Tuesday, April 06, 2010

On Not Being Lady-like

I've been making a conscious decision lately: to not cross my legs. Or my knees. Or even my ankles.

It started with my round ligament pain. It just hurt. Plus it seems like it would simply be healthier to have your hips even instead of tilted to accomodate leg crossing.

It was hard at first to let go of my habitual leg-crossing activities. I've found that crossing a leg helps elevate whatever is in my lap, usually a nursing Margaret but sometimes a book or paper for notes. I also found that sitting with my knees shoulder-distance apart meant that I needed to be more active about my posture. I found myself leaning back too much in the couch. I discovered that for me to have my best posture, I need to sit on the edge of a chair like I was taught in fifth grade band and piano lessons. I actually do this a lot at home at dinner time and it bugs whoever is trying to walk behind my chair, but it's not a posture that's very common at church. Or movie theaters. Or in a restaurant booth. I'm trying to maintain a good posture during this pregnancy to help this baby find a good position for birthing.

As I ventured into my non-lady-like experiment, I started taking note of how other people sit. I was looking for ideas, really. I needed to see how people (usually men) handle not having their legs crossed. I also observed when women did and didn't cross their legs. Church is a big leg-crossing setting. I think it's because most LDS women wear dresses or skirts to church. I've actually toyed with the idea of wearing nice dress pants to church to aid me in my plight for healthier hips and for better Margaret-chasing abilities. This would work well in the winter in the cold, but I'm not sure how it would work in the summer, especially living in California.

Interestingly enough, the place I've found that most women do not cross their legs at is story time at the library. I think it's due to many factors: most are wearing pants, are sitting on the floor/steps, and have to be ready to chase down a stray toddler.

Sitting straight-legged also takes up more space and I've found that to be a strange cultural barrier for myself, too. I'm a woman; I'm not supposed to take up space. To take up space is to control that space and assume power. But I'm getting over that. I am reminded of a couple of Roseanne Barr quotes, "The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it." And also related, "Women should try to increase their size rather than decrease it, because I believe the bigger we are, the more space we'll take up, and the more we'll have to be reckoned with."

I'm curious if there are any of you out there who have experimented with posture during pregnancy or in general. What have you found to be comfortable and workable for you?


  1. Oh this topic has been on my mind lately too. I'm also concerned about getting by baby in a good birthing position. She's currently breech and I'm 28 weeks so she has time to turn.

    I've been trying to sit more on the edge of couch with extra pillows behind me to remind me. Also I'll sit yoga style on my bed while I read, or even lean forward in something similar to childs pose.

    I haven't been trying to not cross my legs though, so I have no advice there. i've more concerned with my back and core staying straighter. I really need to get my birth ball out and blow it up and start sitting on that more too.

  2. My first daughter was breech and in my reading I found that posture and positioning plays a huge role in baby's position. With my 2nd pregnancy I made a real effort to maintain good posture, not cross my legs etc. It felt awkward... my legs feel fatter when I don't cross them while in a chair. But it worked...and my 2nd daughter was not breech. keep it up!

  3. I did a lot of leaning forwards during the end of my pregnancies - both on all fours in the evening, while doing stretching/breathing exercises before bed, and just leaning forwards and resting on a table or the back of a dining chair. It was more comfortable for me than leaning backwards and better for fetal positioning.

    After the births, however, I went back to slouching very quickly! I think I would do well to work on avoiding slouching all the rest of the time too.

  4. I agree that posture is very important to positioning. My midwife advised me to always sit with my hips above my knees. For at least my last trimester I sat on an exercise ball (larger size than recommended for exercise, to be sure my hips were higher) whenever I watched TV. I even had a rolled up towel/pillow combo to sit on in the car (that helped some ligament pain I was having too!) so the bucket seat didn't tip me back.

    I also swam twice a week (breaststroke, which is tipped forward and opening your legs!) and did some yoga.

    I had a bit of back labor, but he moved past that place pretty quickly with all the climbing stairs sideways that I did. I pretty much had a 12-hour labor, with just under 1 hour of pushing (unmedicated at a freestanding birth center).

    I credit all of that with the great positioning of my baby. (But then again, I never really aim to be all that "lady like"!)

  5. I remember learning several years ago that crossing your legs can contribute to vericose veins, poor circulation, etc. I tried to avoid crossing my legs and was perplexed about how to sit comfortably. I took up ankle-crossing instead and I still do that some. I had a roommate in college who was an ASL interpreter. She said she became very self-conscious about sitting in front of a large crowd, since she did it regularly. She said she realized that crossing her legs (like a lady) accentuated her hips and made them look really big from front on. I asked her what position she preferred for sitting. She said she crossed her legs "like a guy" (with one ankle on the opposite knee) and that makes her legs wider than her hips so she hips don't look as big.
    But I have pretty bad posture as far as core posture is concerned and I should work on that.

  6. Thanks for the reminder! The second I read the first sentence, I uncrossed my ankles. I've been finding that even crossing my ankles puts strain on my hip so I've been trying not to.

  7. I haven't been pregnant, but have suffered with a mis-aligned back for most of my life. I finally dedicated myself to not crossing my legs at the knees and have felt a huge difference in my lower back. But like you, I have struggled to know what to do with my legs when they are not crossed. It seems like they flop open, which doesn't seem like a very nice way to sit. Sorry I don't have suggestions for help. I just wanted to say that this is a great topic and timely in my life!

    I will also take a moment to say thank you for your writing. I don't comment often, but I really enjoy what you write about and your perspective. We have common backgrounds (LDS, BYU), so I feel that your perspective actually applies to me and is more realistic for me to consider! Good luck with the move!

  8. When I was pregnant with Ben the only way for me to sit comfortably in the church pew was to put a hymnal (laid horizontally) between my lower back and the pew. I still do this sometimes, even though I'm not pregnant. I actually got the idea by watching other pregnant women at church. I've never been much of a leg crosser, but I do cross my ankles, and I do slouch A LOT. The hymnal supported the curve in my lower back while allowing me to keep my shoulders back and down, causing much better posture. When not at church, I just always tried to sit in firm chairs/benches rather than couches or armchairs because I was able to more easily sit up straight. I'm not sure if this helped with Ben's position, but it certainly made me much more comfortable. Great topic! And good luck!

  9. Oh, how I wish I'd read this post while I was pregnant. I have always had HORRIBLE posture, to the point that standing up straight for any length of time is painful. My daughter's birth was a homebirth-transferred-to-hospital resulting in a c-section for a somewhat large very posterior baby. In all of the darn research and studying on birth I did, either I missed the stuff on posture or I wasn't paying attention. If I am ever pregnant again, you can bet I'll be keeping my posture as perfect as I possibly can.


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