Leandra and Pandora on the Realities of Pregnancy

Leandra and contributing U.K. editor Pandora Sykes e-mail about pregnancy


On Nov 15, 2017, at 10:21 AM, Pandora Sykes wrote:

Congratulations on your pregnancy announcement! I was so touched by the empathy your readers have for you. You wrote it so beautifully, too. Two phrases really stuck out for me: that you have not “graduated from compassion” and that life is “freckled with fangs.” Someone tagged me in the comments and said that they had wondered how my own pregnancy announcement on Instagram (which wasn’t really an announcement, more an acknowledgement that at six months pregnant I couldn’t really hide it anymore) had made you feel. And it’s true, I was really worried to tell you when I first found out. I know how painful it was for you to hear that news after your own struggles. You wrote extensively about that; I remember you got a certain amount of critique when you wrote about Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement and how it made you feel.

On Nov 15, 2017, at 2:58 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Yeah, but you know, my current perspective makes me feel like I am just…such a baby. I wish I could have been less selfish, less caught up in my own massive upset; last year my sister-in-law and best friend were pregnant at the time that I was (supposed to be) pregnant, and I look back now and am riddled with guilt, just wishing that I could have been warmer and more supportive. I feel bad that people were afraid to tell me when they were pregnant, kind of the way you might feel embarrassed when you’re acting like a brat because your birthday is coming and no one has planned anything for you, even though your friends have actually planned a massive surprise party or something. Maybe that’s just me, but mostly these days I feel just slightly helpless because I still don’t know what to do or say to be there for women who are still going through it. I don’t believe that I recovered from my grief, you know? I just got what I wanted.
How are you feeling?

On Nov 15, 2017 at 11:37 PM, Pandora Sykes wrote:

You weren’t a baby. And you weren’t selfish. Self-centered? Maybe. But aren’t we all when we are dogged and so drenched in dismay, incapable of grasping something we always thought would be so simple? Incidentally, do you regret being so open about how you felt at that moment in time? I think it’s interesting that you say you are not post-grief; you just got what you wanted. It’s important to acknowledge that you may have more work to do, psychologically, even though physically you’re “there.” I have felt a lot of guilt around my pregnancy because my older sister has been going through chemotherapy for breast cancer at the same time, and her treatment has left her unable to have children. It feels so unfair that I got this, and she got that, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Which is why I feel bad to say how am I feeling. But, well: I’ve realized I’m just not a woman who loves pregnancy. I wish I did. I wish I was a fucking earth mother, but truly, I just see this as a conduit to having a hopefully delightful daughter. If my husband could carry it, instead of me, trust me that would be the case. I have this theory that it’s one of the last obstacles to equality.

I’m apparently in the “glow” stage but I can’t say I’m feeling very glow-y. I’ve moved on from the hideous morning sickness, but my lower back is in agony, my nipples are in agony and I haven’t slept properly in over a month.

On Nov 15, 2017, at 12:03 AM, Leandra Medine wrote:

I’m sorry your sister is going through that. How has she reacted to the pregnancy? Is she going to be okay? My doctor always says, “If you play by the rules, you don’t die from breast cancer,” and by that he means: screen regularly so you catch it early. I’m sure your mom is having a tough time with it, too. How is she handling it — I mean really handling it?

On the comment about fairness: I think “fair” is an illusion and that once we stop expecting life/the people around us to be it, we are really able to set ourselves free in a lot of ways. My parents were always so strict about fairness with us, but I think it did a disservice to my early adult perception of how life is supposed to unfold.

Feels weird switching back to pregnancy convo now, but going to address your other points: I just stopped sleeping normally earlier this week. Am still getting about five to six hours a night but it’s like every time I have to move there’s this whole commotion and the kids move with me and they kick and rumble and my stomach hurts and I stop breathing for a few seconds. I kind of like it because I can feel the babies in there, but 9 a.m. on a weekday sucks every single day. I hear you on your not being a woman who loves pregnancy. I think plenty don’t; it’s weird to watch your body change and have that happen completely out of your control. It’s weird to not know when you’ll feel energized or exhausted, and if you’re an obsessive consumer (me), it’s a bummer to not be able to shop! But I guess because of my history, I am so grateful to be in this position, so I take every symptom, setback, step forward like it is a blessing being bestowed upon me directly from God.

To be honest, it’s really helped with my negative self-talk and perception of self. I feel like because I am pregnant, I give myself a lot more permission in various areas of my life: if I don’t feel up to doing something or going somewhere, I don’t go. I don’t think about my body or body image the way I did before I was pregnant. (I am not one of those people who say “this is just my body type!” — I am super slender, but eat healthy and exercise pretty regularly to maintain that). I eat what my body is telling me to eat (sometimes a grilled cheese sandwich, often soft serve ice cream) and because I am literally developing two brand new nervous systems, I am careful about the way I talk to myself because I know that the chemical response to negativity impacts the fetuses. That might sound hokey, but it works for me, so I’m going with it.

This is not at all to detract from your experience, though. The fact of the matter is, you ARE a conduit to having a hopefully delightful daughter! Our bodies don’t really belong to us right now. But for what it’s worth, you look fab in the story that ran on Man Repeller!

On Nov 16, 2017, at 11:08 AM, Pandora Sykes wrote:

My sister got the ALL CLEAR this week! So that’s pretty awesome. She’s been incredible, given what she’s going through. I think it’s tremendously hard for her. Ditto for my mum. I’ve tried to offload my pregnancy anxieties on my friends because my family has enough going on.

I find your comments about your body so interesting because of how diametrically opposed we are. I eat crap and I don’t work to have the body I have. In fact, I’ve always taken my body for granted and, I now realize, have taken my slimness for granted. I’ve been the same exact weight since I was 15 years old. Unlike most women I haven’t fluctuated an iota. And seeing my body change, over my pregnancy, has caused an identity crisis I actually never foresaw. I have found getting dressed so difficult, to the point where I strip as soon as I walk through my door.

Being totally candid — because what good is this conversation to the MR community, if I am not? — that piece that you reference me looking fab in took me longer to shoot/write than anything I’ve ever created for Man Repeller. I shot it twice because the first time I did I was like, “That’s a terrible outfit. That’s not a flattering look for a pregnant woman, or a pregnant me.” I felt so vulnerable taking the pictures and writing the copy.

I have become incredibly protective of my body, which may be why I Instagram pictures of myself much less. Although that could also be because I want to be less present on Instagram. One of the most frustrating things I’ve found about pregnancy is that everyone takes it as license to comment on your body. “Wow, your bump’s so big!” People keep saying this to me now that I’ve hit six months and the bump “popped,” and I have to bite my tongue not to retort, “My daughter is longer than a wine bottle right now! Of course the bump is big!”

I feel like my body is not my own. I’ve found my boobs growing so much really crushing. I had a boob reduction when I was 20 and I’ve watched them swell back to the size they once were. It’s like that whole navigation and re-navigating of myself didn’t even happen.

I could feel guilty about feeling like this. I feel guilty about most things (I’m Catholic) but I don’t actually feel guilty about wishing my boobs were smaller. I know they are getting bigger to benefit my daughter: they are swelling to the size my body thinks they should be, to produce milk, to feed her. But I’m still one woman, in one body, struggling with my increased visibility. And that, I think, raises a really interesting point about society: thin women are revered because they do not take up space. Misogyny dictates that women do not occupy too much space (Roxane Gay writes very lyrically on the subject in Hunger.) As I take up more and more physical space, I have noticed that I struggle. I’ve found this both interesting and a little difficult.

But listen, physicality aside, how candid are we getting? Are we allowed to talk about CONSTIPATION? I have turned into The Woman Who Never Craps, Leandra. And yes, you may change my name in your phone to that.

On Nov 16, 2017, at 9:59 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Ah, so relieved to hear about your sister! That’s excellent news.

Question re: body image — It’s all so temporary, which is so easy to forget, but this isn’t the end-all-be-all for you and your body and your career and the way you express yourself. It’s funny because someone asked me today if I am excited about maternity dressing and my response was, “No, I’m not thinking about my person as a vessel for creative self expression right now, and more (to steal your phrase) as a conduit for new, healthy life.”

I keep thinking about something Amy Poehler said when she was pregnant: “I’m just going to have to just enjoy how big I am and how much space I take up.” We are taught to take up as little space as possible, and the manifestation of this indoctrination is painted heavily on the walls given the stereotypical bodily standards we have adhered to, especially in fashion. When you’re pregnant, there’s no escaping the fact that you will get much larger than you’re used to. You will have to take up space, you will not be able to count yourself as invisible.

I really “popped” this week, and it’s the first time I’ve felt physically uncomfortable since the beginning of the pregnancy (save for the entirety of the first trimester when I was throwing up everywhere) and believe me when I say, clothing is not great fun for me either, but it is easier. I fit into like, three pairs of pants which I’ve put on rotation with a couple of striped t-shirts and some jackets. There is so little thought that goes into getting dressed now because there are so few options!

Re: your comment on bowel movements or a lack thereof, progesterone slows down digestion like mad, so it’s a pretty common side effect, which I’m okay with as long as I don’t get shooting cramps, which happens every few weeks. First I think I’m dying, then I think I’m going into pre-term labor, and then I realize what’s happening and lay down until it goes away.

Interestingly, these bouts of pain are always timed with stomach growth, which the internet keeps telling me is called “round ligament pain.” But here’s a question for you: what do you like, if anything, about pregnancy?

On Nov 17, 2017, at 6:03 AM, Pandora Sykes wrote:

Ha! I want to take note of how delicate and prim you are in talking about the scatological, vs. me. You’re all like “bowel movements or lack thereof” and I’m all, “THE WOMAN WHO NEVER SHITS.” I’ve struggled with my digestive system since I was about seven years old; I was taken out of school at 10 years old because I didn’t “pass a stool” for three weeks.Three weeks! That surely gets to go on my epitaph?

Sorry, I’ll move on now.

I popped at five and a half months, around the same time as you, although I wasn’t carrying two little donuts so it will perhaps be different. It’s astounding the rate at which I am growing now. I love that Amy Poehler reference. It’s totally about taking up space, societally as well as physically.

I like that you wove in the positive, there: I don’t want to come across like a Negative Nelly, as I am, to stress, very lucky to be having a baby. Things I love: my husband feeling her dance inside of me (sometimes he wakes up when I am still asleep and he feels her moving inside of me). It’s weird already loving something more than I love him. Do you find that? I also like the feeling of calm I have when I am in my home. “Nesting,” as I said in my maternity style piece, is a real thing, and I adore being home and reading copious books and watching Louis Theroux on iPlayer.

Pregnancy also connects you on a human level to so many strangers. I don’t just mean fellow pregnant women, I mean the guy in my corner shop who went, “How long?” with a massive smile on his face, when he clocked my “baby on board” badge (that pregnant women wear in the UK when taking the tube); or last week, when three pregnant women, including me, were sitting in a row on the train and a young man goes “Three all at once! That must be luck!” I could give you myriad examples of the generosity of strangers. It brings solace to me when I am being an Angry Pregnant Women. I hate female stereotypes, but fuck, Angry Pregnant Woman is one for a reason.

Can I tell you one thing that also bought me a lot of joy? It’s a picture of us at NYFW.

Before she ate me @leandramcohen 📸 by @stylelovelyweb

A post shared by P A N D O R A S Y K E S (@pandorasykes) on

I put it on my Instagram with a comment about you looking like you wanted to eat me, but really I liked the idea of preserving it for posterity as there are ostensibly two women in that picture, but what no one looking at the picture would realize is that there are, in fact, five women in that picture. Will the Jewish New Yorkers come visit their Christian British cousin and teach her cool transatlantic shit? I can only hope.

On Nov 20, 2017, at 6:45 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

What good timing to riff on the things you’re grateful for what with the holiday season under our toes and all. Didn’t that feel good? Here’s a pic from yesterday, in case you’re wondering what I look like now:

Question: What’s maternity leave like in the U.K.?

On Nov 20, 2017, at 8:14 PM, Pandora Sykes wrote:

The all-white look works very well. Good flats, incidentally. I just got the derbies from Maje I spoke of in my last piece for MR, and they’ve changed my hobble to a gait, which is marvelous.

Your maternity leave in the US is famously appalling compared to Europe. The U.K. is no Scandinavia, but most employers pay between 3 and 6 months at 90% full pay and many women I know take a full year. What with me being freelance, that doesn’t apply, but as a self-employed person I’m entitled to £140 a week from the government for the weeks I’m not working. That will probably only be six weeks, though. We can’t take more than six weeks off The High Low as we have partners now (like Google, our godmother) who need us to keep momentum. But I’ll avoid events for at least three months and commit to a three-day working week from when she is about three months old.


If you need me, by the way, I’ll be in Starbucks eating waffles.

On Nov 28, 2017, at 2:51 PM, Leandra Medine wrote:

Do you think six weeks is enough? I have no idea what to expect but can imagine (given the “recoveries” I have observed) myself becoming a g-dang mess. Just like, crying and not knowing what to do or how to feed. Feed. Not feel. Sometimes I feel like as a rule, I am great at preparation: having good ideas, energizing a room, getting everything (and one) in order, perhaps, too, housing double babies (Amelia calls them my “tenants”), but when it comes time for execution, I fall flat. The preparation process is much more fun for me. Maybe because it’s all ideation and there’s no doing involved? I’ve actually never articulated that before but it seems true. Can’t be true of pregnancy VS. actual children though, right?

Re: Mat Leave, I’ll take the standard three months but don’t take a salary out of the company — my living is funneled through my “influencer” projects which obviously don’t exist if I’m not working, but I’ve been hustling through most of this trimester to make sure I’m set for those three months. Very much looking forward to it; sometimes I feel like the reason I wanted to get pregnant so badly when I started trying three years ago is because I was looking for an excuse to slow down but couldn’t find one. I maintain that in spite of my being a fairly restless person who is certainly ambitious, even if it runs counter to what I THINK is best for me, slowing down and quieting down is exactly what heals me.

Did what I just say make any sense? Gosh, the other thing that is not a myth is pregnancy brain! I’m more or less a dead fish 15 hours a day — for one hour I am not thanks to the wonder that is a caffeinated beverage and the other 8 hours I’m sleeping. (As an example of this dead fish-ness, I just had to count on my fingers to 24 to determine how many hours were leftover in a day following the 15 + 1).

Now, excuse moi while I shut up. Ta ta.

Get more Brain Massage ?
  • elpug

    This is all so great. And that Instagram picture.. it is so beautiful to think there are really five women in that photo. Yay women, adult and miniature!

    Pandora, what do you mean you have to wear a baby on board badge? In the US, those definitely go on cars but I’ve never heard of one on a person.

    • A Brit here, just chiming in about the badge. So no one has to wear one, but pregnant ladies using the tube (subway) in the UK will often pin one on to show fellow passengers that they are indeed pregnant so that people can offer up their seats.
      I think the idea is to encourage people to offer, without the risk of offending someone by assuming they’re pregnant when they might not be!

      • elpug

        Ohhh ok. Don’t bump the bump!

      • Aleda Johnson

        That’s a great idea, and NYC needs this stat! We’re now in coat weather, so it’s hard to tell if women on the subway are pregnant or just have more to love. I have legit anxiety over accidentally calling someone pregnant when they’re not. My mom had that happen to her once, and she was kind but later visibly hurt by it.

        • leisurefox

          yeah i’ve had many, many people ask me if i’m pregnant and offer me a seat, when in fact, i had simply had quite a bit of bread that day lol. not everyone’s body type is flat stomach y’all

      • 808kate

        Wow that’s such a good idea!

      • This is such a fantastic idea.

    • Isla Philo

      It is a badge people wear when they are using public transport in London, mainly the tube. So the badge shows you are pregnant, ‘baby on board’ and basically means, ‘hey please let me sit down on this horrible busy train.’ Only introduced fairly recently but I think it is a great idea to help out preggo ladies x

    • Emily

      maybe I’m alone in this but I find this really irritating when I see it while driving (on the subway so other riders know you’re pregnant is different!). it reads to me as a weird suggestion that your family matters more than other families, or people, driving around who don’t mark it.

      • Leandra Medine

        I think it’s more so that you’re aware/ready to slow down if the tagged car stops abruptly or something? Just thinking psycho babies in the backseat probably make your driving a little less safe for the rest of the passengers on the road?

      • elpug

        It is also for emergency services so that in the case of an accident they know that a baby is in the car.

      • Szilvia Dobo Martin

        My husband – who’s the designated driver – said after we had our baby that now it makes sense to him to have a badge on the car as he is more careful driving than before. I guess it tells the other drivers that the person with a baby in the car will be a bit slower, more careful. It makes sense as in London (where we live) everybody drives very aggressively.

  • Aim

    I didn’t want this conversation to end! I should have expected a MR article to have the perfect blend of seriousness, playfulness, and honesty, but boy did this deliver. I’m still a few years out before I start trying for a family but I love reading everything I can get my hands on about pregnancy.

    My mother spent nine years trying to have children. She had 3 miscarriages, one stillbirth and also me and my older sister. I have always been so struck with how hard she fought to have us. Pregnancy and the path to get there just seems like a brutal and beautiful thing. Best of luck to you both!

    • “how hard she fought to have us” – Made me tear up!

    • Romari

      Aim, I just came across this piece and your comment. I have been struggling with infertility for two years now and about to embark on the very scary IVF journey. And sometimes I feel so defeated that I just want to give up and even though I want a family so badly I think perhaps it would be best to just not go through all this as I am scared about what it will do to my body and my brain. But reading your comment, ‘how hard she fought to have us’, made me cry a little and think that yes, I can do this, and it will be worth it one day, and I am not alone and I owe it to my future family that I crave for so badly. Thank you for this comment.

      • Aim

        You can do this, you are doing this, you will do this. You’re in the fight right now and you may be bloodied and bruised but you’re not down for the count. please know I’m sending as many internet hugs your way as possible. You are not alone and if I can speak for my mother, I know she would say it’s absolutely worth it. I’ll be thinking of you, best of luck.

  • Charlie

    The five women in the picture line gave me goosebumps. I think that is such a beautiful thing. Also, so happy that your sister got the all clear, Pandora!

  • Elli rvs

    I enjoyed this so very very much! Thank you. I am still very much in the trying and failing phase of getting pregnant. I really appreciate both your empathy and your joy! Since you 2 announced your pregnancies I have take style inspiration from both of you and have started a dream pregnancy wardrobe I find this helps me visualise my self as a happy, healthy, pregnant woman(instead of focusing on freaking out about my infertility), god I hope that does not sound too weird…what I am trying to say is: thank you.

    • Kiks

      I am in the same boat as you, my friend. Was trying for a year and nothing happened. Have just gone back on birth control for a few months because we’ve got an impending move across the country this spring and the timing would just be a nightmare. I have felt less stressed-out and sad in the past three weeks since I re-started the pill than I have all year. :/

      Have you discussed your struggles with your doctor yet?

      • Elli rvs

        hey! yes multiple docs and multiple surgeries for me so far in the past few years ( conic biopsy for hpv/polyps removal that went wrong/fibroid removal sorry if it’s TMI felt better to just say what it was then be vague about it) BUT i just had my last scan and don’t need an other surgery! so I am reveling in the happiness of that! I wish you luck both with the move and with expanding your family when you are ready!

  • Teresa

    Twin Girls!?!?!??!?!??!!??!?!?!!!!!!!

    • Lakirk

      I know!!!

  • JB

    I’m 25 weeks pregnant today and it is such a pleasure to be able to follow both of your journeys! This conversation articulated so much of what us modern pregnant women feel throughout this transition into motherhood. Lately, my thoughts have been shifting from how to dress my bump and handle the symptoms to how the heck am I going to handle this mom thing?! In my head, I’m still 18 (Let’s be real though, I’m 34)! But I’m about to be a mom?! I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I can’t wait to meet my little one. I want to be the best mother I can be, but at the same time I don’t want to lose my identity as a strong, independent woman with her own passions and interests. How does one strike that balance?? Congratulations again Leandra and Pandora!! I really really loved it…more please!! I look forward to watching you both blossom. xo

    • Jennifer Hall

      Re: how to strike that balance? I remember being preoccupied with that question during my first pregnancy; I was afraid of losing my identity. And now, as a mom of four teenagers, I can say that you just do it, you keep doing what matters to you. And share those things with your child. You don’t have to buy in to what society says a mom should do or be. Just do you. Best of luck 🙂

  • cuffers27

    Loved this – been looking forward to it since you guys mentioned it the other week. Congrats both, so exciting that you are growing humans 🙂

  • Vanya Du Toit

    Such an interesting conversation, thank you! At 32 weeks pregnant I’ve been working through many of the same emotions as both of you, both with women close to me dealing with miscarriages and breast cancer and the guilt that goes along with my healthy pregnancy. It’s such a tough thing to navigate. Also of course dealing with a constantly changing body I have no control over.

    I particularly related to the bit where you discussed the taking up of space and what that means as a woman. I’ve never been particularly big or small, but I usually try and make myself as small as possible on my tube commute. I’ve noticed in the past month or so I’ve unapologetically and kind of defiantly begun to…what, womanspread? What do you call manspreading when it’s an enormous pregnant lady? And feeling quite…entitled? to taking up my fair share of space without trying to make myself small and convenient for fellow commuters. I have unexpectedly managed to switch off from feelings of physical self-loathing and body image issues during this pregnancy and for the first time in my life I feel like I’m allowed to take up more space, it’s a strange and wonderful feeling.

  • meme

    Loved this. Also, “Misogyny dictates that women do not occupy too much space. As I take up more and more physical space, I have noticed that I struggle” sums up how I feel having put on weight while living in the city with the tiniest women, Parisians.

  • alexia

    Great conversation (I’m pregnant too, so even better 😉 Pandora, about constipation : lots of fruits and green veggies (brocoli is especially good), and if this bores you, you can always make yourself some popcorn (with no sugar or salt added ideally) because popcorn is extremely rich in fibers, richer than most vegetables if I remember correctly. I do that, limit pasta and rice, and my digestion is near normal right now, well at least on this aspect. Best of luck!

  • ladybirda

    Congrats ladies, and don’t think of it as now you can’t shop. Think of it as now you can justify splurging on items that will cradle you and your baby bump in comfort. In the winter, a cozy cashmere tunic that skims the bump, in the summer, some fancy designer variation of Birkenstocks to keep your arches from collapsing from all those tendon-stretching hormones. Having babies forced me to be practical, but that in turn meant that the things I actually use and touch every day are higher quality, fit better and give me more joy. I’m still a magpie sometimes but my lived reality helps keep it in check. Also, I loved taking up more space. And when you’re pregnant people generally avoid barreling into you on the street. It’s like a superpower.

  • Cristina

    I can’t decide what I think. Well, my opinion doesn’t count as two cents either way. I found the entire article very enlightening, but also sad. Sad that it takes being pregnant for someone to realize how much society dictates women be thin and take up less space. Welcome to my life every single day, as someone who is not fat or thin, this IS just my body type. To be honest, I was shocked at the naivety, but I suppose going through life being thin makes it hard to understand. Especially working in the industry you both do, where everyone is and should be sample size thin. I really hope one day MR really wholly embraces all body types and has more open discussion from women with different body types (I’m not talking someone who is a 4 instead of a 0).
    Aside from dwelling on that point after I read it, I really enjoyed the candor between the two of you, entering this new chapter of your life. I can’t even imagine the head space it takes to get through a pregnancy. I’m terrified of all of it. I don’t understand celebrities (or the non-alike) just pop out babies and bounce back and this is life and now I have kids and oh pregnant again, yay! I have a feeling I’ll be wrapped up in all sort of mental anxiety and fear. So I am very thankful you are open with your journey!

    • Same Cristina! Those points were really triggering for me.

    • Leandra Medine

      Why would you say your opinion doesn’t count as two cents? Of course it does. And you’re right, it is incredibly challenging to comment so intimately or personally on a circumstance/situation/state of existence that you haven’t actually experienced (the “taking up space bit”) and I do that we successfully do our part to bring to light the full range of body type, but of course, the work is never actually over. Thanks for the really thoughtful/critical reply here. Much appreciated!

      • Cristina

        Eeek, I think it came across dripping in more self-pity than intended. I really meant like, in this GIANT ocean of opinions, mine is small and what really matters is that you are entitled to feel/think/email/share whatever you want! If that makes sense. This whole article has me going back and forth in my head all morning, it was very though-provoking and thank you for taking the time to reply!

      • E

        As someone who is naturally thin, I would be very interested to read more articles from the perspective of those who aren’t. Like you said, it’s not something that you can really understand unless you personally experience it and it’s not something I typically pay much attention to with myself, having been this way my entire life. I deal with autoimmune issues and was recently put on a cocktail of steroids that are notorious for weight gain/general swelling – all of a sudden I’m actively thinking about my body type when there’s a threat of it changing. I hate that it takes something happening to you personally to realize that you don’t understand the shit others deal with.

      • G1

        Leandra, you absolutely do far more that the majority of other fashion publications, but would LOVE to see more. When you’re super slim, everything looks good on you (I was skinny for one year of my life and shopping was SO FUN) but so much of fashion/shopping to me is finding things that make me feel good shape-wise, and still make me feel ‘fashionable’. Would love to see more girls on the site that are size 4-8 so I can see what works on them. I can’t tell you how good it is my for self worth and acceptance when I see other cool girls looking so confident and great that aren’t super skinny.

        • Kiks

          I was a size 4 when I was in my twenties (but I’m 6’1) and it’s true, I could wear literally anything. Now that I’ve reached my thirties and started living healthier, I have gone up to a size 8-10. If the average person saw me they’d still describe me as “slim”, but learning to dress this new curvier body has been difficult. I haven’t actually bought jeans in about three years because I cannot find any that don’t make me feel huge. High-waisted skirts and flowy dresses make me feel better.

          Not going to lie, I am nervous about if I get pregnant and just become absolutely massive.

          • G1

            Yeah so hard to find jeans! I’m forever looking for the perfect pair of plaxk pants. And agreed, so scared I’m going to be a whale when I’m preg and never get my body back.

        • Olivia AP

          YES. I love MR and have been a reader for so long. And I would like to see more latina representation. I think we are very overlooked, and stereotyped when represented.

    • Pandora Sykes

      Hi Cristina, just wanted to add: it doesn’t take being pregnant for me to realise that society dictates women take up less space. Just that I had not yet *personally* experienced that. And as this was very much a first person discussion on the experiences of pregnancy, the is why it was regaled as such. MR is a very small part of where I discuss topics such as women’s bodies: I actually speak a lot about this kind of thing in my podcast, The High Low, if you would ever like to listen 🙂

      • Cristina

        You are so right, and I totally understand what you are saying! I read it and thought “what kind of skinny people bubble are you living in?!” but probably, because I’m on the outside of that bubble. I didn’t think it rudely, despite how harsh it sounds. Or as an attack. So I hope my comment did not come across that way. I think not experiencing things personally, or first hand, plays a huge part into so many issues across the country today as well. I have been thinking and re-reading this article in my head since I read it! The entire thing was so thought-provoking.
        The High-Low is on my list (thanks to a recent MR article haha!) but I am open to specific suggestions of episodes about the subject.
        Thank you for taking the time to reply Pandora!

  • Ladies I hope you get some unforgettable enjoyment out of your special states too. You sure deserve it.
    As we all know, true man repellers can and do master different situations sartorially, too, so no excuses please.

    As to not wanting to take up too much space: I think it is high time women start owning space. If I got a penny or a cent every time people get cranky because I am taller and didn’t get the memo about the obligatory similarity to a whisp, a willow, a ray, a shadow … I could buy Man Repeller now :-D. I think my thombstone should read: She just could not believe the shit people say and believe.

  • Pandora, I couldn’t agree more with your statement, “If my husband could carry it, instead of me, trust me that would be the case. I have this theory that it’s one of the last obstacles to equality.” My husband would LOVE to be the pregnant one, and has stated it multiple times. If/when we have kids, I wish I could pass it on to him, but alas….come on, science! Hurry!

    • Pandora Sykes

      I hope he does!

  • “Misogyny dictates that women do not occupy too much space.” Misogyny + the fashion world as a whole reinforce this idea – in my opinion. We’re all supposed to be a size 0 – which isn’t a number at all. Would love to see MR showcase more shapes and sizes of bodies. We deserve to be seen. We deserve to occupy space.

    The body change that comes with pregnancy is what scares me the most. I’m not a thin woman, never have been and never will. But at the same time, I feel narcissistic that that’s what I’m most concerned about. Maybe that will change if/when I am able to conceive. Really enjoyed the candor of this article, but was triggered by the naivete of bodies and taking up space.

  • Anna

    I might be a little sensitive but I really struggle when people ask me if I am happy and stuff like that. Duh! No?! Of course I am happy to have kids, but being pregnant does not mean to run around with a permanent grin on my face. I also find it difficult to speak about it when the person who brings up the topic is not me. Like my brother-in-law gave me a lecture about breast feeding for 45 minutes.

    • Leandra Medine

      Do people ask you that a lot??

      • Anna

        Hmm… Maybe I just feel it happens too much, because I don’t like the question and feel offended. Like, when people have had a bad experience in a restaurant it is more likely they tell others about it, but when everything goes as expected and smooth they might stay quiet about it. Does that makes any sense?

        We just moved to San Francisco last year, so my social life went trough a regression. I remember that my sister asked me the question which baffled me… Also a couple of people from my husband’s work place. The difference was that my sister lifted an eye brow and the people who I didn’t know that well, where more expecting the yes right away and a story. Now, that I think about it, could it be that some just think it is an ice-breaker to start a conversation?

        Did anyone ask you this question?

    • Emily

      this also applies to other life situations. i just moved across the country and my bf’s mom asked me, are you happy?! i felt like, well, I just moved 3000 miles away from my family and am in the middle of a giant life change so i feel a LOT OF FEELINGS but happy is far too uncomplicated to express any of it. maybe people need to be more sensitive on this as a whole

  • Mikaela Fuchs

    thanks for sharing your discussion! Pregnancy is whack, and get ready for the identity crisis you’ll have after becoming a mother.

    I’d love more maternity style posts.

  • shuzluva

    This discussion is wonderful, and making me happy that my twin girls are now 13 and my son is nearly 10. They are all awesome, and I say that without a lick of humble brag or shame. I adore my kids and am blown away by them on the regular. Of course, they have their moments. They’re kids for f’s sake.

    Pandora, I HATED being pregnant. This coming from a woman who had children via IVF (the twins) and frozen cycle transfer (the boy)…not an easy road. But Earth Mother is not my style, and pregnancy gave me indigestion, sleeplessness and a general feeling of malaise, even during the “glow” stage. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t glowing.

    Leandra, I understand your initial struggle, anger, and guilt. Feelings are allowed, don’t invalidate them because you had them in the moment. I reflect on my difficulties getting knocked up and am a bit taken aback by my rude/self involved/crass behavior, but I didn’t have the mental fortitude to act any differently. There’s a lot going on there both mentally and physically. I have cut myself a break, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing the same.

    The instagram photo of the two of you is pure joy. Thank you!

  • jesse

    Haven’t read the article yet but I just wanted to say that I’m so happy that this is something you’re able to share with us, and I hope it’s everything you hoped it would be. Mazal tov again!!

  • Kathleen FitzPatrick

    In terms of preparation…you can try, but when the baby / babies are there, it’s a whole different story. Sleep deprivation is a given for awhile. The communion you have with them when they are inside is very different once they are born. You will not know what you are doing but the baby will teach you. I’m a strong proponent of nursing — it’s not just the perfect nutrition, it’s comfort, connection, sleep-inducing, portable and natural. People will offer lots of advice — some of it you might want to take. Conflicting feelings are common, roll with them. Your body will come back!

  • Beatriz Alvarez

    I loved this conversation, real women open her hearts, and talking honestly about the beauty, the bad, and the ugly of pregnancy. Im pregnant too, so I feel the same way in some aspects!
    Thanks Leandra and Pandora for sharing this!

  • Lexi Sugar

    Love this!

  • Fernanda

    Loved the photo so much! When I first saw your pregnancy announcement I was at the doctor being told that I would go through many struggles to have children. Bad timing, jeje. I have never really thought very deeply about having kids, I think that is because of my age (20 years). But it isn’t my life dream to become a parent. I guess I used to think that if I had kids it would be okay, and if I didn’t it would also be okay. When I used to read your articles about it I couldn’t grasp the emotional consequences of it all, but being told that something about you doesn’t quite work well can take a toll on you. Reading your pregnancy announcement made me realize that in some years I might go through what you lived, and i feel so grateful for having someone who so candidly shared it for all. It makes me feel that if you could go through that, maybe I can deal with it when the time comes and I definitely know I’m not the only woman whose uterus has attitude problems.

  • Amber

    Pandora’s Instagram made me want to cry, and then Leandra’s selfie DID make me cry.

    I think it’s so beautiful that you two have this transatlantic friendship, and that it just so happens that these wonderful, special chapters in both of your lives have lined up. Reminds me to invest in my relationships with the incredible women around me <3 xxx

  • Stacy

    My little one is almost four months now, and nothing could have prepared me for my self-esteem post-baby. While I was pregnant I read so many stories and articles about the realities of pregnancy, and as my body grew I embraced it knowing that it was growing for my daughter. I never felt that I looked fat because I was pregnant, and that was a rationale my friends and family could accept to justify my rapid weight gain. But then I gave birth, and as my capacity for love for my husband and child grew exponentially, my love for my body diminished. I was flabby, covered in stretch marks, and could not fit into anything but old workout clothes. I no longer have the baby in my belly, but it looks like I do. I see all of these women bounce back almost instantly and get into the best shape of their lives after having a baby, and that just isn’t my reality. I wish there were more stories with this candidness written about what post-baby life really feels like.

  • lisa

    It’s so hard to hear these revel moments after years of difficult times. Think of the readers who empathized with and were going through the same situation as you and you just got want you want and this has become a pandora and leandra pregnancy fest…
    not sure of what to think here.

    • Lakirk

      I think Leandra has been extremely compassionate. Did you read her actual pregnancy announcement?

      • Melissa

        Yes, I did. As thoughtful as she was, it was still devastating for me and, I imagine, those in a similar place. On the subject of this specific article, to complain about anything related to pregnancy is going to be a big turnoff to the MR readership who is still in the darkness of infertility.

    • Melissa

      I agree. As someone who is still on that terrible road and is fighting tooth and nail (and paying a GD fortune to carry a baby with the help of an egg donor), hearing Pandora complain about carrying a baby is like a knife through my heart. I think I need to stay off this site.

  • Jessica

    I’m only 9 weeks pregnant and already the constipation is real! I’m afraid of how bad its going to get as this progresses. At the end of the weekend, I thought back and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I took a shit! I feel you on this one Pandora.

    • RT

      FYI, mine was pretty bad at the start & has gotten better since then. Granted a normal movement makes me give my body a little internal high five of “yay! You pooped so good today!” since it still isn’t as regular or easy as it was before pregnancy. But yeah. There’s hope it gets better.

      • Jessica

        Lol, I have that same reaction when I have a “good poop”.

        • RT

          You are being so good yourself! *grins* And they say women can’t get along or support each other. Look at us bonding over poops. *dying*

          • Jessica

            Well, in the spirit of over-lady-sharing, I’m literally congratulating myself right now 😉

    • I went to Costco and bought a giant bag of prunes when I was pregnant #oldschool. I was also anemic and taking iron supplements, which doesn’t help the situation

    • Sophia B

      Garden of Life Prenatal Probiotic is the only thing helping me with this.

  • Kristin

    Love this! Hated pregnancy’s loss of privacy and control (though, it is arguable that motherhood is worse, at least babies are magical). The idea of under bump hold makes me shudder. I hated everything — the knowing looks and strangers feeling connected to you (potentially I am psycho or just mean but I also think I just like my privacy), the realization that you aren’t paranoid, that people are looking at your stomach (especially in that part of pregnancy wherein it is not totally clear you’re pregnant), the barrage of unsolicited advice (which accelerates with birth), empire waists and the rest of the clothes.
    Worst of all, persistent fear of jinxing it—naming, “nesting”, baby shower, announcing and generally acknowledging the pregnancy felt like bad luck.

    • Kristin

      Also I semi am upset with your doctor. People who get screened die of breast cancer too. And to call screening “playing by the rules” is sort of a knock on all the people in this country who don’t have access to care. And to black women who both have a higher risk of not getting screened but also a higher risk of dying regardless of what stage their cancer is discovered.

  • Emily M

    I teared up at “there are, in fact, five women in that picture.” What blessings! How special to share this time with a friend and be growing three individual, beautiful, already so-well-loved little ladies!!! That comment just made me so happy, Pandora. I’m obsessed with y’alls pregnancies (sounds creepy but not, swear) if for no other reason than them happening to two women who I know are going to be great mothers.

  • Lakirk

    Re/ fairness. That’s was such an insightful comment. The statement could sound very cynical if taken out of context and applied to other topics such as race (white privilege,) inequality, wealth disparity, etc. In those cases, fairness does not always exist but we should work to achieve it. But in the context of fertility and health in general, fairness is not a given. And maybe we should prepare our kids (and ourselves) for it instead of shielding them from the reality. Thanks for a great conversation.

  • I just loved everything about this. Being women and being able to commiserate when we are scared or excited is a great thing. Thank you so much for being open and sharing your thoughts/worries/struggles. Xox

  • Kiks

    This was such a beautiful and fun read. Thank you both for sharing with us. I’ve never been so happy for a couple of strangers!

  • PJ

    Thank you for this article Leandra (and Pandora)! Finally someone courageous enough to tell the truth about pregnancy. I feel most of the “mothers of the world” are in some sort of deep conspiracy, where all they are allowed to say vary from “you’ll glow and be allowed to eat all you want!” to “you won’t even remember the pain, and anyway, it’s so worth it!”. As if they want to avoid deterring prospective mothers from pregnancy, because frankly, with all that your body goes through, who wouldn’t be deterred? As a 27-y-o living in Scandinavia, where ML conditions are just as great as you mentioned, I still consider pregnancy and consequently the labour as synonyms for anguish and despair. I do not want children myself, so my preaching about how troublesome pregnancy is usually is not taken seriously, but I appreciate honesty from people who actually do want to produce another generation! 🙂

  • Lady Grinning Soul

    Leandra, twin girls!!!!!!!
    I have two daughters, it’s such a joy!!!!!

  • Carolina

    You guys literally made me cry… Leandra, we share quite a few things in common, pregnant, miscarriage, people around me keep announcing their pregnancy (it’s all B.S that you can get pregnant easier if you are younger, pregnant women around me are much older than me), want to get pregnant just because want to slow things down so I can have a quite moment for myself or simply want to get some rest from ambitions and restless brain… I used to hate the idea of having babies, not I am frustrated not having one whenever I want… Maybe ‘That’s life’. I wish you both all the best.

  • Congratulations to you both! 🙂 I loved reading every word of this post and reading leandra’s post from a little while ago genuinely gave me the biggest joy, the reason why I am starting this post in this way is because i was actually a little afraid of this post…

    i had my future planned out meticulously but about 7 years ago for reasons i won’t go into here, i was told i couldn’t have children. the kind of life i imagined was gone but the thing is at the time it didn’t really have the effect it seems to be having on me now, i wasn’t at an age where i was properly thinking about kids it just kind of came up in a “when i grow up i’m gonna have blah blah blah” way amongst friends… but now probably bc i’m entering an age where a lot of my friends are starting to have children i’m starting to really think about these things. it’s not so much a biology clock as it is a society clock reminding me that i have one box unchecked which sounds so pathetic. truth of the matter is i have no idea whether i actually even want kids, i’m just grieving over the fact that i don’t have a choice and i don’t really know how to stop letting that feeling get to me. i guess the pain probably comes from not really knowing myself at all. this might sound lame but i do worry about not being a part of the path that my friends are going to soon be on and some of them already are, i worry i won’t be invited to kids birthday events bc i don’t have kids or i won’t be able to just relate….

    the comment on fairness really made me think about thing, it has always been a go to phrase of mine and i’ve really had to reflect on it lately: like what does it mean to me, why can’t this be happening to me? would it be fair if it was happening to somebody else? i realise how entitled i have been sounding like i can’t ever have bad stuff happening to me bc idk i got good grades at school and i got into a decent university and did well and have an okayish job etc. i’ve realised how dangerous it is to be constantly saying that to whine about the situation i am in. instead i am now just saying “i’m doing my fucking best”. I try not to question things so much, i try not to let my anxiety tell a shitty story and rely more on my logical brain.

    i wasn’t sure whether to share this or not bc i didn’t want to come across like i am turning something happy into something sad, i actually just wanted to share this for others out there that could be going through something similar. but i love you both and the picture of you both that i saw on pandora’s insta makes me smile more now bc i love that there are 5 women in the picture x

  • Brooke

    Love the conversation, and feel joy at remembering the highs and lows, and general excitement of being pregnant and how 5.5yrs later have a beautiful little soul to hang with … tears. So worth it. Enjoy, so much good stuff to come. Xxx

  • zivaramrami

    sweet exchange but i wouldn’t anticipate those three months being so slow, calm, zen. the best advice i got and did not take before i gave birth was rest while you can. babies are amazing and all sorts of exhausting.

  • Maria

    As a mother of twins (girls, they are two yrs old now) I can tell you that 3 months leave is OK. By the 3rd month you will be able to establish some kind of routine. If you had two more months it would have been the best I think. But you are going to be fine. Just remember this. Be good to yourself. You are going to do the best for your babies I am sure but remember that a good mother is a happy mother. So don’t forget to take care of yourself. Twin babies are a lot of work but so much happiness. And be calm. I remember the time my girls were born and the period after that and I think what really helped us is that I always tried to be calm. I don’t know if it is true but I feel like that.

  • S Green

    I cannot get ” I don’t believe that I recovered from my grief, you know? I just got what I wanted.” That puts into words so much of how I still feel as a woman who got what I wanted (4 wonderful children), doesn’t want to be pregnant, but still gets bouts of grief when I hear others are pregnant. I certainly feel the guilt that comes with that feeling.

  • Claire

    I love this conversation! I feel like you’ve been cautious about discussing your pregnancy Leandra, because you don’t want to upset others who are struggling, which is very considerate of you, but it was really nice to hear about how you’re doing.

    Can I make a confession? When you first wrote about your miscarriage, I was right there with you—I teared up and prayed to my secular gods that you would find happiness. But in your pregnancy announcement post, you reflected on your past despair, and wrote that you felt like “I wasn’t supposed to be here — that the earth was rejecting me but not letting me die”: this I found inexplicably upsetting. I knew I had no RIGHT to feel that way, because who the hell am I to judge you and how you process your emotions? In hindsight, I think it felt to me like you were only able to see your self-worth as dependent on your ability to give birth. And while emotions are certainly never right or wrong (and in that instance, 100% made sense), I guess I felt you were being unkind to yourself, or giving yourself short shrift, and I was upset FOR you.

    Now let me be clear: I think there’s too much shame and stigma surrounding the female body that’s not able to conceive or carry to term, and not enough discussion about it, and the way you talk about your sadness gives voice to what a lot of other women feel: your honesty/bravery/whatever you want to call it it is important to us. I think ultimately, I feel so strongly about this because as a woman in her mid-30s who is just starting to “try”, I’m filled with anxiety and dread about my own body’s ability to get pregnant–what you wrote was REAL to me, even if I hadn’t experienced it. I’m surrounded by friends who have been unable to have children after many years of trying and miscarrying, and I’m convinced (with zero evidence) that will be the case for me, too. On the one hand I try to remind myself of how much joy my friends’ adopted kids bring them, and on the other, I imagined myself filled with the kind of despair that you felt a year ago. So, I know that I’m contradicting myself, and probably also coming off as a huge jerk for being “upset” with you for talking about a really difficult time in your life, but I think that my muddle of feelings comes from loving you as much as one can love a public figure they’ve never met, and this is a testament to your writing and your openness. Thank you.

  • Sybilla

    I’m three months pregnant with my second child and I absolutely loved reading this! It’s very interesting to hear different experiences of pregnancy, and maternity leave plans.
    I live in the UK and I had a one year maternity leave, then went back to work part time and in six month completeley quit. I just couldn’t leave my son to a nanny/nursery/child minder (I’m totally aware that I was lucky to be able to choose that). My full time job was being the best mum I could be for over three years. Taking him to play groups, baby concerts, parks, museums, mainly socializing with other mums and babies. It was HARD! It was almost a seeven days a week job but at the end I’m absolutely happy with my descision. It’s weird how your attitude, your perception can change after having a baby/babies 🙂 good luck both of you, hope we’ll hear more about your preganancies.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Just read that you’re having twin girls! How fun! I have to say Leandra it is nice reading you being so positive and looking at each step of your pregnancy as a blessing. Because it is. I don’t have children myself yet but my Mother always said to me that she tried to keep a positive state of mind while she was pregnant with me. She thinks it is the one of the reasons (besides my own winning personality) that I came out such a happy baby. She said I was full of giggles and laughs.

  • Jessica Williams

    Is Leandra finally pregnant? I’ve followed your posts on struggling with fertility from the beginning. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations!!!


  • Suzan

    I’m so happy for both of you and your partners! And excited to keep on following your journey through MR (and maybe a bit IG as well). This conversation was a delight to read!
    Wishing you a great weekend and swift satisfying poops! X

  • PregnantinPortland

    Hey there Leandra and Pandora,
    I’m very happy for you both! I’m currently 23 weeks, and am struggling to find any good clothes! I HATE Maternity clothes, perhaps you could share what you’re wearing, where you’re finding things? I need a cocktail dress pronto!

  • Lauren

    Thank you for this! As a “big pregnant lady” myself, this was so nice to see the realities talked about here between girlfriends. I have had so many mixed feelings throughout my pregnancy, helped along by my hormones no doubt, and it has been both beautiful and terrifying. My favorite part of your article was how people feel the license to talk about my body. It’s totally bizarre to me. Everyone wants to tell me my bump is big or small or riding high or low or did it drop… and it’s strange because I both want to talk about it (my first pregnancy is easily the most important thing that’s ever happened to me) and yet does not make up my totality (I’m a daughter, sister, wife, doctor, friend.. etc).

    The other part that is well said here is about the unanticipated psychological changes that accompany the physical changes in my body. As a thinner, fit, athletic woman, this has been so difficult. I hate not being able to run, jump, lift like I used to. At the same time I am astonished at my body’s natural ability to just grow a completely unique person. So I am both stunned (I’m going to create calories to feed another person!) and dismayed (I can’t put on socks or paint my toenails!).

    Best of luck to you two ladies with your pregnancies and new babies. 🙂

  • This article made me like Pandora even more. I appreciate so much her honesty about not loving being pregnant in the way the world expects women to be. That thing about her husband touching her belly while she’s still asleep is so sweet!
    And Pandora, if you’re reading, I’m glad your sister is well, now. I know I may sound hypocrite since we don’t know each other but it must be so hard to be in such a delicate moment (well, a veeeery long moment) of your life and not being able to 100% enjoy it because such a horrible thing is going on in your family.
    You and Leandra are two women I always think about when I think of successful women I like (I dream of becoming a freelance writer).

  • LG

    I have neither children nor desire therefor…yet. Still, the female experience is so fraught and profound. I loved this exchange, as did my CNM mom. Thanks to you both and an extra thank you, Leandra, for bringing the realness for all these years. 143

  • labellefemmemagnifique.blogspo

    Thank you…
    For this dialogue.

    It has continued to resonate with me in the weeks since you published it— maybe in a way that you didn’t initially intend it to (or maybe I am making false assumptions about the intended audience: those expecting, women with children who are navigating their new identities now that ‘mother’ has become a part of that identity.) My orientation to the discussion is a little more distant practically speaking–I just hit the quarter century mark a week ago, just beginning my career, still settling into the day to day complexities of a relationship. Motherhood is not in my super-near future- I just moved from San Francisco to London, I am just starting a business, just enrolled in classes to round out my design resume. With all of this ahead of me there is an expectation motherhood is (or should be?) very much it in my purview, but it informs my outlook on my career and already seems to define me in many ways. After graduating from university, I worked as a one of those ‘super nannies’ that always seem to be written about, often painted as victims of self indulgent women who use their children as accessories, or indicators of their own success. This was not my experience. **I recognize the privilege inherent in that.) I am also fully aware that the ability to afford a nanny is a luxury: I was paid twice as much as most of my peer group, three times as much as peers without a college education.** But I was paid for a specific skill-set, one that I realized was significantly less common than I thought it was. I was increasingly struck by how unnatural the day to day tasks of raising even one child were to so many women who I encountered in my day to day life caretaking: During school drop offs and pickups, in mommy and me classes and simply being in the city with ‘my’ kids, I encountered woman after woman on the brink of tears, pleading with children– women in utter despair, women who you could see felt like failures because they couldn’t navigate a street with a stroller, or balance a coffee and a bottle effortlessly.

    I grew up thinking my mom was the exception– other mothers stayed home and prepared beautiful healthy snacks for snack time, at my home it was my nanny. I never had any resentment there, my mom had outsourced for what she knew she couldn’t do. I accepted this like I accepted that the sun would rise, and if anything I felt bad for every other child who didn’t have Deloris (my nanny) in their life. But I didn’t see the struggle of some of these mothers: I saw bright happy faced, skinny mothers, perfectly cleaned houses, detailed cars, organized closets. I thought these women had chosen to be professional mothers, I thought that most women were just good at all of these things. My mom felt guilt and inadequacy when she compared herself to their seeming effortless ability to whip together a PTA meeting or class party and arrive on-time for school. But she had Dee and was mostly just grateful that she did.

    The conversation between the two of you spoke this myth that begins before a child is even born– that there is a binary between ‘good mother’ and ‘bad mother,’ and one is defined as such by their inclination for traditional maternal roles (including childbearing). It is easy to undermine my experience raising three children: they weren’t mine, it was just a year, I didn’t sleep there, the list goes on… But I was there from breakfast to just before bedtime, I dropped them off and picked them up from school, I knew everything that happened during their days, every fear or hurt they felt, I felt and every success they felt I did too. I worried about them, I took care of them when they were sick, and I loved them. I was not a great house manager, I always prioritized reading with the kids over reorganizing the refrigerator, which was, in retrospect, self indulgent. But I played to my strengths, and I had the distance i.e. NOT being the parent, to be forgiving of my shortcomings. I was twenty-three and there was no expectation that I would be perfect, that I would need to love every second of cleaning up a dirty diaper, every hour of sitting on the bathroom floor while teaching potty training. I had the freedom that most women do not have, to hate my job, my life as I cleaned throw-up off of my shirt or out of a rug, without feeling the least guilt or doubting how much I loved the kids, or to doubt that I was not excellent at my job.

    The more I live, the more women I encounter, the more fake smiles I see and the secret pain I glimpse, I realize how oppressive this binary is for women. I have had the privilege to learn that motherhood is not binary, that success in motherhood is more akin to success in high school: some students excel in History, are terrible in Geometry. In highschool there is an expectation that one will be stronger in some areas than others, that no transcript will be identical, that it is a time of learning and growth- a time to define areas of strength and work on areas of weakness. When the role of motherhood is understood in a similar light, as a multifaceted and often conflicting role, one can hopefully learn to appreciate ones strengths as well as learn to understand their weaknesses, and hopefully feel more comfortable in reaching out for support where they need it, without feeling that according to some binary, a weakness is a failure. No stay-at-home mother, nor working mother should feel that they are biologically predisposed to be perfect in the role they choose.

    The framing of your different experiences *from the very beginning of motherhood* is powerful in challenging this binary. Pandora– it sounds like the physicality of pregnancy is significantly more uncomfortable for you than for you Leandra, but you do not read as a less nurturing or a less supportive woman– you worry about the health of your sister, the happiness of your mother. The role of caregiver is so multifaceted– this myth of being good at ‘it’ or bad at ‘it’ relies on such an oversimplification of this role. What does ‘it’ refer to: Is ‘it’ the interpersonal enjoyment of teaching a child to read, or the detail oriented ability to make sure that a child has a healthy lunch packed that will get them through the day?
    As someone who is beginning to define the role I want in my career, I still think about and feel limited by the ways that motherhood could effect that expression of who I am professionally and personally. Reading your article– knowing that there are creative and professional women a few years ahead of me that are changing that dialogue is incredibly empowering.

    Thank you both for your candor and your courage.

  • Phoebe Nyria

    NZ prime minister just announced her pregnancy this week. She is taking 6 weeks off and then hubby will stay home with the baby full-time. I am so excited to watch how her family navigate this time and also have my fingers and toes crossed that it doesn’t bring some latent bubbling sexism out like having a female PM did in Australia.