Category Archives: pregnancy

Let’s Question All Versions of the Myth of Perfect Motherhood

I would call it a “pet peeve,” but the stakes are higher: I can’t stand policy arguments based on inaccurate or misrepresented historical facts. My latest peeve-trigger? Claire Howorth’s cover essay in Time magazine, critiquing “The Goddess Myth: How a Vision of Perfect Motherhood Hurts Moms.”

Now, I agree with much of Howorth’s criticism of the unrealistic standards of contemporary motherhood. It’s a main theme of my forthcoming book, Miscarriage and the Quest for the Perfect Pregnancy. But she and I part ways over the role of medicine and public health in our current conundrum…

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Nurse-Midwives are With Women, Walking a Middle Path to a Safe and Rewarding Birth

In childbirth politics as in all politics, extreme viewpoints make the news, and sensible centrists are ignored. A couple of years ago, Ricki Lake provoked a firestorm of debate about home birth with her film, The Business of Being Born, which showcased gloriously crunchy New York City home births, and made the case for the home birth option. Obstetricians responded with censorious anger, shouting at Lake via condescending statements from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Recently, obstetrician and blogger Amy Tuteur published Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, in which she made fun of women stupid enough to believe that they might have a better birth experience without an epidural, and excoriated anyone who would refuse any of the bells and whistles of modern obstetrics. Her title was a response to journalist Jennifer Block’s, Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, an exposé of callous obstetricians who damaged women and their babies with the thoughtless overuse of standard obstetric interventions such as the induction agent cytotec and the drastic overuse of major abdominal surgery (cesarean section).

All this shouting. Is it getting us anywhere? Mightn’t there be some middle path for women who see the appeal of “natural” birth, or who at least would like to minimize their chances of cesarean section, but who are not confident about giving birth without immediate medical back-up?1 Could there possibly be a way to combine the emergency backstop of modern medicine with the caring values of home-birth midwifery?…

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Playwright Alice Eve Cohen Asks Us to Reconsider What We Think We Know about Pregnancy and Motherhood

“What makes a mother real?” asks writer and performer Alice Eve Cohen in her newly-published play, What I Thought I Knew. In 1999, Cohen experienced the most improbably and bizarrely complicated pregnancy imaginable. Her play is a crystallization of her stranger-than-fiction pregnancy memoir that was acclaimed at its 2009 publication with book-of-the-year awards from Salon to Oprah. Cohen’s saga touches on an amazing range of twentieth-century reproductive history and politics, from the birth defects caused by the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) prescribed to pregnant women in the 1950s, to surgical approaches to intersex, to “wrongful life” litigation. Through it all, she never lets her audience rest on their assumptions about motherhood…

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Enforcing Death Rituals after Miscarriage is Just Plain Cruel

The Indiana legislature claims it wants to protect unborn children and their parents. Last week Governor Mike Pence gave his blessing to a new bill aimed primarily at restricting abortion but also addressing miscarriage, explaining, “I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers and families.” But knowing what I do about pregnancy and miscarriage, all I can see is increased pain and confusion in store for women who lose pregnancies in Indiana…

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Clio Talks: An Interview with Historian Jessica Martucci

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing historian Jessica Martucci at length about her new book, Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America. We discussed the Mommy Wars, the politics of pumping, and the importance of playing devil’s advocate with lactivists and skeptics alike. What follows is a snippet of our conversation about La Leche League, a grassroots breastfeeding support and advocacy group that began in 1956 and quickly grew into a nationwide network for breastfeeding peer counseling and activism. In recent decades, La Leche has found itself in conflict with many second-wave feminists over its stance against mothers working, and has often been cast as a major player on the conservative “side” of the Mommy Wars.

Lara: Throughout the book I was intrigued with your treatment of La Leche League. They’re such a powerful piece of this history. They are so important. They have supported so many women, and have also been a difficult ideological thorn in the side of many women over the years. They have succeeded as an organization in a way that I think the founders never pictured. I’m interested in your experience researching them. Where was their archive? What was that like, to go find them and learn more about their history?…

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Yes, We Should Tell about our Miscarriages on Facebook

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg joyfully announced on Facebook that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are expecting a daughter. More solemnly, he added that Chan had experienced three miscarriages before this pregnancy. He shared this personal story as a gesture of support and solidarity with other couples facing similar difficulties. It had meant a lot to him when his friends who had struggled to have children shared their experiences, and now it was his turn.

Zuckerberg’s Facebook post sparked an outpouring of tens of thousands of congratulatory messages, including a remarkable number of miscarriage stories. There is a real hunger for this kind of sharing.

Why are we eager for new ways to commiserate over our experiences of early pregnancy loss? Is this an expression of a long-suppressed need? Or has something about the experience of pregnancy changed?

As a historian, I see many ways in which dramatic, mostly-positive social changes of the past two centuries have had unintended consequences when it comes to early pregnancy loss…

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VULVALUV: Taking Wearable Tech to a New Place

It seems like every day a new health tracking gizmo appears in stores. The fitbit. The Apple Watch. TICKRx. Leaf, a tracker that’s advertised as “for women” because it’s a fitbit copycat shaped like a piece of jewelry. But are any of these really that special? Do any of them really understand what women need?

No! And that’s why I am developing an innovative and unique health tracker, exclusively for the self-aware, self-care-oriented woman.

VULVALUV Wearable Tech Intimates. Soft and sexy, and oh-so-much more…

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