Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

A woman's work

By Cristy Clark - posted Monday, 15 January 2007

For quite a while now I have been struggling with the implications of my pregnancy - wondering what it will mean (and already does mean) for my identity, for my future choices, for my body and for my relationships.

Now a number of posts, particularly a few recent ones from Ampersand Duck and Pavlov's Cat (and also a post and comments thread over at Crazybrave), have prompted me to post about these issues.

I have to admit to having been shocked to the core by the impact of pregnancy on my body. I never understood that feeling “fatigued” would involve falling daily into a deep black pit of exhaustion, or that the addition of the word “morning” to sickness was such a cruel joke.


Despite years of experience with (admittedly fairly mild) PMS, I also had no real understanding of the power of hormones to influence my outlook. Instead of the pure joy that I had anticipated, I felt sick with worry and doubts about the pregnancy; about my capacity to be a mother; to endure the loss of sleep; to successfully breastfeed; and to keep our child safe - none of which were assisted by feeling as though we couldn’t share the news with anyone except our closest family members.

My brain was taken over by thoughts of how to deal with every possible problem and with my evident lack of capacity to cope as well as I had expected. My self-confidence plummeted as I realised that I was not glowing with prenatal health, but rather was a wreck who needed to sleep all day and could only stomach vegemite saladas.

Fortunately, the second and third trimesters have been a lot easier on my body - my blood pressure is stupidly low and so I get faint very easily, but my energy levels are much better and my appetite has returned. I also feel a lot clearer and happier about the pregnancy. The first ultrasound and the first little kicks did fill me with the excitement that I had expected earlier, and suddenly everything did feel OK again.

However, I am still trying to come to terms with the inevitable impacts of this choice on my life. My PhD is just starting to really come together, and I will have to set it aside and will never again have the freedom to come back to it with my full undivided attention. Future career decisions and relocations will also have an added dimension that I do not resent, but am aware of nonetheless.

The real issue for me, however, is identity.

For all the real gains that we have made as women over the past decades, there is nothing like motherhood to bring the full force of society’s sexism down upon you.


Issues that I have been able to side-step previously, will become harder to avoid and I don’t feel like having the battles that this may provoke. I am not interested in being defined solely as a “mother”, regardless of how much I know that I will love my child and cherish our relationship. No man is ever threatened with being reduced to the single identity of “father”. Their personal qualities, career ambitions, and autonomous hopes and dreams are rarely taken away from them just because they chose to breed.

I want to make it clear that I do not see this as a failure of feminism - as I know that this has been the belief of some. Instead, I see this of an indication of how far we have to go. The role of mother is still naturalised in a way that thoroughly devalues it - most particularly by those who claim to be upholding traditional family values.

Because breeding is defined as a natural act (which it is, but bare with me here), women are expected to blossom in pregnancy, or to at least be stoic when they don’t. Their sacrifices - physical, emotional, career - are also continually undervalued. Men who take time off work to care for their young children are glorified as heroes, while women are placed in a no-win situation where we will be criticised by some for returning too early and by others for neglecting our careers for too long.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in Two peas no pod on December 11, 2006. It is republished as part of "Best Blogs of 2006" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo, and edited by Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen et al.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

127 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Cristy Clark is a PhD fellow, who works in the area of human rights law and water. She has a professional and academic background in both law and development. She lives in Canberra and is expecting her first child in March. Cristy has been blogging since 2004 on Two peas, no pod

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 127 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy