Share pregnancy with family, society

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Share pregnancy with family, society


An old lady seemed displeased to find a slim, young woman sitting on the priority seating on the subway. She asked, “Are you pregnant?” The young woman responded, “Yes, how did you know?” Most men, including myself, cannot realize if a woman is pregnant until their belly starts swelling. It is amazing how women know if another woman is carrying a child just by looking at her.

In fact, men are relatively insensitive to the difficulties a pregnant woman goes through, especially if she is not his wife or daughter. Army Lt. Lee Shin-ae died while working overtime during her pregnancy, and the male-oriented work atmosphere may have contributed to her tragic death. While the first trimester is the most critical time in a pregnancy, the exemption from watch-keeping duty for pregnant female officers used to be approved from seven months into the pregnancy. In 2005, the exemption was approved upon submission of a doctor’s note affirming pregnancy.

In this traditional society, pregnancy and childbirth used to be considered private matters. The ancient Chinese guideline for pregnant women, which discouraged women from lying on their side, sitting in the corner, standing on one foot or eating rough food, continued through the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

When the mother of Lee Hyun-il (1627-1704) was pregnant, she did not eat vegetables or fruit whose shapes were not pretty, kept her head down and did not look at other people at a village party. Female Silhak scholar Lee Sajudang (1737-1821) was the first to advocate that pregnancy is not the sole responsibility of the mother, but of the entire household, in her book, “Prenatal Education” (Lee Hye-sun, “Late Joseon Dynasty Female Intellectuals.”)

Lee Sajudang wrote the book based on her experiences and knowledge as a mother of four. She wrote that it was easier to give birth when the mother keeps her body straight and lies on her stomach. With specific examples and detailed explanations, the book is considered an unprecedented treasure, especially as it is written by a woman.

Just as the senior pension and elderly care insurance show, filial piety is no longer a personal issue but a social value. Pregnancy and child care should also be approached as social tasks. They are not women’s sole responsibility and should be shared by the entire family and society.

Thursday was the Day of Expectant Mothers. October is a month of harvest, and the length of a full-term pregnancy is nine months. Various events on prenatal education and childcare were held, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that each subway car in the Seoul Metro system would have two seats for pregnant women. As consideration is spreading in this society, the traditional teaching of “refraining from looking at gaudy things and listening to obscene music” is still valid.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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