This International Women’s Day: Can We Respect Pregnant Women Just a Teensy Bit More?

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 Heirsthen 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.

That.

Would.

Never.

Happen.

In.

Jamaica.

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
  • California
  • 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.

Unwanted Pregnancies

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.

In Jamaica’s instance, I will give a half-pass on their stubbornness. Here’s why. Jamaica invests a lot of time, effort and money on sex education. And, according to a Stanford study, it’s working.

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.

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37 thoughts on “This International Women’s Day: Can We Respect Pregnant Women Just a Teensy Bit More?

  1. An interesting bit of irony about the absentee nature of fathers in Jamaica and Jamaican men being chivalrous enough to insist that a pregnant woman be helped before them. Ironic or not, I think that this is exactly the courtesy we should offer each other. Heck, I think we should just be more aware and intentionally kind to each other, pregnancies notwithstanding! Good read, thanks for the insights.

    1. It is indeed an interesting bit of irony. Motherhood is a cherished role in Jamaica. Fatherhood, not so much. My generation is a lot better with that, but our fathers and beyond were pretty bad about it.

      I do agree that that level of kindness should extend to everyone. Maybe one day America will focus a little more on restrengthening it’s community values. I’m sure there are areas in the country where that’s still going strong. 🙂

  2. The lack of social welfare in America never ceases to amaze me. As an European, I am used to good free on delivery medical care (all workers pay towards it, being automatically taken out of their pay packet every month proportionate to their salary), have paid maternity leave, paid holidays and sickness absence and pensions when we retire. I simply assumed every civilised country in the world since WW2 had this. As for waiting in queues at supermarkets, many here have special tills giving priority to pregnant women and disabled people. I am sorry about your sister’s plight: utterly shameful!

    1. She’s mom’s little sister actually. I’m an only child. However, we’re literally months apart, so she was never really raised as my aunt. She was born in August 1989 and I was born in October 1989. I stole the auntie title for her son to match, haha.

      That said, I was very surprised to find that out when I moved here. I assumed the same as you. What I found is that there are no mandated sick days either. In Jamaica, we have laws for those. There are also no laws in place for vacation time as far as I know. I actually got more vacation time working less hours in Jamaica, than I did here working more. That’s one of the reasons I wasn’t too interested in keeping a steady job here. Better to focus on my business and that’s been going great so far!

  3. This is an important topic and you have expressed the concerns very well. Thank you.

    The transit systems in the SF Bay area include pregnant women in the images for people who can use the reserved seating. I was recently on the rapid transit and it was only when I was about to leave that I noticed one of the people standing was a pregnant woman. I felt really guilty about not giving her my seat!

    1. Thank you for reading! I’m glad we can agree that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. I’m sorry you didn’t see her sooner as well, but you weren’t the only one there. Did no one see her standing at all? I refuse to believe that. Someone saw and turned a blind eye. I can’t believe people sometimes! 🙄

      1. I mean, we don’t even have to presume. Just ask. Would you like my seat? Something!

  4. Generally I did not have a good experience being pregnant here in Australia. Perhaps it was at least partially because I did not show very much.
    However one day one lovely older guy did start yelling at everybody for pushing in front of me as I stood there pregnant with a child in a push chair. In general my experience was once I was pregnant, I almost ceased to exist as an individual. I actually nearly died after the birth of my second child. Perhaps it has changed now but my view was that post natal care of women was a huge problem area. In fact I believe an awful lot of areas would be improved, were women to be given more support following the birth of a child. Supporting a mother is one of the best ways of supporting children. I was on a bus one day and saw a heavily pregnant woman really struggling. I looked at her ankles and became extremely concerned. I screwed up my courage and encouraged her to talk to her doctor. I think she was grateful somebody cared about her as an individual. Sure enough the next time I saw her, she looked so much better and told me there had indeed been a problem.

    1. I’m very surprised to hear that about Australia! I liked to think they were a little better about treating women right. I hope things have indeed changed.

      In Jamaica, it is the opposite. Pregnancy makes you conspicuous! Even women will step in to help however they can, probably because they understand.

      1. It was the maternal after care, I felt was lacking. I also reached out to others with lively youngsters. My own son was very lively as a toddler. He kept me on my toes. I try to support mothers who seem to have their hands full-been there, done that, dealt with the disapproving looks.
        Others sat there with their beautifully turned out babies on their baby mats, whilst I had to keep fishing my son out of the dog bowl.
        We need to support each other as mothers rather than judge. Each child is different. He is at university now and we laugh about it, but at the time he was challenging. I often exchange sympathetic looks with mothers who are struggling.

      2. Well, when it comes to aftercare, people will only interfere in Jamaica in certain places. We generally believe it’s a parent’s job to discipline their child and will hold them responsible if the child misbehaves. Back in the day, the community would indeed step in to help. However, these days, I think we realise that people now raise their kids differently and probably don’t want us interfering, so we let them handle it.

        I was a well-behaved child, but was not always beautifully turned out 😆 Mom would dress me up in a sweet little dress and I would go ride my bike and come home tattered and covered in dirt. I also annoyed everyone by asking why indefinitely. It wasn’t meant to be rude. I was genuinely curious, but I never seemed to know when to stop. I also sneaked away from home quite a bit when my parents were sleeping. I would put my teddies in the pram and go for a stroll 😅 Funny enough though, I never sneaked out as a teen. Mom says I was an easy kid to raise with few if any problems.

        One of the reasons I don’t want kids is that I might not get that for myself. My husband, for instance, grew up without rules and discipline, got into loads of trouble, experimented with drugs, and his mom still spoils him. If I ever ended up with a kid like that, I would pack my things and go right out the door. I’ve told him that too. He didn’t like that 😂

      3. I’ve raised my parents’ more than a few times. However, I have the reputation in the family for being the free spirited black sheep, so no one is really surprised by anything I do anymore. 😂 And, because it almost always works out (there was one exception) no one really doubts me very much.

  5. Congratulations on becoming an aunt! How sweet! It’s very interesting to read about how pregnant women are treated so differently depending on the location. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for reading, Michelle! I’m glad I could share a little of my culture with you. 🙃

  6. I remember exercising next to a Canadian woman who was on her paid year long maternity leave. Here they take infants at 6 weeks into day care and insist that moms go back to work. The only time cherished by conservatives is the carrying the child inside. Once she is out, there is no support at all.

  7. In the US, it starts with immigration. Not even the supervisors will call a pregnant woman up front. Same behavior if you travel with little children. How about my daughter in law getting stuck in immigration line on Florida for 4 hour, being pregnant and with a toddler who was more than annoyed waiting in line, squeezed in with so many people. Not one person let her come upfront and the supervisors, both women, were just looking through her as if she didn’t exist. She came out of customs at midnight!

    On the other topic, I am one of your fierce pro life friends who speak from own experience that abortion is no solution to a problem pregnancy but just adds on other heartbreaking issues. Btw., free will? Hmm… a good number of statistics say some 80-84% of women abort although they don’t want to. They abort because they are being coerced, harassed, and even forced to abort. Run-away fathers, embarrassed parents, “good” friends, abusers, doctors who make money off her…often press a woman to do it. And then, when she suffers post abortion trauma problems she’s been told to “get over it” and leave her alone to deal with her pain. You think it’s just a fairy tale? It’s not. I counsel them and the stories I could tell you would fill your eyes with bitter tears.

    So, from my hearts, congrats to the birth of your heir and to his parents for saying Yes to their baby. May he grow up good and give you lots of great joy.

    Walk good.

    1. In Jamaica, if you are pregnant, the immigration officers working the line may lead you up to the front. I’ve never seen a pregnant woman in the line, but knowing our culture, I would find it hard to believe otherwise. Our immigration is not as stuffy and strict an environment as others, so the officers working the line (not the ones at the desk, but officers who actually check the lines), they have some authority over who goes where.

      I’m sure a lot of women are forced into abortion, just as we are forced into marriage, giving up our careers, and a whole host of other things. That sucks, but that only further works into my point for this post and the one before.

      I don’t believe in abortion because babies should die. I believe in abortions because a woman (not anyone else) should be able to make that choice. Let people make their own choices. Shaming the women who DO get an abortion they wanted or needed, in my opinion, is just as terrible as shaming women who didn’t want one into getting one anyway.

      And thanks for the congrats! I can’t wait to meet him. He’s still in Jamaica. Handsome little guy. 🙃

  8. What a perfectly timed and well written article! And this line, “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.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Hats off to you. 🙂 And woiii, can’t be pregnant anywhere else besides Jamaica apparently! 🇯🇲🇯🇲🤰

    1. Thanks, Rochelle! Looks like I can only be willingly pregnant in Jamaica, yes. Gods forbid the supermarket line is long and I’m hot and nauseous and my feet are swollen and nobody cares. No sah! What is children? *pats empty womb, gleefully* 😆

  9. This is awesome and honestly something I’ve never thought about, since I can’t afford to travel. It’s true we have such a strange culture here about sexuality, promoting it everywhere, but only in very limited ways, and then not wanting to deal with the results. Thanks for the eye-opening post!

    1. I thought it might interest you. Thanks for following up! It never occurred to me how different pregnant women were treated here until that day in Ross, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was a reflection of much bigger issues. And, while Jamaica is much better when it comes to that, we have a lot to fix there as well.

      I hope you do get to travel one day, soon. America is a very singular culture. The more you see of other cultures, the more you’re realise how much that is.

      Thanks again!

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