enjoying the foliage

“Women are not baby machines.”

Posted on: Tuesday, May 6, 2008

At the risk of being accused of going all f*minist on anyone’s hind regions — trigger word that that is — I’m really bothered by the phrase “women of childbearing age” found in all sorts of nutritional and health-related publications.

Just because I’m over 14 and under 45 does not mean I’m going to suddenly squeeze out some squealing progeny at a moment’s notice. Therefore the fact that I’m fertile (to the best of my knowledge) should have no bearing on how much folic acid or any other substance the government or anyone else recommends I consume. I do not give a crap whether I’m getting appropriate levels of this, that and the other thing to have a healthy pregnancy because I’m not going to get pregnant, nor are the majority of people lumped into this arbitrary category. Canada’s population grows only as a result of immigration. That age bracket is completely meaningless as well. It’s certainly possible to have a baby at 10 and at 50, the former in particular in a world with endocrine disruptors and other lovely items floating around in such profusion.

As such, I refuse to be viewed as a special health case, particularly when studies have shown that male intake of folic acid also has a role in foetal and postnatal health, as do numerous other factors including cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. I’ve never read anything telling me not to drink alcohol because it’s physically possible for me to become pregnant, and I don’t see this as being any different. Although it seems that “women of childbearing age” is sometimes used to refer only to those who are planning to become pregnant, it is an irritatingly misleading term. Semantics though this issue may be, words are powerful little things, and the whole thing gives me yet another reason to dislike the Canada Food Guide.

I’m not sick or in need of any special treatment, I’m not having any babies ever if I can help it, and I’d like to be seen as an adult human being, not a potential baby carrier.

Edit – This is not to say that I have anything against children. I am quite fond of them, but do not wish to be unduly associated with them on basis of age and gender.

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5 Responses to "“Women are not baby machines.”"

I’ve probably been saying for the past ten years or so that children don’t appeal to me, but then I catch myself saying things like “Well, when I have kids…” Does that ever happen to you? I was thinking the other day about how uninspiring childhood in suburbia is and decided that my children should grow up by the ocean…but wait…me? Children?

For me the non-kid thing is more recent but pretty consistent. It’s really the whole pregnancy and labour thing I’m looking to avoid, though, more than not wanting any kids at all. I figure if I ever start feeling maternal there are lots of kids who need good homes and who can be obtained through paperwork or kidnapping, avoiding all the blood, guts and weight gain.

I have to agree, though, that growing up in suburbia is probably only slightly better for you psychologically than growing up in a war zone. Boredom, physical isolation, mindless conformity, poor health, lack of community, nature deficiency…? The only thing missing in the full complement of horrible experiences is brutal violence, and even that is not entirely absent.

The ocean is certainly the solution. I plan/hope to live there some day, kids or no. And if it’s any consolation, I think you’d make a fine parent.

The reason that folic acid is recommended for women of childbearing age is that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and folic acid is really only effective if taken during the first four weeks of development, while the neural tube is folding, and also before the majority of women realize they are pregnant. The medical health community would also like to recommend that women of childbearing age do not drink alcohol, however no one is good enough and convincing me not to booze up once in a while (and they know it…). Also the highest incidence of FAS occurs in infants whose mothers drank three or more drinks PER DAY. And I think I have heard the medical community condemn alcoholism once in a while…

The phrase “women of childbearing age” is really only used I think because so many pregnancies ARE unplanned, and teratogens are most likely to affect the baby before the mother knows she is pregnant…it’s more relevant in some studies than in others. But I tend to disregard it as much as you do – why take folic acid if I’m just going to abort the damn thing anyways?

Mostly I think they harp on folic acid because lots of people take vitamins anyways. And we just can’t be convinced to give up smoking, alcohol, or HPV. Those are the all the funnest things!

While I appreciate the concern of the medical community over folic acid-deficient and FAS infants, this does not change the fact that Canada’s birth rate is at an all time low at less than 11 births per 1000. I’m still bothered by terminology foists the concerns on the small minority of mothers-to-be on the other 98% of the female population.

Dark greens, legumes, oranges and whole grains are for everybody, not just pregnant people. The idea of being a “woman of childbearing age” is insulting and repulsive.

I’m trying to find offense in this term, and I usually can if I wrap my head around most feminist issues the right way, but I really can’t here.
I have nothing against the intention behind the term – health for potential mothers and potential babies, or the way it is worded. It doesn’t imply that everyone of that age will or even can bear children, only that this is the age in which childbearing is possible. I think the same would be said of men if their range wasn’t so much greater – it doesn’t really make sense when you can just say “males over the age of 10” and mean pretty much the same thing.
Ideally, I’d like to see children associated equally with both males and females in the literature, but the biological aspects of the process do favour one more than the other.
Not to say that paternal health has no influence on the child, obviously. They’re finding that alcohol consumption on the part of either parent at the time of conception can end up harming the baby. But yeah, the thing is, issues having to do with the mother tend to be more obvious and were studied earlier.

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