By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 26, 2003 at 5:24 AM

Feminist Naomi Wolf recently published her fourth book, "Misconceptions," exploring how pregnant women are often manipulated and controlled by the medical industry, employers and their spouses. Wolf chronicles her own experiences during her first pregnancy and supplements with personal stories from other women and medical facts for an invaluable book that is both touching and eye-opening.

A 1984 graduate of Yale university, Wolf is most famous for her 1992 book, "The Beauty Myth," hailed by The New York Times as one of the most important writings of last century.

Wolf, now 40 and living in New York City, is a regular contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, New Republic, Glamour and Ms. She was allegedly paid $15,000 a month to consult Al Gore about his image during his presidential campaign.

Although still a passionate writer and activist, Wolf says getting married and having children (she has two, ages 7 and 3) altered her views as a feminist, increased her spiritual and esoteric side and made her realize how her own misconceptions and lack of information adversely affected her birth experiences.

Recently, we spoke to Ms. Wolf about "Misconceptions," feminism, pregnancy, motherhood and more.

OMC: What are the biggest misconceptions about pregnancy and motherhood?

NW: The biggest misconceptions are that when you are pregnant, your doctor and your hospital will treat you in a way that is best for you and your baby; rather, powerful hidden interests shape the birth experiences most American women will have. The biggest misconception about motherhood is that it is a time of unending bliss and you "naturally" become a mother like a cow calves when really, it is a time of wild ups and downs. Good motherhood is a learning process -- a work of great will, skill, conscience and effort.

OMC: Who is responsible for creating the misconceptions?

NW: Doctors, hospitals, hospital-employed birthing class instructors and a longstanding ideology about motherhood being sentimental and mystified -- not real, hard work -- that influences gauzy birth guides.

OMC: Do you feel the popular book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" serves a purpose other than to reassure mothers-to-be?

NW: No. It is chock-full of misleading and sometimes false information. It serves a purpose for doctors and hospitals: It prepares women to submit without resistance to high-tech interventionist birth.

OMC: What most inspired you to write this book: your own birth experiences or the testimonies of other women?

NW: Both. I was startled by how overwhelming my experience of pregnancy and new motherhood was, and I could not find guidance for these emotions in the books I was reading. So many women confided in me about their highs and lows with becoming new moms, and how alone they felt with all their mixed emotions, that I wanted to write this for them.

OMC: Why do so many women receive unnecessary C-sections?

NW: For hospital profits -- they shorten allowable labor. Physician profit and convenience is another reason. C-section rates go up before weekends and holidays. Also, litigation pressures. Doctors would rather cut in a high-risk legal environment, even when it is safe to labor longer. Hospital staff convenience -- it is not convenient to have a woman in labor walking, pulling on furniture, growling, getting on the floor, etc., which are all the ways in which women labor most effectively and painlessly.

OMC: How did pregnancy and motherhood change your views of feminism?

NW: It made me more passionate as a feminist. I want my kids to live is a fair and open world and it made me respect moms, dads, babysitters and teachers as the hardest working and most important of all workers.

OMC: Do you find yourself less pro-choice than you were prior to pregnancy or the same?

NW: I am just as pro-choice. Motherhood is such a huge responsibility, but I am sure that it is a more emotional, complicated and tortured issue than I believed before I had a baby. I believe the best world for women is a world in which abortion would be early and rare because women would be so in control of their sexual and reproductive lives.

OMC: What are your thoughts on women having babies at home with midwives?

NW: It is not that safe to do so in the US ... because the OB establishment is so opposed, for financial reasons, to independent midwifery that often hospitals refuse to back up home midwives if something does go wrong. This is not the way it works in Europe, where midwives have partner doctors in hospitals, and the child mortality rate is far lower and mother's health better than it is here under this system.

OMC: What are your thoughts about selective reduction? (Women who take infertility drugs often find themselves pregnant with multiple embryos and have the option, very early in the pregnancy, to remove an embryo or embryos to ensure the health of at least one baby.)

NW: I can't support it personally, however it is a woman's choice legally. It seems as if knowing an abortion or more is likely is, in my personal value system, too high a price to pay for a "genetically close" match rather than for instance adoption from all the babies now waiting for homes.

OMC: I really liked the more "esoteric" parts of the book, like when you talked about becoming pregnant on birth control because will and desire altered your chemistry. Also, how you simply asked your breach baby to turn and she did. Would you have believed this kind of stuff prior to experiencing it, or did motherhood really make you more mystical? Does this side of you still exist?

NW: Motherhood did make me much more mystical and oriented toward a religious/spiritual point of view. I mean what is more of a miracle than a baby or parental love? But I have always been secretly faith-driven (Ms. Wolf is Jewish) and my family is quite tolerant of mystical experiences of the world, including my own ... I am just coming "out" with it more often these days as a mom.


OMC: What can couples do to decrease relationship problems after a baby is born?

NW: Have support. Have extended family around. Take as much leave for the dad or non-birthing partner as possible. Have the person who is not the mom do a vast amount of housework and child-related labor -- it keeps the romance burning. Talk extensively in advance about what each expects their own and the other's role to be. Set aside time for yourselves. Don't expect to "do it all." Collapse without guilt. Whine without guilt. Don't pressure the new mom sexually especially if she had an episiotomy. Nurture each other.

OMC: Have things really improved that much in the workplace for mothers over the past 25 years?

NW: Yes, it really, really has.

OMC: Do you see the situation improving in the near future?

NW: Yes, if women act up politically. Vote for pro-woman candidates and join lobbies that put pressure on candidates. Get training that teaches you to negotiate, advocate, speak up in your own behalf, become financially literate, start your own business, run for office, find mentors, etc.

OMC: What are you currently working on?

NW: A book about my dad and the power of imagination.

OMC: What are your plans for the near future?

NW: Grow the wonderful organization I co-founded, The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership (, which trains young women to be conscience-driven leaders.

OMC Do you plan to have any more children?

NW: No, our plate is wonderfully full.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.