An Op-Ed in the New York Post has lots to say about the motherhood on display at the Grammys. The author criticizes Beyoncé for her “tush-wiggling” and “pagan fertility worship” and finds Adele’s words about her struggles with motherhood “self indulgent.” I think the take home message from the column is supposed to be if you are so famous that everyone knows you by your first name keep your belly at home because no one should see that shit except your husband (apparently the NY Post parenting style guide is very 1950s) and if you have money talking about your health is a bore. Oh, and both Adele and Beyoncé are “fetishizing” motherhood and damaging feminism. Or something.
I have some thoughts that I would like to share.
I will admit my bias up front. I do not believe in miracles, I know when something unexplained happens science has simply not caught up to offer a biologically plausible explanation. Even if I believed in miracles I would never believe that pregnancy is one because we wouldn’t have stillborns or amniotic fluid embolisms and women wouldn’t be beaten for having a third girl or for the inconvenience of not wanting to have sex at 36 weeks.
As an OB/GYN I know that thousands upon thousands of women die from pregnancy in third world countries. That they walk, sometimes for days, with ruptured membranes to seek care only to die from sepsis on arrival. The lucky ones survive with fistulas. I also know that thousands of women worldwide die from illegal abortion. Some die wanting to be mothers and others die because they don’t want to be mothers. It all seems very non miraculous to me.
Pregnancy was not a miracle for me personally either, it was the result of an expensive medical intervention that erroneously produced triplets. One son died at birth and my surviving two were born extremely prematurely and 13 years later one still suffers serious ramifications of prematurity.
However, none of my medical education, years of delivering babies, my belief system about miracles, knowing how maternity care or safe abortion is not available to hundreds of thousands of women, or my personal bad experience with pregnancy makes me want to judge Beyoncé or Adele and the idea that they are “fetishizing” motherhood is idiotic.
If someone believes their pregnancy or labor was or is a miracle, who am I to judge? It is pretty cool to have a human come out of your body. If someone wants to believe they are a Goddess because they are pregnant or have that belief inform their art or their baby shower how does that hurt me? If someone thinks their IVF pregnancy was a miracle, then for them it was. Some people think that rain is a miracle or that being in love is a miracle or that Jesus performed a miracle for turning water into wine. It’s all good. Maybe their definition of miracle is different than mine or maybe they believe a Spirit or Mother Earth intervened. As long as we are not making health care policy based on a personal belief system of miracles then I’m cool. Believe away.
If Beyoncé wants to celebrate and express art with her body, that’s great. I would never expect her to stop because of her pregnancy. Should pregnant celebrities wear tents and only be seen from the neck up or from behind bags of groceries like in 1960s television? If so maybe the New York Post should be writing about Lawrence Welk and I Love Lucy reruns and not the Grammys.
Goddess stuff usually goes over my head so what I got from Beyoncé’s performance was how strong and confident someone can be during pregnancy and thank goodness that chair didn’t fall. But that’s the thing about art, it means different things to different people. Naomi Schaefer Riley of the New York Post seems to have forgotten that art can also makes people uncomfortable. On purpose.
When I heard Adele talking about the struggles of motherhood I didn’t hear privilege, I heard a woman saying motherhood was hard for her and I guess that makes me think if it could be hard for someone who seems to have so much then it might help someone else feel okay about their own struggles. I just hosted an evening with the author Ayelet Waldman who wrote A Really Good Day, a very personal account of her struggles with her mood disorder. I saw an audience full of people who felt less broken because someone who looks like she has it all dared to say she was suffering. Knowing you are not alone is some of the most powerful medicine. I suspect some people might call it miraculous.
Still dismissive of celebrities? One of the most helpful things in my life came from Nicole Kidman. I am not being trite. I had recently delivered and had the ashes of one son in a jar and the other two were struggling to live and I heard her speak about the pain of her divorce from Tom Cruise on a talk show. She spoke about how her father said to her, “It is what it is. It’s not what it was meant to be, but it is what it is.” An Op-Ed writer might sneer and think a rich, stunningly attractive movie star’s pain was self indulgent, after all what could she know of a “real person’s” pain? I am not lying when I say Nicole Kidman’s words changed my life. It was as if a light switch were flipped and all of a sudden I was able to reframe everything. I went from the depths of depression to I’ve-fucking-got-this. Some might even call the change miraculous. If I ever meet Nicole Kidman I will probably burst into tears that is how much she helped me. If Adele’s words had that impact for just one women then someone might be right to call the change for that woman miraculous.
If you choose to believe your pregnancy is a miracle, that’s cool. If you want to believe you are a Goddess for having kids, that’s cool too. If you are Jane Doe and you want your pregnancy to be a theatrical event, well, it’s your pregnancy. In fact, if you want to be a Goddess whether you have a uterus or not doesn’t matter. The only requirement to be a Goddess is the belief that you are one.
Some people want to celebrate their reproduction and others don’t. They may celebrate it in ways I can’t understand, but choice is choice is choice you know?
If a woman wants to display her body whether she is pregnant or not is irrelevant. A pregnant Beyoncé performing in a sexy gold outfit does not disrespect any single woman’s pregnancy experience nor detract from the work it takes to be a mother or father and if Adele talking about her struggles bothers you and you can’t see how it might help someone then empathy and the human experience aren’t your strong suit.