My Doctor Judged Me for Wanting to Have Sex, for Not Being a "Selfless Mother"
Most women (parents or not) are probably familiar with the image of the selfless mother. You might, in fact, be so familiar with it that you don't even think about a mother without automatically assuming how selfless she is. After all, the American ideal seems to scream that we women should think of nothing but our children once they are born. And I will try (and fail, right here, right now) not to mention the fact that motherhood is basically still a given in our society and those who decide they don't want children are still seen as oddballs.
Enter my own pregnancy. Yes, I know, the one I can't stop talking about. Get over it. Though I feel all baby-high, awesome, and marvel at my expanding belly, I have also managed to somehow keep my head about me. I still pay attention to my husband, and being a selfless mother has never even crossed my mind because I am person, too.
And yet... I was confronted with the image of the selfless mother in the strangest of ways. I was told at 18 weeks, 4 days that my placenta was lying low. It was only 7mm from my cervix and it needed to move to 2cm. "Okay," I though quite casually. "No big deal. It'll move."
Then, the doctor I was meeting for the very first time, with my husband, says he's putting me on what is called "pelvic rest." Oh, it sounds restful and all, but it's doctor code for "no fun." Which for me translated to "no sex." Immediately I chortled and told him that I wasn't doing that. Like, was this guy serious??
Then it emerged... Like a mythical beast: the selfless mother archetype came pouring from him like a well rehearsed script straight from the 1950s. The doctor started to tell me (as if I needed to be reminded) that it "wasn't just about me," and he threw in a, "your fun is over" as the icing on his judgment cake.
Of course, at the time, I wasn't hearing any of this, nor did I care. In fact, I was too busy asking for cold hard facts as to why "pelvic rest" was necessary. I managed, in my stubbornness, to get him to agree to take a second look at my placenta in four weeks instead of six. As far as I was concerned, this was a small victory, but the fact remained: He was adamant about the no sex thing.
When I had time to cry over this, privately chastise the doctor for having a stain on his coat, Google the term "low lying placenta," and think it all through, I realized: This wasn't just about the low lying placenta or the pelvic rest thing. I was very subtly being criticized for being a mom-to-be with a sex drive. I get it; there are lots of women who aren't into sex during pregnancy (as well as husbands, too, who are nervous). For a lot of women this news might be no big deal. I'm not those women, and in making that quite clear to the doctor du jour, I caught my first bona fide case of parenting guilt.
I can tell you right now: it's a load of bullsh*t.
First of all, I'm becoming a parent, I'm not going to war; my fun is most certainly not over. Secondly, I absolutely refuse to apologize for feeling sexy, wanting to be desired, and enjoying sex. As for this business about this not being about me? Heh, don't make me laugh... And don't get it twisted: This baby is ALL about me and my husband and the love that we share. We, like any parents who have planned a pregnancy, want a healthy pregnancy and baby. And if you want to call me crazy, or selfish, for wanting to have a healthy sex life with the life mate I've chosen, I will gladly wear the title.
My relationship (and sex life) are a priority to me -- baby or no baby. I'm not trading my sexuality for mom jeans.
After getting over the initial shock about the whole "don't have sex" thing, I started to wonder what this was really about. Sure, I read a mixed bag of other women's experiences on the internet. Some doctors said take your "pelvic rest" and others did not. But what I missed out on was a candid conversation on the topic because I was too busy being shamed by a male doctor who I am quite sure has never experienced being pregnant.
I'm not entirely sure that the doctor is solely to blame. Had I seen a female midwife that day, things may or may not have gone differently. I think American society has a ridiculous notion of what a mother should be. We are sent the message that we should, as the doctor said, forget about ourselves and make it all about baby. But in doing so, what's the benefit?
I personally don't want to raise a child who thinks I am there to serve them. The world won't be there to serve them; they will need to learn that hard work and self reliance are the cornerstones to success. I also feel that demonstrating to my child that I take care of my needs in a variety of areas is important to nourishing my soul because I want that child to learn to do the same. I want to model that I am an adult and entitled to my own freedoms as well.
Parents have to be well-rounded humans too. Women deserve to be and feel sexy whether they are pregnant, mothers, or happily child-free. In a better, more feminized world, the doctor would have stopped -- realizing my clear distress over a lack of intimacy -- and explained what I could do sexually. He would have assured me, as my doula did, that orgasm is still okay. He shouldn't have left me out to dry feeling like a selfish freak for wanting to preserve my feminine sexuality.
In the end, yes, I am going to take more precaution and pray to the placenta god that this placenta gets to moving so I can resume my sex life. I also had to dig within myself to see exactly why the situation was so unnerving for me -- you know beyond the hormones and the fact that I am horny, like, a lot.
Selfless mother? I am not. Nor do I want to be.
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