Being a mother has never been simple. Today, modern medicine, safe water, stored food, pasteurized milk, cradles, and houses with walls make it easier than ever before to keep a baby alive. Rubber-nippled baby bottles and daycare centers especially designed and licensed for the care of the very young provide working mothers, even those with weeks-old babies, with alternatives to the only two viable options previously available: keep your baby close or find a wet nurse. The availability of breast pumps and freezers means that more women can both breast-feed and spend hours separated from their babies. Above all, there is birth control, which permits a woman to consciously override her ovaries and choose when, or if, she will bear children. Ultrasound and amniocentesis enable women to spend decades in a career and still look forward to bearing a healthy infant. Far from simplifying motherhood, these novel choices have exposed tensions just beneath the cheery surface of our traditional assumptions about what mothers should be. Today, mothers in developed countries, and with them fathers and children, enter uncharted terrain. Without anyone raising their hands to volunteer, we have become guinea pigs in a vast social experiment that reveals what women who can control reproduction really want to do. Children, too, are finding out what it means to be born to a complex and multifaceted creature who has an unprecedented range of options. It is an experiment-in-progress, with two outcomes already apparent. First, the decisions that mothers make do not always conform to our conventional expectations about innately tender, selfless creatures. Second, whatever today's mother decides is likely to becontroversial in some quarters. Bluntly put, motherhood has become a mine-field, and we are walking through it without so much as a map to guide us. Politics of Motherhood The politician who naively assumes that motherhood, like apple pie, is still a safe topic quickly learns otherwise. The topic was safe only so long as people took the centuries-old view of self-sacrificing motherhood for granted. This view rested on mankind's assumption that women were designed by nature to be mothers and that they instinctively want to rear every baby they bear. Self-sacrificing motherhood was what women were for, and women in many societies have believed this was their destiny. Overlooked was the huge stake that everyone has in motherhood. Our sense of self, pride, vulnerability, propriety, and job security, our life-long preconceptions and anxieties, our peace of mind, not to mention our toehold on posterity--all of these depend on what our own mothers, wives, lovers, daughters, and female colleagues do or are expected by others to do. This is why a politician can lose votes for encouraging mothers to stay home,as well asfor suggesting they return to work; for pointing out that breastfeeding is beneficial to infants (which it is),as well asfor neglecting to mention that it is. One week, newspaper headlines ask, "Is day care ruining our kids?" or decry "A dangerous experiment in child-rearing." Another week, headlines in the same paper will declare, "Infant bonding is a bogus notion" or call for businesses to provide more daycare. At the same time, birth control is still against the law in many countries; and on the sidewalks outside family planning clinics in the United States, near civil war prevails. A visitor to Earth from another planet might well ask how the same creatures that invented sophisticated technology to explore the solar system could display such primitive behavior when it comes to the female reproductive system? No topic of mother politics is so divisive as abortion, and none elicits more irrational debate. In Washington, D.C., in May 1997, a bill was introduced to outlaw a rare type of abortion--the procedure known as dilation and extraction, chrHrdy, Sarah Blaffer is the author of 'Mother Nature Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species', published 2000 under ISBN 9780345408938 and ISBN 0345408934.