Should We Share Our Birthing Stories Online? Absolutely!

rawpixel-568371-unsplash (1)There has been a backlash recently against new mothers who share their birthing stories online. Some people don’t like this latest version of “oversharing” because they think it traumatizes pregnant women.

Although, not as much as the birth… I hasten to quip.

I have to admit that I always felt a bit cheated after the births of my children about the silent agreement among women not to discuss the absolute horror the nitty gritty of childbirth, except with your close friends – those that have seen you wee in public, puke on alcohol, or provide you with blow-by-blow accounts of sex with their husband.

Joking!

But fortunately, we’re a lot more open these days about what was once considered to be women’s business. In fact, it might surprise you to know that it was men that instigated the change to be with their partners in the delivery room. Evidently, it was difficult to focus on the paper in the waiting room with the bloodcurdling screams of their wives in their ear. Although my father was lucky enough to be in the pub – a story that, (not being one to shy away from sexism or political correctness), he continues to recount with pride.

Perhaps, predictably, I dragged the old man into the torture chamber with me, although he did come kicking and screaming when I went into labor two weeks early, the morning after a very boozy farewell to life without real responsibility the night before. It is no exaggeration to say that he slept through most of my ordeal until NC was thrust into his arms so that the medical team could save me from bleeding out – and I believe from certain death, had I been in Outlander.

NC’s birth was a shock, but not as massive a shock as my naive interpretation of what a sleepless night meant. Both of my children were in a rush to get out, which meant short, sharp periods of the kind of intense agony that Cassie goes through each week on The Bachelor, rather than a prolonged ordeal. Aside from what felt like wall staples in place of stitches in my vagina – that I secretly hoped wouldn’t be removed for several years – my experiences could have been worse. (Okay, not much worse). In fact, I found the sight of blood on the bathroom floor of the hospital to be far more unsettling.

But should we share the grisly, bloody detail of this natural, yet savage ordeal of bringing children into the world?

Absolutely. If you don’t want to know what really happens, don’t read about it or watch the videos. Obviously, I read everything that I could get my hands on at the time – because…anxiety – and in hindsight, I’m glad I did. I was more prepared and more aware of my options when it became evident that my birth plan was as useless as a knitted condom. Added to which, I knew that no one would bat an eyelid when I called the old man those names that even we have censored in our marriage.

 

Rule No. 1 Of Feminism: Never Bleat About How Hard It Is To Have It All, When Fighting To Have It All

Maternity-Work-SuitsIt appears to be the fate of women in search of equality that we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. And that’s why I loved Serena William’s honest proclamation in her speech after losing the Wimbledon final.

“To all the mums out there, I was playing for you today,” she said.

The comment was not an excuse for her performance, rather a galling admission that I suspect many sportswomen and professional women at the top of their game will identify with. Because to be at the top of your game is a choice for many women.

Anyone that has ever watched the iron-will of the formidable tennis player will know how much Serena must have hated to lose that match. But to me, what she said was what most of us know to be true in the fight for equality – and it’s something that I have been reminded of many times by men – that we can’t have our cake and eat it.

We can’t bleat about how hard it is to have it all when fighting to have it all.

I know how hard it is to hold down a job as a mum with no extended family support; and particularly as the mum of a kid with additional needs. Only the other morning, after a terrible night with the boy, the old man said to me, “Imagine if we had to hold down proper jobs?” as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. Our son is twenty-one.

Fortunately, both of us work from home, where a sneaky catch-up nap after lunch is an option. But for most working women, a sneaky nap isn’t an option. Sleep or no sleep, many are expected to get up during the night, care for sick children, prepare packed lunches and clean uniform, sign off school notes, monitor homework and do drop-offs, and then put in a full day’s work as a convincing professional.

And it’s hard. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not negating the hard work that men put in to provide for their families and the support that many men demonstrate towards their partner’s return to work, yet I suspect that many are unaware of the way women’s achievements are held up for review and scrutinized in comparison to theirs, once they become mothers.

I wonder how many men have been on the receiving end of the tut of impatience from an unempathetic boss when they’ve had to leave early to collect a sick child from school? Those same people that were incubated and nurtured by women, many of whom have endured huge physiological changes from childbirth, the debilitating toll (in many cases) of a decade’s lack of sleep, and who sometimes faced genuine financial fears when they found themselves on their own, having sacrificed their earnings to be the primary carer – for them.

The type of sacrifice that some days may indeed affect the game of those women.

 

Abortion Has Never Been Something Women Take Lightly

I do not begrudge the third of Ireland’s voters who wanted to keep the existing abortion laws in the recent referendum, to protect the rights of the fetus; we are each entitled to an opinion in a democracy. Which is why I get to share mine so freely on this blog, and why you are welcome to chip in and disagree at any time.

That’s not to say that I will always agree with your views – but unless you become threatening to me or my handful of readers, or you discriminate against the fundamental human rights of others, I will respect them.

Obviously, though, that third of voters were completely wrong in their misguided attempt to continue to negate a woman’s choices about her own body.

Through history, many people have sacrificed their lives for the sake of our democracy; for the right to basic human rights such as these. Which is why I find it so appalling, (even after the event), that these hordes of women were forced to stream back to Ireland in their thousands to take back control of their OWN bodies. In 2018. (Although, please note that Northern Ireland will continue its own fight).

Because, while I haven’t stepped inside a church since I was a child, I do not oppose Catholicism. In my opinion, religion serves a purpose in our community for certain people. I can understand its appeal – the lure of its support and guidance and the promise of that all-inclusive holiday of heaven at the end in exchange for your last few coppers in the plate on a Sunday. And as long as it evolves with the times, and doesn’t impose its more archaic restraints upon its believers, or abuse its power, (as it has done in this debate), I have no problem with it.

But…

There were many aspects to consider in this debate, and in my opinion, the most disgusting was the implication that women would abuse abortion if it was legalized. Because, as author Matt Haig commented on Twitter, (fundamentally) ‘no one likes abortion,’ (although I should add that his comment was quickly shot down by a young Catholic woman who argued that she does like it, because it gives her power over her body), and to my knowledge, most women/couples will do everything in their power to avoid putting themselves in such a situation.

Yet, as any glass-half-full person like myself will tell you, life doesn’t always go to plan. Women are raped, men remove condoms, the menstrual cycle is neither regular nor failsafe, many young couples are simply not in the financial position to raise a child or look after a disabled child, and mature women can mistakenly interpret a missed period as a sign of menopause.

And what many of those who had the audacity to stand against this medical intervention underestimate, is the impact that both pregnancy and abortion have on the physical and mental health of women. Think of those young women in the fifties and sixties forced to carry their babies to full-term, only for them to be ripped away at birth and put up for adoption. Think of the girls whose lives have been compromised radically by having to raise a child alone, spurned by partners and family. Think of the adopted children out there that have been scarred emotionally by a sense of rejection at the start of their lives. And think too of the shame women have been made to feel for that ownership of their body.

The right to an abortion is not something that women take lightly, yet it remains fervently a woman’s right.

Jacinda Ardern: No One Doubts That You Can Have It All

Jacinda Ardern is the sort of woman for whom I could sacrifice my love of putting the toilet seat down and changing the loo roll on its holder. 

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Although I’ve recently come to the decision that the expression ‘having it all,’ (generally associated with women), puts too much pressure on our gender and inadvertently encourages men to reduce their contributions to domesticity and family life, it is lovely to be proved wrong, and to witness a shining example of a woman who has proved that, perhaps, we can. I should add that I also believe that if ‘having it all’ is being able to have a professional career and a family,  many women do ‘have it all,’ out of their need to survive rather than through choice. However, if ‘having it all’ is also about achieving equanimity in all areas of our life, to include lifestyle and happiness, that is a much harder goal to attain as a woman, without support.

 

I admit that I felt a bit like skipping awkwardly through the mountains like Julie Andrews when I first heard the news of Jacinda Ardern’s pregnancy and then witnessed how she presented it to her public and the press, as in, a celebration rather than the apology some might have been expecting.

 

Unfortunately, however, with our closest mountains situated three hours away, I had to make do with the frozen food aisle in Aldi.

 

What I will admit, though, is how nervous that headline made me feel at the same time. Because, in spite of our reputation, we raving feminists can be sensitive as well, and at a time when male feathers have been severely ruffled in matters of equality – leaving many men feeling lost, abandoned, in denial, victimized and confused by what the hell these loose women are accusing them of – I didn’t want the fallout to encourage an attack on Jacinda, who, (the implication at the time), might have actually known she was in the family way at the time of her election.

 

*Makes the sign of the cross.*

 

And as many men are aware, it is a well-known fact that pregnancy is a debilitating sickness that can leave its victims with vegetable brains, and therefore useless to society; that is if we conveniently ignore the fact that of the approximately sixty percent of women that work and get pregnant, will most likely work close to their due date.

 

Those that continue to fight for equality in the workplace have always stipulated that, with the right support network in place, there is no biological reason why women cannot do the same job as men, even when a woman becomes a mother – mainly, because she is one half of a couple and the child has two parents. Therefore, (in an ideal world with no privilege, pay gap, the full payment of child support and more affordable childcare), there should be a choice within most partnerships as to who will become the primary carer to the children.

 

I like to believe that Jacinda may even pick up new skills during those early weeks of motherhood, that could prove useful in her role as PM. She’ll learn how to wake at the sound of a pin dropping and she’ll fall back to sleep with a drop of a hat. In fact, she’ll learn to sleep just about anywhere – and she might have to watch out for that during those arduous parliamentary discussions.

 

Granted, the prime minister of New Zealand is in a more fortunate position than many women. She has a husband happy to take on the role of childcare, along with, (I imagine), a salary not only commensurate with her performance but one that will contribute nicely towards a cleaner, should Clark feel a bit icky at the sight of a dirty toilet.

 

But what I truly love about the way this woman works is her commitment, because even after the dust settled on the public announcement of her pregnancy and her skeptics had ruminated and untwisted their knickers – because there will be  doubters that spout bile about how irresponsible her decision was to have a baby at this point in her career – she hasn’t disappeared into the shadows, shied away from celebrating one of life’s greatest achievements or using her new position as a pregnant PM to leverage her views on sexism in the workplace.

 

Jacinda has proven that we can have it all if we want it. It won’t be easy. But if having a baby is one of the hardest things one can do, I reckon that being prime minister comes pretty close.

 

 

Who Knew That There IS Actually A Link Between Iron And Energy?

So it turns out that you actually need iron in your body, whereas I always thought that iron was naturally in your blood – one of those minerals that you didn’t really have to worry about apart from during pregnancy, because it had no real function like your appendix, and your clitoris, according to the old man. I also thought when you became deficient (AKA anemic), and your gums and your eyelids turned that scary shade of white, a few dead animals in your diet or some iron tablets and associated constipation, would cure it. Who remembers the black stools of pregnancy? Sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it?

 

‘The black stools are coming…’ said in Vincent Price voice.

 

The thing is, I don’t really eat a lot of animals anymore, mainly because my daughter – one of those anal, in-your-face vegetarians who refuses to sit quietly and munch on her Tofu, won’t let me. And as you know, she’s very scary. Added to which, I’m in that stage of perimenopause where each month is like a scene from The Texan Chainsaw Massacre because I’m losing a lot of iron DURING MY PERIOD as well.

 

In fact, iron has a more serious function that merely being proof of how many kale smoothies you consume to brag about in book club – and as an interesting side note, you’d have to eat a ton of spinach to see any real change to your results – thank fuck!. You see, it actually carries oxygen around the blood which gives you more energy and means you are less listless – something that has been an issue for me for most of my life, and may, in fact, be genetic which is why Kurt’s iron levels will also be checked out asap. In my case, the symptoms only became really noticeable recently when I struggled to lift a wine bottle to my mouth one Friday night.

 

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How I think I look in my deficient state.

 

Anyway, the idea that I might beat that old bitch at the pool who keeps overtaking me in the fast lane was appealing, and as recent research suggests that there is a link between cancer and low oxygen levels, I decided to take my deficiency seriously. So when my doctor mentioned an iron infusion –  because my gut struggles to absorb iron in the same way it can alcohol – and I learned that the treatment requires a REAL drip from a REAL nurse that delivers the iron intravenously while you lie in a treatment room and look like there is genuinely something wrong with you – frankly, it sounded too good to be true. Disappointingly, though, you don’t get tea and biscuits afterwards like you do for a blood donation.

 

The health system is fantastic in Australia because we pay for it and unlike countries like the UK where you have to wait a year for an appointment and only get to see a specialist once you can prove you’ve ordered your coffin, here the GPs are lavish with referrals and scans. They are the Father Christmas’ of the medical world and a veritable lifesaver for those of the hypochondriac persuasion among us.

 

Even better, there are some minor risks to getting an iron infusion, so when you tell people about it, you can use that low voice that sounds like the treatment is REALLY FUCKING SERIOUS. There’s the possibility of headaches, fever, nausea etc – pretty much a typical Sunday morning hangover – plus an interesting new one where staining of the skin can occur at the injection site. When my doctor described this low-risk side effect, it sounded rather like a free tattoo to me – something that is definitely on my bucket list – so it seemed like a no-brainer.

 

Evidently, I didn’t do my research properly because I thought I would exit the surgery…I mean, injection, rather like those women in sanitary towel adverts, with enough energy to roller blade around the supermarket, surf in the middle of winter or even cook dinner, but alas, it can take up to two weeks for the effects to kick in. So, two more weeks of bed rest and the excuse to raise barely more than a weak eyelid when the old man suggests cleaning of any description…because deficiencies need to be taken seriously...but I’ll keep you updated. If I manage to knock out more than two blog posts this week, you’ll know I’m in recovery.

 

When You Realise You’re Competing With Beyonce’s Bump

pregnant-1905043_1280I was somewhat perturbed by Beyonce’s visual introduction to the world of her impending twins. Beyond excited, OBVIOUSLY, because this is Beyonce we’re talking about, but the prude in middle-aged me dared to question why a grown woman would announce such a special event to the world in her bra and undies. Here’s the link.

 

Imagine when she shows her bump photos to her teenagers.

 

Eww!, Mum, gross! How could you do that to me?

 

But according to NC, that’s how it’s done these days in this new world of Social Media and sharing everything. You create an artistic interpretation of your bump, so it looks all natural and organic and healthy – I believe she may actually be sitting on kale –  even though the reality is, well…Photoshop.

 

How things have changed.

 

Twenty years ago during my two gestations, it was only just about legal for women to leave the house when pregnant and you were still given the stink eye if you wore maternity swimmers in public. You certainly didn’t flaunt your growing bump wedged between a tiny bikini in public.

 

We had surpassed the smock dress, I think, although I would like to thank Natalie Portman for her recent outings of the vintage fifties model – but we still concealed our changing bodies under swathes of unflattering fabric or in leggings with huge baggy tee shirts.

 

So it made me think that perhaps I could share my own ‘love and happiness” and show you how the great Lord has ‘blessed me’ in middle age with my new bump, with a similar Beyonce-esque, arty, Insty-style approach.

 

We’re hoping it’s twins, and by the size of it there’s a good chance, and we’re naming them Chardonnay and Lindt.

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