I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman. If you haven’t read it, please do. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time.
N.B. I should explain that the only other books I’ve read in the past year have been pregnancy books, and finding out you are potentially going to poo in front of a room of strangers is not that funny. Oh, and also I read To Kill a Mockingbird, which is also definitely not a comedy.
In each chapter, Moran addresses a stereotypically female attribute and explains how she has failed to achieve womanliness in this area, be it periods, handbags or childbirth. This book is a great insight into why feminism is still so important, because society still has ridiculous ideas about what being a woman should mean. This got me thinking about all the ways I have failed in being a woman over the years, and I decided to write about it.
Society places an immense amount of pressure on the biology of women. We can produce children and therefore we should, and any woman not choosing this life must be mental or biologically unable, for why would a woman not want to be a mother? The entire world is worried about when you plan to have babies. You’re not sure, are you crazy? Can’t you hear your biological clock tick tocking away?! Heaven forbid you say you don’t want babies. Some will assume this is because you can’t, you are a broken woman with broken womanly bits, and you will be met with silent pity. Others will assume you are just too young to understand how wonderful pregnancy, birth and babies are. These people will probably laugh smugly in your face, maybe allowing a little spit to leave their mouth and land smack bang in the middle of your stupid childless face, and tell you that you’ll change your mind in a few years.
Pregnancy is supposedly the epitome of femininity. For there you are, fulfilling your biological capacity to produce offspring, and how wonderful you look. Like a blossoming rose, swelling with happiness and love.
These blossoming pregnant woman can probably even tie their own shoes at 40 weeks. They can put their socks on, shave their legs and quite happily go for a jog.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t see my own feet after six months. To be quite honest, my legs could have completely disappeared and I would have had no idea since I couldn’t see them and rarely used them during the last few weeks. I did not have the “neat little bump” I desired. Instead I became the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Huge. Strangers were coming over to me to exclaim: “Ooh you mustn’t have long left now” and “You must be about to drop” when I was only seven months pregnant. There really is nothing more disheartening than that.
I was fat, and puffy, and sweaty and exhausted. I remember one day I had spent two hours getting ready, trying to hide the tiredness from my eyes, and the pile of chins from where my neck should have been. By the time I went out I was feeling pretty good, I thought I looked nice. I think I may have been so deluded that I wore a skirt, one where you could see my knees. My big, fat knees. Most likely covered in sporadic hairs that I had been unable to see when shaving because of my hideously large midriff. I headed to the theatre to meet my husband. Thumping one giantly fat leg down in front of the other, no doubt setting off a terrifying ripple effect on my fat knees and scaring small children in my path. When I arrived, still feeling pretty confident that I looked good, my husband met me with a concerned face and the words: “You look exhausted. Are you ok?”
It was at that point I knew I’d failed. No amount of make up, hair styling or short skirts could make the pregnant me look anything other than what I was. A big, fat, sweaty, tired, miserably pregnant woman with disgracefully fat knees. I just wanted to go home and sit in the dark until this evil hateful baby forced its way out of me.
I did not bloom. I exploded. My bingo wings grew wings, but sadly did not fly away. My chins were having babies of their own, more flabby chin babies to add to my ever sagging face. If I, by accident, caught sight of my thighs in the mirror it would certainly lead to at least an hour of loud sobbing.
I’d bought some maternity jeans early on in the pregnancy, but they were getting a bit tight towards the end so I’d taken to wearing yoga pants instead. You can imagine how good yoga pants looked stretched across the vast landscape of my pregnant self. I no longer walked, never mind strutted as womanfolk are usually said to. I had instead adopted a waddle, legs apart to save the chafing thighs, and then shuffling forwards feet wide apart looking quite similar to one of the penguins on Frozen Planet.
I didn’t find pregnancy to be a pleasant experience. It did not fill me with love and excitement at the thought of meeting my baby. I did not bloom, and blossom and thrive. I rotted like a pig carcass in the heat. I couldn’t wait to get this baby out. Sleepless nights, dirty nappies and childbirth sounded like a well deserved rest after the horror of being pregnant for nine whole months.
I most definitely failed at pregnancy.