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Prenatal intensive mothering can be a problem.

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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.”

Read Tae-gyo: Prenatal intensive mothering in South Korea at Sociological Images

“Adopting A Buddhist Ritual To Mourn Miscarriage, Abortion” at NPR

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I’ve talked before about how common miscarriage really is compared to how often it’s talked about in American society. Something like 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and with today’s early pregnancy tests, more people who would have just thought they were having a late period are dealing with the emotional fallout of miscarriage, too. Since we as a society don’t talk openly about miscarriage and pregnancy loss, many people feel confused about how to handle their (sometimes complex) feelings around a lost pregnancy.

Last month, I saw this article over at NPR about a traditional Japanese Buddhist ceremony specifically for families dealing with a pregnancy loss. The fact that rituals around this life event exist in other countries, but not here in the U.S., just points more directly to the idea that we need to acknowledge this issue more openly. The article addresses the fact that many Americans are adopting this Buddhist ceremony to help them process their losses, and I am relieved that some people have found this option as a resource toward healing.

What I would really love, though, would be to live in a United States so open about these difficult issues that we had developed uniquely American rituals and processes for supporting grieving families through miscarriages and stillbirths. The first step toward that future is talking about this stuff!

Read the article: “Adopting A Buddhist Ritual To Mourn Miscarriage, Abortion” at NPR

Link: “Mom Body” by Rebecca Roher

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So many of us don’t think very much about how pregnancy and birth work until we’re going through it ourselves. And pregnancy is so weird! You can describe it as a beautiful, miraculous process all you want, and it is, but it’s also a process full of discomfort. From the physical pain of your internal organs getting shoved around to the psychological discomfort of suddenly living in a body that looks different every day, pregnancy is bizarre and challenging work.

Huffington post has done a profile on a comic by cartoonist Rebecca Roher, created when one of her close friends was pregnant and birthed her first child. The cartoon highlights a lot of the strangeness of being pregnant, most of which you don’t usually encounter in popular culture. This is stuff I wish more people knew about. If you’re curious about what pregnant people are going through or the real experience of being pregnant, birthing, and suddenly being a parent (at least for some of us), I highly recommend you read it!
The entire cartoon is at GUTS here: Mom Body by Rebecca Roher

And the article on Huffington Post that I saw is here: ‘Mom Body’ Comic Nails The Emotional Exhaustion (And Eventual Joy) Of Pregnancy by Caroline Bologna