The Inconvenience of Pregnancy: A Mother's Experience
Fiorella Nash FAITH Magazine March-April 2006
When I first suspected I was pregnant, I could have been forgiven for thinking that, in Britain, pregnancy is regarded as little more than an embarrassing sexually transmitted disease. The pregnancy test kit I bought at my local chemist came up on the till display as ‘chemist goods’ to conceal my possible predicament from the other shoppers. When I rang my surgery for the results of the pregnancy test, the nurse pronounced, “it’s positive” with the tone of someone telling me that I was terminally ill. The charming doctor who examined me afterwards informed me that “90\% of conceptions end in miscarriage” and that, in case I was that way inclined, I should not get too excited about the prospect of having a baby.
“Rubbish!” declared a Catholic doctor I consulted, “that’s a political statement. The likelihood is that the baby will be absolutely fine. Pregnancy is a perfectly normal physiological state.” But by that stage, I was drowning under an avalanche of paperwork: blood test request forms, suggestions on who should cut the umbilical cord (I suspect I won’t give a vanilla ice cream who cuts it when it comes to it), a really scary full-colour booklet about childbirth, dietary advice, exercise advice (no bungee jumping or rugby), leaflets about yoga (over my dead body), aquanatal classes and – for some reason I have yet to ascertain – a free sachet of Ovaltine. I was amazed I was not offered counselling to deal with the stress of dealing with this terrifying condition I had beencareless enough to pick up.
Tucked away discreetly amidst information about the correct position to hold a baby during breastfeeding and the benefits of a water birth, the free pregnancy and childbirth guide suggested the different kinds of prenatal quality control tests I should subject my baby to - the triple blood test to check for spina bifida and Down's, the 20-week anomaly scan - and how to arrange for him to have potassium chloride injected into his heart if something was wrong. It advised that viewing and holding the dead body after an abortion and having photographs taken would make the baby more 'real'.
But before I get too cynical about the nationalisation of the British pregnancy, I have to admit that I have discovered something a little more positive about attitudes towards maternity – we are a nation of baby-fanciers. In spite of the concerted efforts of the abortion lobby over a period of nearly forty years, the great British public are still aware in their heart of hearts, that the unborn child is precisely that. Not once during my pregnancy to date have I been asked when my foetus is due, whether the products of conception have started kicking yet or whether we have thought of a name for the contents of my uterus. The word ‘baby’ was used by one and all without any prompting from me from the earliest weeks of the pregnancy, including within a medical setting. The books andwebsites on pregnancy cheerfully describe the development of ‘the baby’, my midwife talks about listening to the baby’s heartbeat and at the 12-week scan, the time at which the majority of abortions are carried out, I lay in a darkened room and watched as my baby’s head and spine and tiny hands were pointed out on a screen.
I am not even convinced that people have become more aware of the humanity of the unborn child with the advent of technologies such as ultrasound though these windows into the womb have perhaps made it harder to deny. It is more the case that the abortion lobby has failed to dehumanise the unborn child. For centuries, expressions such as ‘being with child’ have formed a part of the language used to describe pregnancy and with good reason. As I have come to learn, it is impossible for a woman to get through a pregnancy without being acutely aware of the presence of another human life inside her own body. As my baby’s movements become more energetic, what I find most startling is that he is beginning to react to certain stimuli. I only have to do something inconsiderate like turn up mymusic a little too loud or eat spicy food to feel a sudden flurry of protesting feet and fists demanding that I desist.
The first question a pro-abortion feminist will ask a pro-life man is: “When was the last time you were pregnant?” The implication is that only people who are biologically unable to bear children could possibly voice an objection to abortion (presumably, besides men, infertile and post-menopausal women should be excluded from the debate, as well as women of child-bearing age who are not in the fertile period of their monthly cycle) but I wonder whether it is easier to support abortion if you cannot experience a pregnancy firsthand. Perhaps the humanity of the unborn child that everyone instinctively recognises is easier to suppress if you don’t wake up in the night feeling a baby turning somersaults inside you nor be expected to accept chronic sickness because taking anti-nausea drugsmight harm the tiny life you are incubating. It is not so much that people who cannot become pregnant have no excuse to be pro-life; it is that people who have been pregnant have no excuse for not being.