Yesterday, I went on a hike in Mt. Rainier National Park. It was awesome and beautiful and I had a great time. It was also 10 miles long.
Last week, I went on a hike up Tiger Mountain. It was awesome and the view from the top was breathtaking and I had a great time. It was 9.5 miles long.
I am currently 30 weeks pregnant (out of 40. Don't worry; I didn't expect you to already know that. I only knew women were supposed to be pregnant for nine months but had no idea how many weeks that was, so whenever someone would be like "I'm 15 weeks!" that meant nothing whatsoever to me).
Here's what I looked like at the top of Tiger Mountain, in my maternity support back strap:
Yeah, I look like shit. It's because I just climbed a bloody mountain.
And here's the much-improved version of the view without me in it:
A funny thing happens when I do these hikes, though: I get treated like I'm some kind of hero, both by people I know and by strangers on the trail. They seriously act like I'm overcoming some kind of monstrous disability by walking up a well-marked trail to the top of a mountain. "Wow, I can't believe you're still out here on trail!" they say. "My goodness, when are you due??! AMAZING! You're making the rest of us look like slouches!!" I appreciate the compliments and all, but at the same time, I kind of have a problem with them. And here's why:
Being pregnant has not been hard on me. I am not struggling and I am not suffering. So why on earth is the bar set so ungodly low in terms of what is expected from me?
Now, some women truly suffer while they're pregnant. They spend the first five months puking and the last four months in unbearable pain from sciatica and stretching ligaments and what-have-you. If those women got out there and climbed Tiger Mountain, I'd be really seriously impressed. Those women really are heroes.
But many other women, myself included, don't particularly suffer at all. The only issues we suffer are the same issues anyone might experience with a fairly rapid weight gain -- sore feet, some lower back pain, and maybe getting tired/winded more easily. That's it.
Now, the back discomfort and sore feet can be no joke, and falling down could be a tragic disaster, so I definitely still expect able-bodied people to give me their seats on trains and buses. But other than that, I am not in any way disabled. Pregnancy is not an illness. My body is doing what it was built to do, and it is doing the hell out of it. So why are people so surprised to find that an extremely active person would continue to be active for as long as possible during pregnancy? Why is going on a day hike so impressive to people? How is my accomplishment any more impressive than the six other people who went out on the hike with me, all at different points in life and fitness level?
I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's all relative and we need to remember that. If someone is having a hard time with their body, for any reason, then you can be impressed when they overcome their difficulties and do something amazing. But if someone is having no troubles at all, then don't lower your expectations so much.
Because low expectations come with a cost: so many women convince themselves that it's okay to be lazy and to eat whatever they want and to get all super fat while they're pregnant, because they've spent too much time listening to all the people telling them that pregnancy is very hard and they should be impressed with themselves if they just make it through at all.
And for some people, that is absolutely 100% true. I can't imagine feeling ill for months straight. I'm so lucky that didn't happen to me. Seriously -- to the women who puked and hurt and felt dumpy the whole time, you are awesome just for surviving it.
But for the women who aren't suffering, stop letting yourselves off the hook. You're not broken. You're just getting bigger. A new pair of jelly insoles in your shoes and a maternity support back strap and you'll be just as strong as you were before there was a baby in you.
The more times we remind people that we're not broken, the more people will stop thinking of us that way. Someone once told me that I should avoid discussing anything related to my pregnancy while at work, because the men who work above me might start to see me differently -- as something weaker, more fragile, less capable. A lesser employee in general. To those men, I have only this to say:
When's the last time your fat f**king ass hiked 10 miles?
That's how I do feminism. By climbing mountains even though I'm -- *gasp* -- pregnant.
From the bottom ...
And from the top.