Three Months. About the Silence Surrounding Pregnancy, Birth and Breastfeeding

It is an unwritten rule of pregnant women, that a pregnancy should not be made public before the embryo/fetus has made it into its fourth month. The likelihood of an abortion during the first three months is somewhat high, and after passing week 12 the pregnancy is deemed statistically “stable.” So we wait for the risky phase to be over. We do not want to enthusiastically spread the news about a successful contraception, a positive pregnancy-test, and inform the world a couple of weeks later, that unfortunately the story did not end as we hoped it would end.

Before I got pregnant, my information-assemblage about pregnancies consisted of school-education and mainstream media-representations about pregnant women, breastfeeding and motherhood. One has sex, gets pregnant, waits 9 months, is during that time a healthy, active, happy almost-mother, who anticipates with curiosity and joy a “natural birth.” Then, one sits in a rocking-chair with a newborn in one’s arm, who joyfully suckles milk and smiles like a little angel. And when the baby is sleeping, one makes use of one’s “home-office,” so as to not to get out of worldly affairs and be an emancipated mother. Pure Bliss.

And a big, fat lie. One may have sex, but this does not necessarily lead to a pregnancy. It may take a while, or a long while, or it may not happen at all. Modern reproductive medical interventions may help, but there is no guarantee whatsoever. Once getting pregnant, there is no guarantee whatsoever, too, that this pregnancy will last. A significant percentage of pregnancies is aborted during the first weeks. There is no guarantee, that the child is going to be healthy, let alone that the pregnancy will be a period of joyful anticipation. In case of early birth-pangs or other complications, one may just as well be hospitalized for a couple of months, or spend the majority of time horizontally, in a bed. Statistically, 99% of women are able to breastfeed their children, but the statistic does not tell you, that only a minor percentage of children suckles right from the beginning without any problems. And the home-office? When N. was falling a sleep during her first year, I had to co-sleep, because I would have collapsed otherwise.

All these stages of a pregnancy involve MASSIVE physical and emotional hardships. Not to get pregnant if you want to get pregnant is no picnic. Reproductive medicine is not “soft,” but involves major interventions into the female body – and this is before one even comes close to assessing the emotional challenges all this poses to the female self, her partnership, her conception of womanhood, her own body, and the life she wants to live.

An abortion, also if it an early one, is physically not a “little more” than a menstruation, and don’t you dare to think that one has a relation to an unborn child only from month 7 onwards – we give names to them from week 1 onwards. Besides loosing a little living thing, that was inside your womb and may have become a child, the procedure involves birth-pangs, fever, and possible medical interventions such as the “scraping out of the uterus.”

When the pregnancy is “easy,” this means that it is without any major complications. But you will suffer from nausea, more or less, and fatigue. You will have to decide about prenatal medical tests, some of which endanger the fetus, and give you an approximation of the likelihood of chromosomal malfunctions. You may, actually, have to choose between an abortion and a non-normative child. When I was pregnant, I started to devour books about trisomy 21, since I did not want to get an abortion in any case. But it is difficult, stressing, challenging. To say that one wants the child God has selected for oneself is one thing, to actually HAVE a child in one’s womb, which may ACTUALLY have trisomy 21, is quite another. In case you planned to pursuit any professional projects during that time – forget about that. They will loose their importance.

A “natural birth” is a much desired event, yet even if you are the world’s most sportive, self-confident, young and healthy woman, you may end up with a caesarean section. And even if you very, very much want to breastfeed, even if this is the thing you desire most, to feed your newborn by your own body may not work out. Most babies have to LEARN to suckle, and you have to teach them. Learning-sessions may take place any time – breastfeeding is about fulfilling the newborn’s desire, and if it desires at midnight, at 2am and 4am and 6am, and then again at 9am, then that’s it. In case the baby does not manage to suckle, you will have the additional problem of milk, which is “stuck” in your breasts. You have to try, by any means, to get that milk out, because if it stays there, it turns into an inflammation, which hurts like hell, involves fever, and in the worst case needs to be removed in a surgery. The breast needs to be cut open, so that the inflammation may get out and heal. One may teach the baby to suckle with the help of plastic nipples and all kinds of other devices, which are applicable to the breasts. If it nonetheless does not manage to suckle, you and the baby will cry. And if it manages to suckle, the baby may cry, too, since its gastrointestinal organs are not yet fully developed, so the milk causes pain.


We do not talk about all these things. We present to the world joyful motherhood, happy healthy babies, and hide the pain, the abortions, all the suffering in a closet in a backroom. Only our joy is “public,” but out pain remains “private.” When loosing a child during the early weeks of pregnancy, we call our employee and maintain that we are just having a little fever. But do we protect our privacy like that? Are we not contributing to a perpetual misapprehension of all those massive, bombastic, enormous things we do? Pregnancy, birthing and breastfeeding are the hardest, hardest works I have ever done, both physically and emotionally, yet no one knows. Why is my body of “public worth” only when it functions according to the standard, but when it doesn’t, it remains private? Do I WANT my malfunctioning body to be irrelevant to what I do and who I am?

(note: I am fine)

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1 Response to Three Months. About the Silence Surrounding Pregnancy, Birth and Breastfeeding

  1. Christina says:

    I can relate to a lot of it. And yes, much like Keira Knightley recently criticized the happy hiding of “her battlefield” by a woman expected of the world to be the picture-perfect mother of a crown prince all women are in a way expected to hide the immense pains. And yes, I also was not aware that breastfeeding is so much more difficult than it is presented. My baby was a great talent at sucking, but made my nipples sore and hurt not only in the first weeks, but also later caused inflammations. The breast inflammation, I had my experience with it as well.

    But why present a c-section as the worst in the world? I pushed through resistance by doctors who seem to think a natural birth is a law of nature. I decided for me and the baby it involved less risks of injury, trauma, and long term negative consequences. That’s exactly what happened – my planned c-section worked like a dream, the baby and I got through it extremely well. I would recommend it to every woman and would encourage every woman to at least have doctors explain the risks and downsides of natural birth AND their statistical prevalence (episiotomy at roughly 1/3 of all women in developed countries!! add to that the much worse perineal tear; risk of longe term incontinence and much more), as well as the risks and downsides of a c-section.

    Women are not neutrally informed. We use surgery against all kinds of health risks,be it the appendix, skin abnormalities etc but somehow a c-section is the ultimate failure of womanhood?! As for the baby, look up perinatal disabilities. They’re not that uncommon. Only shady psychology of how the baby needs to break through the birth tunnel (that happens to be a living breathing woman with needs of her own) – with no scientific backing – suggest a c-section might be bad for the baby. It might get cold suddenly. In a natural birth, it gets deformed horrifically, it can get stuck, it can be torn out (with all the negative aspects for the woman). What’s worse?

    I m surprised there is only a negative mention of the c-section in this otherwise great article. To me, the propaganda against a planned c-section is a betrayal of women. Patients in every medical field are required to form full free informed consent, yet women are not neutrally informed about the options regarding childbirth. And it seems accepted by most groups within society, including those that criticize a lack of transparency in what it entails to give birth and become a new mother.

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