The first time a cashier at a London coffee shop asked me how far along I was, it took me a while to understand what she was talking about. Then I realized it might have to do with the ‘Baby on board’-button I was wearing; a courtesy of the London public transport system. Judging by the amount of smiles and conversations I then got, I myself had become visible to the public.
To set expectations straight: I am 28 years old and pregnant. Of all the adventurous things I have done in my life, this one is met with the most curiosity. However changing our societies might be, reproduction and family organisation seem to remain one of the strongholds of expectations. Most people I shared the news with were surprised. I am in a stable relationship, yes; but I am also still in education. Adding a child to that mix seems to be taken people off guard. Many of the responses I got were based not so much on what we shared, but rather on people’s own assumptions. Meanwhile, friends of my own age tell me that they get questions at work about when they are planning to have kids, which seems disturbing to me. What if you don’t want or can’t have any children? I was also surprised at how vulnerable I felt to share the news with my work and at university; and how grateful I was for their supportive responses.
The children I teach, were mostly concerned with whether I can continue to teach them, before starting to speak about the time they themselves were born. Adults have many more questions. How far along are you? Do you know if it is a boy or girl? Do you want to know? What languages will the kid speak? What nationalities would it have? For something as personal as reproductive health, there is a lot of public opinion about it. Clearly, it is something much bigger than a baby; it is about societal expectations and how we manage our communities.
It is interesting, entering this whole new world. There are the people who start sharing their own stories of the pregnancy and parenting of their children. There is a whole new area of advertising, targeting smiling middle-class white people (or so it seems after spending two hours in a hospital waiting room observing the TV screen on the wall) for products you wouldn’t even imagine you would need (and for most of them, chances are you don’t actually need them either). There are all the doctors’ appointments (thank you to medical science!). For the first time in my life, professionals asked me all sorts of intimate questions about my personal circumstances – from living status to health and from family support to violence; affirming once again how privileged I am with my place in life.
In her new Netflix special ‘Growing’, comedian Amy Schumer freely speaks about all the not so glamourous pregnancy stuff that you don’t get to see in Hollywood movies. Such a relief – I was laughing my bump off! Closer to home (an obvious point for most parents and children out there), I found that here in the UK still the majority of children’s clothing and children’s products are either pink, blue or brown and grey if you want to be gender-neutral / boring. What about raising a happy human being (in yellow or red or pink or blue), supported to explore the wonders of the world on its own? As for me, I love blue.
All these observations are not to downplay the miracle that is new life. In the case of a wanted pregnancy, wonder may be all around. If you are lucky and all goes well, there is one or multiple little ones increasing in size from a strawberry to an avocado in just a few weeks. Of course it takes energy having another human being grow inside you and I am truly grateful for it. As my partner poetically said: ‘You now have two hearts in your body.’