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Such was the message that greeted me this morning, as I booted up and hopped onto Facebook for my morning ‘visit’ with online friends. Within minutes I had posted a warning in my Status, alerting folks to the possibility that they’ll also see this bunk, and imploring everyone not to be lured by the messaging.

It is interesting to me that most of the ads directed toward my Facebook profile page are for anti-aging products, real-estate…and now, plastic surgeries. Must be because I recently began displaying my birth year. Insidious!

Revisiting old, ugly baggage…and I don’t mean my boobs, ass or stomach

This is not the first time I have been hopping mad about this kind of messaging directed at those expecting, or having recently had, their children. My ire was similarly directed at Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo, respected OB-GYN and author of The Anxious Parent’s Guide to Pregnancy.

Now that I’ve got this blog, I’m using it to out this purveyor of women-unfriendly messaging wearing the cloak of well-meaning health advice.

I got this book in the early part of my first pregnancy. At 35 and being a natural sponge for facts, this was one of the first books that drew me in. After a quick skim of the Table of Contents and initial pages, I figured it was worth my $24.95, since it claimed to offer a more down-to-earth view of some of the overly-hyped advice and ‘warnings’ which often guilt, shame and terrify expectant mothers. So far, so good.

The reviews on the Amazon link above are positive, praising DiLeo’s ‘tell-it-like-it-is approach’. And I too was cool with it for the most part. I was even heartened by the message in the chapter on miscarriage, which showed a very gentle and supportive view toward women who’ve had one with the aim of helping them stop beating themselves up over something that usually happened for reasons far beyond the woman’s control.

A site called Crescent Blue’s Book Reviews , also praises the author’s more forgiving stance toward moms-to-be who do not follow every bit of health advice to the letter. However, they also pick out some of the book’s off-the-cuff condescension:

Book: gerard m dileo, the anxious parents guide to pregnancyThat said, I think the good doctor sometimes veers from light-hearted to flippant and risks offending some readers. “Pregnancy Rules for Husbands” boxes offer pithy remarks about dealing with one’s pregnant wife. But the pregnant women who make up the bulk of his audience may not find them amusing. “Rule #2: No garment — no shorts, no skirts, no slacks — ever, ever, in any way makes a woman’s behind look big. Ever.” Ha ha, right?

Indeed, his flippancy extends – surprise! – to the discussion of the woman’s (and possibly, her spouse’s) dissatisfaction with her post-partum body. And here’s where my blood started to boil…

He talks about how the post-partum and possibly also nursing woman will eventually classify her southward-drifting parts as ‘not a good look,’ and talks about how this negative self-evaluation might also extend to her feelings about being intimate again with her partner since, after all, the baby might have made her less, er, flexible in that regard as well.

OK, I was sort of with him. Having been a black-belt karate student before becoming pregnant, of course it had occurred to me that I might not return to my prior fighting form.

Snip, snip, and yer done!

And then, his tone brightening profusely, Dr. DiLeo goes on to say that fortunately, minimally-invasive surgical procedures are now quite widely available — some on an outpatient basis! — that could take care of these minor annoyances and restore the woman back to a closer version of her former glory.

That was it for me. What kind of message are he — and the above advertisers — trying to send to mothers (not to mention, their spouses)? How patronizing to assume that every woman wants to change what the creator has given her as the result of having given life. And how equally condescending to promote plastic surgery as simple, panaceic way to erase the evidence of that experience for the benefit of her partner?

I would have marched back in there and gotten my money back, had I not already defaced the offending pages and cover. I didn’t even donate the book, which my waste-aversive nature would usually dictate – it went straight into the Blue Box to be turned into so much mulch. Far be it from me to let another woman fall into this trap of backward thinking.

Quality health information is supportive and doesn’t make assumptions

Having written plain-language health info for more than a decade now, I’ve had more than my share of clients tell me that, in some of my attempts to connect with readers, I had also made some assumptions about what they were thinking that would make them feel talked-down-to.

For example, I learned a valuable lesson once when writing for teen girls about a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). My piece began with something like

“Being a teenager is hard enough, what with all the changes in your body and your emotions running so high all the time. If you’re coping with PCOS, you may feel it’s even more of a challenge.”

Can you think of why this might have rubbed my client the wrong way?

With some distance from it, I was able to see that no teenager wants to be told by an old fart like their doctor that they, too, know just how tough it must be for them. And how do I know that bodily changes or raging hormones are the reasons this reader is feeling challenged (assuming they do in the first place)?

And I’d say the same to the Dr. DiLeos and Facebook surgery shills out there: why do you continue to pursue the tired argument that every woman whose body changes will be thrilled at the prospect of going under the knife to get their perkier, younger self back?

Why not instead offer them the alternative option of accepting these changes as just more bas-relief in the unique roadmap that has been their life’s journey so far? To my mind, this is the kind of acceptance that would make women feel like less-anxious parents-to-be.

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