Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A very private pregnancy

There is such a thing as privacy these days. Apparently. But you need to tell everyone about it, as Jess Ratty proved in this article in the Guardian.

Pregnant woman using a laptop
Did you tweet the first time you felt the baby kick? Photograph: Andreas Pollok/Getty

What I thought was rather ironic about this article was the fact that Ms Ratty (by nature as well as name?) thought that she was giving her unborn child Facebook anonymity but decided to tell readers from around the world. Granted, she's not giving hourly updates on her pregnancy but she's guaranteed a wider readership on the social networking site than on Facebook. Unless she has hundreds of thousands of followers. The nice pay cheque for writing the piece would have been a decent incentive too.

But Ms Ratty has raised a valuable point with regard privacy in pregnancy... and beyond. As soon as you have a bun in the oven everyone suddenly thinks you're public property. Forget Facebook - you have random people walking up to you in the street to ask if they can touch your bump. They ask about your due date. Do you know what you're having? What name will you give the child? Suddenly saying something about your pregnancy to a group of Facebook friends seems more normal than listening to a random person tell you you'll have a boy because of the way you are carrying or because your nose is a certain shape.

I must have looked fierce or smelt oddly or something because people generally kept away from me when I was pregnant. They'd ask how far gone I was but no one stroked my stomach, thankfully. Though a perverse side of me wondered why other people were pestered and I wasn't. Luck, I suppose.

The intrusiveness set in after I had given birth. These are some of the questions levelled at me:

1. 'Are you breastfeeding?'
Why - are you?

2. 'Why is your baby not wearing socks? Do you know what the temperature is outside?'
She's not wearing socks because she pulls them off the second they're put on her, and, yes, I do know it's five degrees out there.

3. Was it a natural birth?
No, I had her hanging upside down off a lamp post. Is that what you mean by natural? If you can ask such a personal question, surely you can ask me whether I had her vaginally or not. That's right - use the correct anatomical vocabulary.

4. When are you having your next?
First, you're assuming I'm having another. Second, do you really want me to inform you of the next time that I have unprotected sex? Because that IS what you're asking. There's not the possibility of an Immaculate Conception.

5. (Three years down the line) Why do you only have one? Surely you know how damaging being an only child is?
Look, I am an only child and I think I've done OK. And the reason why I haven't had more than one is... I'm infertile. (Queue tears on my part and a swift exit on theirs.)

Some people have thought me cruel to throw the infertility card at nosey-parkers but I don't see why. I do know women who struggled to conceive after their first child and the emotional torment they face when people asked these very personal questions. If someone has the gall to ask you why you haven't multiplied your brood after your first then they've got to roll with the punches. It's like when people pester me for either not drinking or only drinking a glass of wine. 'What's wrong with you?' I find 'I'm a recovering alcoholic' to be a useful reply in these circumstances.

Because it seems that people are happy enough to ask you questions that are extremely personal but they are not prepared for the embarrassment of an answer that doesn't fit with their idea of acceptable conversation.

Maybe a good way around is for women to have business-type cards with their Facebook account name on them so, when Joe Public accosts them in the street for the low-down, they can direct them to an appropriate social networking platform for the answer. Or maybe they should just get a big Tshirt with 'Mind your own business' blazened across their bump.


1 comment:

  1. Very funny (especially number four) and so true. It does make me worry though as I do ask other mums if and when they are having baby number two but that is because they are my friends and I feel we are all in it together. Might be a bit more careful from now on as you made some good points!