When I read the message from the man on Twitter, I felt the instant inching of shame. It wasn’t what you would call rude. If he was asked, he would probably have called it “helpful”.
“You mention you’re pregnant way too much on here these days,” it said. He only came to my account for the “film stuff” – not beyond reason, given I am the editor of a film magazine. Nevertheless, as well as “film stuff”, I also talk about poverty, politics and domestic violence. I have sent a staggering number of tweets about cheese triangles. None of these topics warranted comment or were “too much”. But this was clearly different. I had breached a code.
This code didn’t simply dictate that I should not share something so personal, but something that was innately female. I had revealed too much that in turn revealed I was actually a woman. One with a cervix that was about to rise and open; breasts that were about to leak. Parts of me that I normally kept muffled inside skin or cloth.
When I first discovered I was pregnant, I abided by the three-month rule, expecting the world of words to open up to me on the dot of 12 weeks, when it was decreed safe to speak. In those lonely, silent weeks, I scurried around in the shadows of the internet where the other silent, just-pregnant women met in forums and on message boards. I hid in the pages of books that spelled out the weirdness and the brutality and the wonder.
And pregnancy is all of those things. Aside from the 4am existential psych-outs, there is the all-day, everyday stuff. I sit with it, it in me, 24 hours a day. I keep my face straight in meetings, on the bus, in the cinema, while something wriggles and wiggles inside my hollowed-out middle. His foot is on my bladder, his skull is in my ribs and I smile and pretend there isn’t an about-to-be boy fighting against my bones and organs. That this isn’t the single most insane thing I have ever experienced. Because the truth is that the crumbs I leave in public on social media are barely 1% of the dialogue in my mind. And still, it’s too much.
The days of biting down on a leather strap may be over, but the silence expected of women isn’t. The preferred option is that we traverse the nine months with gob zipped, pelvis set stoically towards the brow of the hill. We will reappear on the other side, smiling, still not talking about what we have just experienced to get our baby safely from the inside to the outside, where it now sits on our sore hip.
To the not-rude man on Twitter: does it help if I say that yes, it’s something like that bit in Alien? No? Sorry, that’s all I have got for you.
Terri White is the editor of Empire magazine