Pregnancy: it's the best of times, it's the worst of times. Then again, sometimes it's mediocre. Like almost anything else you will experience in life, it's all depends on who you ask. When we are bombarded with ideas about what pregnancy is and what it "should be," very few benefit. In fact, there are things people need to stop saying about pregnancy in general, because these sweepings statements hurt more than they help.
Let me be clear, what follows is not a reprimand of anyone's personal experience. If your pregnancy was beautiful, awesome! For me, however, some pregnancy moments were great and others, well, weren't. Like life in general, "some things are good and some things are bad" seems far more realistic than using sweeping generalities to describe something as complicated as pregnancy. That's why the idea of pregnancy, and what we as a culture say when we talk about "all pregnancies," needs to change. In this culture we also tend to minimize women's bodies as nothing more than incubators. This dirty habit is demoralizing in every sense of the word, because people with uteruses are so much more than, you know, their uteruses. It's also, quite frankly, dangerous, as it contributes to the idea that women's consent for what happens to their bodies isn't needed.
Do you love your pregnant body? Do you hate your pregnant body? Was pregnancy a breeze, or is it a raging hell you couldn't wait to be over? There are as many ways to experience pregnancy, so forcing people's experiences into a box of "what every pregnancy is like" is bound to leave somebody (or lots of somebodies) out. So can we just please stop saying these things about pregnancy, and start listening to individual pregnant people, instead?
"What A Gift"
Again, if you believe your own pregnancy is a gift, that's totally fine. As a pregnant person you are allowed to describer your gestation anyway you want.
It only becomes problematic when, again, people start generalizing. I'm talking about calling the general state of pregnancy for all people a "gift." The truth is, you don't know how each random pregnant person feels, let alone how they view their own pregnancy. Depending on her unique circumstances, a pregnant person may not even remotely associate her pregnancy with being a gift. What if the pregnancy is a product of rape? What if the woman has hyperemesis gravidarum and spends most of the pregnancy getting IV fluids in the ER? What if she just doesn't feel like her body being taken completely out of her control is a gift?
"It's Such A Beautiful Time"
Well, that's certainly in the eye of the beholder. I mean, yeah, were there times I felt sexy as hell when I was pregnant? Yep. Could I consider that beautiful? Absolutely.
But I'll tell you what beauty is not : uncontrollably peeing because your bladder is squeezed while vomiting. Nope. Not beautiful at all, my friends.
"Pregnant People Shouldn't Do..."
The list of what pregnant people shouldn't do is long and exhausting. It's also ever-changing. During my first pregnancy I was forbidden from eating lunch meat. By the time I was pregnant with my second child that rule was passe, I could gorge on lunch meat as long as I heated it to steaming first. With my third child? I could eat all the cold lunch meat I wanted.
My point is, we don't always know what we don't know. Even when we're really clear about what pregnant people should and should not do, it's not something that anybody but the pregnant individual and her providers should be commenting on or demanding of her.
"It's The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You"
I get what we're all going for here. Life is a blessing. Creating life is amazing. Blah blah blah. However, how demeaning is it to constantly hear that regardless of your achievements, education, activism, and pretty much anything else you do, the absolute best thing that will ever happen to you in your entire life is essentially a bodily function that you have very little control over.
Talk about driving home that woman-as-incubator trope. Just stop.
"You Won't Even Remember The Hard Times"
There are few things more aggravating than when someone tells you you shouldn't feel the way you're currently feeling. This is one of those few things. When someone tells you the way you're currently feeling doesn't matter, because someday you won't even remember it anyway? Um, how exactly do you know that? Do all postpartum people develop amnesia? Plus, so what if I do forget? Does that mean my present-real-life-right-now feelings don't matter?
"It's Meant To Be"
According to who, exactly?
"Everything Happens For A Reason"
This is particularly galling when we're talking about miscarriage. Don't ever minimize someone's pain and loss by boiling a complicated emotional experience into a trite message of predetermination. Not only does this disregard the pregnant person's own belief system, it's also a complete deflection of present moment experience. When people say this particular trop, it's generally because they want to be helpful without getting their hands dirty and actually sitting with the person in the difficult emotions.
"Pregnant Bodies Are Beautiful"
I personally believe they absolutely are, and I felt hella sexy when I was beautifully bulbous. However, promoting the "pregnant bodies are beautiful" belief, as though it's how every single pregnant person should feel, can leave people who don't feel beautiful at all during pregnancy feeling like they're doing something wrong. Not to mention the unspoken implication that beautiful is what all women should aspire to be. What if I don't give a sh*t if I'm beautiful or not?
Let's just stick to "I" statements, OK? This way, no one's experience is excluded and no one is made to feel less than.
"Feeling The Baby Kick Is Miraculous"
"The Second Trimester Is A Breeze"
To sum all my advice up, when you're talking about your own experience it is fine to say anything you want. But when you push your experience onto pregnancy in genera,l you will inevitably leave someone out. Pregnancy can be isolating enough without adding unnecessary expectations. I can't speak for anyone else's experience of pregnancy than my own, and there's nothing wrong with that!
We all experience pregnancy differently, and there's space for everyone's experience. Let's all get really curious about our fellow humans instead of, lazily, relying on outplayed adages to fill the silent space.