Read along as Minsun, a 29-year-old screenwriter and freelance writer living in Los Angeles, chronicles her first pregnancy.
Minsun Park

They're lurking everywhere. They masquerade as your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. But they can also pose as your dry cleaner, mailman or total strangers. I'm not talking about communists or aliens. I'm talking about The Gestation Gestapo, aka, The Pregnancy Police. The undercover agents of gloom, doom and disapproval.

Virtually every pregnant woman since the dawn of time has been under surveillance by this crack team (crackpot, is more like it) of self-appointed experts who tail you mercilessly with unsolicited advice on how you should eat, sleep, think, dress, behave and copulate (or not) during this delicate time. There are no credentials necessary to join the Pregnancy Police force. Apparently the only prerequisite is having a friend who was pregnant or better yet, a friend of a friend. Regardless of credentials, their mission is the same: to instill doubt in your own good judgment and to cause unnecessary worry.

Since I'm still not obviously pregnant, I haven't had to suffer the slings and arrows of misinformation from complete strangers...yet. But I've received several gestation citations from friends and neighbors. First of all, let me congratulate whatever P.R. agency, the Toxoplasmosis Society or whatever health organization is responsible for raising public awareness of the biological hazards of kitty litter. You people have done an excellent job. For the record, let me state once and for all, "I AM NOT CHANGING THE CAT LITTER ANYMORE!"

I have acquaintances from all walks of life - from gay men to illegal immigrants, who react to my three orange felines with the same universal horror, "You're not still changing the cat litter are you?!" I'm almost tempted to answer yes just so I can see them call the Center for Disease Control and get a Haz-Mat team over to my hot zone of a home and quarantine my plague-ridden cats. What gets me is that most of these people can't even pronounce toxoplasmosis. They're not even sure what it is. They just have some vague notion that pregnant women changing cat litter is a very bad thing. And it's a good thing they've warned me because left to my own devices, I would just jump into the litter box with a pail and shovel and start building sandcastles.

I appreciate the concern, really I do, but give me a little credit for doing some research on what is happening to MY BODY and MY OFFSPRING! I like to flatter myself that I'm a reasonably intelligent, conscientious and responsible member of society who doesn't run with scissors and never operates heavy machinery after taking cold medicine. But kitty litter aside, nothing has elicited more outrage and controversy than the fact that I am still practicing Taekwondo karate.

One of my first questions to my doctor was, "Can I still do taekwondo?" He reassured me that the exercise was a good thing and that as long as it was non-contact, it was fine. He advised me to listen to my body and to stop if I wasn't feeling well. So like a sensible pregnant woman, I put away my sparring gear and pads and warned my class that I was pregnant and that any kicks aimed at my midsection would result in quick and painful death - theirs.

When I tested for my blue belt two months ago, I was only ten weeks pregnant. To pass, I had to break two boards with a side kick. As I prepared to kick, I overheard one of my classmates hiss in a loud stage whisper to my husband, "She really shouldn't be doing that in her condition!" Of course, that totally broke my concentration and I had to do the break on my second try. Regardless of my delicate condition, I broke the boards and mother and fetus are still doing fine.

But since then, quite a few people in my class seem very wary of my presence. To be fair, the classes are a strenuous workout and there is a high percentage of injuries. But almost all of these injuries are sustained from sparring, which I don't do anymore. When I get tired or winded, I slow down or rest, but when I feel like keeping up, I keep up. Most of the time, I can keep up and oddly enough, this is what rubs some of my classmates the wrong way.

It really seems to offend the sensibilities of the small faction of out-of-shape, non-incubators in the class that a pregnant woman is keeping up with them without breaking a sweat while they're turning purple. And they're all too happy to put me in my place. I constantly get snide comments like, "Are you sure you should be doing that?" or "Did you clear that with your doctor first?" or "Aren't you supposed to be taking it easy?" I could ask the the same of them, especially since they're the ones who look like they're about to have an aneurysm.

After a workout, I even got a lecture from a woman because I was drinking Gatorade. According to her, Gatorade was the devil's drink because it had salt in it and a pregnant woman shouldn't have any salt whatsoever. Okaaaay. Whatever. From what I've read, moderate consumption of salt is fine since I'm increasing my blood volume by 50%. But there's no arguing with the Gestation Gestapo. Without such sage intervention, no doubt I'd be doing belly flops onto the mat - WWF style and letting everyone take turns kicking my pregnant belly.

I know that I shouldn't let this get to me, but it's becoming increasingly harder to grin and bear it. For some reason, a pregnant body becomes public property and everybody has to cop a feel and put in their two cents. I'm tired of sheepishly defending myself to people like my next-door neighbor, who swooped down on me like a hawk last week because she saw me in my karate uniform. It may take a village to raise a child, but it seems to require the entire bustling metropolis of Los Angeles to bring my baby to full

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