A Womb of One’s Own: A Feminist on Pregnancy

Deciding to get pregnant during grad school is, quite possibly, the stupidest decision I’ve made in years, if not my entire life.  I’m studying an entirely unfamiliar academic field while my body feels like there is a tiny Courtney Love at the controls.  And not the polished and calm Courtney of the mid-90’s that we all pointed to and said “I told you so!” to doubters, but the Courtney Love who will give a confident and coherent two-hour interview for Behind the Music and then spend the next 22 hours Twittering misspelled and nonsensical paranoid rants about her financial situation.

Let me back up a bit.  My husband and I have been together for almost ten years, and over that decade, our stance on children has gone from “Oh heavens no” to “maybe” to “okay, let’s do this!”  I have always been an over-planner and a worrier, and my approach to childbearing has been no exception.  We decided that we’d get pregnant in 2010 in 2009, so on the first day of 2010, I downloaded a period-tracker application for my phone that would allow me to track my BBT (basal body temperature, a fairly accurate way to pinpoint ovulation dates), my period, and more.  I started taking prenatal vitamins.  We weren’t trying, and I was still in proud possession of an IUD, but darn it, if I was going to get pregnant, I was going to do it as “right” as I knew how.

I had my IUD removed at the end of July.  I purchased multiple books with titles like What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, and read all I could on the trying-to-conceive parts of pregnancy message boards.  I knew that I couldn’t begin to worry about infertility until after a year of trying, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t attempt to plan the perfect conception date like a fucking shuttle launch.  We set a date to start trying: the day after my 30th birthday (and our joint birthday party).  I could drink and be stupid and live it up until that day, but starting September 12, I was going to act as though I was pregnant: no alcohol, cutting back on caffeine, no sushi.  Our goal was twofold: to get pregnant while I was at home with grad school (thanks, online-centered program!), and to not spend the summer pregnant (as both our moms did with September babies).

Graduate school started at the end of September after a week of orientation and mixers.  You know what grad school mixers center around?  Coffee and booze.  I made it through orientation and the first week of studies.  After about a week of the academic calendar, I realized I was going to bed by 9:30 every night.  After two weeks, I wanted to nap at every available opportunity and had taken to wearing the smallest sports bra I owned in the hopes of easing the most wretched breast pain I had ever encountered.  At first, I wondered if it was just my cycle reasserting itself after years of being thwarted by Mirena.  Then I started consulting the expert in my life: a friend with four kids (and the Internet, of course).

On the day my period was due, I bought a copy of What to Expect and a pregnancy test kit.  When my husband came home, I peed on the stick and got what, in pregnancy board parlance, is referred to as a BFP (big fat positive).  Because I can’t keep my mouth shut very well, we only told our nearest and dearest: our parents, our closest friends, Tumblr.  I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the following Monday to confirm, even though I’d peed on two sticks and gotten the same enthusiastic result both times.  She confirmed what I already knew, and then Josh (my husband) began to allow himself to believe it as well.

But once the stick said “yes”, I wasn’t yet in the clear.  At the very least, my doctor and pregnancy books suggested, hold off until you hear the fetal heartbeat.  I made an appointment with my local hospital midwifery clinic and then bit my tongue for the next six weeks.

We heard the heartbeat, a tiny fluttering thing, via Doppler at my midwife’s office on November 24.  It finally started to feel “real”.  We were actually going to have a baby.  What the hell had we gotten ourselves into?

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Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to jessica.werner@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “A Womb of One’s Own: A Feminist on Pregnancy”

  1. Yay for Ipomea posting. This will be exciting and fun to follow your life as busy grad student, wife, and pregnant mom to be.

    I feel like we should hold a virtual shower for Ipo and other Persephoners/Persephonites–what are we calling ourselves anyway–who are carrying buns in the oven.

    I’ll make a list of party games. No melted chocolate bars in diapers allowed, I promise.

  2. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series as your pregnancy develops. I’ve always been an “oh good no” girl myself, but nevertheless enjoy reading about other people’s pregnancy experiences. Such a fascinating process, and tied up in so many troubling cultural attitudes and expectations.

  3. This is a ways off for me, but having just applied to PhD programs and being currently in a relationship I really hope will last as long as possible, I’ve been pondering whether it’d be possible to be pregnant during grad school and not die of misery. I’m interested to learn more as you go along, Ipo!

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