I was quoted on June 17 in the New York Times about the latest trend of having a professional photographer in the birthing room. I commented that today's pregnant celebrity pre- and post-birth images (many of them Photoshopped, I presume) may pressure women to feel they have to look perfect for the birth photo.
What wasn't quoted was my assertion that the photographer scenario also reflects our über-confidence that everything will go OK -- and thankfully, most of the time it does. But occasionally it doesn't. And let's face it: If you were truly scared to death, the way our great-grandmothers were, you would be focusing on staying alive, not staying photo-ready.
I have to admit that when I first spoke to Elissa Gootman, the journalist, my gut reaction was, "what kind of weirdo wants their portrait taken at this most intimate moment?"
And then I realized I did something a zillion times weirder. After I had a benign breast cyst removed, I asked my radiologist for the pathologist's contact information so I could get my breast cell images. I had no lofty medical goals, I just thought it was a cool keepsake and was curious to see the inside of my breast -- a microscopic version. Not surprisingly, the pathologist thought it was odd, or rather, that I was. (I think he told my radiologist that it was one of the strangest requests he had ever received, or something of that ilk.) I explained that my dad was a pathologist and it turns out -- in a sort of Jewish-pathology-geography kind of way -- that he not only knew my father, but attended Rosh Hashanah services with his in-laws at the same synagogue that my parents attend. Well, one thing led to another -- including a call to my mom, who told me that he married into a nice family from my home town in New Jersey -- and lo and behold, I received an emailed image of my breast cells, which I had blown up into a 5-by-7.
My intention was to do an outside/inside duo of photos. Just a piece of the outside, not a hooters-style image. Just an anonymous chunk of the outside. But when I announced my artistic endeavors to my family, Jack (my son who was about 16 at the time) said that if I framed my inside-outside breast photo, he'd never invite friends over for the rest of his life. I think my other son, a few years younger, said something along the lines of, "ew, that's disgusting."
So here are my breast cells -- just the inner beauty without the outside image, which would reveal a lot of flaws. It will never be a decoration in my home.
And now that I think about those crazies hiring photographers in the birthing room, maybe they aren't the strange ones after all. I mean, I have to admit, as gorgeous as cell biology can be, nothing would have topped the stunningly exquisite scene of my newborns emerging into the world.
Follow Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, MPH on Twitter: www.twitter.com/randihepstein