Historical essay
Pregnancy and Working Mothers-To-Be (Or, Pregnant Supermodels and Olympians, Oh My!)

Pregnancy and Working Mothers-To-Be (Or, Pregnant Supermodels and Olympians, Oh My!)

Once again, pregnancy is in the news!  (What’s that you say?  Discussing the pregnant body (particularly those belonging to celebrities is one of America’s favorite national pastimes.  Pregnancy is also, of course, a common feature here at Nursing Clio.

Okay.  While pregnancy may “always” be in the “news”, there have recently been some interesting twists on celebrity baby watching.  First, we had the Italian fashion model Rafaella Fico who strutted down a Milan runway bearing nothing but a bikini and a bump.  Then, there was the discovery that American Olympian gold medalist, Kerri Walsh, was (gasp!) pregnant while competing in the London Games.

Kerri Walsh Jennings

I know what you’re thinking.  You are thinking that these are just two particular manifestations of the tabloid celebrity baby-gazing that has bombarded popular culture in the last decade or so.  Yaaaaaawn.  And I would agree with you!  But I would also like to suggest that they differ somewhat from other celebrity baby crazes because of the queer entanglement of pregnancy and work.  These two stories involve pregnant women who are pregnant while engaged in their respective lines of paid employment.  Now, most pregnant women are neither Olympians nor Italian fashion models.  These are, of course, very selective occupations for a very privileged few.  What is interesting, however, is that both example provoked public comment only because the pregnant women were highly visible women who engaged in occupations that would seem to eschew the condition of pregnancy.  Also, neither example has, so far, provoked much of a reaction from the public.  Nothing along the lines of what we saw, for example, with the case of Marissa Mayer, the woman who, at six months pregnant, assumed leadership of Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer

Last week, Nursing Clio’s Cheryl Lemus discussed the relative invisibility of pregnant workers from the public discourse.  Given the depth and breadth of the scholarship on the history of labor and motherhood, why don’t we have more scholarship on the history on pregnant women as laborers?  To my knowledge the closest we have right now to a history of pregnancy in the workplace is really the scholarship on motherhood, either as an experience or as a strategy.  There is a nuance here that I think is fertile for further investigation.

 What do you think, readers?  What is the scholarship on pregnancy and paid labor and where might we go from there?

Meggan Woodbury Bilotte is a co-founder of Nursing Clio. Originally from Wyoming, she is now one of the many transplants to call Madison, Wisconsin home. She is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a mother, a partner, a teacher, and a student of the world. In her academic life she studies midwifery, motherhood, and modernity in the American West. In her home life she studies crayon drawings and the physics of flying kisses.