Serena Williams announced this past week that she is twenty weeks pregnant. If the current pace of buzz surrounding this announcement holds up, we are in for roughly nineteen more weeks of speculation as to what this means. As a formerly pregnant woman, it has come to my attention that the twitter-sphere would benefit from some guidance as to how to discuss the pregnancy of another human being. And so I will temporarily don the Emily Post hat, big though it is, and offer, gently, some suggestions so that we might all survive Serena’s pregnancy to term.
Rule #1: If you have never been pregnant, shut the fuck up.
No need to ooh and ah that she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Pregnancy is not necessarily a disability. Although every movie you’ve watched might have dramatized the discovery of pregnancy by showing a woman puking in a toilet, some women have no morning sickness whatsoever. In fact, in some cases, they feel better than ever. But when I pointed this out earlier this week, I was not even imagining that some one would make the opposite argument: that pregnancy afforded Serena an unfair advantage in match play. This theory, when poised against the time-honored chestnut that Serena has always enjoyed an unfair advantage because she is a man, is enough to make my head spin right off its axis. Surely, then, the ultimate advantage would be to play as a pregnant man such as Thomas Beatie. Yet somehow, in a Williams v. Beatie match-up, I still pick Williams, so shall we move on?
Rule #2: If you are a man who cannot get pregnant, really, shut the fuck up.
The mere sight of any man speculating as to what pregnancy might feel like or entail has been totally ruined for me by the current crusade to end coverage of maternity health care on the grounds that men don’t need it. You know what men also don’t need? Sex. They don’t need sex. The correct Emily Post etiquette for dating a guy who believes he should not have to pay the cost of your birth control or pregnancy is to sit, legs tightly crossed, while he pays for dinner, drinks, and dessert. Then laugh in his face when he begs for sex.
Rule #3: Expect anything.
As our Congress seems to forget, pregnancy can be a high-risk venture. I’ve had friends who have lost pregnancies in their third trimester. Friends who have carried a fetus to term only to deliver it dead. Friends who have been put on bed-rest for months. Friends who have almost died of preeclampsia. I had a great pregnancy only to be zonked with postpartum depression. We want Serena to have an easy pregnancy, an uncomplicated delivery, and a wonderful recovery. But we want that for everyone. So please, support Planned Parenthood, excellent maternity care, and guaranteed maternity leave for all.
Rule #4: Don’t speculate on what the baby will look like.
This rule is for Nasty Nastase.