first trimester

In my effort to share my reading pursuits with you, I have chosen to start with Naomi Wolf’s (2001) book Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. 

Within the first few pages of Misconceptions you will find what most books about women’s health lack – honesty.

As a female author (and one who has been pregnant herself), Wolf validates pregnancy as an experience that is more than just a reproductive process. She validates pregnancy by citing it as a transformative event for women that strengthens them, shapes their personality and evidently the path they will walk on for the rest of their lives.

I am just starting the chapter entitled Loses and up to now, I am stunned by how little I know about women and their bodies during pregnancy. Many will say that “you learn it as you go”, but like we have learned from menstruation, the lessons we do “learn” are often painful (or embarrassing) and likewise are voiced by the wrong authority with misguided information.

As I thought about this phrase “learning it as you go” I wondered, should we settle to learn it as we go?

On some matters, yes.

But on matters dealing with women’s health, issues that have existed forever, whether it be menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, is it really necessary that we continue to learn it as we go?

A common phrase I hear from many women in my circle is: “I wish I had known…”. These five words lead to the detrimental and harmful truths women have had to learn along the way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead we heard: “I am so glad I knew…”?

One of the things I enjoy most about Misconceptions is how Wolf re-examines her conscience as various debates and unknowns are brought to her attention. She struggles through debates such as the pro-choice/pro-life debate, whether or not to get screening tests or amniocentesis done during pregnancy and through all this she discovers that theses issues are not the black and white issues people make them out to be.

To explain this uncertainty, Wolf (2001) poetically states that her “politics were rebalancing around [her] belly” (p. 52).

Before reading Misconceptions, I had my mind made up about many matters dealing with pregnancy. However, the stories Wolf shares in the first few chapters of her book have caught my conscience by surprise. Just as Wolf’s politics are rebalancing around her belly, mine are rebalancing around the testimonials of women found in Misconceptions.

I think it is important that women are informed when pregnant, but at the same time we need to ensure we are being informed by other women who have experienced pregnancy and motherhood. In order for this to happen we need to talk more openly about women’s health issues, not through a voice of authority, but a voice full of real life experiences by real, honest women.

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3 comments on “first trimester

  1. Jill says:

    Preach it, sista! The more information we have, the better. It’s so important to share stories, as well as to educate and inform ourselves. And unfortunately, you’re not going to get much information from your doctor (most of the time).

    Love this post. Love this book. Read it in high school, and it was really great. Can’t wait to chat with you about it.

  2. Rachel Erb says:

    I’d love to hear about some of your ideas that have been changing due to this book, Sophie, if you feel up to posting about them.

    And I totally agree – it is up to us, as women, to educate ourselves. No one else is going to do it. We’re NOT going to learn as we go unless we are actively pursuing that learning.

    • Two main changes on my view of things. The first on amniocentesis. I had always thought that I’d want to know certain things about my pregnancy, or that I understood why a woman would want testing done. Wolf challenged my view on this when in her chapter, Baby Values she talks about the values we place on babies, as if they are commodities that can be discarded at the first sign of defect. I know that there are some birth defects that are really severe and so I cannot speak for everyone, but for myself, if I ever was pregnant, I would want to avoid testing unless it was absolutely necessary.

      Wolf shares the example about a couple who had gone through three abortions to avoid the possibility of her baby being born with a particular disease that ran in her family. Although I can understand why a woman would want testing done, is it right that we are able to keep trying and trying until we get that “perfect” baby. There are many imperfect things in life, but rarely do we have the opportunity to change those things. We learn to adapt, to accept and oftentimes become better people because of it.

      And even so, what does a perfect baby even look like?

      Even more interesting is the revenue gained by these screening tests in the States. I know our health system in Canada is different, but it is scary to know that the medical industry in Canada supports a system that is trying to perfect the human race.

      The second topic that I found interesting was when Wolf talks about adoption and ethnicity. I too found the story about the young mother admitting the ethnicity of her baby, and the adoptive parents walking out on her while in the delivery room to be alarming.

      Wolf asks: “why we can’t see babies for themselves, rather than seeing them as extensions of ourselves, our lifestyle preferences, our heritages, our fantasies?” (p. 54). This question has got me thinking that when it comes to babies, we should be talking less about “us”, “I” or “me” and more about them, the baby, her/him. We always want what is best for the kids in our life, but when does this wanting start? When we conceive, when we are six months, at 1 day, 4 years?As our wanting really extend to what is best for them, or what is best for us?

      As someone who is not a parent I am speaking without experience on these matters and so am not taking authority or claiming my views as truth. If I ever were to be in such a situation, I can’t say with certainty that my views wouldn’t change.

      I am however grateful that I have read Wolf’s thoughts as they have definitely made me rethink a lot about pregnancy and health care.

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