Because we don't have enough to worry about with health-care reform in jeopardy and crazies packing guns at Town Hall meetings, let's consider the pressing problem of "pregnancy addiction", or, as Women's Health likes to call it, bumpaholism.
In a Today Show segment worthy of The Onion, a bemused-looking Ann Curry interviews Women's Health editor Michele Promaulayko and Dr. Shari Lusskin of NYU on this supposed phenomenon. Says Promaulayko (a former editor of Cosmo who once pumped her staff for more stories in the "dead bridesmaid" vein),
Big families are having a moment right now, it's very much in the zeitgeist.
After this little game of buzzword madlibs, Promaulayko continues,
There is sort of an addictive quality to being pregnant, there are a lot of things happening physiologically and psychologically that would drive a woman to keep doing this.
There is, of course, always the chance that women are getting pregnant to have more kids, instead of to feed their addiction to bumpahol. Ann Curry asks Dr. Lusskin when we should be concerned about a woman's rampant spawning. Lusskin says,
We're concerned about this when women are doing it to the exclusion of the other factors in their life, in other words that drive to become pregnant just supersedes everything else, almost like Species, you know that movie?
Got it — so when women transform into alien-human hybrids who need human sperm in order to perpetuate their race of killer tentacle-beasts, it's time to worry. There's a lot more fun stuff in the clip, including Dr. Lusskin grinning maniacally as she discusses post-partum depression, but to see if there was a grain of truth behind all this hysteria, we looked at the original Women's Health article that inspired the Today Show segment. Called "The Belly-Rubbing High," it's written by Martha Brockenbrough, who also penned It Could Happen to You: Diary of a Pregnancy and Beyond (obviously an addiction memoir). The article includes several head-splittingly obvious statements like, "Having babies isn't addictive in the way that alcohol and narcotics can be," and requisite namechecks of various big families (the Octomom! The Duggars!). But it also offers this advice:
If you do find yourself feeling a void as your bundle of joy becomes a toddler, "that's a good sign that it's time to look in the mirror and figure out what's going on with you," says Ann Pleshette Murphy, author of The Seven Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind. "Invest in yourself. Though it may never be as satisfying as what we get from taking care of our kids, it's important to feel proud of something you do outside of child-rearing so that you don't think of yourself as 'only a mom.'"
Really? Investing in yourself may never be as satisfying as taking care of your kids? And yet, when taking care of said kids, you're in danger of feeling like 'only a mom?' If there really are women who are addicted to being pregnant (and Ann Curry, to her credit, doubts this is very common), might it have something to do with this double-edged sword? Once you have a baby, you're expected to think of raising it as more important than your own life, but at the same time you're at the mercy of those who think of child-rearing as an inferior activity. For some, pregnancy might be a respite from this conflict, a time to anticipate the joy of a child without yet dealing with the difficulties of being a mom (although pregnant women do get plenty of judgment about what they eat, drink, wear, etc.). Brockenbrough closes her article thus:
"Me time" can include big things-like going back to work or starting your own business from home-or small, daily experiences that enrich your life, such as heading to the gym or joining your girlfriends for dinner and cocktails. It's only when you have a balanced life that you can be sure the inner call for a new addition to your family should be answered.
If some women really do have a problematic relationship with pregnancy and childbearing, maybe the solution isn't to tell them when they should have kids (what is "a balanced life" anyway?). Maybe we should quit sending them mixed messages, quit judging and second-guessing them, and just leave them the fuck alone.