Thursday, August 9, 2018

To be a woman in my "condition"

Several weeks ago, it happened. Someone, with the best of intentions I'm sure, dropped the line "...a woman in your condition." 

While I can't remember the specifics of our conversation, these words have stuck with me. I'm not offended or hurt by this comment, but I do find the phrase rather sad and narrow-minded. 

A woman in your condition. 

My "condition" being...what exactly? Oh yes, that I'm pregnant with a human being. So please, just say "a woman who is pregnant." Don't give me some sort of condescending-sounding euphemism. 

Not only that, but a woman in your condition seems to imply that I have a delicate health issue I'm dealing with. While some women have complications during pregnancy and need to follow a strict regime to keep themselves and their babies safe, for many women, pregnancy is a normal, low-risk state of being. 

But we seem to forget this.

Honestly, it wasn't until I became pregnant with my firstborn that I realized how faulty my assumptions about pregnancy were. I (in part because of what I learned from the attitudes of others) believed that a typical pregnant woman was a frail being who couldn't lift anything moderately heavy, couldn't exercise, and couldn't participate in many pre-pregnancy activities. I projected this belief onto other women, and treated them accordingly. But then I became pregnant myself, and as I read books on pregnancy, perused information from my midwife, and talked with other pregnant women, I realized that many of the assumptions I held were just not true for everyone. I began to see just how debilitating we make pregnancy seem when we place this limited filter over that period of 9 or so months.

How are we supposed to create a pro-life culture if we subject pregnant women to such a narrow-minded view? 

If we stick each pregnant lady with the label of being "a woman in your condition," how are we empowering and supporting her? How are we encouraging her, showing her that she is strong, courageous, and powerful? 

To be a woman in my "condition" is to nurture a living, kicking, thriving human being. 
To be a woman in my "condition" is to participate in an incredible mystery and gift.  
To be a woman in my "condition" is empowering and literally life-giving.
To be a woman in my "condition" is to join the community of countless other women throughout the world and centuries.

Women who work. Women who dance. Women who run businesses. Women who educate their children. Women who have extensive support systems. Women who have no support systems. Women who care for their families and communities. Women who experience extreme sickness and challenges. Women who experience very little or no sickness. Women who thrive, despite any obstacles that they experience. Women who continue to operate as normal human beings. Women who look and live very differently from each other, but are all bonded through the common experience of bearing life, of being mothers. 

Throughout this pregnancy, I have spoken rather frequently about running. I haven't talked about it in an attempt to make myself look awesome (and really, none of my pregnancy mileage has been objectively impressive), but I have mentioned it to show people that HELLO, it is very possible and normal to exercise while pregnant! Once my third trimester hit, I started running half-mile spurts (run half a mile to a location, take a short break, run half a mile home). I kept up this routine until the middle of week 36 of pregnancy, when I could barely move after running two half-mile spurts the day before. So, I'm no longer running, though I'm trying to stay semi-active as long as I physically am able. 

I am encouraged whenever I see or hear of other women who are reaching for their goals, dreams, and doing "normal" activities while pregnant. Yes, nurturing an unborn child is exhausting. Yes, it's nice to get special "pregnancy treatment" at times (particularly in the form of gourmet hamburgers and ice cream). But it's also really nice to not be put on a pedestal. To not be treated as some hero for doing a small activity that's normal for me. To not be held apart as a woman in my "condition." 

Instead of assuming that every pregnant woman is having an identical experience of pregnancy, and rather than waving our hands and remarking about a woman "in your condition," let's celebrate the gift of life. The gift of life that's growing and kicking inside a pregnant woman, and the gift of the pregnant woman's life-because even though she's nurturing an unborn child, she's still a woman with passions, needs, desires, hopes, and dreams. And let's support and empower these women to reach for their dreams as they care for and nurture their unborn children. 


  1. It's so true that there is no "identical" experience of pregnancy and I am continually impressed with how many women are able to continue life as usual while pregnant and accomplish some pretty cool stuff! I think being pro-life definitely means supporting pregnant women in the way that fits their own desires and situation rather than just putting them in a pregnant "box" of sorts.

    But also...for myself...imagining being pregnant again I think I would plan to back off and reduce commitments and physical activities and any travel. I mean, maybe next time would be easier, but after nearly an entire pregnancy of warnings from my doctor to not overdo things, taking meds for weeks and weeks, and doing modified bedrest to avoid preterm labor...and with a firstborn baby that came several days ahead of his due date (after "most first time moms go past 40 weeks") and was born 5 hours after the first contraction I ever felt (after "most first time moms have long labors")...I think I will be again nervous about early labor...grr. Although I know it's not always even the same or similar from one baby to the next.

  2. Because of your post I want gourmet hamburgers and ice cream now... and I'm not even pregnant!

    I have honestly never heard anyone refer to pregnancy as a 'condition.' I honestly thought that ended with the Victorians. It sounds patronizing to put it that way, but I'm sure whoever said it meant well.

  3. Good thoughts from both you and Rachel above! Every woman is so different. Some truly are at-risk and need to take it easy in pregnancy, while others are rockstars! I think I'm somewhat in the middle! I'm higher risk for miscarriage so I try to take it easy with things that I can control and not overdo it, but I also learned the second time around I can do a lot more than I thought with having an active toddler and being pregnant! ;)

  4. You’re such a beautiful pregnant mom, AnneMarie! Love your reflections on this, and so agree people need to not treat pregnancy like a disease. I’m so glad you’ve felt able to do a lot and am remembering you in my prayers these last days before baby comes!!

  5. I'd love some ice cream right now. Or french fries. Or donuts. Pretty much anything that is unhealthy sounds good!
    Anyway, I'm so grateful that, in general, women are very capable during pregnancy. In fact, I think there are many women for whom very little changes during pregnancy--they are basically able to continue doing everything they did before they became pregnant.
    I wish this was me, but I've always struggled during pregnancy. It is that way this time around again, so I definitely feel like I have a "condition."
    However, I totally agree with you that we shouldn't use that term and that we shouldn't assume every woman has limitations. Pregnancy is a normal state. Most women are capable and healthy throughout pregnancy. We should celebrate and rejoice in this!

    1. What is it with all the unhealthy options that sound so appealing?? Donuts have been on my mind a lot too-though it doesn't help that my toddler likes talking about them, even though we rarely eat them!

      I'm keeping you in my prayers as you start to reach the homestretch of pregnancy. That must be such a challenge to handle the struggle, especially while taking are of your adorable girls!