Mother's Bill of Rights: Privacy
The Mother's Bill of Rights is a reclaiming of the rights that the current culture of sacrificial motherhood would strip from us. It is a commitment to ourselves and to our families that we will not diminish ourselves or them by placing these parts of us on the altar of motherhood. We will be whole human beings. This is the gift we give to ourselves, our children, and our world.
ARTICLE TWO: PRIVACY
The joke is that you will never pee alone again.
And I get why it's funny. I've been pushed from room to room in search of a space where I can hear my own voice in my head even for just a few seconds only to end up in the bathroom with tiny fingers reaching under the door and nowhere else to run.
When you really stop and think about it, it's not that funny. The right to privacy is basic. It is fundamental to our ideas of personhood, of freedom. And yet from the moment we announce a pregnancy or adoption the right to privacy vanishes.
There are doctor appointments where you are touched without being asked first. There are strangers touching pregnant people's stomachs in supermarkets. There are invasive questions - so. many. questions. There are assumptions made and pieces of advice given about some of the most private aspects of our lives.
Privacy becomes a punchline.
This makes sense. We do not see women as full human beings. We do not have respect for women's bodies. We have serious issues with boundaries and consent. This all blends into a potent potion during pregnancy and childbirth that extends throughout motherhood. We have all drunk the Kool-Aid.
It doesn't occur to the doctor or nurse to ask before touching the pregnant person partially because this is the ten millionth time they have performed whatever procedure and partially because they do not see what they are doing as an invasion of privacy - even when their hand is going inside you.
It doesn't occur to the stranger in the market or on the street that their touch would not be welcomed because they see the pregnant body as belonging to the baby inside it. They do not see the pregnant person, they cannot recognize the deep breach of privacy they have committed.
Over and over and over boundaries are crossed and privacy is chipped away until there is no space left that a mother can claim and say, "This is mine. You do not come here." That is what privacy truly is, right? Ownership. It is the right to say that this is mine: my body, my space, my thoughts, my words, my dreams, and I do not have to share them with you.
We spend years, decades really, teaching our children to share, to give, to be good members of society. We forget sometimes that sharing is a choice, it is an act of generosity and it flows most freely from a feeling of abundance. The mother trapped behind the bathroom door with the tiny fingers poking under it who opens that door is not sharing space or self - that mother is being invaded.
And sometimes there is no choice. I've been there. When you're tired of explaining, when you've been pushed all day, when they seem to be a bottomless well of need, when all you want is to not be touched for two seconds - I have been there.
Those moments when you hate contact just as much as you love your kids? It's not just you.
And I'm not going to sit here and tell you to just wait until they're teenagers and you'll be begging them to touch you or talk to you. I will not dehumanize you by implying that your need for privacy is not valid right now.
So how do we take it back? We start by naming it in the first place.
These are all ways we talk about privacy today. We have got to begin to reclaim it for ourselves and respect it in others. We don't open the bathroom door. We support other mothers when they don't either.
We model privacy and respect for and with our partners and with our children.
We learn to ask for consent. We learn to respect no.
The bathroom and the belly? Those are merely examples. This is far wider and far deeper and so must our reclamation be as well.
Your body does not belong to anyone who came out of it or anyone that you mother with it.
IT IS YOURS.