experience was not as important as passing on out of place and intrusive information.

Some people projected their fears and insecurities about labor, breastfeeding, recovery, and more. I’ve heard countless horror stories. Sometimes, the people telling me about horrible births were people who have not been pregnant or do not have children.

I already had plenty of fears and concerns of my own. I didn’t need to hear horror stories. Even though people might have had the best intentions when telling me about other women's experiences, I doubt they realized they weren't helpful.

Each pregnancy is different. From reading about other women’s experiences, I learned about the many challenges, fears, and pains they’ve faced. I have experienced things like constant migraines that other women have not.

Each body and each pregnancy is unique.

The way a woman chooses to give birth is entirely her decision.

It is her body. She, and only she, knows what her body can do. If a woman chooses to have a c-section, that is her business. If a woman decides to get an epidural, that is her choice. Furthermore, some things are outside the mother’s control. For instance, the baby’s position might not be right. At that moment, the mother and her doctor or midwife will discuss what is best.

When a woman goes into labor, many things can happen. I’ve been over several scenarios with my doctor. I’ve shared my birth plan with her. When I go into labor, I need to think about what is best for my child. I will make my choices based on that.

The mommy shaming begins before you are a mother.

As women, we are shamed all the time. We are criticized for our looks, how we think, what we say, or how we say it. When you’re pregnant, the shaming is amplified, and it has been challenging to navigate. I don’t want to be rude. At the same time, I don’t like to discuss my choices or explain them. I shouldn’t have to.

I have shared all my doubts with my doctor and midwife. I’ve asked questions that are relevant to me. I’ve done my research. I’ve been to prenatal courses. I’ve been reading books. I’ve been watching documentaries. I’ve done these things because they were important to me. I wanted to educate myself. Most women will educate themselves and decide based on what they feel is best for them.

At times, it feels as if people don’t trust my judgment. I get it. People want to help and be part of the experience. Pass on knowledge. But my pregnancy isn’t about them. I know what is right for me. I know what is right for my baby—no one else. I trust myself and my judgment even if no one else around me does.

I have often wondered if it was just me. Several pregnant women on my prenatal course shared similar frustrations. People around them have overstepped boundaries.

Women’s bodies change during pregnancy. How much weight a woman gains during her pregnancy is HER BUSINESS. How a pregnant woman chooses to dress during her pregnancy is HER CHOICE. Making constant comments about our belly and our looks is not okay. As women, we already endure plenty of unwelcome and out-of-place remarks about our bodies.

We’re going through dozens of changes. Our hormones are all over the place. We’re exhausted. We’re more sensitive to everything: smells, flavors, sounds. Don’t tell a pregnant woman what she needs. There are many other ways to be there for her and be part of her experience.

Writer. Creative artist. Photographer. Feminist.

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