Last week, I turned 24 years old. I had assumed that this was a fairly unimportant milestone. I was past 21, but not quite at a quarter century. I like these types of birthdays because no one is harassing you to throw age specific parties that involve things that I dislike immensely. Well, I have discovered that I was terribly wrong. Turning 24 has placed me in the “legitimate” age range for having lots and lots of babies.
As it so happens, I tend to get sick a lot and have frequent stomach aches. Not a big deal, probably a symptom of my sugar issues and nerves. In previous years, people have called me a hypochondriac and other similar ableist labels, but things have changed and not for the better.
It started when a family member came to visit me this past week and as we were walking through the grocery store looking for dinner, I mentioned that I had woken up feeling ill and nauseous.
“Oh Maggie, what would we do if…”, she said with a grin.
“Do if what?” I asked suspiciously.
“If you were pregnant!”
Now, my relative had just returned from a trip of grandchildren visiting, so I chalked it up to just being rather grandchild-saturated. However, I was concerned. People had told me that I was soon to enter the age of incessant “when are you having babies?” questioning. This was a particular worry of mine as the person I have fallen in love with is a cis-gender man and I am a cis-gender woman. Obviously, we are supposed to be making babies at some point in time in the future, right?
Only a few days later, at work, I was feeling sick again. I was talking with a female co-worker about my persistent feeling of ill when a male co-worker overheard us. His automatic assumption? Pregnant!
The moment that I turned 24, I suddenly went from being an almost teenager and was transformed into a young adult who must be geared towards real life, otherwise known as baby, marriage and career (in that order). I was old enough that having a child was not irresponsible, but was instead to be desired. Now I was officially a fertile woman and my fertility was to be publicly known and critiqued. Happy Birthday to me.
So why does this bother me so? Well, such questioning requires a lot of assumptions on the part of the speaker about my own personal choices. It infringes on my personal autonomy and ignores my desires in the situation. It marks my body as one of public consumption. It doesn’t respect me as a person (or any other woman). For instance:
- I wish people would stop looking so pleased when the idea that a woman in their vicinity is pregnant. I do not want children. I am decidedly childfree. Pregnancy will not make me happy. Furthermore, I am 24 years old, about to start law school and still paying off a lot of student debt. Even if I did want children, I would not want them now. Some people might find pregnancy at such a stage of their life to be an okay thing, but I do not. Don’t assume you know what I am feeling and you could just make me feel worse by prying.
- Also, stop asking questions that imply that I will have a lot to cope with now thanks to my soon-to-be infant. There’s this wonderful procedure that we have called abortion. No, I would not hesitate. Please don’t look shocked when I say that I have no doubts or concerns about having an abortion. Please don’t tell me that I will change my mind if it happens to me. I am a human being, therefore, a rational individual (admittedly, that all humans are rational may be a bad assumption on my part). I have made a cost-benefit analysis based on my desires and circumstances. Carrying a pregnancy to term is not something I wish to do right now. Period. You don’t get to question me any further on that question.
- Can I not just be sick without the assistance of an embryo or fetus? Women can get the flu, food poisoning and sometimes our menstrual cycle causes us to want to puke our guts out. There are lots of reasons as to why I may be sick. Instead of asking me about possible babies, why do you not just ask me WHY I am sick? It saves us both a lot of awkwardness.
- As a queer person, I resent the idea that I must be engaging in baby-making sex. Stop inferring that you know what happens in my bedroom, please. I find it just a tad creepy and extremely heteronormative. Not everyone wants penile-vaginal sex all the time. There are lots of ways to have sex and many of them do not tend to lead to pregnancy.
- Even if I was pregnant, perhaps you should wait until I tell you; if I want to tell you at all. You do not have a right to know what is going on with my body or what I choose to do with my body. Do I question you on your bowel movements in the lunchroom at work? My pregnancy is not a public spectacle that I wish to be interrogated on in the middle of a coffee shop.
These types of questions show us that women are still not considered fully autonomous, individual human beings. The fact that many women can get pregnant is taken as an excuse by society to know all of our bodies intimately. It supposedly grants the public immunity on all judgements made against women and their reproductive capabilities. I think such thought processes are beyond reprehensible. Leave me and my uterus alone. We get into enough disputes on our own without anyone else entering the picture.
I have a feeling it is going to be a long couple decades until menopause…