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Posts from the ‘Motherhood’ Category

Motherhood, Expanded

By Rachel Epp Buller

I was a senior in high school when Vice President Dan Quayle delivered his soon-to-be-infamous diatribe against Murphy Brown while on the campaign trail. Quayle was supposed to be addressing the Los Angeles race riots, but along the way he ended up blaming single mothers for a decline in social values and blasting Candice Bergen's fictional TV character for glorifying single motherhood as “just another lifestyle choice.”[1] Although the speech was viewed at the time as a political gaffe, Quayle and then-President Bush capitalized on the media frenzy to politicize the notion of “family values.” They sought to convey to voters that motherhood should be confined to the institution of heterosexual marriage; morally questionable single mothers endangered both the welfare of children and society as a whole. In the years since Quayle's speech, journalists, sociologists, and historians have continued to write about the Murphy Brown incident.[2] Some argue that Quayle's stance has proven prophetic and that single mothers do indeed wreak havoc on the social fabric.[3]

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If You’re Not My Kid, Please Don’t Call Me “Mom”

By Lara Freidenfelds

The dentist peered in my child’s mouth, then turned to me. “Hey, Mom, you did a good job, no cavities!” I brought my kids for a check-up recently, and our wonderful pediatric dentist warmly complemented me. But why on earth did he call me that? And why did it irk me?

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The Boy Who Lived: Stillbirth and Life after Death

By Meggan Woodbury Bilotte

How do you grieve for a stillborn child? How do you ensure your child is remembered for having lived, not just for having died? These are the questions that Elizabeth Heineman explores in the unflinching, yet deeply intimate, Ghostbelly: A Memoir. Through Heineman's prose it becomes clear that there is no script for stillbirth, no one way to grieve, to remember, to heal.

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“Blossoms of Hope”: Our Cultural History of Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Grief

By Ginny Engholm

In a recent Adventures in the Archives post, Adam Turner recounts a moving story of grief and loss he found in Today’s Health of a woman whose daughter was born three months premature due to a hemolytic disease in the 1950’s. In the comments section after the post, blogger Historiann remarks, "I find it fascinating that she writes of her RH baby as being born ‘just three months too soon,’ and very much as a daughter rather than as a fetus or a patient. Even now, a 3-months preemie is still an extremely premature child with no guarantees–it’s interesting to know that some woman in 1950 thought about her daughter in the ways that seem familiar to [how] those of us in the post-Roe, post-ultrasound era think about pregnancy & children." The commentator's surprise at this mother’s conception of her fetus as a “daughter,” I think, mirrors a current trend in the feminist scholarship of pregnancy and childbirth that seems to divide cultural ideas around pregnancy, fetuses, and infants into pre- and post-Roe. Furthermore, advances in prenatal technology, particularly the development and increasing use of ultrasound technology, encourage us to imagine that women today have different, and in some ways, more personal relationships with their children still in the womb. And no doubt we do.

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Medicine, Modernity, and the Maternal Body

by Jodi Vandenberg-Daves

When I set out to write a synthesis of the history of motherhood in the U.S. back in 2008, I’d been teaching a course by that name for more than a decade. I didn’t anticipate that as I explored this history, I would soon witness a multi-faceted and partisan assault on reproductive rights. Perhaps this political context was part of the reason I found that, as I dug ever deeper into this scholarship, questions about the modernization of the maternal body and the various political tensions embedded within this process kept bubbling to the surface.

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Sportscasters Advocate Elective Cesarean Section

By Lara Freidenfelds

Last week, Momsrising.org and others excoriated sportscasters Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton for obnoxiously opining that baseball player Daniel Murphy should have told his wife to have an elective cesarean section, so that the birth would be done before the season started. Boomer and Carton were annoyed that Murphy missed two games to take 3 days’ paternity leave, to be with his wife after the birth of their child.

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The Pain of Choice: Late Term Abortion and Catastrophic Fetal Diagnoses

By Ginny Engholm

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk in both the political sphere and the blogosphere about the magic twentieth week of pregnancy. For some women, blissfully unaware of the fragility of modern pregnancy, it’s the date at which they find out if they should paint the nursery pink or blue. It’s the date that they schedule the “gender-reveal” party. It’s the date at which the baby goes from being an “it” to a “he” or “she.” For others, it is the thin red line of the abortion debate, the indisputable moment of personhood, the fractious moment where anti-abortion advocates can say, “Aha! It’s really a person after all. You couldn’t possibly think that having an abortion is okay now, could you?”, the moment at which so-called late-term abortion becomes unthinkable for a large majority of the public. For some unlucky women, women like me and like Phoebe Day Danziger, it’s both.

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The Pregnant Body Beautiful

By Carrie Pitzulo

Sometime in the mid-1990s, I journeyed to see pop goddess Tina Turner in concert. Her opening act was the equally fabulous Cyndi Lauper. I assume, and hope, that Cyndi sang “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and “Time After Time,” but I truly don’t remember the details, except for one. What I remember is that as one of the few out feminists in American entertainment, Cyndi preached to the crowd the necessity of acknowledging and respecting pregnant women. Indeed, even from my crummy seat, I could see that she was visibly pregnant. She bopped around the stage, and among the crowd, seemingly unhindered by her baby bump. I distinctly remember her insisting that we not force pregnant women “into the basement,” hidden from society’s view. To paraphrase, Cyndi told us that pregnant women should be able “to walk in the sun,” just like the characters in her biggest hit.

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Faculty Mothers: Continuing the Conversation

By Rachel Epp Buller

Listening ear. Moral support. Advisor. Counselor. Professor. Mother?

I’m in the midst of reading Academic Motherhood: How Faculty Manage Work and Family, by Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel--both of whom are well-published professors of educational leadership.[1] Ward and Wolf-Wendel aren’t the first authors to address this topic; other notable contributions to the conversation include Mama, Ph.D. (and the subsequent Papa, Ph.D.), Parenting and Professing, The Family Track: Keeping Your Faculties While You Mentor, Nurture, Teach, and Serve, and Academic Motherhood in a Post-Second Wave Context.

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My Children and the Limits of White Privilege

By Danielle Swiontek

The community in which I live held a march in memory of Trayvon Martin two weeks ago. It seemed so dated, in a way. In this 24-hour news cycle that we live in, it feels like forever ago since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26, 2012. It seems like ages since the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of his death this past July. Yet the killing of Trayvon Martin continues to haunt me, as it probably does the people who joined the march. The news cycle has moved on, but the issues that Trayvon Martin's death brought to the forefront have not. When I first heard about Trayvon Martin's death, it made me fear for my son. That fear has not gone away in the last two months. It will probably never go away.

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