By Alex Massaad
Jamie Smith-Windsor has a unique story to tell with regards to human-technology interaction. Her baby, born over three months premature, was miraculously kept alive by a surrogate womb of ventilators, monitors and other medical equipment. She uses this heart-wrenching and emotional moment as a springboard to explore greater questions such as the role of motherhood in a technologically mediated infancy and the relationship between mother-daughter once technology takes the role of mother for medical, or other purposes. Does anything get innately changed in human identity from this technological help? Does the technology's impact remain after the machines are disconnected and Smith-Windsor's baby is moving and breathing under her own power?
In general the introductory paragraph has a kernel of information that supports the viewer with a preview of what is to come in the rest of the writing. In the case of Jamie Smith-Windsor's article "The Cyborg Mother: A Breached Boundary" the best that I could find in the first paragraph was "Why not ask questions without answers, without presuppositions, causes effects, and linear time? Why not whisk yourself away from your comfortable position?" The comfortable position that Smith-Windsor is trying to latch onto is the concept of motherhood in cyborg culture. I only need to point to the definition of cyborg on the post a little bit below to reiterate that a cyborg is one who has their "physical abilities extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body." Even if we were to ignore the second half of that quotation regarding the mechanical elements, Smith-Windsors infant has only extended her own human limits, but not human limitations in general. Her child was still in very weak health when compared to other children of the same age. It may be argued that this is a semantic difference between the infants human limitation or human limitations in general. I believe the OED definition specifically deals with the condition of human limitation rather than any individuals specific limitation.
It seems worth mentioning at this point, albeit slightly petty, that no technology was built into the body. All of the technology was external, with the exception of a tube extending from the ventilator machine to the lungs, and I seriously doubt that any of the machines were integrated into the infants conscious perception of themselves. Smith-Windsor is adding extra emotional weight to the role of technology in motherhood.
She is arguing that technology is displacing motherhood through its relationship to the child as described by Julie Kristeva's infantile language. Here Kristava makes the point that an infant is incapable of seeing "other" or the distinction between the mother and itself. In Smith-Windsor's case she is wondering if her baby is seeing a breached boundary between machine and infant rather than mother and infant. While I have no scientific research to argue against this point, she is imagining some sort of lost connection that would have occurred had the child been in her womb until the expected due date. I'm not sure how this would have transpired. Underneath our skin we immediately become more complex than the simple unified metaphor of the "self" that we perceive. We become infinitely complex, a bio machine that bears little resemblance to out outer-selves but shares quite a lot in common with a machine.
If we consider a baby in the womb as a human "on the assembly line" we can understand my argument a little more clearly. While the cells divide and begin changing into their genetically determined cells the infant is being "built." The womb provides less sensory connection than would be necessary for any time of human connection. There is no light to see, hardly any sound to hear and only the boundary of the space to feel. Smith-Windsor's infant would had any recognition of this space in the womb, and I don't believe her time in the hospital incubator would have had formed any recognition either.
I strongly believe that there is no dispersion of an originally homogenous body, we are still whole. When the ventilators shut off and are disconnected Smith-Windsor is ready to take her child home and step into the role of mother. Her child doesn't have a cyborg identity, the same way a newborn child does not wonder why all of a sudden someone turned on the lights (maybe they do and this is the source of their crying). My point is that the recognition process, and faculties associated with forming memories and comparing them, are too undeveloped to have a serious impact on an academic argument regarding the status of cyborg motherhood.