Kardashian West shows there's no one way to be a mom

Kim Kardashian opens up on pregnancy
Kim Kardashian opens up on pregnancy


    Kim Kardashian opens up on pregnancy


Kim Kardashian opens up on pregnancy 02:00

Story highlights

  • Peggy Drexler: Having a baby by surrogate doesn't make Kim Kardashian West any less of a woman
  • The reality TV star's openness about pregnancy problems may help women open up about their fertility struggles, she writes

Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)It's been reported that Kanye and Kim Kardashian West have hired a surrogate to carry their third child. In many ways, it's no surprise that the couple has chosen to share what's typically a private and very personal decision. Kardashian West has made a career, and lots of money, living her life in front of a camera for the world to see. But it's also a huge step forward for the millions of women who struggle every year with fertility issues.

In a blog post written before the birth of her second child, Kardashian West wrote candidly about her high-risk second pregnancy, describing the early onset pre-eclampsia she had during her first. She also suffered from placenta accreta, a condition in which the placenta grows into the wall of the womb, making detaching during birth difficult. "They say that this is what some women died from as a result of childbirth back in the day, without proper care," she wrote. "I'm so thankful that my doctor was able to catch this and address the issue immediately."
Peggy Drexler
Scar tissue that resulted from the condition made it difficult for her to conceive the second time; a third pregnancy, doctors warned her, would be a huge risk.
    It's easy to give Kardashian West grief for her part in creating a culture of oversharing, and she's not always been the best role model for women, especially when it comes to their bodies. (Remember when she called the flu "an amazing diet"?) But in this case, she's doing women and families a great service.
    Although an estimated 10% of women in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant — and that number jumps to over 33% for women over 35 — there is still a stigma attached to fertility issues. As a result, women do not talk about their struggles, and friends and family don't ask.
    In fact, in an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," audiences saw Kardashian West expressing hesitation over the idea of a surrogate. She admitted, "I don't know anyone that has been a surrogate or used one. ... I didn't really think about that as an option for me."
    The same goes for many women. But the more we talk about it (and the more we talk about it in mainstream forums like a popular reality show) the more likely it is that more families will know they're not alone.
    As women wait longer to have children — and Kim herself is 36 — fertility struggles are more common. Twenty percent of women in the United States now have their first child after age 35. In many other countries, meanwhile, infertility can be grounds for ostracism. Not all people in developing countries know of Kardashian West. But it's pretty safe to say that some do.
    And let's not forget that pregnancy isn't always a walk in the park even for those women who don't face medical difficulties. Kardashian West was open in sharing that she did not enjoy being pregnant, and in doing so faced considerable backlash, even as many others concurred.
    There's an expectation that women will enjoy being pregnant. And while many women do, just as many others feel uncomfortable, feel pain, or simply don't like it. Childbirth, meanwhile, can be easy — or it can be excruciating. All experiences are different, and all are valid.
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    At the same time, the Kardashian Wests are clearly among the more fortunate in that they can afford a surrogate — the rumored fee for theirs has ranged from $45,000 to $113,000, and it's likely they're also paying for the best in care and other pregnancy-related needs. But even in her privilege, she's making clear that not all experiences of motherhood are the same, and that's vital, if often underreported, information.
    Having a baby by surrogate doesn't make Kardashian West any less of a woman. Neither does not having a baby at all. The judgment over how other people parent starts early. If Kim Kardashian can help remove just a little bit of that judgment, that's a reality show sensibility we should get behind.