Sunday, November 30, 2008



From THIS article from The New York Times Magazine

AS THE MONTHS PASSED, something curious happened: The bigger Cathy was, the more I realized that I was glad — practically euphoric — I was not pregnant. I was in a daze of anticipation, but I was also secretly, curiously, perpetually relieved, unburdened from the sheer physicality of pregnancy. If I could have carried a child to term, I would have. But I carried my 10-pound dog in a BabyBj√∂rn-like harness on hikes, and after an hour my back ached.

Cathy was getting bigger, and the constraints on her grew. I, on the other hand, was happy to exploit my last few months of nonmotherhood by white-water rafting down Level 10 rapids on the Colorado River, racing down a mountain at 60 miles per hour at ski-racing camp, drinking bourbon and going to the Super Bowl.

I had several friends around my age — 37 and up — who were pregnant with their first children at this time, and I was amazed at how their feet swelled like loaves of bread. They were haggard. They seemed sallow and tired, and they let their hair go gray...



If you enjoy getting outraged by mommy-war issues, you should read this.
I am all for surrogacy, but they couldn't have picked a less sympathetic person to describe her experience. Right cause, wrong advocate.

Let me know what you thought about the article, if you get a chance to read it.

The Times photographer and editor must hate this woman. And I think the Times also hates us a bit, trying to make a stink about this issue, when it's not really a new one at all. A lot of vitriol is already spewing in the comments section of the NYT, but little of it is about surrogacy. That's the red herring. The cover story should have been called, "Why We Hate Smug Yoga-Bodied Elite Women Like This," because that seems to be the issue presented in this article.

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the woman is a JOURNALIST and she didn't foresee how bad the photographer was making her look, with her baby servant standing at attention off to the side like that.

Beyond that, this must be the 10,000th "Woe is me, I'm infertile" story I've happened on. What editor thought this was news?

All around, just a lot of bad, bad journalistic instincts at work here.

Anonymous said...

A little compassion goes a long way. I think this woman wrote this from a place of honesty. I liked the article, I felt bad for her inability to carry to term. I think she was conscious of why she made her choices and recognized that they may be a bit selfish. Her comments about her friends were unnecessary but having lived thru two of my own pregnancies I can admit that I did not find them at all pleasant. Perhaps the picture was intentional to make people take offense?

jax said...

I just wonder why she went through all that trouble and expense to have a baby and be a mother only to have a nanny ready to do the work. What part of mothering does she really want to do?

Sara L. said...

Well said. Right cause, wrong advocate. Really. If I couldn't carry a baby, what a blessing that someone could. What a miracle straight from God via science. But to avoid swollen feet? This is like a wet-nurse-paid-servant-gross-me-out-kinda-thing.
yuk.

Decorno said...

I hear you. I think a lot of people will have that reaction. Although, while I had that thought, too, I'm trying not to fixate on that part, only because it's a criticism that men never, ever, ever get. There's probably a lot to parenting that doesn't involve handling shit and working the diaper genie. If she's good at those parts, and gets help with the rest, more power to her.

But comments like this just make her sound more loathesome than, hopefully, she really is:

About reading surrogate applications:
"Her answers were not handwritten in the tiny allotted spaces; she had downloaded the original questionnaire and typed her responses at thoughtful length. Her attention to detail was heartening. And her computer-generated essay indicated, among other things, a certain level of competence. This gleaned morsel of information made me glad: she must live in a house with a computer and know how to use it."

Ellen said...

I appreciate the honesty and humility of her vanity but why in the world would she want to tell the world this? Im trying my hardest not to judge her bc I have a whole world of issues that I hide, but she is just asking for judgement here.

K.Line said...

Wow, this is complicated. There are a few competing issues here - one of which is smug classism and the other heartbreaking infertility.

This woman had the means and I applaud her for achieving her aim - and for writing about it candidly. But she's obviously living the kind of life that allows her to commoditize others - as this story indicates.

Having been pregnant, I can assure you I would never do it again, in part because it can be brutal on one's body. (And because I have no inclination to have more children.) I don't begrudge her for feeling grateful that she didn't have to go through that (sometimes hideous) transformation. You're never the same afterward. And whether that's a good thing or bad is simply a matter of interpretation.

Nordia said...

I disagree with the tone you have taken about this journalist and her having a child through surrogacy. Are we hating on her because she is honest? Can you truly say that you have never been glad than someone else was suffering in your stead? That someone was grieving and it wasn't you? We all have done that and felt guilty and yet that feeling, that elation is still there.

Are we mad when we look at the picture and see her with the black maid cum nanny waiting beside her? I like that she is honest and cynical about the whole thing. Yes the surrogate was helping an infertile woman but let's not forget that she was also doing it for the money. $25,000 is a lot of money for many a person even if they are "college educated."

It is about time someone fessed up... besides it is not as though she could carry a child to term and chose not to. How many miscarriages should she have continued to have? And what is wrong about wanting children? I don't, but I don't judge others who so desperately do. I like your blog but ease up on this woman a little. There is often many an insecurity hidden behind a person's perfect facade.

Chloe said...

whether you or a surrogate mother carries the baby to term, i think it's important to spend the months prior the birth, preparing for its arrival, nurturing the body that carries it, and so on. It's not only the body that is pregnant, the mind must be pregnant too. Maybe spending the months prior the birth as if you are about to go to jail, is not the right state of mind.

Anonymous said...

I think it was a very interesting article, but after reading the shitty comment the priest made, I don't recall so much of it.

To those who can afford to hire a surrogate, go for it!

I'm 41 now and I have a serious health condition (along with the dangerous medications to treat it) that will probably prevent me from giving birth to a child. My time has run out, so unless I win the lottery and can hire a surrogate, I know I will never be a mom.

I know she went through a lot to get where she is, but I hope this woman can truly comprehend how lucky she is.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I didn't interpret her glee at not enduring the physical changes as smugness, but rather as a thin attempt to sublimate her guilt for not having experienced them.

I found her story a little heartbreaking, actually.

Anonymous said...

"ease up on this woman a little. There is often many an insecurity hidden behind a person's perfect facade."

I will be relieved when we are past this "psychologically sensitive" era of "excuse any bad behavior or comment; the person responsible is probably just insecure."

As for "a little compassion goes a long way," one form of compassion is adopting a child with no parents.

But what bugs me is not the arrangement of surrogacy; it's this person's writing. There's a flatness to her whole account, like she's recounting, in detail, a very complicated and bad retail experience that took months to sort out but in which she was ultimately victorious. Not only did Bergdorf's remove the bad charge, it issued her a $1,000 credit!

Again, for a journalist--a professional storyteller, she's startlingly clueless at matters of presentation.

One of the smartest commenters over at gawker said:

"There's something so off-putting about her, I think she could be healing the sick and housing the homeless and I'd still be gagging."

N + S said...

"The cover story should have been called, "Why We Hate Smug Yoga-Bodied Elite Women Like This," because that seems to be the issue presented in this article."

I couldn't agree more. First off, surrogacy is such a complicated issue that affects far more women than the one featured in this ridiculous article. Second of all, that photograph really creeps me out with that person of color standing there - looks like some colonial postcard from the 40s.

Anyway, love the blog, have never commented before but it turns out I'm secretly engraged about misreppresentation of issues such as this.

A wonderful site!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the article, so I don't know how representative your brief quotations are of the tone and spirit of the entire piece.

I'm guessing those bits you do quote are written in a guilty and confessional voice--or not; don't really know.

She seems aware of how strange it is that, while expecting the birth of her baby in one short month, she is white-water rafting, skiing, drinking bourbon, and going to the Super Bowl.

What is with the male swagger here?

corine @ hidden in france said...

Oh yeah. Read it. They were after shock value. The kind of journalism of gossip columns.

Why do infertile women (i'm one of them) be put more scrutiny than the rest of the population as to their motives, their way to get around becoming mothers, or their life choices once the baby is there. Not very fair.

Anonymous said...

corine:

I love your question.

I'm a man with no interest in having kids. When I read accounts like this about the pain of infertility--all written by women; I've never read an account by a man suffering because he can't have children--I can't get it. I can't feel it.

There are so many things to do with one's life. I know the impulse to have children is for a lot of people one of the strongest and deepest. But is there no hope that one can change course, and instead build a great life devoted to making art, conducting business, traveling, being charitable, studying the world, making your fellow humans healthier in some way...

How hard is it to get unstuck from the sadness of infertility and pursue a course of life that is completely different from parenthood in its satisfactions?

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I do not believe the author of the article has ever been considered a model of sensitivity or enlightened introspection.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Articles like this always make my blood boil. There's always adoption. For the money it cost to make Ms K pregnant, she could have mothered several children in need of a family.

mamacita said...

Dude, I WISH Alex Kucinszky were one of the Real Housewives. That would be some quality television. Actually, she should have her own show, where a camera tags along on her "Critical Shopper" missions and other rich-bitch errands. They could show her in the kitchen, making dinner out of the entrails of underprivileged youth...

Decorno said...

Oh, Mamacita. We have missed you!

erin said...

i have no problem with the fact that she used a surrogate, or that she has a nanny. i grew up in a large family, with a live-in nanny who was a part of the family. my mum was my mother and she changed dirty diapers and stayed up all night nursing us and worrying when we had colds... having a nanny meant that she didn't have to worry about us at daycare, or with a never-ending cycle of babysitters. that said, i have a real problem with the fact that the nanny is in a uniform, standing at attention. i think it's unfair to assume that because this admittedly awful woman has a nanny, that it means she's not an involved mother. obviously this woman needs a child care solution, but to treat someone who's caring for your child as a servant seems shallow and elitist.

the "smug yoga-bodied elite women" bit is just dumb. yes, she's smug. clearly she has money, and has a nanny/maid in uniform, so she certainly fancies herself "elite". it's the "smug yoga-bodied" bit that bugs me. i know plenty of women who looked awesome while pregnant, and had their bodies back to their original tiny, fit sizes within months. i have friends and family who have done it, and they managed to work out AND be a great mothers at the same time. i don't think there's anything smug about not wanting to look like a dumpy, frumpy, slob, but i do think there's something wrong with using motherhood as an excuse for letting yourself go. and resenting women who have better bodies than you? come on. don't be so bitter just because this journalist has moderately toned arms. either do the yoga and eat the tempeh, or stop grumbling about not being as thin. besides, in the photo with her nanny, she looks as though she's let herself go a bit. she has a paunch and can't even use the baby weight excuse.

erin said...

and for the record, adoption has it's own giant pitfalls in the way of bad genetics. i'm all for adoption, and would consider it for myself, but unfortunately sometimes in the battle of nature vs. nurture, nature wins out. and i don't know about the US, but in canada, you can't just adopt a kid. it takes years, and if you happen to turn 40 before you get a baby, then you're just out of luck and have to go to china. surrogacy might be a lot quicker and easier, not to mention less heart-breaking. sure, in an ideal world everyone would adopt older children and not want babies, but the reality is that those older children often come with huge baggage that most people aren't equipped to deal with.

Anonymous said...

"For the money it cost to make Ms K pregnant, she could have mothered several children in need of a family."

I'm not sure what it costs to "mother several children" (like for how long?), but when you research this lady, you find out that she is RICH. The money it cost to make Mrs. K pregnant, by comparison, was nothing. $25,000? She easily could have--and probably should have--paid the surrogate a lot more.

Anonymous said...

On the plus side, it's kind of refreshing to hear from someone who says, essentially, "Fuck this 'role model' shit."

Isn't there something infantile about our need to hear only from "good" infertile women, "good" cancer patients, "good" rape victims, etc. etc.? Like we can't handle the moral complexity of a narrative in which bad things happen to bad people?

Decorno said...

Erin - sorry if I was unclear. My comments about "smug yoga-bodied women" was not my point of view (fat body, rockin' body, I really don't care. It's not my business, is it?), but rather my suggestion that the Times Magazine article was a bit dishonest with its intentions. This story wasn't at all a deep look into surrogacy. The article instead is just another example of the Times propping up another shallow mommy-war story to get everyone riled up.

(Looks like it worked, no?)

I made myself a bit more clear on the comment board of the article, where I wrote:

I am getting so tired of The New York Times treating privileged people as though they are the norm. I can't decide if the Times thinks this is really what the world is like, if it's a joke played on elitists like the author, or a prank played on the rest of us to test our patience.

Decorno said...

One more thing, Erin - people are going to have a field day with your comment, "She has a paunch and can't even use the baby weight excuse."

Wow. Way to take the high road on that big issue.

kevindrewpresents said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sacheverelle said...

This woman went through 11 failed cycles of in-vitro, I'm sure she would have given anything to carry her own child. So what if she has the money hire a surrogate, good for her. The controversial Mammy photo here is meant to be ironic.

Anonymous said...

Erin:

You didn't read the article, did you?

You talk about the photograph, Decorno's language, your nanny, your fear that adoption might stick you with a mutt instead of a purebred, your distaste for dumpy, frumpy, slobby mothers who aren't doing enough yoga to keep up with your friends' "tiny, fit" post-natal bods...

But of the 461 total words you spend on your two comments, you don't devote a single one to the article itself.

Anonymous said...

"don't be so bitter just because this journalist has moderately toned arms"

I LOVE Erin's use of "moderately."

Nothing escapes her vigilant eye, whether it's "dumpy, frumpy, slob" mothers, a "paunch," or arms that are only "moderately," rather than maximally, toned.

Anonymous said...

I am torn between the fact that she was honest and the fact that her tone in the article was quite smug. Perhaps in real life she is different? I'd be interested to hear from people who know her personally.

tracey said...

"They were haggard. They seemed sallow and tired, and they let their hair go gray..."

This is going to happen to you anyway! I hate to break the news to this woman, but carrying the baby is the easy part! Boy, is she in for a shock!

Style Noir said...

I can't even click into the article, so sickened am I by the quote.

And that photo-- with the baby servant? They've got to be fucking kidding...

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:51 - I love you.

I'm loathe to cast aspersions on any woman who takes the surrogacy route, simply because she seems to be a target of both the religious zealots ("the Pope says it's a no-no!") and the bleeding heart liberals ("the poor, abused, objectified birth mother!")

In Canada, a surrogate can now only be paid a sum equal to the cost of her pregnancy-related expenses (which usually = a few thousand $). Sadly, neither the right nor the left were willing to fight for the right of a two women to negotiate between them a fair, legally-binding agreement about how to manage a surrogacy. (Of course the pool of women willing to act as surrogates dried right up.) Smacks of sexism, to me.

Anonymous said...

Wow-what a story. I have to agree with Tracey's comment above. Pregancy is the easy part, I actually did keep on the roots. Now with a 6 month old is the hard part.

Kwana said...

I can't even jump into the fire today. There are so many things to say but all has been said. From the bit of compassion I felt early on in the article to having it all swept away as the author wiggled her little hips and looked with disgust at the spreading behinds of the other pregnant women to the ridiculous picture of the baby nurse standing at attention.

Wow. All of it was capped off with Erin's sweet comments that have showed me the error or my ways. I really have let myself go and I should be in much better shape. It doesn't matter that I had twins and a stomach that looks like a road map after them that only many thousands of dollars of plastic surgery will fix. And that I was on 3 months of bed rest in order to keep them healthy. I should have been exercising of taking 15.00 a shot yoga classes. Because we all live in the world of this author where the money just flows and things like our kid's childcare, pre-school and college educations are just guaranteed.

Oh well. I guess I did jump in. Thanks D. I may have to talk this one up on my blog this week.

Anonymous said...

i have absolutly no issue with surogacy, however, i didn't enjoy the article at all just because of the tone in the writing. She sounded stuck up, resentfull and arrogant. Her tone was overly snobby.

erin said...

first of all, i was being sarcastic. i did read the article and you might notice that a dozen+ other commenters also discussed the photos. it is absolutely shocking that the writer didn't realize the light these photos have painted her in! as for the paunch and toned arms comment... honestly, if everyone else is entitled to rag on women who put the hard work into staying in shape because that must mean they're shallow and selfish or something, why then is it so awful for me to rag on women who simply can't be bothered, but who then bitch about their contempt for skinny, smug, yoga-bodied, elite women?

Anonymous said...

We have 2 dogs.

Anonymous said...

"This is going to happen to you anyway!"

My favorite comment.

Anonymous said...

I am tired of the NYT stories of the rich and how out of touch they are with the basic realities of life that the rest of us face.

Kristin said...

I agree with anon 2:05. This article is very flat. I think she is trying to show herself as she is; describe all the thoughts that she had - uplifting or not; but there is little detail that she provides about herself to make the reader develop a connection with her.

I remember being very annoyed that she mentioned that Cathy played her Steinway. Why not say she played her piano? Why does it have to a Steinway? And then she says that this experience was like an upgrade to first class. Just little things like that bothered me after a while. I found her repeated and intentional reference to money to be annoying. To be sure, you need money to have a surrogate, but there is more to having someone else deliver your biological child than paying for it.

She didn't offend me, but I thought she was really tiresome. I clicked through all 9 pages just so I wouldn't miss anything that could be relevant to this post, but if Decorno hadn't brought it up, I would have stopped reading after the fourth paragraph.

And I can't figure out how the photo of the servant is supposed to be ironic. I think it was published uncritically.

Holly @ Maison James said...

I read an article by Kuczinski in Vanity Fair a couple of years ago about the plastic surgery (injections) she'd had and how looking good was the most important thing (that's what I recall from it) but she was intending to stop with it. She evidently wrote a book on the plastic surgery industry...

I found both articles staggerlingly narcissistic but I think it comes with the territory of introspective Writer. Her self-fascination is impressive. Are we all guilty of it - some of us more privately so? I don't know.

Old House Junkie said...

I read the article from my perspective as a woman who adopted 4 children - 3 at about age 6 and one at 6 months of age and then had a miscarriage at age 40.

One thing I realize, the rich are different from you and I.

I do know from my children that there are some things a mother should never let a child know: "you should never have been born", "I didn't want you but dad wouldn't let me get an abortion", "my life would have been better without you". These kinds of comments stay with a child into adulthood and color many of their behaviors.

I think I'll add to my list, "I'm so glad I didn't have to go through a pregancy to get you." Little Milk Dud will surely read this article at some point in his life, I'm sure mom has it in her clippings. He's going to know that his birth was "different" which is certainly a tragedy for adolescents and that his mother's dispair at being unable to carry to term seemed to be overshadowed by her joy at not actually giving birth to him. Sad

One other note: as a true believer in zero population growth I am saddened by this man's seven offspring.

Thanks for the link, I missed this when it came out. ohj

Anonymous said...

Erin, you weren't being sarcastic. Everyone knows that. But nice back-peddle. I am sure it's doing wonders to tone your thighs.

Anonymous said...

You guys, I had a sweet baby boy 3 years ago at the age of 46. No fertility drugs, my only child. Thought I was in menopause, what the fuck! Hadn't used birth control in at least 25 years, and figured that train had left the station.
It ain't over till the fat lady sings!
Larkin

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,

That was your third comment, and you STILL haven't said one single thing about the article itself.

I do get one thing from your comments: You don't have a lot of life experience, do you? With pregnancy. With motherhood. With aging.

I wish you the best. I know you will have lots of children--and not the icky kind you have to adopt--and that you will get back your "original tiny, fit size within months."

Anonymous said...

Kristin:

GREAT observation about her using the word "Steinway."

Anonymous said...

"as for the paunch and toned arms comment...honestly, if everyone else is entitled to rag on women who put the hard work into staying in shape because that must mean they're shallow and selfish or something, why then is it so awful for me to rag on women who simply can't be bothered, but who then bitch about their contempt for skinny, smug, yoga-bodied, elite women?"

Erin--Huh?!

Your comment is a mess.

First you criticize the writer for the "paunch" she shouldn't have, then you defend her for "putting the hard work into staying in shape." Which is it?

It's like you threw a big snarled clump of words into the blender and hit "Palin-ize."

Decorno said...

And on that note, comments on this topic are now closed.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts EXACTLY. Only better articulated.

kristin said...

I know comments are closed, but anon, come on. People don't walk around saying, "She played my Yamaha grand," do they? I mentioned that as one of many instances where she brings up that she has money. In this case, she brings it up just to say, "I don't even play the piano!" Oh, wow, we are to think, she has such an impressive name brand machine that she doesn't even use. And poor pianist Cathy, she can't even pay for a Steinway by having someone else's baby for them.

The entire column is littered with references to money. Why is money such an important part of her story?

kristin said...

Oh, and anon, if you weren't being sarcastic, I'm obviously just paranoid! Caps are difficult for me to read...:)

...love Maegan said...

I think the smug photo at the end with the NANNY tells it all. Clearly she just wants a baby as an accessory since they're so trendy and all. THIS PARTICULAR WOMAN {and not surrogacy cases} IS A DOUCHE. I guess I'll go read the article though.

Anonymous said...

Kristin: I meant it! I was a genuinely great comment.

Oy, me and my STUPID CAPS....

Iheartfashion said...

This was a maddening article.
And the photo was poorly thought-out at a minimum.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the photo (and everything else) was deliberate...

Anonymous said...

The only thing that REALLY disturbed me in the article was that she talked about using the fertility equipment later to BASTE HER TURKEY!! Thanks lady- no longer can I baste again in peace...

Anonymous said...

When did yoga become a sign of the elite rich? When I first started taking yoga classes, I was afraid to tell certain friends for fear they'd think I was some new age freak. Now it is a sign that you're an elite rich bitch?

When did this happen?

thebubbreport said...

Hmmm, she irked me, esp. with all the money talk, but I think the comments about being glad she wasn't pregnant were her way of dealing with her own infertility and justifying what she had to do to have a baby to herself. I guess I felt more sympathy for her after watching so many friends struggle and go to unbelievable lengths to conceive and failing.

I thought the article was really interesting, whatever the tone. I always wondered what the relationship between biological and surrogate mother was like. the only other time I'd ever really seen such a relationship was that whole Mary Beth Whited (? I think that was her name) controversy back when I had never heard of surrogacy before.

becky

Anonymous said...

Adoption is the answer. Please how much self absorption can couples continue to have?

Children who need homes and couples who want children, what is so hard to understand?

house in head said...

i'm not surprised by the number of critics. anyone who hasn't undergone the misery and sadness of IVF and miscarriage could not possibly understand.
the article was an honest account of everything which is involved in trying to have a child when your body simply will not allow it. the talk of money is relevant in that it is a very big part of the sacrifice and commitment that is necessary to undergo such procedures. it seems to me the people who are "put off" and "irked" are most likely those who couldn't possibly afford to go to such lengths to have a child. but why do you judge the author? if it was you with no children, desperately wanting a baby and you had the resources, would you not do whatever you could? why are the wealthy constantly criticized for how they choose to spend their money? and why shouldn't they? it's not like she paid someone to have her baby just because she didn't want to get fat.
after four rounds of IVF and one miscarriage i can tell you it's not a luxury item. there's nothing fun about it. it's physically and emotionally grueling. i can also say that after delivering two healthy babies, that was no fun either. there was no "glow" and i didn't look or feel beautiful. i wanted to BE pregnant but i didn't enjoy it. does that make me a bad person? or is it simply that so many with less feel a need to criticize those with more?
after years of trying this woman finally has the baby she longed for. the child is well loved and cared for. for the nay sayers, find peace in your lives and realize there will always be people with more and some with less than you. so what?

Anonymous said...

Because she cares about money, apparently more than motherhood? Most moms I know (including me) would spend nine pages of words talking about their child/children and their unique journey to motherhood in an article about surrogacy, not the unflattering, elitist detritus contained in that article. It's an issue that deserves a better spokesperson than someone this out of touch with the rest of us, the "great unwashed" poor schmucks who muddle through without a full staff of various assistants who exist purely so we can continue to publish more pointless articles to pay their salaries. (Sigh). And people wonder why our country is going down the tubes in the hands of a bunch of useless, entitled, shallow brats. That's what this woman will facilitate in this child. Let's hope the nanny staff is a bit more down to earth. I don't walk away feeling sorry for this woman or her "plight", but instead feel sorry for the child.

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