Earlier this week, I became an auntie! I was absolutely excited at the prospect, but not for the reasons you may think. If you read my post Heirloom Without Heirs, then you know it is my full intention to be the last of my line. I don’t like or want children, and I don’t believe that will ever change.
So then, why was I excited to be an auntie? Well, naturally as I acquire assets and carve out my own tiny empire in the big world, I have wondered who I should leave it to. This has always been my Dad’s argument for why I will ultimately regret not having children.
Thankfully, this family member (let’s call her Hayley) came to the rescue! She is currently the first and only person in our generation in the family who has a child. That nephew, if he is a good boy—and knowing his mom, he could not be otherwise—will inherit every last penny upon my passing. In short, problem solved!
Pregnant In Atlanta
Hayley still lives in Jamaica, but she has visited Atlanta twice in the past few months. The first time, her pregnancy was barely visible, but on the second round she was swollen to bursting! And goodness, did the baby kick up a storm! I enjoyed rubbing a spot on the left when he was awake so he could play football with my fingers.
However, she hadn’t returned the second time for baby footsy. She also planned on purchasing everything she would need as a new mother up to the first 12 months of her baby’s life. Yes, this momma came well-prepared! Unfortunately, her fiancé was unable to take time off from work to come with, and because I’m the one with the most flexible schedule in the household, it was my job to drive her around.
One day, at her request, I left her at Ross while I worked out at the gym. I was in a rush to get back home to finish up some work, and when I returned, I was horrified to find that not only were there at least 30 people in the line, she was at the end of it.
Now, if you’re American, what I’m about to say next will probably sound strange to you. I can’t speak for any other nation, but I know many Jamaicans are already thinking what I’m thinking. I could not believe that there was a very pregnant woman in the line and there were 30 people in front of her who let her stand there in the back.
Pregnant In Jamaica
I talk a lot about feminism in Jamaica, and best believe, it is alive and well. This is not because men bend over backwards for us. In fact, it is for the exact opposite reason. Sociologists have a very fancy term for it called “the marginalisation of men”. However, what has actually happened in Jamaica for centuries is that many Jamaican men are absentee fathers, causing most families to be led by women.
Even so, and there is no shortage of irony in this, Jamaican men will bend over backwards for a pregnant woman. If Hayley had been in a store in Jamaica in her condition, one of the workers would have opened up a new line specifically to take her, even if they could not serve anyone else. If the workers did not notice her, then customers in the line would have called her to the front.
If a Jamaican man was present, even if he did not know her, he would say something like, “Come baby mother! Come up front!” She would have been served and sent on her way, and not a soul would grumble to themselves about it. I have, on several occasions in Jamaica, stepped aside to let a pregnant woman go ahead of me in a line, or enter public transportation ahead of me.
It’s not something that we think about, or deliberate about, or do to be a good person—it is a cultural expectation, so much so that I have never seen a pregnant woman initiate that special treatment on her own. She already knows it’s coming, and if it doesn’t, rest assured that men and women alike will give a sound verbal thrashing to the person who failed to assist her.
Now, I can’t speak for everywhere in America. But, it does appear to me that Atlanta didn’t get this memo.
Pregnant In America
In fact, being pregnant in America seems like a terrifying experience for a number of reasons, so does being a mother. As the youngest of a line of a 200-year-old matriarchy, I am always appalled by toxic levels of patriarchy in America.
I see headlines of women being shamed for breastfeeding their newborns in public spaces, even if they put a cloth over their exposed breast. Women are afraid to even tell their bosses that they are pregnant, because they believe this will reflect poorly on their commitment to their careers.
However, one of the most heartbreaking things I see is the struggle to get proper paid maternity leave. Did you know that America is one of very few countries in the world that does not have laws in place for paid maternity leave? According to the National Conference of State Legislature, there are only four states who took the extra step to offer paid maternity leave themselves:
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
- New York
Are you curious to know what the maternity leave provisions are in Jamaica? By law, a company must provide a mother with 8 weeks of paid maternity leave, as well as an additional 4 weeks of unpaid maternity leave if she wants it. She may even get an additional 12 weeks to this, if a doctor has recommended it.
However, many companies have much better benefits in place. For example, Hayley’s fiancé will also be getting paternity leave, so that he can be at home with her and the baby, even though they are not yet married.
One area in which both Jamaica and America have plenty of room for improvement is abortion laws. If you are pro-life, then feel free to close the web page and carry on with your day. However, for the rest of us, I do believe a woman has the right to decide whether or not she should give birth to a child.
I think my first introduction to sex ed in the school system was around 4th or 5th grade, but could have been as early as 3rd. We covered topics on reproduction in science, as well as had speakers come in to discuss STDs. There were also flyers up in just about every classroom with information on STDs and why condom use was recommended.
In addition to this, we were accustomed to seeing billboards all across the country aimed at sex ed. Through them, I knew what a condom was by about 2nd grade and what it was for, though I didn’t understand the concept of sex and what it was. From 7th to 11th grade, sex ed was a mandatory inclusion in my curriculum, and this was despite attending one of the best Catholic schools on the island.
Accessing birth control in Jamaica is also not only easy, but it can be free. I walked into a pharmacy at 14 years old, if not younger, to purchase condoms and birth control pills for one girl who was too embarrassed to do so. She needed them for that sex ed class, but was worried the pharmacists would think she was sexually active. The pharmacists didn’t even bat an eyelash at me. You can also receive condoms and birth control pills for free from clinics.
By 15, I had so many condoms in my home from youth events that Hayley and I would fill them up with water and chase each other around the house. With this level of commitment to thorough sex education and easy access to birth control, I can say that at least Jamaica does everything in its power to make an unwanted pregnancy unlikely to result from an inability for women to access what they need. Even so, I still believe giving birth should be a woman’s decision.
What’s worse, most areas in America can not make Jamaica’s claims. When I talk to millenials my age here, none of them received sex education besides being told to abstain or being shown graphic images of diseased genitalia. Scare tactics like that don’t work, and so many people shuffle their way awkwardly through trial and error sex ed and err along the way.
Also, there is no 100 percent foolproof way to avoid pregnancy beyond abstaining. I know a lot of people who got pregnant while on birth control. Most times, this was because they had not taken the pill on time. But, there were some who did. I also know of two instances where the woman took the morning after pill and still became pregnant.
You may disagree with me, but I believe a child unborn is better than a child unwanted. Tell me all you like about families who are looking for children to adopt. Do you see how many children are still in orphanages all across the country? Talk to them. Ask them what it’s like to grow up in foster care. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
And so, while we are in the habit of respecting pregnant women just a teensy bit more, I do believe one aspect of that is letting them choose not to be pregnant anymore. If you’re preparing to come at me with the religious line of argument, I have one question for you, before you do:
If Your Almighty God gave us all free will, then with all due respect, who the hell are you to take it away?
If you don’t believe in having an abortion, then don’t have one. Let other women choose their own path, even if it leads them to a hell they may not even believe in.
Oh, and the next time you see a pregnant woman in a long queue, please channel your inner Jamaican and give her your spot in the line. Maybe if pregnant women were treated better, more of them would enter into motherhood with a willing heart.
Happy International Women’s Day! I hope I’ve given you food for thought. Feel free to rant away in the comments below.