Ted and I had just placed our orders when my cell phone started vibrating. It was my mom, and she wanted to know how to use the bottle-warmer. I told my mom what she needed to know, hung up the phone, and almost started crying.
A detailed explanation of the planning and preparation that went into my lunch date would be instructive for anyone who is currently contemplating breastfeeding (and, for that matter, for anyone who would dare to judge a woman who chooses not to breastfeed), but the thought of composing such an explanation seems exhausting to me. Suffice it to say that, if Frances was awake and taking the bottle of milk I pumped for her just as Ted and I were sitting down to the table, a glass of wine with my lunch was out of the question, and a leisurely meal with my husband was in jeopardy.
As it turned out, Frances was happy with her bottle and I didn’t need to rush home to top her up. I was able to enjoy my sandwich—tuna, medium-rare, with wasabi mayo—rather than cramming it into my face, and I got to spend some time alone with Ted. Still, an experience that was supposed to be relaxing and restorative was slightly nerve-wracking. I loved being pregnant, and I love nursing my daughter, but I also kind of miss the days when my body was my own.
Which is why this New York Times article made me kind of nuts. It’s about new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that women of childbearing years consider themselves perpetually “prepregnant”—that is, they should avoid alcohol and cigarettes and take prenatal vitamins. The reasoning behind this shift from prenatal to “preconception” care is not unsound: “The problem, doctors say, is that by the first prenatal visit, a woman is usually 10 to 12 weeks pregnant. ‘If a birth defect is going to happen, it’s already happened,’ said Dr. Peter S. Bernstein, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York who helped write new government guidelines on preconception care.” My problem is with the way these guidelines are meant to encompass even women who are not trying to get pregnant. The reasoning here is a little more shaky: Since more than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, women should, essentially, plan for an unplanned pregnancy and birth.