Sunday, June 6, 2010

The difference a word can make-

In the English language we have all sorts of words- slang, everyday speech, medical jargon, heck American English has words that are German, French, Spanish, etc... Then there's the problem with how words don't always mean what they say. What a word means to me, may mean something different to you.

There's something that's been bothering me a lot lately (with no small help, I'm sure, from viewing sister-in-law's FB page) But I want to tell you about how I personally view the many terms for pregnancy. And then to explain why, since it's not that I'm an anal language bitch. Seriously, I mean I do come off that way at times (I was an English major) but I swear to you I'm not that rigid. I know the rules, and I break them constantly because our language is constantly evolving- that's the beauty of it. But I do have a problem with a few choice terms, as it relates to fertility.

Mainly- I shudder and cringe every time I hear, or see someone type, the terms preggo or preggers. At first I thought it was because I was being overly anal about it, that I thought the people were ignorant and not bothering with typing the full word.

But then I realized that these aren't abbreviations, and that's not what my real problem with these words is- my real issue is that using these cutesy terms is a way of empowering the ideal that pregnancy is common and nothing goes wrong. Just like saying someone is expecting- they are misleading. If I get pregnant I'm not expecting much. Another miscarriage? The term is totally inappropriate for me, and for anyone pregnant really. Just as preggo or preggers would be.

This conclusion, for me, comes from my solid standing now that there is nothing cute or ideal about pregnancy- it is a medical condition that many seek (or try to avoid) and things can go wrong, just like with any medical condition. By calling it cutesy names it seems to deflate it's seriousness.

And maybe that's what some people would prefer. I don't. I know that women die in pregnancy and childbirth, I know that babies die, I know that pregnancy could go wrong- there's nothing cute about it for me. By sticking these terms on it are we trying to reassure ourselves, or others? By taking away it's heavy significance, are we trying to make it more accessible?

But at what cost? People love hearing happy pregnancy stories, but you bring up the one that almost went totally wrong- or gods forbid the one that did go wrong- and suddenly everyone doesn't know what to say, and they certainly don't want to hear it. So many women complain about pregnancy books and how they are too scary, so they don't read them. We shelter pregnant women a lot in our society- we keep the curtains closed on the secret grief of those of us that have lost something to the journey (whether it be woman, child, hope, desire). We chose our words carefully, we lock in on their joy and hope it's enough for them not to see the immense knowledge that grief brings.

Still, they're are just words.
But mere words hold power.

I don't want anyone to know that pregnancy can go wrong, I want to shelter them and protect them. I don't want them to know that sometimes lives are lost- but sometimes they are. Sometimes I want to shake these naive women by the shoulders and ask them what the hell their problem is- but I don't want to take that away from them. If they don't know, I don't want to be the one to tell them. And maybe they do know, but they have to- need to- believe that everything is going to be alright.

Typically I say nothing at all.

But by doing this, aren't I as guilty as the ones who use these cute little terms for such a serious condition? By sheltering them too, just in a different way? I chose silence, they chose light terms to alleviate the mood. We are both guilty.

But unless there's a reason to, I don't remind them of what I've been through. Unless there's a reason to, I don't remind them of what happened to my niece. I've learned not to- just as other women learned to use those terms to alleviate the seriousness of pregnancy.

But the result is this- those families that live through their world being turned upside down, pregnancy gone wrong, feel even more alone. Even more isolated. The suffer all the harder for it because we chose to live with illusions instead of the hard truths. Because we chose to sweep it under the rug, only hoping for the best instead of preparing for the worst.

Maybe things need to change- maybe we need to stop sweeping all the sorrows in the world under the rug. Maybe we need to stop shying away from sadness, stop telling people to get over things- grief isn't meant to be annihilated, it's meant to be worked through. But what kind of message are we sending when we don't allow people to hold an open house for their grief, when we keep it behind closed doors? When we giggle and say someone is preggers, and then one day they are not anymore because something went wrong- and society pretends it never happened.

Like I said- I have no clear answers here. I just find myself annoyed with the way things are, and how they are not. Some days I can brush it off, but then sometimes I get to analyzing the intricate maze that is grief- and the temporary state that is pregnancy- and I wonder why we do this to ourselves.

I'm of course just thinking on it, and reflecting my own issues and realizations- what these words mean to you may mean something totally different. And that's okay. Maybe they mean the same, but you don't mind them so much. And that is okay too.

Pregnancy can be a happy time- that doesn't mean it will be.
The word itself already has so many emotions attached to it- do we really need cutesy slang to make it more innocent sounding?


loribeth said...

Oh, this is a great post, & I totally agree. I've never liked "preggers" or "preggo" either, but I've never been able to articulate why. You've put your finger on it exactly -- thank you!

Kristin said...

Brilliant post!

Bionic Baby Mama said...

the one i can't stand is the "baby bump." smacks of the infuriating sense of acquisition. and is somehow wrapped up in "don't worry, i'm not FAT or anything. my body shape is ALLOWED to be like this. i'll be skinny again right away, promise!"

battynurse said...

Kristin was right. This is a beautiful post.

WiseGuy said...

It made me think.

I have been guilty of writing 'preggers' in a comment on atleast two blogs. I prefer to spell it as a whole, but yes, I did abbreviate it a couple of times. I did not mean to trivialize it really. Not much thought or intention went behind the abbreviation.

And I certainly don't laugh about other people's pregnancies...

Michelle said...

WOW great! I could not agree more. EXACTLY what I am thinking.

Lavender Luz said...

I think I first heard the terms in the musical Grease or something, and it sounded a little edgy to me.

This I loved: "But what kind of message are we sending when we don't allow people to hold an open house for their grief, when we keep it behind closed doors?"