Your Bumpin’ Body:
The Procreation Debate



Samantha: Frankly, I think it’s sad, the way she’s using a child to validate her existence.

Carrie: Exactly. Why can’t she just use sex and a nice cocktail like the rest of us?

–Sex and the City

I don’t currently have children, but I hope to someday.  I have several female friends, however, who don’t have and/or don’t want children. Marie Claire recently did an article on Jen Kirkman, a happily child-free comedian who wrote a book on the topic, and whose decision is often greeted with antagonism (and answered with humor: her response to strangers who ask who will take care of her when she’s old? Servants!)

Why do people care so much about the reproductive lives of others? Why are the childless guilted about their decision?  When a single woman “decides” not to have a child, it is sometimes socially “forgiven,” but when a couple decides to forgo pregnancy, they are often looked at with suspicion.  What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they want ‘more’? (And are/will same-sex couples be looked at with equal suspicion?)

Just as there’s a strong argument for having children (i.e. difficult-yet-rewarding, companionship-building, a biological urge), many women choose not to have children for equally compelling reasons: Some simply don’t want the responsibility or lifestyle adjustments (newsflash: they’re expensive and time-consuming); others prefer to focus on their careers; some make the “decision” by default, due to timing and partnerships; still others may make a more political statement with their reproductive choices — avoiding childbirth in an effort not to contribute to our growing global population crisis.

One other looming factor many women consider (perhaps less openly) involves the major transformation of their bodies, not just during pregnancy, but after: Large, full breasts due to the milk production (this may seem like a dream for some, but can also be uncomfortable), an expanded uterus (that should shrink back after about 6 weeks), a larger belly that doesn’t bounce back as easily, especially after multiple pregnancies, and (most devastatingly?) no longer fitting into your coveted footwear (this can be permanent). As Susie Orbach puts it in Bodies, the post-pregnant body is marketed as a body “in need of restoration, conveying a sense that the body is damaged by reproduction.” An ironic image for a life-giving process.

While we like to think that once you make the choice to have a child, EVERYTHING becomes about the child, many women feel that until they lose their “baby weight” and look “normal” again, they aren’t really themselves — which can have significant psychological and emotional consequences. (Fortunately, our bodies are pretty amazing: breastfeeding can be a near miraculous weight-loss plan, not only while you’re actively breastfeeding, but residually, for decades to come.)

Not every woman laments the body transformations of pregnancy.  Some women actually become addicted to pregnancy as a means of seeking attention, feelings of insecurity, or to compensate for parental abandonment. Being pregnant can literally fill a void. It’s even been dubbed the “Octomom syndrome” after the infamous, eponymous example.

Whether you’re pregnant, have children, or are loving your child-free life, here are some tips to optimize your mind and body:

mustela Post Partum Body Restructuring GelC-section scars? Need some firming? Check out some post-baby products, like this  post partum gel for firming, and these bath herbs to reduce swelling and promote healing after birth.

Yummy Mummy Yummy Mummy offers breastfeeding-related information, products, services and — of course — hip breastfeeding-conducive clothes. It’s the one-stop shop for yummy mummies and mummies-to-be.

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself Flirting with or committed to the childless life? Find some humor in your decision and check out comedian Jen Kirkman’s new book on the topic: I Can Barely Take Take Care of Myself.

What influenced (or is influencing) your decision to have or not have children? What role does your body play in that decision and, if you do have children, how has your body transformed?  We want to hear about it!

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Anna Akbari

Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is a sociologist, entrepreneur, and “the thinking person’s stylist.” She is a former professor at NYU and Parsons and the founder of Sociology of Style, as well as Sociology of Style services, its image consulting division. A prominent thought leader, she can be found speaking or writing for such outlets as TED, CNN, The Atlantic, Daily Worth, and the Financial Times.
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