First the Egg is a nonsexist space focused on pregnancy, birth, and helping children grow up whole and happy. For the purposes of this site, a feminist approach to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting:
- challenges the strong gender norms and biases of mainstream birth and parenting culture–and of ‘natural’/alternative birth culture as well,
- honors the immense range of individual experiences, values, needs, and situations rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach,
- seeks to empower individuals and families to make truly informed decisions on their own terms, and
- attends to and questions dynamics of power, including issues of privilege, injustice, and authority.
Nothing on this site is intended as medical advice. (I have absolutely zero medical training, for starters.) Instead, First the Egg offers starting places for education and exploration. I choose links and resources based on whether they seem useful for actively thinking (and feeling) our individual ways through complicated decisions, issues, and experiences. In other words, I’m going for thought-provoking and cannot guarantee the accuracy of any of these resources–let alone how their various perspectives will interact with your own needs, body, and situation.
Feel free to link to this site and its pages/posts, but please do not reproduce any of my writing or images without my permission.
Thanks for visiting!
My name is Molly Westerman. Like everyone, I write from a particular perspective and out of my own experiences–though I do strive to be aware of the limitations of my perspective and of the many different and valuable perspectives around me. I am:
- a woman in my 30s
- a recovering academic: I have a PhD in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with expertise in literary theory and twentieth-century British novels, and I am a huge book nerd.
- a writer
- the parent of two young children, nearly six years apart, both boys
- heterosexually partnered–married, even
- a native of Kentucky: I’ve also lived in Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, and Minnesota.
- totally head-over-heels in love with the Twin Cities: I actually have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to live anywhere else. Seriously, Minneapolis and St. Paul, you float my boat like nobody’s business.
- sarcastic in a way Minnesotans sometimes don’t seem to get
- suspicious of the status quo
- a longtime vegetarian
- a foodie
- the child of divorced parents
- somebody’s little sister; nobody’s big sister
In some ways I am a stereotypical earthy-birthy crunchy ‘natural birth’/'natural parenting’ advocate:
- I gave birth to my first baby at a freestanding birth center, attended by Eric, a midwife (CNM), and a nurse practitioner. I gave birth to my second baby in our living room, attended by Eric, the first baby (or rather five-year-old), a midwife (CPM) and her assistant, another midwife to care for our older child, and our dog and parrot. (You can read Noah’s and my birth story here. Simon’s and mine starts here.)
- For me, birthing did not just give me a child. It gave me an astounding and lasting sense of power, increased self-awareness, greater intimacy and openness with my partner, unbelievably beautiful memories, a new and improved relationship with my own body and sexuality, and lots of other mushy-gushy stuff that I value deeply.
- I practice full-term breastfeeding (aka child-led weaning or–problematic term alert–’extended’ breastfeeding). And I love it. I missed it a million times a zillion between children, and now I’m on that path again. I believe passionately that breastfeeding needs and deserves far greater social, cultural, and practical support.
- I’ve trained with DONA as a birth doula.
- I read birth and parenting blogs like normal people read news sites or celebrity magazines.
- Noah napped on us instead of in his crib until he was a year old. And, while there were times when I really really wanted to get up to pee but didn’t want to wake him, I loved having him breathing on me and looking down at his sleeping face while I wrote my dissertation. His lips barely parted, head tilted back, eyes softly closed. Mmmm. Our second child slept right next to me at night for his first month, because that was what he needed, and it was lovely.
- We don’t like toys with batteries (toys that make noises, talk, sing, light up, move, etc.) and have a suspicious number of wooden toys. Plus some made from recycled milk cartons.
- We exclusively use cloth diapers.
- We have a no-television-or-movies-until-age-two policy and are very sparing with screen time after that. We don’t have cable (or indeed a television that’s hooked up).
- We seek out medical practitioners who are happy with critically-thinking and curious patients/parents. We tend to avoid medication if there are non-pharmaceutical approaches to try first. We lurve family practice nurse practitioners (we don’t use a pediatrician) because they tend to meet with us longer and offer a whole-family and wellness-oriented approach. Our family’s current care provider gave birth to her own children at home.
- When he was three and four, our son referred to vegetarian food as “regular food,” as in “Why can’t they just eat regular food?”
- I’m suspicious of plastic. And of nonorganic dairy products. And so forth.
- We’re baby-wearers who’ve never used a stroller. Hippies! Hippies!
And in some ways I’m not:
- I believe that every individual/family has legitimately different needs, priorities, and resources and therefore different ‘best options’ for baby feeding.
- On the same note, I believe that every individual/family has legitimately different needs, priorities, and resources–and labors–and therefore different ‘best options’ for pain relief in labor. Ditto for place of birth (home, birth center, hospital) and care provider (OB, CNM, CPM, etc.).
- While I breastfed Noah, I worked. Instead of gazing lovingly into my nursing baby’s eyes, I was typically doing research online, writing, revising, emailing students, planning classes, etc. (At the time, I was teaching college courses and writing a dissertation.) And I didn’t feel guilty about it, either.
- We don’t co-sleep. All the time … I guess what I’m saying is that our bed-sharing has not been wholehearted: baby Noah in our bed after the super-early-morning breastfeeding to get a few extra hours of sleep; five-year-old Noah on the crib mattress on the floor next to our bed all night to ward off nightmares. Baby Simon in our bed for the first month and in his crib next to our bed once he was ready, with occasional naps next to me in bed during the early months when we’d both drift off nursing or just hanging out. We are neither poster children for co-sleeping nor poster children for the Never Ever Share a Bed with Your Child folks.
- The baby-wearing thing is totally out of convenience, not out of a strict adherence to ‘attachment parenting’ or any other ‘parenting style.’ Strollers just seem like such a huge pain. I know they work for some people, but we’re all about something we can fold up and stick in the diaper bag when the child’s not in it. Not to mention being able to climb stairs, use escalators, hike, get in and out of shuttles at the airport (and actually walk all the way to the airplane seat before unloading bags and child simultaneously), and so forth with ease. We also like that carriers allow the child to see basically what the adult is seeing and that they keep us close enough to hear each other easily.
- We don’t avoid or delay standard vaccinations.
- I have huge problems with the term ‘natural birth’ because I have huge intellectual and ethical problems with the loaded and vague term ‘natural.’ I prefer the term ‘low-intervention birth’ (or ‘unmedicated birth,’ if that’s what is meant).
- I also have huge problems with certain heavily-gendering and essentializing aspects of the natural childbirth and parenting movements.
I’m a lot of other things, too, but that should give you an idea of why–and from what angle–I’ve built this site.
Like most real-life feminists, I bear little resemblance to the caricature so prevalent in our cultural imagination. I am most certainly no man-hater, nor a crazy cat lady without a ‘real life’ or interests (though I do like cats pretty well), nor anti-family, nor frigid and uptight, nor wildly promiscuous. Even though I realize these stereotypes are genuinely harmful and really do prevent many actual young people from exploring feminism, it cracks me up that we’re supposed simultaneously to be undersexed ice queens and debauched Girls-Gone-Wild sex fiends: that’s quite a trick!
I believe that sexism is deeply damaging to boys and men as well as to girls and women. By “sexism” I mean not only the more visible forms of sex-based discrimination (unequal pay, for instance) and hateful attitudes regarding women (‘cunt’ and ‘pussy’ functioning as insults, for instance) but also the entire system by which we grant huge meaning to the difference in sex organs. Our culture seems to imagine that men and women are two different sorts of people entirely, rather than individuals with all sorts of physical differences and similarities across all sorts of lines–from penis/vulva to innie/outie to short/tall.
My male partner feels slighted and harassed by this system just like I do. We both hate that it will impinge upon our sons as they enter a society that we see as deeply screwed up in lots of ways. On the other hand, we realize that in most practical senses we are more annoyed and inconvenienced than tragically harmed by this system, because we are white and heterosexually partnered and able-bodied and were given immense educational and economic opportunities that all sorts of other people don’t get–because we are not, in other words, doubly or triply oppressed.
I admit I’m not actually super pepped up about the word ‘feminism.’ It’s not what I would make up from scratch if I had the chance. But it is the word that encompasses what I mean here and places my commitments within their broader history.
In our culture, the history of people recognizing the oppressive and arbitrary nature of gender as a system is the history of women and men recognizing women’s oppression within the particular patriarchal system of the United States and other nations. Our insights into a broader sexism are the fruit of many people’s struggles against the restrictions and expectations placed on the direct victims of sexism as we’ve practiced it (in short, women).
And indeed, while all people are slighted and distorted by sexism, women do remain the ‘second class’ in our world. It’s okay for girls and women to wear ‘masculine’-coded pants but not for boys or men to wear ‘feminine’-coded skirts because masculine=powerful and feminine=weak (“sissy,” “girly,” etc.). Women get paid less to do the same work. Even in the academic world, where we think we’re so thoughtful, we see a ‘Mommy penalty’ and a ‘Daddy bonus.’ Mothers are overwhelmingly considered primarily responsible for their children’s well-being and for home/kitchen work even if they have careers as well. A woman who has multiple sex partners is ‘slutty’ while a man who does the same is unremarkable or even admirable. Etc., etc., etc. So, obviously, women are a lot more likely to feel oppressed by our system–and act up against it–than are (cis-gendered, heterosexual) men.
Page last updated: 14 June 2013