Over at Sociological Images, Sangyoub Park has a very interesting and slightly scary post on tae-gyo, a form of prenatal intensive mothering practice in South Korea, which has mothers believing that their childrens’ entire lives hinge on what they do, learn, and even see during their pregnancy. Because mothers don’t have enough people judging their every move already.
Koreans believe that a mother’s state of mind and ongoing education during pregnancy determines a baby’s prospects. Their educational and occupational future, even their personality, is dependent on what their mothers do while they’re pregnant. A reporter, below, quotes a South Korean figure who claims that “nine months of prenatal education is more valuable than nine years of post-natal learning.”
This example of a Korean mothering practice is an interesting one, but of course we in the US have similarly bizarre expectations of what expectant mothers should and should not do. As a vegetarian, I was chastised routinely during my first pregnancy for not being able to eat 80-100 grams of protein a day, even thought people in the US eat more protein than almost the entire rest of the world, even when we’re not pregnant. My diet is generally healthy and my protein intake is more than enough by the standards of most of the world, but for many months I drove myself mad trying to eat more protein, because what if my baby became somehow ill because of my diet?
This is ridiculous, because a healthy person with a healthy diet who is consuming enough calories is doing all she needs to do, and babies are independent people who rely on their mothers to grow, but are not under the control of their mothers, physically or mentally. I was made to feel guilty over how my baby was growing at the expense of my own happiness and well-being. I can’t believe that stressing pregnant people out over how much they are reading, or how much peanut butter they can consume, can be healthy for a fetus either, and in fact, pregnant friends have commonly mentioned how often well-meaning acquaintances tell them to stay calm for the sake of the baby. Because pregnant people aren’t allowed to feel anything but calm and joyous and blessed, all the time.
All of this is just another way for society to police pregnant bodies. Mothers, women, need to be allowed to be handle their pregnancies in whatever ways make sense to them without being constantly reminded of all of the 1 in 100,000 ways we might do it “wrong.”