When I found out that I was pregnant back in August 2022, I immediately Googled how other PhD candidates had survived writing a dissertation and going through pregnancy at the same time. There was generally lots of really rosy perspectives about the strength of women, leaning on social networks, and “I succeeded and so can you too” stories. So armed with some reassurance, I banned myself from writing a blog post about how to succeed at both simultaneously, feeling that I couldn’t add more to the conversation.
That said, since I plan to include parts of my pregnancy and new mom journey in my dissertation as asides and creative commentary on my research as I work through settler and Anishinaabe treaty relations, I figured that a few quick blog posts would help me organize my thoughts on the surface level, but what I didn’t anticipate was what pregnancy would bring out in me and the trajectory of my work.
I should say that this pregnancy was planned, almost perfectly as my husband and I felt that after many years together now was the time to embark on this new journey. However, I dreaded the idea of being full on pregnant during the summer, so we planned on a winter pregnancy and it couldn’t have worked out better. Being pregnant throughout the cool fall and chilly winter has been a dream as someone who typically runs warm, though as I’m writing this at 30 weeks my fatigue is throwing my temperature all over the charts and that’s not the only thing.
As someone who makes a living with my mind, it has been frustrating to go through the memory loss and diminished language skills. When I try to think of words or concepts that were second nature to me a few months ago, it feels like I’m reaching into a pool of water and fumbling around in the dark, grasping at some oblong object that I can’t quite identify. Yet, some of the best writing that I’ve done (in my humble opinion) has been since August, I just don’t always remember clearly what I wrote afterwards. My focus on writing and research goals and strategies has been the best it has ever been and I’m more willing to take chances in both areas.
I think it’s because the stakes have changed. When I initially conceptualized my research on treaty discourses, settler and Anishinaabe relations were very real issues in my life but I had a definitive boundary of what I could speak on and about. As a British/Canadian settler, I am complicit in settler colonialism, but married into an Anishinaabe community I often remained peripheral to familial and community issues. That is, I understood the affects of settler colonialism at an academic level, but despite empathizing with Indigenous peoples, I never felt the dread in my gut of facing day after day of systemic racism and uncertain futures. What a privilege, right?
But when I went through the first ultrasound of my pregnancy, I felt a ferocity to protect this little one’s future at all costs, even if that meant crossing those boundaries that my colonial mind had created. When, a few weeks later, we learned that we are expecting a son, I felt pulled from the periphery into the thick of the issues of racism, discrimination, and questions of equitable relations. I I recognize that it is still not my place to speak on community issues, but when it comes to the potential implications for my work…well it’s become more important than ever.
As a settler, I’ve always been careful to state that when I teach or write about Indigenous issues that I don’t speak for anyone but rather use my privileged space in a way that, I hope, elevates other peoples’ voices. But there will be times when I will have to speak for my son; I will have to speak up for him at times when some may only see him for his ancestry and heritage. It terrifies me to see the daily racism that my husband endures, knowing that my son will likely subjected to it as well. Even the micro-aggressions of being followed around in stores hits me harder than it used to.
I guess, in the end, how can I advocate for better relations while also recognizing that my son will likely be subjected to colonial harm? How can I provide him with the best possible future, while also seeing the flaws in the system that could potentially recreate a future that repeats the mistakes and oppressions of the past?
As I see it, through my work I can implore settlers to do what should be done to improve relations, including taking long hard looks at reconciliation efforts to determine who benefits most from them and to move away from mere performative acts. But I feel that it is only a small part of a bigger something. Really, the stakes have always been high for Indigenous peoples when it comes to pushing for equity, it’s just that now my own responsibility goes beyond performance, it goes beyond simply researching and writing for myself. Responsibility calls on me to do more and be more…for my son.