Know your role

My only contact with “women’s” magazines comes when I am standing in the check-out line at the supermarket. I can normally resist the siren call of the brightly colored covers with headlines like “Lose Five Pounds This Weekend!” above a picture of a elaborately decorated cake, or the burning need to know that Jessica Simpson is absolutely NOT divorcing Nick Lachey (whew, that’s a relief). Last night, however, my eye was caught by the current issue of Redbook, with a perfectly airbrushed Brooke Shields and her perfectly airbrushed toddler on the cover. The cover blurb read something like “Brooke reveals her secret struggle with motherhood.” Since the lady in front of me seemed to think she was at a Turkish bazaar and thus was haggling with the teenage cashier over every item in her overflowing cart, I knew I had time to kill and picked up the magazine.

Long story short-after her daughter’s birth two years ago, which came after a couple of miscarriages and finally IVF treatments, Brooke had major post-partum depression. She’s written a book about it, but the article probably hit all the highlights. Brooke says she heavily resented her daughter and often thought about having car accidents with the baby in the car or just outright killing her, but with therapy and drugs she’s “better” now and wants to have another baby, which Redbook twittered over approvingly.

With all the strides women have made in the world, the underlying message that’s sent to us is “it all means nothing unless you’re somebody’s mother.” All women, it is implied, long for the Holy Grail of femininity-the Baby. We are told that having a baby (and it’s never a child, always a baby) will be the ultimate fulfillment, the missing piece of the puzzle that is Complete Bliss. And so there are women who go to great and sometimes ridiculous lengths to get the prize … only to find that maybe they really didn’t want it. But if you say it-or even imply it-you are “unnatural.” After all, it’s a woman’s role to be a mother, right?

INS has received a few stories from women who wanted to be pregnant, got pregnant, then became overwhelmed at the thought of motherhood. Not just the jitters, but full-blown fear and panic. When they expressed this to family or friends, they were invariably told that it was “no big deal” and “it’ll be better when the baby arrives.” But all of them had the same thought-“what if it’s not better?” After their abortions, to a one they were relieved and confident that they made the right choice. Some of them went on to have children and figured that it was just a sign that they weren’t ready, which is fine. Some women are ready earlier than others. Some will never be ready, but won’t find out until it’s too late. That’s often seen in the women who reach a certain age or a certain pinnacle in their careers or lives and figure that a baby will just be the cherry on the Wonderful Life sundae. When it’s not, they blame themselves for not being “normal.”

And so, like Brooke Shields, they get therapy and drugs and are applauded when they are convinced that they want to do it again.

Because that’s our role, you know.