Pregnancy, Motherhood & Wanting it All: Reflection of The Rules Don't Apply
“They wanted to know what they have to eat to keep from being me.”
Ariel Levy's memoir, The Rules Don't Apply perfectly encapsulates the complex and heart-wrenching pain of being a woman who wants it all. For Levy, she describes her desire for being a mother as well as also having a successful career, as well as being in love in a happy relationship with the love of her life.
The idea of having it all is something that is often romanticized in memoirs and novels, but for Levy, she isn't afraid to tear apart the glamorized veil and talk about the realness of the fact that we can't control things in our lives as much as we think we do.
Along with talking about many complex issues that women face in their lives, but the focus on Levy wanting to get pregnant and being afraid of the complications or implications due to the age is something that especially stuck out to me.
For women, their biological clocks are something that looms over women like a huge time bomb waiting to implode. Even though that right "time" to have children seems like miles away, Levy confronts the feeling of running out of time. She also talks about the ways in which the choices that women make while pregnant are often put under a spotlight.
The climactic point of the memoir, of course, is Levy's choice to fly to Mongolia while she was 5 months pregnant. Even before taking this trip, she started to notice after getting pregnant how the world viewed her differently – everyone saw her as more fragile, more susceptible to destruction. It made me think about how women's bodies are viewed in terms of pregnancy and fertility. Ariel Levy makes it clear throughout her memoir that she's an adventurer and that's how she treated her pregnancy as well – wanting to be fearless and not worrying about the rules. She wrote,
So much of the panic around pregnancy seemed like fussy yuppie nonsense. Secretly, I judged Emma for following all the rules so fastidiously for getting edgy around deli meat and treating coffee like crack rock. I would teach my child the power of fearlessness. I would tell them, "When you were inside of me, we went to the edge of the earth." – (Levy, 139)
Although pregnancy and motherhood is something that is far away from my thoughts – it made me think about my own biological timeline, as well as my mom's. My mother didn't want kids for the longest time until she met my dad in her 30's. Until then, she was convinced she would be an "old maid" – a stereotype that in Lithuania, was a badge of shame for women. After she married, she had me when she was 34. She had my sister when she was 37. An age that was seen as absurd. She too, experienced the warnings and fears around her when she was holding her future children in her belly.
She was very athletic as a young girl – she loved to work out, play sports and go on long walks and enjoyed swimming in the Baltic Sea. One day, while going on a run, she noticed she had a bit of bleeding and went to the doctor. She got a scolding. "Child, what do you think you're doing?" the doctor asked her. She ended up being fine A couple months later I was born – happy and healthy. She even tells me to this day that the reason I'm able to sustain the cold well is that she swam in the sea while I was inside her stomach. Then, 3 years later, my sister was born. We later learned she was on the autism spectrum.
I remember one time my mother said something very vulnerable to me – she basically said that she worried that because she had us so late, maybe that's why my sister had developmental issues. Even though the doctor's said that the symptoms came later and that my mom was completely healthy when she had us, she still had this doubtful fear in the back of her head. I thought of this when I was reading Levy's memoir, especially when people were questioning her about her miscarriage. She writes,
"Have they figured out what happened yet?" people keep asking me about my own medical defeat.
"Yes," I tell them. "I had bad luck."
This is not what they want to hear. They want to hear that I had a bad obstetrician. Or that I took something you're not supposed to take, or didn't take something that you are. They want to hear that I neglected to get an ultrasound. Or that I have some kind of rare blood disorder that can be fixed with the right medicine or surgery or iPhone app. They wanted to know what they have to eat to keep from being me. –– (Levy, 197)
This passage made me think about the idea of rules again, as Levy explained earlier in the book. When she told people about her loss, they assumed that something happened wrong, she didn't follow the rules, or her doctors didn't. I feel like people The idea of having it all, and not being able to have it all due to biological limitations is a sad truth that many women have to live with. It's a heavy weight on their shoulders, both before planning a pregnancy and while they are pregnant. But what shouldn't be accepted is the attitudes and pressures that society puts on women during already such a hard time. Women are strong and have the ability to bring life into the world, but they're not superwomen and they certainly can't control fate or time.