We've all heard it: the giggles, the knowing glances, the jokes about "all the sex" people get to have when they're trying to conceive (TTC). If you're anything like me you find these remarks to be at best boring, and at worst nauseating and hurtful. From difficulties conceiving to ignoring pregnant people's actual lived experiences, I think it's worth it for us all to spend some time unpacking reasons people need to stop romanticizing getting pregnant.
There is a lot of risk when you assume things about what it means for someone to get pregnant. Not all circumstances surrounding getting pregnant are identical. Getting pregnant can be a very loaded situation for some people, even when it is a happy time and depending on their individual circumstances. It's totally fine if you are romanticizing your own process, or romanticizing your best friend's sexcapades while she's trying to conceive if she's in on the joke with you. But romanticizing getting pregnant in general is problematic for a whole host of reasons, not the least being that there is inherent privilege in believing that pregnancy is always a good thing. The truth is that not all mothers and their potential babies everywhere are equally advantaged and have access to healthcare, sanitation, or quality of life.
If you don't know the person's specific situation, and they haven't given their permission for you to wear those rose-colored glasses when you take a look at their personal, often private experience, take those glasses off for all the following reasons:
Because It's Not Always Easy To Get Pregnant
In fact, it's probably rarely if ever easy. It's just that we'd never know it because everyone makes light of "all the sex" you "get" to have when you're trying to conceive.
Because It's Heterosexist
Speaking of "all the sex" we get to have: not everyone has babies by having sex. Here are just a few of an endless number of child-having relationship make-ups that don't have "all the sex" to have babies: a lesbian couple, a gay couple, a straight couple with fertility challenges, and/or a polyamorous family. We should be changing our language, and definitely our jokes, to ensure that we're more inclusive.
Because Sex Means Different Things
I know this is difficult to talk about for most people, but the truth is even if you're in a couple configuration that will have "all the sex" to get pregnant, that isn't universally a good thing. Survivors of sexual trauma, for example, may find past trauma triggered when under the pressure of trying to have a baby. Asexual people who want children but prefer not to have sex might decide it's worth the challenge but it's still a challenge.
Because You Never Know Someone's Story
My first pregnancy was immediate. I knew that wasn't everyone's experience, but I didn't truly get it until my partner and I started having difficulty conceiving our third child. Whether it's intentional or not — and I'm inclined to believe it's usually unintentional — it hurts when people don't think before commenting how fun trying to conceive is. After enduring two years of miscarriages and month after month of no pregnancies, every time I heard TTC glorified as getting to have "all the sex" my heart broke a little bit more.
Because, Actually, It's Not Sexy
Ovulation tests, timed sex or sterile insemination, missed periods, false positives, peeing on more sticks than you could ever have imagined, the ulcer-inducing anxiety every single month during the hellish two-week-waiting period. All of that? Yeah, not actually sexy at all.
Because Pregnancy Sucks
Again, kudos to the forever happy-shiny-super-sparkly-glowing pregnant people, but that's just not the case for a lot of people. Before people start berating me for ignoring all the beauty of pregnancy, stop. I know pregnancy is beautiful. I've had six pregnancies. We all hear how f*cking beautiful pregnancy is all the damn time. What we don't have enough of is realism. Pregnancy literally sucks the life out of you, forever changes your body and your relationship, and can be dangerous. We need to hold space for all the truth, all the experiences, and all the realities. Beauty and ugliness are not mutually exclusive.
When we, here in the United States, romanticize pregnancy teenagers start to think being a teen parent is a pretty good idea. When, however, we tell the truth about getting and being pregnant — not to mention parenting — the teen pregnancy rate goes down.
As reported by the Pew Research Center:
"A 2014 Brookings report found that the MTV programs 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, reality TV shows that follow the struggles of teen mothers, may have contributed to up to a third of the decline in teen births from June 2009, when they began airing, through the end of 2010."
Our teens deserve the truth, not some rose-colored romanticism.
Because The "God's Gift" Rhetoric Is Harmful
You may have noticed that a certain U.S. political party is pretty passionate about glorifying the so-called "God's Gift" of getting pregnant. The reason this romanticized rhetoric is harmful is because it promotes scientifically invalid ideas like Todd Akin's claim that "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." It also values pregnancy above a person's right to bodily autonomy and self-determination, as Richard Mourdock said in 2012, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Pregnancy is not valuable in and of itself. The situation, and the pregnant person's relationship to the pregnancy, are vital pieces of the equation.
Because It's My Body, My Choice
My feelings and thoughts about my pregnancies are mine and mine alone. Romanticizing getting pregnant places the burden of other people's expectations on anyone who is, or could someday become, pregnant. It places a whole lot of "shoulds" on people that are unfair and unrealistic. If pregnancy is so awesome then you should be happy when you're pregnant. If pregnancy is a beautiful gift of life all the time, without exception, then if you aren't happy with your pregnancy for any reason there is something wrong with you.
I call bullsh*t on that line of thinking. It's archaic and serves to further oppress people with uteruses by forcing laws that dictate what we can and can't do with our bodies. Just stop it.
Because It Doesn't Help Pregnant People
When we romanticize the process of getting pregnant we're placing so much emphasis on the "getting" of the pregnant that we forget the "being" pregnant. Being pregnant is where people actually need your support. When pregnancy is conceptualized as the achievement of "happily ever after" it's like the movie is rolling the credits. We can then forget about the pregnant person because they're all set, all taken care of, and all good. Right?
But, dear reader, I'm sure you'll agree that once pregnancy is achieved is really when the pregnant person could use our help. If you're anything like me, pregnancy was full of great moments, sure, but also hellish moments. I could've used someone to tell me it was OK to feel horrible, scared, anxious, emotional, guilty, and all the other feelings that aren't positive, instead of expecting me to be happy and glowing all the time.
I'd love to see us supporting the actual people who are trying to conceive, rather than expecting everyone to fit into an idealized, romanticized box. This way everyone can have their true experiences free from societal expectations (and therefore isolation and disappointment) of the super-perfect-happy-fun ideal of getting pregnant.