Reader Rimi asked me to talk about the anti-cesarean movement in North America. This movement is part of a wider phenomenon I refer to as “the sacrificial motherhood philosophy.” It started to develop as part of the backlash against the feminist advances of the 1970ies. As we all know, I come from a different culture, one that still believes the myth that everybody is profoundly feminist in North America. It took me a while to discover the main tenets of this philosophy. Here they are as I see them right now. Feel free to add your own.
– You can never do enough or sacrifice enough to be a “good” mother.
– A pregnant woman is a sort of an invalid who needs to renounce many things in order to have a “correct” pregnancy. For instance, the list of foods a pregnant woman is not supposed to touch is mile-long. Seeing that list made me envy my illiterate great-great-grandmother who had 6 perfectly healthy children without ever discovering that tomatoes were supposed to be poison for her.
– There are correct and incorrect ways of giving birth. The correct way is to have a “natural” birth. If you want an elective C-section or an epidural, you are not a real woman. If you do not enjoy getting together with other women or accosting pregnant women in public to share your horror story of shredded vaginas and horrible deliveries, you are not a real woman.
– Breast is best. Which means that if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed until the child is old enough to walk and talk, you are a vile monster. If you want to use a breast pump, you are also a vile monster. If your kid doesn’t get enough nourishment from your breast milk and you supplement it with formula, you are a truly vile monster. And, of course, there is yet another endless list of foods a breast-feeding woman is not supposed to touch.
– Kids benefit from being around their mother 24-7. So if you return to work while your child is at a pre-school age, you are a horrible mother and your kid will grow up to be all kinds of criminal.
– A pacifier is a horrible thing. I haven’t yet been able to find out why some people have fits when they hear the word “pacifier.” All I have been able to gather this far is that the pacifier is supposed to mess with a kid’s teeth. Permanent teeth normally appear much later in a person’s life, but the pacifier-phobia persists.
– If you don’t strive to occupy all of your kid’s time with activities, you are a horrible mother. Sending the kid to play outside or leaving her alone in the room to play with her toys instead of ferreting her around from one play date to another is a sign of a horrible motherhood.
Of course, there are crowds of people who believe that a woman is perfectly capable of choosing the method of delivering a child that suits her best, deciding whether to breastfeed and for how long, and having a career while being a mother. These same people think that nothing tragic will happen if a kid is socialized through day care and is even allowed to play on his or her own every once in a while. They even believe that mothers and their small children can benefit from spending some time apart from each other every once in a while. However, the fanatics of sacrificial mommyhood are so loud that they are capable of screaming down any reasonable person who doesn’t see motherhood as something that needs to condemn you to endless suffering and sacrifice.