Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘childbirth’

Shades of something sinister?

Ok, so I thought it was about time for a book review…  Everyone seems to be reading them, and far be it from me to pass judgment without having direct experience, so I borrowed the trilogy that they are all talking about, and in between trying to get AltD2 down for her naps, I spent some quality time with Mr Christian Grey.
 
I was shocked, I tellya!  But not particularly by the sex, the whips and chains, not even by the repetetive language or confusing use of British English in Seattle.  
 
As I read on, I became increasingly frustrated by the protaganist Ana.   She was supposedly an intelligent girl, but she repeatedly demontrated a complete lack of realisation to what the heck was going on.  The plot, for those who have managed to be safely under a rock for the last six months, involves a naive university graduate who falls for a troubled millionaire with a penchent for elaborate gadgets in the bedroom and a natty taste in interior design (flogging bench, anyone?).  Can she soften his heart?  Can she “save him” from himself?… can she change her abuser?  Because ultimately that’s what he is.  Maybe Ana should have checked out “the Couple Connection” before she got in too deep.
 
I found myself almost shouting at the character when, on honeymoon in London, and left alone for an afternoon while her husband attends a business meeting, the most interesting thing she can think of to do is stay in the hotel room and shave her pubic hair off.  So much for “I’ve always wanted to visit London!”.  Bristish Museum, British Library, maybe the V&A, but no, instead she reaches for the bic disposable.  I think the term is #facepalm !
The sex scenes are repetetive and I found myself skipping past them towards the end.  In fairness, without them the books would be a far quicker read! 
The hope of course is that EL James’ readers are sensible enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality.  If not, and certainly there will be some who are not, then some of the scenes, including one where Christian asks Ana to resist him, give a frighteningly damaging message to impressionable readers.  This is, as described by Clare Phillipson, director of women’s refuge “Wearside Women In Need”, an abusive relationship portrayed as a love story.
 
But at the end of the trilogy the author has written an epilogue. Reading that part was when I got really angry.  
Two years down the line, Ana and the millionaire are married with a child, and have one on the way (I’m fairly confident I’m not giving too much away here, after all, it’s pretty much the plot of Twilight).  The following passage is reproduced here without permission and solely for the purpose of this critique:
 
“What is it?”  Christian tilts my chin back.
“I was just remembering Ted’s birth” [first child]
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
“I am not going through that again.  Elective caesarian this time.” [NB this is CHRISTIAN SPEAKING, not Ana]
“Christian, I -” 
“No, Ana.  You fucking nearly died last time. No”
“I did not nearly die.”
“No.”  He’s emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften.  “I like the name Phoebe,” he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
“Phoebe Grey?  Phoebe… Yes.  I like that, too.”  I grin up at him.
So by way of a bit of background, “Ted’s birth” involved a caesarian after 15 hours of labour.  The mother has been resisting a c-section, the doctors are not impressed, and when she finally agrees, there is much eye rolling all round.  “About time.”  says Christian Grey.  
I was interested and surprised when I did a little bit of research into the author of “50 Shades”, E L James.  She is English, and has two children.  The reason I was surprised is that having had two children, she is more than likely to have come across women who have undergone an emergency caesarian with their first baby.  For many women, there are health concerns that require subsequent childen to be born also by caesarian section.  However, for most of the women I have met where their first baby was a C-section, their hope for subsequent births is that they might be a vaginal delivery.
 
I was lucky in that both of my children were born by (fairly uneventful) normal vaginal deliveries.  I think Ana, in the passage above, would agree with many mothers who say that to have a VBAC [Vaginal Birth after Caesarian] is something they would really like to be able to do.  She’s trying to argue with her husband for a VBAC and he is an inconsiderate, controlling idiot, in denying his wife the opportunity to bring their child into the world in a way where she has control of the situation.  She denies that she almost died – she has no medical reason for a C-section to deliver her second baby.
 
50 Shades has been criticised all over the media for many things, but as far as I can see, nobody has mentioned the way Christian’s control over Ana extends to the delivery of their children.  I thought she was supposed to be intelligent, I thought the premise of her character was that she refused to be his submissive… apparently not, after all.
For information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, including how to spot a controlling, abusive partner, see www.hiddenhurt.co.uk and www.refuge.org.uk
If you would like information about VBAC, here are some links that might be of interest:
Quickfacts (US site)
 
And if you’d like to read the 50 Shades Trilogy, and make your own mind up about Ana and Christian, there are plenty going on ebay!
I would love to hear your comments.

 

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Words of Love

I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September.  I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is.  What I want to share today has more to do with the content.


When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”.  Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice.  Soothing music would play in the background.  Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer.  The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]

You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters.  Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear! 


So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.


When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together.  She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.

‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.” 
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle.  In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well.  She got frustrated and I got sore.  She yelled every time I picked her up.  Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”

It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:

“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”

I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt.  The bars of a rhyme?  The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob.  No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:

“I love you like the stars above and I’ll love you till I die” (oh my goodness, isn’t that just the truth?), and
“you exploded into my heart”  I just felt that every time I looked at her, my heart got bigger and bigger!

We came home from hospital eventually, and we got the hang of the feeding and the holding and bonding.  I put Dire Straits on the CD player and played it loud (not too loud I promise) as I rocked and bounced my lovely baby.  Sometimes I played it when I was just so happy to look at her and know she was mine, sometimes I played it when the hormones were raging and tears streamed down my face as I sniffed my way through the words.  It really became a song for me and her.

One day, AltFather came home from work to find us rocking out to the guitar solo (ok, me rocking out, AltD1 staring at me from her bouncy chair).  When he stopped laughing at my air guitar he hammered the air drums alongside me, crazy fools that we are, entertaining our perplexed three month old.  He told me that on the day we were married, as he walked to the church, that song was drifting down to the street from an upstairs window in one of the houses he passed… definitely a song for our new little family.

Nearly three years later, AltD2 arrived.  I had been worried before she was born that I wouldn’t be able to love her as much as I adored AltD1.  It couldn’t be possible, surely?  Then she stormed into my life and I was bowled over.  But not immediately.  It probably took me until she was 8 weeks old or so to make that unbreakable connection.  During that time there was a song I kept hearing on the radio.  All through my pregnancy it had been rising in the music charts and getting a lot of airtime. 

It’s a Bob Dylan song, but now made famous (and sounding so much nicer in my opinion!) by Adele.  “To Make you Feel My Love”.

The lyrics are presumably meant for a lover, but they are so pertinent and poignant for a new mother, even second time around.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”  
Once again – isn’t that just the truth?  My hormone-laden self certainly thought so.  I’ve played it to AltD2, whispered the words to her in the deep dark night, and really, honestly, meant every word of it.
I would love to hear if you have special songs for your babies, or any special family members… please do leave me a comment and share the story.  You’ll have to wait until September to see the finished (I hope!) birthday project, but I hope it’s going to turn out really special.

All part of the process

My two girls are the best things that have ever happened to me, without question.  They are better than chocolate, better than sunsets, better than dipping my toes in the Indian Ocean.  They are better than watching fireflies dance in long grass after a thunderstorm (yes, that, really!), honestly better than anything I have ever experienced.  But I can’t lie to you and say that the days they were born were the best days of my life.
You can prepare yourself for childbirth, as much as you like.  You can attend classes with other parents and nod wide eyed as the teacher shows you the physical process step by step on large picture posters.  You can go to yoga classes and spend time in the company of other women all anticipating the arrival of their first child.  There are support groups and antenatal talks.  You can wince through Channel 4’s “One Born Every Minute” while you tuck into your ice-cream and onion sandwiches (no, not that, really) but until you have lived it, you don’t know what it’s like.  You just can’t imagine.
I know that some of you reading this are mothers, and I know that you might have been nodding along to that last paragraph.  But for those who aren’t, I would just like to add that everyone is different, and the arrival of every child into this world is different for the baby and its parents.  I say parents, because in my experience, the births of Alt.D1 and Alt.D2 were most definitely shared.
Alt.D1 is now three and a half years old.  I can’t write much about her birth, here.  I’m still processing it.  In fact, I think I will always still be processing it.  It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t affect in any way the love I feel for her, and for that I am thankful.  
I am thankful for the fact that after 27 hours, a healthy little baby girl was handed to me, and we were both ok.  The preceding time was nothing significant to me.  Hard work, sore, uncomfortable and exhausting, but so worth it.  Alt.Father was there through it all, and he still bears a lot of emotional scars from it, he would tell you himself.  
We actually did it!
It wasn’t quite what we’d planned, having rocked up at our local Maternity Unit with sandwiches packed.  Alt.Father had assumed the role of Sandwich Maker and started buttering the bread at about the third hour.  I have no idea what happened to the sandwiches in the end – I didn’t eat them, although I could insert a joke (maybe not a joke) about squashed day old sandwiches being better than the food at the Big Hospital, but hey, let’s be nice.  😉  When the contractions started, we had no idea what was ahead of us, despite the hours of classes we’d attended.  We just held on to each others’ hands and hoped it would all turn out ok.

Which it did.  So that’s alright.

But is it?  Is it really ok for me to be so dismissive of such a huge event in my life?  

Alt.D2 made a different sort of appearance.  She was speedy and well timed.  She showed her annoyance at the speedbumps on the 2 minute drive to the Maternity Unit.  Maybe she was just embarrassed that her mother had left the house in just a towel and almost without remembering to put shoes on despite the early morning drizzle!  I was out of the house for about 35 minutes before I had my second lovely girl in my arms.  She almost didn’t give me time to think about it.  For that, I am thankful, also.

So the second time around, I was asked to write up my birth story for a local parenting magazine.  “Sure.” I said, and duly typed up an account of the day’s events.  I hit “send” on the email before I had read it through, and then suddenly it was in print in the next quarterly issue.  It was weird to see it there.  My experiences put down in black and white.  It made me a bit sad to think that Alt.D1’s story isn’t written down anywhere.  I tried to write it then, but it wouldn’t come out.  “Least said, soonest mended” don’t they say?

I live not far from the Maternity Unit (hence the 2 minute speed-bump dash!), and today I pulled over in my car to let an ambulance out, blue lights flashing, anxious partner in the following car, heading for the Big Hospital.  I felt quite emotional for the woman in there.  “You can do it!” I found myself telling her, “go on, girl, you can do it!”.  Her plans were having to change, but her baby was on its way.  I hope that tonight that family is gazing at their wonderful new addition and that the blue-light frenzy is already all a blur.
Recently I have been talking to other mothers about their birth experiences.  There is so much pressure put on us to make plans and to have a perfect, natural birth, with resistance to pain relief seen as something to be proud of.  As one of my friends said, “Birth Plan, Smirf Plan” [you know who you are!].  It seems that so many of us are beating ourselves up about our birth experiences being different to what we’d hoped for. 
 
We need to talk it through with our partners, and with other mothers.  We need to process what happened, and we need to look at our beautiful children, whom we are so lucky to have, and say to ourselves:

“Whatever it was, it was worth it.”

If you found this post interesting, you might also be interested in the Blog Carnival “Embracing my Birth Experience”.  Look out for a friend of mine, Caroline, and her blog, which is featured.

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