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.

 

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.

 

 

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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Farewell Dear Ovaries, You’ve Served Me Well

I went through this stage at the tail end of my forties where I had this recurring nightly dream that I was pregnant and something would always go wrong – not necessarily with the pregnancy, but either the old man would leave me, or the baby would turn out to be some animal or my worst enemy at the birth. pregnant-914689_1280

 

You know how fucked up dreams can be.

 

Anyway, recently I’ve been dreaming about different friends of mine falling pregnant, which is strange because they are typically the least likely in my circle of friends to ever consider having a baby in their fifties. Therefore, what I think these dreams symbolise is that I’m ready to leave the reproductive phase of my life, and they have something to do with the final breath of my dying ovaries as they enter palliative care.

 

Mentally, I’ve been good with the retirement of my ovaries for some time now. You get tired of remembering to stock up on sanitary products, of paying tax on sanitary products, bloody sheets, not being able to wear white and well… blood. In fact, if anything, I wish they’d just gone  a bit more honourably, elected euthanasia rather than this final peri-menopausal stand they’re having with my uterus now, a silent demand that I acknowledge their role in my life and grieve for their parting.

 

For the main part, my ovaries have served me well, and relatively painlessly from all accounts, and I have two beautiful children to show for their monthly production line, who have now fully transitioned from foetus to adult, (physically at least).

 

I do wonder if men are forced to think about the reproductive system as much as women. Because menstruation and gestation are fairly time-consuming activities and make living that bit more challenging than only having to consider condom size, batteries for the remote and the odd embarrassing public boner. I wonder how they’d cope with the responsibility and symptoms of periods over thirty-five to forty years of their lives, worrying about their unwanted appearance, the panic when they don’t appear at all, having to take full responsibility for contraception and pap tests and at the tail end of their cycle, dealing with the eccentricity of their death throes and final assault.

 

At times it can feel like a real pain in the vagina, but if you think about it, the female side of reproduction is really quite a privilege. I mean, how fucking awesome is it that we can make babies?

 

It’s Kurt’s nineteenth birthday tomorrow and I can still remember those initial wondrous hours I spent with him between his birth at 3.30am and the first light of dawn, lying in my hospital bed, gazing with a terrifying, undying love at this chubby-faced second miracle that I’d created, now protectively swaddled and encased in his glass cage at my side. This, in spite of an inhumanely quick delivery that can only have been directed by Satan, enough stitches to create a patchwork quilt and each time I got up to the loo, what felt like the loss of half the contents of blood in my entire body.

 

And if I didn’t have the foresight that I have now… you know… about the next eighteen years of trials and tribulations that would undoubtedly lie ahead of me, I’d do it all over again; to experience that moment of primal, intense love that happens within seconds of your child’s entry into the world, along with the realisation that something is bigger than you now, because you’d give up your own life for that little scrap of flesh in a heartbeat.

Having A Baby At 50 – An Act Of Selfishness Or Love?

English: A picture of a young child
English: A picture of a young child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personally I can’t imagine anything worse than having a baby at this time in my life, and if I could find a way to blackmail my doctor to rip out my ovaries at my next pap test, I would.

 

But each to their own.

 

I’m nearly fifty and on a good day I’m tired, cranky, exhausted for no reason and my hormones dictate my mood unless I dilute their superpowers with wine. And my body still hasn’t recovered from my last pregnancy, seventeen years ago.

 

Which is why the news that Sonia Kruger is pregnant at the age of 48 has set the cat among the pigeons among many middle-aged women.

 

Admittedly, I also can’t imagine the awfulness of having problems conceiving when you are desperate for a baby and all your peers have popped out babies as easily as rabbits. It certainly sounds as though Sonia and her partner have been through the infertility mill as far as treatments go.

 

And I’m sure that Sonia will make a fantastic mother. She is intelligent, successful, likeable, looks physically fit for her age and there is no doubt that she can provide a safe and financially secure environment for her child.

 

But she’s 48, a time when she should be thinking about flat shoes, the freedom of the elasticated waistband and armchairs with a built in footrest – not changing diapers. What’s more, nature naturally dictates that women shouldn’t bear children that close to ‘the change’, which is why our ovaries stop producing eggs to allow us to become bitter and twisted without risk to our children.

 

I know it’s not my place to decide who should and shouldn’t have a baby and usually I have a very open mind, but I can’t help thinking that this is not about me or Sonia.

 

Surely this is about whether her pregnancy is the right decision for the child too?

 

I don’t judge her for wanting a baby. It’s all I ever wanted and in spite of the challenges that parenting has thrown up, my life is complete because of my children.

 

But…

 

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I question whether Sonia and her partner have thought this through objectively? Ideally kids need more than love. They need continuity and  a future with their parents. Just because the science is out there to help us procreate from donor eggs beyond the natural age of child-rearing, does that mean we should do it?

 

There have been a lot of scientific discoveries that we have to consider the consequences of wisely before use. Nuclear warfare is one. An incredible discovery but one that if abused, we now know is not necessarily the right thing to do.

 

I am Sonia’s age and will be nearly fifty when NC turns twenty at the end of this week. But in spite of the generation between us, I am still young and fit enough to keep up with her physically and mentally, empathise with her emotions, give her boyfriend- advice, and I should still have enough years ahead of me to be around for those pivotal moments in her life such as her wedding day and the birth of her children.

 

I didn’t have my mother around for those life events and it had a devastating effect on my growth that has transmitted through to my own children.

 

Sonia will be nearly seventy when her baby turns twenty and their relationship should evolve into a friendship. Has she considered that her child’s peers may think that she is the grandmother when she accompanies them on a tour of uni or goes to the parents evening at school?

 

Of course it can be argued that as long as a child is loved, age shouldn’t matter, and I respect that opinion wholeheartedly if you don’t have a choice like many menopausal women who accidentally fall pregnant.

 

But to choose to have a baby at 48 – is that an act of selfishness or love?

 

 

Feeling Clucky In Middle Age

My sister is pregnant at the moment.

Mother's Love
Mother’s Love (Photo credit: Fabio Trifoni)

When I first received the news and the very special photo of ‘the bump’ that arrived in my inbox, and is soon to evolve into a new niece or nephew, they had a peculiar effect on me.

One that I wasn’t expecting.

Because I’m in parenting free fall at the moment. Close enough to taste the tantalising endpoint, where I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel of full-time parenting. For the first time in a long time I can taste the freedom that the gentle shove (that might be required) to persuade my offspring that it’s time to get out of the nest will give me; after what sometimes has felt like a life-term.

I can understand the euphoria Mandela must have felt as his freedom finally turned into a reality. The old man and I have already began surreptitiously looking at one bedroom apartments.

Which is why I thought I’d never want to see another child for at least ten years.

(There is also the added awkwardness of being nearly old enough to be the baby’s grandmother, too.)

You see, I worried that I might feel a little distanced from this new addition to the family. Because the timing of it’s arrival might coincide with the period where I get to lick my parental wounds, to reassure myself I’ve done the best job I could and then avoid contact with anything under the age of twenty-five for reasons of self-protection.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve been feeling worryingly clucky about the whole event.

Part of the reason is that I know how much my sister wants this baby and I know that she will make a wonderful mother. A more natural mother than I ever was.

Then, of course, there is the added bonus that I can hand this one back, too. 

Nelson Mandela silhouette
Nelson Mandela silhouette (Photo credit: HelenSTB)

But I’ve found myself surfing deliriously through baby websites, stalking teddies, and only the other day I found myself scouring through rails of baby-grows when I should have been in Zara, squeezing my butt into tight leather pants.

I can’t help touching newborn clothes, either, in a very suspicious way. Then I demonstrated just how completely out of touch I am with all things ‘newborn’ when I picked an outfit for ‘the bump’, only to discover it was for a child of 3 -4 years of age.

When did they get so small?

Our sense of scale gets a bit screwed up when our children become teenagers. NC is reasonably tall but my cougar heels balance out the height difference. Kurt is a good 6” taller than me now and often leans down above me, menacingly, and says,

‘Gonna send me to my room now, Mum?’

There’s that unbeatable circle of life again.

So I seriously can’t imagine just how small this little ‘thing’ is going to be now.

Of course ‘cluckiness’ (or ‘broodiness’, as we call it in the UK) deletes all the shit about having newborns from memory and forces us to focus on their utter gorgeousness.

Remember that smell?

I can still remember how each of my baby’s skins felt and smelt next to my face; they were surprisingly very different. I can still visualise NC’s chubby little thighs, at odds with the rest of her small bird body, because she was premature. I remember those special breastfeeding moments, when the two of us would be alone together in the quiet of night and that orgasmic sensation of milk being drawn down in response to those first hungry sucks.

That feeling of giving life to life.

Baby Rubens Barrichello
Baby Rubens Barrichello (Photo credit: Kradlum)

It almost hurts to remember that psychotic feeling of protectiveness that took over my body in such a short space of time. It was frightening in its intensity.

That feeling has never diminished – if anything, it has matured and grown more threatening.

I hope that my sister is prepared.

 

 

 

 

 

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