‘I Am Pregnant, Not Sick’

June 23, 2014
Pregnancy, sickness, disease, work, managing through pregnancy, health, strength

One of my friends in Pakistan would often say that we, women, were very hypocritical when it came to using the ‘female card’. “You play it safe and convenient,” he would say, adding that we always wanted to remind men about women ‘being first’ when standing in queues or entering a building or expecting for the door to be opened for them or a chair to be pulled out, but would prefer men to take lead in things we (women) wanted to avoid. He said we played the card when voicing for gender equality at work, political representation and issues related to equal pay scales as their male counterparts, ‘very conveniently accusing men of gender discrimination and discernment’.

I never agreed, always asserting that a gentleman’s behaviour and gender balance at professional settings were different attributes, both of which crucial for a civilized society and productive working environment, respectively. But now, when commuters in public transport offer me a seat on noticing my baby bump or a generous colleague offers to take over a project that we were originally supposed to do as team because ‘it is not good for me to overwork’, I often think about my friend back in Pakistan. Are these such moments when I am playing the female card?

No matter how tempted I may get at times, I always very self-effacingly decline the offer. I don’t want people to treat me as if I am ill or offer help just because I am carrying a life. After all, I am pregnant, not sick.

Why treat pregnancy as a disease?

A woman’s strength can often astonish you, especially during pregnancy. I’ve grown up in a family of strong women. Strong enough to drive themselves to the hospital for labour. The women in my family have never treated pregnancy as an illness or a condition that needed treatment. I grew up watching them continue their routine chores, both inside and outside their homes; take care of their families; drive; cook and work. 

I was 16 when my mother was expecting my youngest sibling. I had seen her finish stitching a cradle cover for him an hour before she gave birth to him. There was utter silence in the house, not even her painful mutters could be heard. Then, she just got up and said she was going to the hospital. An hour later, we were informed that we had had a baby brother.

She and women like her give me hope and courage and build up my belief that pregnancy is a natural healthy condition, which should not be treated as something as unnatural as a disease.

Pregnant women should not treat themselves as sick or weak. For those who do, it is just an illusion that makes them think that they are physically weaker or in need of a helping hand.

If you aren’t worried, why should other people be?

Yesterday, as I left my workplace, my new boss – with whom I am working on a writing project to be launched in two months – seemed rather apprehensive. Guess why? He was worried about the future of the project with my baby due to come to this world in a few months.

“What will happen to the project,” he asked.

“Should something happen to it?”

“Well, not really,” his words changing their frequency from high to low.

“Then just be cool about it. My pregnancy shouldn’t be a reason for you to worry about the project.”

After a five-minute discussion of concerns and assurances, he looked satisfied. Before I left, I turned back to him and said, “I am going to have twins- the baby and the project.” He smiled and waved me goodbye.

Six things you should never say to a pregnant woman

There are hundreds of such lists on the internet, but I’ve personally prepared this one with my personal experiences.

Are you sure you can do this? Never judge or underestimate a woman’s willpower. I travelled to Afghanistan for a training in war reporting 19 hours after I had a DNC following an early miscarriage. I came back with my story having won the second award, and the interesting thing is, no one there could tell what I had been through in the last week. 

You look so tired. I think you should just stop here. Anyone can look tired. A school teacher after a long day, a truck driver after a long drive, a bricklayer after a 12-hour shift or you after a bad night’s sleep. Isn’t looking tired normal?

I am worried about how you’ll manage this. Don’t. Trust me, if a woman gets herself into something, she knows she can do it. It’s the psychological determination that makes the body work, too.

You certainly need help. Yes, but only when she asks for it. And even when helping, don’t make her feel weak or dependent. She does not deserve to be treated this way, when she is creating a wonderful life.

Life’s going to get really tough in the coming weeks. How can you tell? Life can be tough on anyone. My friend’s husband lost his job, weeks after she had her second child. She was a housewife then. He remained jobless for two years and got bankrupted for credit card and other loans. They had to sell their house to move to a smaller one to rid themselves off the loans. Two years later, they are fortunately recovering, after both of them have started to work. Does pregnancy still sound tough?

How will you ever complete this task? You shouldn’t have accepted it knowing you are pregnant.  This is not only discouraging but daunting and prejudiced at the same time. An old acquaintance, now a close friend and an inspiration, got pregnant with her second child in the first semester of her PhD. Not only she gave birth to a beautiful daughter nine months later, she secured a distinction in her first semester and earned herself a scholarship in the last year. Her daughters are now seven and five, as she plans to move to another country for a post-doctorate.

Pregnancy is a condition not a disease, nor is childbirth a medical emergency. 

Image via healthmeup.com/photogallery-diet-fitness/pregnancy-health-nutrition-tips-for-pregnant-working-women/11509

By Ayesha Hasan

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