Some months ago I went through an experience that, by it's nature and by the repetition of it's occurrence, lead me to think about the role of medicine in the compulsory maternity. It was after a medical appointment that I decided to talk with my female friends about it. Then I realized I was not alone.
Compulsory maternity is the name of a social premise that it is a women's obligation to become a mother at a certain stage of her life. It fuses and fuels itself with the idealization of pregnancy and maternity as well as imposition of gender roles. As an example, women are likely to hear multiple times during their life that a mother's love is the biggest love in the world.
To play is how we train ourselves for the world; we try ourselves in different positions and discover how we relate to the world - and the world to us. Currently (and I say currently because it was not always like this) it is normalized that one of the first social functions that a girl learns (when she is still barely starting to walk) is the established social functions of motherhood. With the socialization for maternity since an early age, toddler girls are generally given dolls to play as her "babies": feeding, changing, putting to sleep, etc. This is an example of how the idealization of maternity and the definition of gender roles tend to walk together and to contribute to compulsory maternity ideas and behaviors.
Certainly we consider the fact that children generally admire their parents and tend to imitate their behavior, but it is undeniable the existence of a social aspect that helps to shape the fact that the majority of children that are encouraged to play about parenting are girls, not boys. Please note that I am not criticizing parenting or what each parent should or not give to their children, but I am describing a social idea behind it.
As a adult women, at arriving at my (now, ex) family doctor's clinic to treat what I suspected to be the flu, even before the start of a proper dialogue I was questioned if the reason of my appointment was plans to get pregnant. I was disappointed - but not surprised. After all, many women during their young adult life and especially after getting married are questioned about pregnancy- including by their physicians.
Naturally, talking about sexual health and pregnancy needs to be addressed with our health professionals, what I am referring here though is the repeated "go to pregnancy" assumption that many professionals seem to impose to their patients. As a patient I can say that I prefer hearing from my physician "what is the reason for your appointment?" instead of "Already now! You are pregnant!" or " Let me guess, you want a baby!". These two last statements were heard respectively in Brazil; by a friend, and in Canada; by me.
I am also referring to those professionals that share with patients their personal opinions and beliefs ( these in times crossing the ideas associated with compulsory maternity) as scientific facts. This is an exercise of ego, not medicine I.e.: "When you are older you will regret not having children" instead of: "When you are older you may or may not regret about having children". Compulsory maternity ideas in medicine are part of the reasons that when it comes to sexual health many women leave their appointments feeling guilty or confused, not educated.
In my view, encouraging a conversation about it with physicians and patients is a crucial point in challenging the existence and role of compulsory maternity in our society leading to more conscientious choices overall and to the acknowledgment that to not have children is also an exercise of women's reproductive rights.
These words are my contribution to the conversation. Have you ever experienced something similar? Let's talk.
Como diria Alice Ruiz: Sou uma moça polida levando uma vida lascada. Brasileira, vinte sete anos e alguns grilos na sacada.