Birthing, like many other things, appears to be susceptible to trends.
Ebs ands flows in the way women birth change with technology and sentiment. Birthing women as early as 1914 were placed into a “twilight sleep” while their husbands were banned from the delivery room. Expectant mothers in that era didn’t so much give birth as much as they awoke to the presence of their infant. And as appealing as that might be to some, the importance of the birth experience slowly crept to center of expectant parenthood and we saw the the importance of a “birth partner,” something that expectant mothers in the 1950s never knew.
C-sections, a procedure initially designed to save the life of mother and baby in cases were vaginal birth is not possible, is now considered standard practice. One in three births in the United States is now performed via c-section, and mostly out of convenience. And as the major abdominal surgery has become even more commonplace, we’ve seen the rise in elective c-sections — or the “too posh to push” epidemic. Scheduling your delivery became a sign of status as the birthing plan of celebrity mothers, such as Victoria Beckham or Britney Spears, consisted of merely choosing a date on the calendar. Women were free to opt out of the “experience” of conventional birth entirely as more and more women, particularly in wealthy metropolitan areas, simply scheduled a c-section.
But with this cultural abhorrence for birth among upper class women, we’re also seeing another option gain more visibility: surrogacy. While the option has helped many many women achieve motherhood who otherwise could not carry a child, the surrogacy choice is also being made by a multitude of women who physically could endure pregnancy, but don’t want to.
Think of famed columnist and writer Alex Kuczynski who wrote extensively on the cosmetic surgery business after having many procedures herself. In 2006, she grossly concluded in her book Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession with Plastic Surgery:
“…looks are the new feminism, an activism of aesthetics. As vulgar and shallow as it sounds, looks matter more than they ever have — especially for women.”
As laughable as that is to anyone who has even a remote understanding of feminism, Alex is correct when stressing the rising obsession with physical appearance in modern women. In a recent study of a young, professional women in England, nearly half of the participants said that they never wanted a child. Among their many reasons including attachment to their lifestyle, dedication to their careers, and pity for working mothers who attempted to “have it all” was a concern for how pregnancy would negatively affect their appearance. One-third of childless women surveyed said that having a baby would make them “less body confident” — a factor that held a lot of prominence to women with careers.
The cultural fascination with the bodies of celebrity mothers, both pre- and post-baby, was also considered a component in the study. And you don’t necessarily need to be an avid reader of US magazine to understand the media frenzy surrounding pregnant, or suspected to be pregnant, celebrities. The “body narrative” consumes a performer’s entire career once she announces to the press that she is expecting. Everything from her work0out regime to the size of her bump to her post-baby diet is suddenly fodder for the tabloids, despite whatever movie she happens to be promoting in the process. Regardless of other achievements in their careers, suddenly, everything comes down to her body.