(I appear to have invented a word! Like Harriet and her wedhead!)
I’ve always found the idea, that being a stay at home Mum or an attachment parent is anti-feminist, an interesting one. In some ways you can see the angle, that staying at home or always being there for your baby are more in line with a 1950s view of the role of women. On the other hand, someone choosing to stay at home or attachment parent, despite what would seem to be pressure in the opposite direction to go back to work and do a job that is more valued by society, is surely a feminist act – just as a woman can be an astronaut, so can she looks after her kids full time.
Having said that, it’s hard to unpick the societal pressures on those decisions – I think it fair to say that you see few stay at home Dads because there are societal and cultural pressures for the father to be the provider and work. So if, as a parent, you believe that your kids are better off being raised solely by you, then it tends to come down to the mother taking on that role.
If you would rather stay at home raising your kids and rather your partner worked then, yay, feminist. If you would like to work more but your partner’s job or boss or perspective doesn’t allow for that then, boo, anti-feminist because you are being controlled by his decisions.
Hi. I’m Rebecca, and I’ve been invited by Cath and Elly to write a guest post for the blog. I hope you won’t consider me an impostor. You see, I understand that ‘Having Kittens’ is all about being a parent and the highs and lows and ‘aargh, which choice do I make’ moments that come with that honour. Elly and Cath have both shared their experiences from the early dilemmas of pregnancy, to first birthdays and beyond. They have loved their sprogs since the pink line appeared, and have cooed over each little milestone. I’m going to tell you about a different route into parenthood, from a different angle. You see, I’m what they call a ‘prospective parent’ – in other words, I’m not actually a parent at all. There’s no pink line, no scan picture, no cute photo of a child pulling a silly face, and no anecdotes to share yet. But I hope one day there will be – some of those things at least.
I’m preparing to be a parent. I’m preparing to adopt.
Ah the heady days before baby, when I could have a few large glasses of wine after work, share a bottle with a meal or finish the night with a wee dram or two; a sudden withdrawal from alcohol was always going to raise suspicions of pregnancy in those around me.
Luckily while pregnant, I just went off the stuff. From occasionally actually craving a glass of wine, I went to not being bothered by it – I would have a sip of Fred’s tipple just so I knew what I was missing, but that was enough. I was paranoid that Elphie would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome as a consequence of the extra drinks I had at Charles and Laura’s wedding following a negative pregnancy test that I mistakenly thought had put me in the clear. Fetal alcohol syndrome has a number of nasty growth and mental retardation symptoms alongside facial abnormalities like the below courtesy of an article by Warren, Hewitt & Thomas. There is speculation that Jade Goody and George W Bush shared these facial characteristics but I’ll leave you to play Dr Google on that one.
Due to the long waiting list in our borough (and admittedly, my not booking the appointment straight away) Pip’s BCG vaccination is next month. I’d assumed this one would be like all his other routine vaccinations – a bit of distress but a quick recovery, putting our trust in the NHS and ultimately not really thinking about it that much. I am not opposed to vaccinations in the slightest; in fact I believe we are incredibly lucky to live in a country that offers them, and it had never occurred to me to think about turning one down until now. Surely the benefit outweighs any perceived risk? The whole anti-vax argument exhausts me, and I’m not squeamish either about the necessary evil of essentially injecting the virus into yourself (and thanks Elly for sending me this sensible article debunking such scary-sounding vaccine ingredients such as latex rubber and formaldehyde).
But last week, one of my NCT friends announced that at the eleventh hour she had cancelled her baby’s BCG appointment. This completely threw me! I therefore made the resolution to do some digging in an attempt to make a slightly more informed decision than usual.
What is the BCG vaccination?
Embarrassingly, until now I didn’t know that the jab was to combat tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious lung condition which can also lead to meningitis. A brief background: Messieurs Calmette and Guerin developed the vaccine around a hundred years ago in Lille, and the first BCG was administered in 1921. The letters BCG stand for “Bacillus Calmette–Guerin” and the syringe consists of a live bovine tuberculosis bacillus.
So far, so delightful. Interestingly, the jab is not generally given to people over the age of 16 – and never above 35 – as it doesn’t seem to be effective in adults. The BCG is not just another routine baby immunisation, however: it seems to be a completely different syringe of fish to the others on the schedule and not just because it is administered into the baby’s arm rather than the thigh.
One day very soon, dear reader, you will hear my account of Elphie’s escapade to New York. But in the meantime, here is an excellent blog post from someone else on names (American names admittedly, but hey maybe we are on an American theme!).
As we seem to be on the topic of placentas, I thought I would share with you the concept of the Lotus Birth in case any of you fancied it.
We all know that the standard trick post-birth is to cut the umbilical (preferably after some delay) and then deliver the placenta, either helping it along a bit using a drug which is injected into your thigh while you are giving birth (a managed third stage) or naturally (a physiological third stage) where some time up to an hour after the birth you then push out the placenta like you did the baby, sometimes with help from the midwife pulling the cord to get the placenta out. The managed approach has been shown to result in less blood loss for the mother and is what I had this time round (although I have no memory of deciding this or being pricked by a needle – must have had my mind on other things). If there’s a next time then I think I would go the physiological route, just for kicks really as I am curious what it would be like!
But if I was a true hippy then the lotus birth would be the thing to do – you see the cutting of the umbilical cord is just an unnecessary intervention, so how about you just don’t cut it – leave the placenta attached!
“How insulting is it to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.”
– Why have kids, Jessica Valenti
If you’d asked me six months ago what I thought of the above statement then I would have probably said that I wholeheartedly agreed. If I had the potential within me for greatness in some field then I wanted to achieve that greatness alongside having a family. Gone should be the days where only men with families can be successful.
But now, four months into motherhood, I am a lot more conflicted.
Someone shared this article from a Canadian blog called “The non-adventures of” with me today about whether small children should be allowed to run around naked or partially clothed in public. Or I say “should be allowed”, what I really mean is “are able to do so without the wrath of public opinion bearing down on them”.
The final paragraph really struck me:
“Most of all I worry about the sexualisation of infants and young children. My detractors couldn’t see the correlation, but to me to have another parent looking at my child and seeing their nudity as shocking and a possibly lure for paedophiles is sexualisation. They are looking at my beautiful, innocent child and thinking only of sex – and that is wrong. It’s almost impossible to guard your school aged children from closed minds and senseless taboos. I hope I can guide them through the minefield safely, without them losing their freedom to be comfortable in their own bodies.”
On entering parenthood, once you are beyond the initial tidal wave of newness and chaos, then the question of questions (much like the tortuous “Am I on the right path careerwise?”) raises its ugly head:
What kind of parent am I going to be?
You look ahead and you see the path to toddlerhood littered with decisions about how you respond to your kid, all of which will necessarily scar him or her for life whichever you choose.
The first few months are in a blissful bubble where you can simply respond to your baby on demand and most of the time she’ll simply be hungry or windy (for all the drama, sitting in a dirty nappy seems to have more traumatic implications for Mummy and Daddy than Elphie). Exhausting and relentless but without very much complexity in how you could or should behave.
But as the weeks go on you realise that your peers are starting to discuss different strategies to cope with their infant and that each of them is reflective of the type of parent they are deciding they want to be. A key question being whether you plan to approach baby wrangling from a baby-led or parent-led angle, and then, depending on which you embrace, which sub-cults you want to be part of.
The decision you make will define whose parenting styles you align with and hence can influence your friendships with other parents from this point forward. The sorting hat of parenthood has commenced, and which house you will join for the rest of time is being defined.
When we were in hospital, one of the midwives told us we (well really I) needed to go and see my GP to restart contraception (unless of course I fancied Irish twins) and that in the meantime I should not assume breastfeeding was an effective form of contraception. “Ha!”, we said, “Who would think it was?”, rather haughtily bracketing this with other old wives’ tale nonsense like that having a hairy baby will give you heartburn. But I did wonder at her telling us that and so finally looked it up and it seems I was wrong, breastfeeding can be an effective method of contraception: old wives 1, Elly 0 (well maybe I should give myself a point for having a hairy baby with no heartburn). Continue reading →