A couple of months ago, I woke up one morning and immediately sensed I was going to vomit. I hadn’t eaten anything unusual, and I definitely wasn’t pregnant, so what was going on? I put it down to one of life’s random curveballs and got on with the day, except an hour or so later, there I was hunched over the toilet, puking more than I ever had before. And the same kept happening throughout the day, till I could no longer stand and couldn’t even keep water down.
A trip to the doctor confirmed what my husband had suspected all along: I was exhausted, sleep-deprived and crashing.
“That doesn’t sound like anything to do with exhaustion though.”
“Are you sure its not food poisoning?”
“It must be something you ate.”
“What have you been doing that’s made you sooo exhausted?!”
Are you thinking any of the above right now? Don’t worry. Variations of those are the first things I heard from everyone, be it family or friends. This post isn’t about why I’m exhausted or what I did to recover, or even what I should have done to avoid it in the first place!
This is about attitudes towards women-related issues that have been irking me since I experienced this episode.
In the weeks that followed, I’ve noticed more and more things that I’d perhaps never paid attention to before, and truth be told, the perpetrators of most of these attitude-crimes are women themselves. This is what has saddened me and prompted me to write this post.
People, other women, seemed genuinely perplexed about why I was ill, and I kind of get it; objectively, my life is not your textbook example of exhausting. I have a lot of help with household chores—both paid, and unpaid in the form of family; I only have one child to take care of; I don’t work anymore, etc. So I get why someone might ask, why am I exhausted then? And the answer to that came from a pretty unlikely source:
My husband. A man.
He was the first person not surprised and not judgemental about my “diagnosis.” Complete lack of sleep from pregnancy to toddlerhood, an unusually long recovery post-ceasarian, and not being able to find time to do “me stuff” like exercise or eating well were just some of his points. He made a convincing case.
And he told me to stop being so hard on myself: the very message I hope that this post carries to the women reading it. Can we please stop being so hard on each other???
But wait. Apparently, we should be quiet about our “issues” more. I recently saw a TV commercial for sanitary pads, and a woman in my company was aghast; why did we need to see such a blatant, shameful subject all over our screens, in the company of men no less?!
Ah yes. Shame. That old thing.
Another subject it seems to rear its head over is childbirth. Yes, yes, we know its a wonderful miracle of nature, a blessing, a truly ecstatic time for parents, blah blah blah. But why do women need to talk about it once its done? The baby is here now; why do they need to revisit the subject again and again?!
Let’s just check the dictionary definition of “shame” for a second:
A feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong. (Merriam-Webster)
A feeling as a result of doing something wrong. WRONG. When you make a woman feel like talking about her traumatic labour, or her crippling period pain is shameful, you’re telling her what she’s going through is wrong.
A recent trend that’s popped up on social media a few times is birth photography: basically, couples hire professional photographers to capture the moment their child is born. Not surprisingly, the photos are very different from any other professional photos you’ve seen: they are raw, shocking, strangely enticing and overall just amazing.
Let me clear one thing up: I would never choose to have the birth of my child photographed, for my own reasons (my religious teachings wouldn’t allow it, for one). But for the women that do make that choice, I say good for you! If it makes you happy, if you’re comfortable with that, then Good. For. You.
When we hold each other under microscopes and shake our heads over what we see, here’s what happens: misogyny thrives. Sexism is very real; it does not need our help to flourish! Lets just STOP with judging and berating each other, when there is a whole world out there already doing so.
Peace and love, with a cup of tea… anyone?