So the campaign to ban sales representatives from postnatal maternity wards has reached critical mass. Mumsnet has spoken and an Early Day motion has been tabled in Parliament. People are saying it's wrong to badger women for money (for baby portraits, mainly) hours after they've given birth. They say those first strange and beautiful days of a child's life should be beyond the reach of commerce. Or maybe I just said that. But mostly they'd agree, I think.
I'm referring to the pretty much wholesale condemnation of the practise of allowing Bounty salespeople to stalk NHS postnatal wards, targeting women for commercial purposes. It happens all the time. Some of the stories are mindboggling and horrifying. Mine is just disturbingly regular: off my face on painkillers and hormones after an emergency c. section and haemorrhage, I was repeatedly pressured by a sales rep to buy baby photographs. She kept returning to see if I'd 'made a decision'; I could barely decide which way up my baby was supposed to be.
Of course this should be banned. It's borderline barbarism and places commercial factors above maternal wellbeing. But that won't halt the growing commercialisation of childbirth. Take this, for example: I was reading a few months ago about ultrasound parties. I wish I could tell you they involve early 90s reggae sound systems, or something, but they don't. No, they involve inviting a crowd over for drinks, snacks and the scanning of a foetus in utero.
I had always thought a pregnancy scan was something you turned up for with slightly sweaty palms and a stomach knot tied from frayed cords of anxiety, excitement and morning sickness. But apparently there is a growing market for events where the special guest is a foetus, and an ultrasonographer is master of ceremonies. Partygoers watch while a scanning technician - presumably with a mouthful of pretzels - passes a probe across their pregnant friend's belly, hunting around for a heartbeat and signs of congenital abnormality. Because isn't that what ultrasound scans are for? Sorry to be a downer, but isn't it?
It is troubling to note the many ways in which childbirth is packaged up and sold back to us with a bow on. Who's got the energy to bat away daft - often exploitative - money making schemes when you are busy making a human? Truth is, we might not always want to, at the time.
I happily paid for a printed image from each of my scans. And I treasure those blurred grey mementos of a special time. If I had been offered other kinds of souvenir, I might have bought those too (just not those damned Bounty photos, please). Perhaps I would have drawn the line at a nine-centimetre 3D resin model of my foetus for £800 (or half price for just her face)*. But what if I hadn't? My brain was addled by baby love and a powerful urge to hold on to every stage of pregnancy. (Apart from the swelling, the nausea, the neurosis, the acid reflux... Oh who am I kidding?)
You see, that's what concerns me. If you had bundled up all the good bits of pregnancy, all the exciting, amazing and transient bits, and offered them to me in a tangible form that I could hold on to forever, you really could have cleaned up. If you told me you could preserve for always those peculiar days of magical realism following my daughter's birth, I would buy them back in a heartbeat. The emotions and expectations involved in pregnancy and childbirth mean there is opportunity for easy money to be made. But just because you can make money, doesn't mean you should.
*Yes, this is an actual thing.
This is an adapted version of a post first published on forthegirlblog.blogspot.co.uk