Why Have Kids? A Daring Discussion on Motherhood
Our culture glamorizes being a mommy, but also frequently reminds women that they can’t “have it all.” So if parenting makes so many Americans unhappy, why do it?
“Why Have Kids?” presents a critical evaluation of the social constructs surrounding parenthood in modern America.
Cover Courtesy Amazon Publishing/New Harvest
Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti, a new mother the New York Times calls “a gutsy young third-wave feminist,” daringly examines everything from “mommy wars” to “tiger moms” in Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth about Parenting and Happiness (Amazon Publishing/New Harvest, 2012), aiming to provide a thought-provoking resource for those who want to have children, and those who don’t. In the following excerpt from the book’s introduction, Valenti discusses the thorny truth—and unsettling consequences—of the socialization and heavy “expectation of perfection” for parenthood, especially motherhood.
Most people get flowers when they give birth—I got a two-pound baby and a failing liver. Thanks to a critical bout of preeclampsia, my foray into parenthood was marked with medical urgency rather than congratulations. There were no balloons or cigars passed around, just worried glances and the hum of machines checking vital signs.
When I went in for a routine exam during my twenty-eighth week of pregnancy, I felt fine. The look on my doctor’s face when she took my blood pressure for the third time, however, made it clear that I was far from the healthy, glowing pregnant woman I imagined myself to be. Even after I was admitted to the hospital a mere ten minutes later, my husband and I figured it was all a fluke. After all, I didn’t feel sick, and we had months to go before our daughter was due.
But within two days, my liver was in danger of failing from a second pregnancy complication called HELLP syndrome, and I was rushed in for an emergency C-section. It was twenty-four hours before I was well enough to see my daughter, Layla, and almost a week before I could touch or hold her. She spent eight weeks in the hospital, over which time she endured more medical invasiveness than most adults could bear. During that time, we held it together—mostly because we had to.
Once the immediate danger was over—when my husband and I knew that Layla would be fine—that’s when my real trouble began. I was incredibly grateful to have my daughter and my health, but I couldn’t stop mourning the pregnancy and childbirth I thought I was going to have. I desperately wanted the entrance into parenthood that I expected, the one I had planned so carefully for.
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