Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ask a Pregnant Woman, Part 2

Laura had a question for the pregnant woman:

I'm interested in the "giving your body over to a stranger" concept, because that's something I think lots of people who haven't experienced it can't really fathom.

I think that's one of the main arguments of pro-choice people, that you shouldn't have to be pregnant -- that is, give up your control over your own body -- unless you've actually chosen to do so.

[Of course, you could say the choice to have sex was the choice to (potentially) get your body taken over by a very cute parasite (to paraphrase House!), so even that argument isn't necessarily pro-choice...]

My question is, are people patting your belly yet, or are friends and family relating to you differently, and does THAT also feel like giving yourself over to someone else?

Good question, Laura!

As for the "giving your body over to a stranger" concept, absolutely, what I'm saying is that you shouldn't have to be pregnant if you have not chosen to do so. Sure, if you have heterosexual sex, you run the risk of becoming pregnant (even using birth control), and that should be a risk that you are willing to take, under normal circumstances.

Of course the only foolproof way of not getting pregnant is to never have heterosexual sex. Unfortunately, this is usually unrealistic; sex is one of the basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. So birth control is a safe way to diminish the likelihood of pregnancy while satisfying this basic human need. For this reason, I am very much in favor of making birth control products such as the birth control pill, condoms, and spermicide, readily available. Still, these are not 100% foolproof (emphasis on fool) so we must be prepared to accept the consequences.

However, there are plenty of situations in which you are giving over more than you expected. If you are raped, for example, you are not making the choice to potentially get your body taken over; someone else is making that choice for you. Should you be required to carry that baby?

Or maybe, as it turns out, you have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, "a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease marked by rapid weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration due to unrelenting nausea and/or vomiting with potential adverse consequences for the newborn(s)." (I think they theorize that one of the Bronte sisters died of this disease.) This was a risk that you didn't know you were taking when you made the choice to become pregnant. Should you be required to carry that baby?

I guess to me, the rights of the already-born trump the rights of the not-yet-born, and in these cases, the woman should have the choice to terminate the pregnancy. I think that it is important to accept the sovereignty of the woman over what happens to her body.

As for people treating me differently, I find that a lot more doors are held for me, my co-workers offer to take my tray up to the cafeteria window, and my boss treats me quite gingerly, making sure that I'm up for whatever task I volunteer to take on. For example, I'm teaching a one-day crash course in supercomputing, and he wanted to make sure that I would be up to it. On the one hand it's kind of nice to be treated so politely; on the other hand I'd rather just make the decision for myself as to what I am capable of doing.

Jeff and I have noticed that we get a lot of gifts from the future grandparents to their future grandchild, and not so many gifts for us. For example, when Dad and Marvis were here this weekend, they brought a gift for their future grandchild, whereas before, if they had brought a gift, it would be for us. After he is born I imagine that the attention will get even more skewed towards him. This is fine, it's just different from how things were before.

Nobody's rubbing my belly yet but I suspect that it's too small to be tempting yet. I'll let you know how it goes as time goes on.


Laura said...

Thanks for your responses, Bec!

And this raises a further question, then....

Context: my buddy Alan, on our recent beach trip, commented more than once on how much less fun we'd all be having if we'd brought kids -- that is, we'd have to look after them, feed them, etc. Alan is pretty convinced he'll never have kids, and at this point in his life seems to view them as more or less a nuisance. I am rather sympathetic with his view, delighted as I am by my own nephew(s)!

Which is why it occurred to me recently: becoming a parent is a SERVICE to the kid and to society. It means, I gather, volunteering (or being compelled in some halfway-willing sense) to set your own needs aside for the sake of a little one. To live in such a way that your life is given over to someone else.

And yet, I've heard some people criticized for having kids -- like choosing to reproduce is a self-centered choice -- and I can imagine situations where that might be the case, too.

What do you think? How much of it is service and how much of it is self-serving? Or is there another, better way to think about it?

(It vaguely reminds me of the choice to be a monk or a nun -- you're giving your life over to serve others, or else to gaze at your navel, I'm not sure which. :-P)

rachel said...

You know what's REALLY a nuisance? Homework. Ooh, and writing a dissertation must be even worse. You do all that eye-straining work, and for what? You might not even get a job after that! Why would anybody DO that to themselves?

Answer: The same reason you do ANYTHING you love, because you believe, in your heart, that it's worth doing. It's an inconvenience, sure, but a temporary one, and you have faith that something really good is going to result from it. And because the act of doing it changes you: it makes you a better, more capable, smarter, or more compassionate person than you would have been if you had never done it.

Love and work give meaning to life, but they also bind us. Insofar as we are free, we are free to decide which master(s) we will serve. If we received no compensation, we wouldn't let ourselves be bound. So yah, having kids is both service and self-serving -- just like many other ways we choose to live.

Laura said...

Right on, Rachie. Well put. :-)