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The Mommy Job

Here’s what I thought about when I read this New York Times article about the “mommy makeover,” a cosmetic-surgery package meant to undo the ravages wrought by pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

When I read this passage

Many women struggle with the impact of aging and pregnancy on their bodies. But the marketing of the “mommy makeover” seeks to pathologize the postpartum body, characterizing pregnancy and childbirth as maladies with disfiguring aftereffects that can be repaired with the help of scalpels and cannulae.

I thought about how the medical establishment used to treat pregnancy and childbirth themselves as though they were a disease to be cured with drugs and forceps. I thought about how hard women’s health advocates—and mothers themselves—have fought to change attitudes and standards of care so that birth is regarded as a normal activity, one that most healthy women can accomplish with a modest amount of loving, respectful support.

And then I thought about Pushed, a book about the endangered state of physiological childbirth that I reviewed in the latest issue of Bitch. I thought about my own induction into motherhood, and the emergency c-section that I’m still very sad about. I thought about how we, as a culture, seem to be changing our minds about the naturalness and goodness of childbirth—or, and this may be worse, we’re letting our doctors change our minds for us.

I thought about how we use cute nicknames like c-section and tummy tuck and the word “procedure.” I thought about how doctors print up glossy, glamorous brochures describing surgeries as if they were no different than a haircut or a pedicure. I thought about how the popular media frame both the cesarean section and breast augmentation as just a couple more consumer choices. I thought about how this pathologizes a mother’s body, too. If I have sagging breasts and a flabby belly, it’s because I was too cheap, too lazy, too crunchy, too whatever to do something about it. It’s my choice, which really means it’s my fault.

And I thought about how, until really quite recently, womanhood itself was viewed as a deformity. Well into the modern era, the woman’s body was just a flawed copy of a man’s. It was weak, incomplete, and, above all, permeable, and pregnancy and childbirth were, clearly, just the most grotesque symptoms of the malady of womanhood. As I read this article, I thought about how maybe our conception of the female body hasn’t changed that much after all.

October 4, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack