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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The pregnant woman as public property

Marathon runner Amber Miller gave birth within hours of
finishing the Chicago Marathon. The way people criticize
her, you'd think she gave birth along the way and kept
running with the baby still attached or something.
Photo credit: Griska Niewiadomski.
I was all set to finish my series of posts on vaccines when this story grabbed my attention: marathon runner Amber Miller gave birth to her second child within hours of finishing the Chicago Marathon. Pardon my ADD postings, but reading about this amazing lady was just awesome! Until I got to the comments section, that is.

Of course - whenever there's a story in the news about a pregnant woman doing something, there are sure to be a plethora of stupid ass comments to follow. Remember when a pregnant lady walked into a bar?... almost sounds like a bad joke. Unfortunately, it wasn't: back in January, a story hit the news about a woman who was eight months pregnant walking into a bar with friends. She had flown into town for her baby shower, and her friends convinced her to go out for a few hours with them.
But her effort at late-night fun lasted a whopping 15 minutes. No sooner than Lee had arrived, a bouncer at the the Coach House Restaurant told her she had to leave; no pregnant women allowed.
Too bad she wasn't drinking anything stronger than water. She was seen at the bar with a friend who was doing shots. Perhaps she was keeping track for her, who knows. Whatever the case, even though law enforcement said there is "no reason" she should have been asked to leave the bar, the bouncer escorted her out.

I'm sure the bar is concerned about rowdy patrons and bar fights like you see in the movies. However, one can easily surmise that they would do the same thing they did to this woman: ask the offending patrons to leave the restaurant. And no where in the article does it mention anything about a scuffle, flying beer mugs or overturned tables. Really, though - if that kind of thing were going on while this woman was inside, don't you think she'd do what most reasonable pregnant women would? She'd leave the area. It's not like she's going to body slam someone and join in.

The woman did not partake of any alcoholic beverages, and it can be assumed that just like everywhere else, there is no public smoking in restaurants in the state of Illinois, where this took place. And even if she had a glass of wine - which is, according to some, okay for a pregnant woman - who are they to decide for her whether she is using good judgment or not? Since when does that give strangers the right to police our actions once it's obvious we are pregnant? What are you going to do - give every woman of childbearing age a pregnancy test before she enters the bar area, just in case?

Just like in Amber Miller's case, there is a familiar pattern here: treating the pregnant woman like public property, as if she is incapable of making decisions for herself and her unborn child.

It seems like once you are visibly pregnant, people feel the need to comment endlessly on your condition, touch your belly, and step in and make decisions on your behalf. I'm not sure what it is about pregnancy that makes perfect strangers feel the need to treat us like helpless idiots who have no brains, feelings or an original thought of our own.

Several years ago (before the days of officially no smoking inside public buildings) I worked in a pharmacy with a pregnant woman. Our boss would sit behind a partition during his breaks and smoke. Somehow I don't remember the smoke being that bad, but at least one customer felt the need to comment curtly on how she didn't think pregnant women should smoke. While now I think our boss should have had the courtesy to go outside and do it, Tara didn't seem to mind and just gave that customer a sweet "Go screw yourself" smile and moved on. (Tara also worked her last shift before maternity leave all while having contractions, and when her shift ended she calmly proclaimed, "Okay, I'm going to the hospital now to have the baby. See you in a few weeks." Wow, that's my kind of woman. I think she had the baby less than an hour after getting there, with no epidural.)

Amber was, according to several articles, in excellent physical condition - she'd have to be, in order to run a marathon only ten months after her first child was born. People called her stupid and selfish, and some suggested that her baby should be taken away by child protective services! Many questioned the authority of her doctor for even giving her permission to run it in the first place.  Of course, if she had done it without his permission, they would have raked her over the coals just the same. Amber walked and ran the race, so I'm sure she realized her obvious limitations and didn't try to push herself. It's not like she was in a dead sprint the entire time. Some use foul language and call her names - you'd think she was doing crystal meth on the sidelines or something.

The pervasive myths about pregnancy continue, as usual: that a woman is in a "delicate condition" and must be treated like a piece of glass about to shatter. I'd love to talk to Amber and see how her labor went - she apparently gave birth little more than two hours after getting to the hospital (before stopping on her way to get a sandwich, though). I don't know what her philosophy on birth is, but I'd say she did everything right: kept herself in great physical shape, remained upright and moving and ate while in labor - all of which can help speed up labor and make delivery easier. The comments that demonize her are based in the ignorance that a laboring woman needs to be shackled to the bed with continuous monitoring, tubes and wires - not have the audacity to keep moving, and even (gasp!) eat a sandwich. When the only thing you know about pregnancy and birth comes from "A Baby Story" it's not a wonder the comments she received were so inane.

Amber, I want to tell you that you did everything right and congratulations on your baby and your marathon! I can't wait to read about then next one. :)

More reading:
Photo finish: Woman gives birth after running (and walking) marathon -
Woman gives birth after running Chicago Marathon - CBS News
Woman gives birth after running Chicago Marathon - Chicago Sun-Times


The Deranged Housewife said...

Other reports I've read said she gave birth seven hours after the race, not two. She did get an epidural, for those who are wondering, because she felt she was too exhausted at that point, which is understandable!

Sara said...

I actually don't think that running a marathon while pregnant is a good idea...but it's probably not as dangerous as other things that women do during pregnancy.
I did work out throughout my pregnancy with weights and cardio, and got some flack from my more traditionally-minded family about that, but of course we know that exercise is healthy for mom and baby.
A marathon...that's a little different, in my opinion, but as you say, she was healthy and had a healthy baby, so why should people care? I actually think of epidurals in general as more dangerous than running while pregnant! lol.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I think for her, marathons sound like a way of life - more than just your typical working out three times a week. Running a marathon in general doesn't sound like fun to me, but hey - it's what she's used to, so more power to her. She said she walked two, ran two miles, so who knows. I just find the overwhelmingly nasty comments about her - and parading her before the court of public opinion as if she beat her children and left them at the side of the road for dead - to be nauseating. People can be so awful.

Ethel said...

Until we get the whole world to acknowledge that a woman who happens to be pregnant is only one person this will not change, there is only one until there is two. It is the same thought that leads to forced c-sections and forced carrying of pregnancies, someday women will just be women instead of other.

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't really care if she ran a marathon before giving birth or not. More power to her. BUT - imagine for a second that she had run a marathon, and then something bad had happened..... whether or not it was related to the marathon. A stillbirth for reasons unknown (75% of stillbirths have no known cause), for example. Would there be outrage that she had run the marathon - put her child at risk for her own desires? Would there be outrage that her doctor had 'given her permission' to run - he should have known better, right? Probably not... because unfortunately, talking about stillbirth or infant/fetal death is taboo... so it probably wouldn't have made the news at all in that case.....

Blogger said...

Sprinter - ChokeLine (170BPM)