One of the most refreshing parts for me about giving birth was the permission to let it all hang out. Every mom knows it’s going to get ugly in the delivery room. Your nearest and dearest, and especially your partner, are going to see things they can never un-see.
I was under the impression that’s just what birth was: Embarrassing, unpredictable and definitely immodest. Good luck trying to keep your dignity with a nurse sticking her hand up your gown every 15 minutes.
But as it goes in the birthing world, there’s something for everyone. A Malaysian company has recently introduced full-length pants designed for women to wear during labor. The pants are marketed to Muslim women who may be concerned about exposing body parts in the delivery room required to be covered by some interpretations of Islam. These modesty pants keep a woman’s most intimate parts, or aurat, concealed throughout the birth process. According to manufacturer MamaPride, most Malaysian women give birth in sarongs, over which modesty pants have an advantage — they can minimize the amount of skin shown during delivery, especially in front of a male doctor.
MamaPride designed the modesty pants similar to tracksuit bottoms with “an opening to let the baby out” and coverage for the legs. The pants cover the thighs, calves and knees from being unnecessarily exposed during labor. The specialty pants are available for purchase through the manufacturer’s Facebook page and at select pharmacies, priced at RM119 or about $31.
Though these pants are marketed to Muslim women, it’s the message behind them that hits close to home for me. I was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I was told that my body had a specific purpose: to abstain from sex until I was married and then to sexually please my husband; to bear children and create a family; and to remain hidden so I wouldn’t be a stumbling block to Christian men.
It’s the modesty issue that is particularly troubling here. Enforced modesty, especially from a religious standpoint, is nothing more than glorified body-shaming. And it’s not until you’ve grown up in an environment like this that you realize how long these messages can stick with you, possibly forever. I still have a hard time accepting myself emotionally and physically. I’m still not totally comfortable in my own skin, and I know my religious upbringing was the greatest influence.
So, my knee-jerk reaction to this new product is to insist that these pants are banned. But even that isn’t a good solution. Taking modesty pants off the market creates a whole new set of problems.
It’s easy to forget in the injustice of it all that modesty, and even religion, should be a choice. For many women, like me, these modesty pants would be oppressive — especially when you’re in your most natural state during childbirth. I see these pants, and I hear that same religious message telling me that the person I am is unacceptable, and my shameful feminine parts should be covered up.
When you pair these pants with a body-shaming message, they’re just one more tool to make women feel smaller.
The point is that modesty is a choice. It can’t be enforced on anyone. If a woman feels better giving birth in crotchless-pants, more power to her. She doesn’t have to apologize, and neither do I for giving birth completely naked. If there’s one thing that comes out of this new product launch, I hope it’s this: Women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of what they wear, giving birth or otherwise. It doesn’t matter if our comfort makes you uncomfortable.