When I was thinking about becoming pregnant and when I actually became pregnant I wanted so badly to be a part of this mystical female realm known as motherhood: a group that understood what it meant to really be in this world with mind, body, and soul. I was excited to be a part of the fuss I read about and saw in movies. I was excited to be communal and feminine in a whole new way.
I ventured into this new community and have found some comradarie, but mostly what I found was a whole new group of people to judge me, in the harshest ways, and with very little need for introduction. To be clear, I am sometimes guilty of these same moments or comments. I do not dive into this topic because I am a saint. However, I am curious what drives the decision for a community of people as amazing and strong and powerful as mothers to direct so much of that energy into this particular manifestation that I have lovingly termed “vagism.”
Vagism starts from day one of pregnancy and it is almost as if one earns points or a merit badge for the right answer to fellow-mom inquiry. The measurements of worth are as follows:
How long did it take you to get pregnant? Less than 6 months=2 points
How much weight have you gained? 0 points no matter what you answer–it will either not be enough for the recipient or will be too much
How are you feeling (which is really doublespeak for “How often are you vomitous?”) 4 points if you couldn’t keep a cracker down, 2 if you puke on a regimine, 0 ladies, if you barely even realize you are pregnant
Labor and Delivery:
How long did you labor for? (1 point per hour)
Did you have an epidural? (4 points if you suffered/braved without one)
Did you deliver vaginally or c-section? (4 points for the va-j-j,0 for the c-section)
*add 2 points for any fun extras such as: pooping during delivery, episiotomy, vacuum, flirting with the anesthesiologist, swearing at nurses, husband passing out
How long did/are you breast-feeding? (o points for no breast-feeding, 1 point if you make it to three months, 1 point more for each additional month, 5 points if you make it until your kid has teeth)
Immunizations/Circumcision: 2 points for yes, 0 points for no
How much of the baby weight have you lost? Again, a trick: 0 points no matter what the answer
Are you getting any sleep? No in the range of only 2-4 hours a night=3 points, 4-6 hours=2 points, anything more than that is nada
Okay so you get the drift. I am sure every woman reading this could add more criteria based on their region, their religious views and cultural heritage, etc. The amazing thing about vagism is that anyone can be a perpetrator against you–perfectly strange women in a parking lot can see you and your child on a winter day and make a passive-aggressive comment about bundling up your baby so they don’t catch their death. I have never been made to feel worse about myself by other women than in the process of pregnancy and motherhood.
WTF Women? Why are we our own worst enemy here?
My first answer has to be fear. Almost any “ism” in this world is connected to fear at its core. There is so much at stake in motherhood: we are 50% and in some cases 100% responsible for not only the survival of this little mini-me, but its development into a socially acceptable human being. The Future literally rests in our ability to deliver results.
This is where I think, in some strange and sick manner, we all feel obligated to correct the “wrongs” we may see in our sister-moms. It is our communal responsibility to make sure that every mother does right by her child. It is our worst fear that we ourselves become bad mothers. Living under this kind of pressure is how we connect: we commiserate on our labors, and our challenges. We coach expectant mothers. We bond over our bellies, and sometimes we say things without thinking directly of the person we are saying them to. In this way vagism seems to come from a place of extreme love and caring–it’s like rubbing your nipples with a washcloth to toughen them up for breastfeeding. Perhaps women are just toughening each other up for the road ahead.