Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

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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The Tribe

The Alt.Family were fortunate this week to spend some time with our good friends at their farm community in beautiful Herefordshire.  Alt.Father was enthusiastically wheeling compost in the vegetable gardens, while Alt.D1 and her friend ran around in the sunshine kicking footballs, riding bikes, picking up stones and generally getting grubby.  Alt.D2 worked on her sitting-up skills, and for me it was a chance to catch up with a good friend who I don’t see nearly often enough.
I have heard it said that the friends you make while you are breastfeeding are often some of the closest.  This is apparently because of all the oxytocin and other love hormones going on in your body.  While these are supposed to be primarily for the benefit of your relationship with your baby, there are side-effects which reach out and intensify the other relationships you are forming at the time.  
When Alt.D1 was born, I began to appreciate how far away geographically Alt.Father and I actually are from our extended family.  Grandparents and great-grandparents are upwards of 2 hours travel, and the nearest siblings about the same distance away.  Our children would be growing up without Aunties and Uncles and cousins in the next street, or even the next county.  Although we have email and phone and skype, we would have to find our own way through the parenting minefield without the constant presence of the former generations of our family.  I can see how those distances might not seem far to some, but to us, it was and still is, far enough to make a difference.
As a mother, I found myself on the circuit of mum and baby groups, classes, coffee mornings and get-togethers.  Throughout my year long maternity leave, I was drawn to people with similar ideas about parenting, and from them I started to learn more about myself.  Although we were getting on with the parenting part of life, other things were taking a back burner.  Jobs around the house and garden that were impossible to tackle with a baby on your hip were filed under “A” for Another Time.  Alt.Father suggested that what was needed was something like an old style community, a tribe, where the mothers would get together to carry out the daily tasks while the big kids watched the little kids and everyone helped each other out… he might have been being a tad idealistic, but was he wrong?
In the rose-tinted past, before we created methods of communication that made it easier to be further apart from each other, families stayed local.  Sons and daughters learned from their parents and other elders in the community, and were often able to rely on friends and neighbours for support.  Do you know the names of your next-door neighbours?  How about the people either side of them?  Or the ones that live opposite?  I know my immediate neighbours, but not many more than those, and I am slightly ashamed to admit that. 
If you look to developing nations where tribal living is still commonplace, you can see the benefits.  You don’t hear of problems with breastfeeding.  Support and encouragement for that, as well as all the other aspects of being new parents (both mother and father of course – this is about so much more than just mothering, and not all about breastfeeding) is readily available.  I’m not saying it’s all great, but there must be a reason that our ancestors chose to live in tribes.
These days we are in a fortunate position that we are able to choose our own tribe.  Our neighbours might not be our first choice, but some of the mothers I have met in the first four years of my parenthood have somehow come together to make a new kind of community.  

A while ago I read an article by Teresa Pitman entitled “Finding Your Tribe”.  The author echoed Alt.Father’s words about old fashioned communities.  I got together with a group of local mothers, to talk about parenting, to carry out tasks and to offer each other some support.  A little tribe was forming, and it is in no small way thanks to those women that I made it through some of the difficult challenges I faced as a first time mother.
I have been thinking about the ways we reach out for new tribes in our modern daily life.  Whether it is through neighbours, toddler groups, or internet forums, mothers at least are drawn to each other.  Teresa Pitman says:

“We truly are social animals; we need to be with other people to feel good, whole, and happy. It’s worth the effort to create tribes, however small and imperfect they may be.”
Sadly, most of the families in the little tribe that Alt.D1 and I belonged to have moved on in one way or another.  But sitting with our babies on the grass in the sunshine in Herefordshire this week, as my friend worked on a decorating project, I was reminded of how it had felt in those days.  Our first-born babies were tiny little things, and it had been their arrival that had caused us to seek out likeminded people for support.

My friend and her family are now part of a bigger tribe in their farm community, emphasising to me the need of human beings to be part of something.  
No man is an island, and nor is any family.

And then there were four

I actually have two children.  

I sometimes catch myself thinking “I’m really not grown-up enough for that kind of responsibility!” Not only one small person, wholly dependent on me and Alt.Father, but two of them.  Which means that we are a family of four (how convenient for theme park entry tickets!).  

When Alt.D1 was born, that amazing, indescribeable feeling of first seeing my own baby was a bit of a shock.  This was for real, and there would never be any going back ever again.  She was and is a fantastic force of nature, and I love her with all of my heart.  Which would be fine, except that when I was pregnant with Alt.D2, I suddenly realised that this love was going to have to be shared between Alt.D1 and the new baby.  I fretted that when the new one arrived, I couldn’t possibly feel the same as I had done the first time round.  I looked at my daughter and thought 
“She is my baby, what’s going on here?  What am I doing?”
Loving her with all my heart would surely not leave space for baby number two.

Then somebody told me not to worry, I would just grow a new heart when the next one arrived, just for them.  It turned out they were right and there is plenty to go around.  We have settled into four-ness quite nicely over the last six months, and it almost seems that things were always this way.

When Alt.D1 first met her baby sister, her main concern was where the legs were!  Being swaddled up, the new sister she had been waiting for so long to meet resembled a little caterpillar (certainly a hungry one!) and Alt.D1 ran a check thus:
“Aww, she’s got tiny little ears, and a tiny little nose, and tiny little fingers and tiny little hands, and tiny little… WHERE ARE HER LEGS?!” 
she was more than a little worried!

Having finally established that all parts of “her” baby were present and correct, Alt.D1 got on with the business of being a big sister.  This has not been without its difficulties as we’ve all of us been adjusting to Life As A Four.  Being 2 years 9 months old when your life is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of a new person in your home can’t be easy.  I was sad to find that my happy, calm, friendly toddler turned into a grumpy, stroppy tantrum-ridden image of her former self.  To be frank, she was bored by the baby, who couldn’t do anything, wasn’t any fun to play with, and monopolised Mummy’s time.

As the months have gone past, this seems to have abated slightly, and while we still have our moments, Alt.D1 clearly adores her little sister, and Alt.D2 can’t get enough of the entertainment machine that is her big sis.  The biggest smiles are reserved for the funny faces she pulls and the noises she makes for her.  It warms my heart (or should that be hearts?) to see the little mop of blonde hair leaning over the little fluffy head as I hear silly talk being whispered into the baby’s ear and squeals of laughter in response.  Even at this stage, they are sharing private jokes!

Going along in the car yesterday, Alt.D1 said to me:

“Mummy, I have to take care of Alt.D2, don’t I?  And she has to take care of me, too.  Because we are sisters.”


I assured her that yes, this was true.  I started to think about the two of them, their relationship now, and what it will be, for the rest of their lives.  Who knows how many fights and scraps there will be, how many tears and slamming doors, how many hugs and giggles and shared confidences there will be in the years to come.  Through it all, they will always have each other, which is something else that I hadn’t considered before Alt.D2 came along.  They may not always like each other, but now there are two of them, it means that they will always. have. each. other. 

No matter what roller-coaster rides life takes them on.  


Siblings rock.

 

Contented Little Whatnot…

I think I should probably open this week’s post with a disclaimer.  I have not read Gina Ford’s new book, nor do I intend to do so.  As a brand-new first-time mother, I did read the first couple of chapters of the other book, and very quickly realised it was not for me.  Alt.Father was lent a copy by a workmate on his return from paternity leave.  He gave it back, nodding and smiling as he did so.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Despite the bizarre love affair that the Daily Mail seems to have with Gina Ford, it does not seem to have escaped the notice of the general public that “Britain’s No 1 Parenting Author” is not a parent.  Now she is also apparently a relationship guru despite also being divorced.  I have learned that reading the Daily Fail, I mean, Daily Mail does nothing but make me angry and ranty.  It certainly does not make me contented!

Also, let me be perfectly honest, I may have harboured one or two judgmental thoughts about those who adhere to Ms Ford’s advice.  It’s none of my business how they choose to raise their babies, I only need to worry about my own babies.  For that, I am sorry.

I am not sorry though, that Alt.Father and I chose pretty much the polar opposite of the regimented routine based parenting style advocated in those books.  Somehow, both of our daughters seem to be perfectly contented little people.  And there in a nutshell is my point.  Babies are people, not pets.  Instead of training them, we need to train ourselves as parents, to respond to their needs.  That is the way we can truly be content.

When I hear my child crying, I am far from content. I am edgy, nervous, unsettled, until I know that she is unharmed and soothed.  If I want to teach her that there is no need to cry, I will do so by teaching her that I will respond to her needs.  “Use words” I find myself saying to Alt.D1 when she is frustrated.  She takes a deep breath and usually manages to express what’s wrong in coherent language.  At 3, she can do so.  At 6 months, Alt.D2 is less able to communicate.  Or is she?  I often hear that babies cry “because it is the only way they know how to communicate”.

Actually, I would disagree.  Alt.D2 astonished me in the first few weeks with the way she hardly ever cried to be fed.   As she is my second baby, she has very much had to go with the flow in the house, being dragged along here and there with her sister.  Yet somehow from even the earliest days, she and I had a communication going which let me know when she was hungry.  Then I would feed her.  I certainly didn’t add to my own agitation as well as hers by making her wait until a pre-determined time slot for her feed!  This has since developed and I know her cues for tiredness, boredom, comfort, and countless others.  We just co-exist, we just are.

Relying on your instincts could be considered a brave choice, whether for better or for worse.  It’s certainly something advocated by the author Jean Liedloff in her book The Continuum Concept.   This kind of instinctive parenting has been lost to most of the Western world as we’ve become increasingly keen to fit our babies and children into our busy, structured lives, somehow forgetting that perhaps nature intended us to listen to what our babies are trying to tell us.  “Happy Baby, Happy Mummy” is all well and good, but if that “happiness” is achieved by conforming to a recipe, how much guilt and discontent must be underlying? 

So Gina Ford now seeks to remind us that our relationship with our partner is going to change when we have children.  She encourages us to start leaving the baby with others soon after birth, to take time together as a couple, before resentment starts to set in… well thanks, Ms Ford, for the vote of confidence!  For the suggestion I might have forgotten about the person I have chosen to build my life with, to have children with, and to grow old with.  Contentment in this relationship might have less to do with being able to leave the children with a babysitter, [not conducive to breastfeeding, anyway!] and more to do with the fact that caring about and caring for each other when you have young children is enough.  It’s just enough to think to say “I love you” and “thank you” every day to your partner, and to know that he will be there and she will be there when these babies have grown and flown the nest.

If I am going to be content (and I am, thanks!), I really don’t think that heaping on the guilt is the way to go about achieving that goal.

Rant over, Alt.Mother resolving not to follow links to the Daily Mail website this week, in order to return to positive stories of alternative parenting next Friday!  

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