Week 30: Politeness While Pregnant

Women have to stop being polite. If I ever had children, which I don’t, the first thing I’d teach a girl of mine is the words ‘F-off.’
— Helen Mirren
 Did Mulan teach us nothing about what happens when we try too hard to be a nice, polite woman?

Did Mulan teach us nothing about what happens when we try too hard to be a nice, polite woman?

It struck me this week that many of my posts so far have been very apologetic. They’ve been really freaking polite. I’ve been writing in a way that doesn’t want to offend. I keep clarifying my positions in an attempt to avoid criticism.

The last thing I want is to be called out for making an assumption that is offensive or elitist. Too boring. Too dumb. Too proud. Too biased. Pregnancy and opinions revolving pregnancy are such a sensitive spot for so many, including myself. The last thing I want to do is upset an audience I’m trying to build.

This week, however, all i keep thinking in response to that is, What the fuck? Why?

Why am I feeling so pressured to edit my voice? Going back to what brought me here in the first place, being inspired by the Woman’s March, motivated to take action, to make a change in whatever way I saw how. Is this what I wanted it to look like?

Of course not.

But at the same time, in order to be heard, we need people to listen. People stop listening oftentimes when they feel attacked or judged or disrespected. When they don’t like the voice we’re hearing. And, so often in our culture, loud, opinionated, assertive voices, especially from women, are considered displeasing.

I’ve taught my students so many times about how imporant it is to write with the audience in mind. Is that what I’m doing here? Does that always apply in a public setting?

Maybe my problem has more to do with the expectation of being polite, having manners, overriding what I really want to say or do. What is more important in the long run, being liked or being heard? Why should one forsake the other?

So often I’ve fantasized about responding to people with the wonderful things that come to mind, instead of my actual reactions which are usually smiles or laughter or, you know, other polite, acceptable things.

My pre-pregnant self hoped that pregnancy would give me these raging hormones that led to me giving absolutely no fucks and saying what I wanted for a period of time, for the first time in my life.

In actuality, pregnancy has heightened my need for peace and, if anything, my hormones have pushed me to avoid conflict versus engage even more than before. The raging hormones only rage inside.

This week, it hit me. So much of my energy is being spent keeping that rage in check. No one wants to see an angry pregnant woman. No one celebrates the angry pregnant woman.

The pregnant woman who is so hopeful and happy and excited about her baby?

Yes.

The pregnant woman whose biggest complaint is heartburn?

Yes.

The pregnant woman who seems to have it all under control and together.

Yes.

The pregnant woman who answers all your imposing questions and shares intimate details with a smile.

Definitely.

The pregnant woman who lets you touch her belly.

A+.

Because I am now a walking advertisement for my impending motherhood and baby, I am inevitably interacting with more people, more strangers even, on a daily basis. Never before did I know about the power of manners and how much it trumps all other impulses. At what stage in our development does impulse control take shape, because lately it feels a lot like fear, weakness and conformity.

Maybe instead of looking at it like, do I want to be liked or listened to, I should be asking which people do I care like me, and which do I not?

Make no mistake. Having a voice at all is a privilege, and puts you in a position of power above many others in this world. What you do with that voice is important. But politeness is not the same as tact. Politeness can get in the way of difficult conversations. Difficult conversations are often the only way to speak up when you see, hear, or experience something that is wrong.

As a pregnant woman who is making some unconventional decisions about how to handle her pregnancy, birth, and child once he is earthside, I already am having to choose between politeness and the alternative. So often, I choose to be polite. Almost universally, and I use the excuse that either a) that person isn’t worth it, or b) I don’t have the energy for a fight. So often, I decide to accept and listen to others with unwanted and backhanded advice when I would never dream of doing the same to another person. And still, so often I choose to be polite.

I could choose also to blame this on my pregnancy. But I’ve been this way before.

I could choose to say it will subside after I have my baby. But I know motherhood and child rearing could even be worse and this is just a preview of what is to come.

I could choose to practice having these difficult conversations. Surely, they will get easier. Even if they don’t, surely I will feel better about using my voice and considering how I will feel later, instead of worrying so much about my “intended audience.”