I am not one of those women who really ever feels that she has something to prove. This is especially true as a pregnant woman. There are women who want to be that experiment of one, defying physicians’ advice and living off sugar-free gum to ensure that they gain no weight or planning unassisted VBAC twin home-births. When it appears to go ok they litter the blogosphere with testimonials about how stupid the medical community is and how smart they are (and better than everyone else usually).
The problem of course is that even if you aren’t setting out to prove something, and even if your actions don’t seem like they should be especially controversial, the world is there ready to judge your every action and choice as if the world is pregnant right there with you.
This became especially apparent to me when I was researching “backcountry skiing during pregnancy.” I was eventually led to this photo on Facebook, posted by SCARPA, of a professional mountaineer hiking up what doesn’t appear to be an especially gnarly hill (it’s hard to tell from one photo of course). Naturally, she was excoriated by some. Some people seem to believe women shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy (which is contrary to mainstream medical thinking actually) and many people seem to assume that all activity on skis is dangerous. My doctor informed me that the risk involved with downhill skiing is rapid deceleration which can cause the placenta to detach from the uterus. This can occur from a hard fall/collision or people slamming into you on a crowded slope. The baby itself is well cushioned in her fluidy bubble. Thus, a hard fall or collision is risky. A soft “sit down” fall in powder? It’s unimaginable that this would be dangerous. When I fall in powder it’s like sitting down in a chair. (I am a cautious skier anyhow which is part of it). Also, I have already figured out that I can hike uphill on my skis and keep my exertion level reasonable so long as I go slow and steady. And, I don’t really fall down in easy-for-me conditions (even with my growing belly). (Getting up all fat and stuff might be another issue, but I doubt I will lay in the powder forever like an upside down bug).
Last night at a dinner party with neighbors and friends, most of whom are avid outdoors people, I sort of mentioned that I think mellow backcountry touring is totally fine so long as it’s comfortable. One person, a professional (male) guide, started telling me about a story in the New Yorker about a woman who decided to travel solo to Mongolia and had a premature stillbirth. Of course, only after coaxing did he agree that she had been told by her doctors that it was a placenta issue that had nothing to do with her travels — he initially presented this story as just “too many stresses at once.” It was clearly intended to be a cautionary tale about thinking for yourself and taking “risks.”
What constitutes a risk is obviously relative. Nonetheless, it is clear that people still believe all pregnant women, regardless of experience level and common-sense, should be limited to light mall walking. Certainly, inactive women who become pregnant are not advised to begin intense exercise programs. But women are told by their doctors (or I was) to keep doing what I was doing before pregnancy and listen to my body. I admit I was unequivocally told not to downhill ski on the ski hill except for *maybe* runs where I was surrounded by small children with hula-hoops. Cross-country skiing is ok — and easy backcountry skiing is basically glorified cross-country skiing except I have fat skis with edges, which is far easier than XC skiing. (I avoid major avalanche danger anyhow so that is not different for me during pregnancy).
I admit I am normally a bit of a Facebook whore and post lots of gloaty “look at how awesome my life is” pictures when I do fun stuff. I have not done so the past couple of weekends skiing because I am worried about people’s reactions. Of course, I don’t know for certain that I will be raked over the coals by my Facebook friends, many of whom have no idea that pregnant women are advised not to downhill ski and have never been pregnant. And perhaps I should do this to see whether I actually experience any backlash. It’s silly that I should even have to worry about whether the masses approve of my “risky” choices. I suspect this is just the beginning of a lifetime of judgments and disapproval and I should probably just get used to it.
The bottom line is, as a non-average-couch-potato-pregnant chick, pregnancy is tough and much like evaluating the fun factor v. avy danger while skiing, self-interest can cloud judgment and one must always be aware of this. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean I should be relegated to mall walking and doesn’t mean I am incapable of doing things that some others might think is unsafe. Particularly when these others have never done the activity and don’t really know what the dangers are. It’s frustrating to suddenly become a ward of the idiot masses who believe all of my decisions should be made as a group.