April 2006


I think I’ve been talked into going to the Big Green Gathering.

This is both exciting and daunting. I’ve never been to a festival before (yep, never – I haven’t lived) and the whole thing will involve camping, which I haven’t done since I was a kid. I don’t know how to camp – my parents did all the technical stuff when we were children – and I don’t have any kit. Help!

This is all good, though, as at some point my daughter and I will be going camping – it should be compulsory for children and when I rule the world it will be. So, given that we have to start somewhere, this does look like the perfect place for us to get going.

I’ve spent some time today looking at tents.

Look at this little darling! As a person with no clue about what makes a good tent, however, I am quite keen not to buy one just cos it looks cute…

Working women in America can now rest safe in the knowledge that if they are ritually spanked in the workplace the law will be on their side.

Janet Orlando, a 53-year-old woman, was spanked with a metal sign in front of a mostly male, mostly under-25 audience – as punishment, it seems, for the offence of being late for a meeting. When she quit, and sued the company for lost wages, emotional distress and medical bills, the case went to trial and she won $500,000 compensation, plus $1,200,000 punitive damages. Her two co-plaintiffs settled out of court.

I continue to be amazed and astonished at the world I seem to inhabit.

I had an e-mail today from someone I knew at college – not someone I knew well, but someone I liked a lot. We seemed to come together for mutual support in the intensity of finals, and drag one another through it. He’d come across my e-mail address and dropped me a line to catch up.

It really set me to thinking how life has changed for me since then. My personal and family life has been through umpteen upheavals, my work life is totally not what I expected it would be, and my world-view has changed dramatically.

Would it be nice to meet up with this person again and chat about old times? Or would it be just too weird and alien? The cautious, shy person inside won out on this one: I’ve hedged my bets by replying warmly and openly, without making any rash suggestions of a reunion.

Ho-hum.

Need I say more?

It is a world dominated by men, where the women are all either pictured naked on calendars or else they are gullible, uninformed, disempowered punters.

Ah, now, madam, you see the thing is, you’ve got a pitted driver’s side rear ventricle there, and it’s beyond adjustment so it needs replacing. Also, your coolant rod needs re-nisteration, I’m afraid, and your dwarf belt is wearing unevenly too. Now thats not a cheap job, and it won’t fail the MOT if you don’t have it done, but I really think you should consider it because otherwise the bolted disks could break through and destabilise your croppitts and then you’d really be in trouble. And I recommend that you have the tripolite braced before it causes any further damage to your dipping shaft. Did I mention that the gastric flue is juddering? That’ll be £800 please.

Since the only bit I understood was the last bit, what could I do but shrug helplessly and hand over the dosh? God forbid that my croppits should become destabilised.

Car mechanics are like doctors because…

… when they tell you what work needs doing you have absolutely no idea, even if you understand what they are saying, whether they are telling you the truth or not.

…. they cause you pain and you are supposed to be grateful for it, because they assure you that it would have got OH SO MUCH WORSE if they hadn’t fixed your problems for you.

… they are the patriarchy!

… or even South Dakota, come to think of it. In these places the compulsory pregnancy lobby are dominant and the law is on their side.

But that doesn’t mean we are the liberal, woman-respecting, pro-choice nation that some of us like to think. Bodily autonomy is not something we should assume we have, even here in the UK.

Currently, although the restrictions in this country are as nothing to those faced in many parts of the world, there are serious and important restrictions.

For example (summarised from BPAS - here and here):

  • There is a time limit of 24 weeks for most abortions.
  • Abortions are only available to women if TWO doctors certify that the risks to her mental or physical health if she continues the pregnancy are greater than if she has a termination.
  • Doctors who object to abortions can be obstrutive, need not declare their moral concerns and can thus disable women from obtaining a termination if that is what they want – at least, they can if the women is sufficiently disempowered (aren’t we all?) that she can’t or doesn’t seek help from another doctor.

This isn’t reprodcutive choice. This is reproductive control. A woman cannot demand a termination unless she can find two doctors who agree that it would be medically beneficial.

A woman cannot request an abortion because she wants one – she must persuade two doctors that (usually) her mental health will suffer in some way if she is denied one. She must play the mentally unstable card and perpetuate the patriarchal myth of women as weak and hysterical, simply in order to exercise the bodily autonomy that others (i.e. men) can take for granted.

Yes, if you have money you can buy an abortion because private doctors tend to be more sympathetic to a customer’s (sorry, I mean a patient’s) own asessment of their needs. But why should women have to pay for this procedure?

Contraception is free. Care for pregnant women is free. Yet terminations, falling somewhere inbetween, are only free if you find the “right” doctors within the NHS. Otherwise, if you are poor, or if you believe your GP when (as a conscientious objector) he assures you that because of your circumstances, you aren’t allowed to have one, what then?

As BPAS eloquently put it:

By allowing doctors to exercise wide discretion and make personal judgements over women, the 1967 Abortion Act creates a climate of uncertainly and the potential for unfair and arbitrary discrimination. It places an additional, unjust emotional burden on women who may already be facing one of the most difficult and traumatic decisions of their lives.

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable, often delaying an approach to doctors in fear that their confidentiality may be compromised or that they will be lectured. Delay leaves them to experience the physical and emotional trauma of later abortion.

The law must be amended to recognise that the only person capable of deciding whether or not a pregnancy should continue is the person most directly affected by that decision – the woman herself.

One last point. Who are these doctors that have such control over women’s bodies and their reproductive choices? Mostly they are, of course, MEN.

… on a sign above a tureen of self-service soup.

SOUP

Caution: Hot

Do not fill vessels right to the top…

Overfilling could result in scolding.

Well, it made me smile anyway. ;-)

I have recently written (here and here) about my birth experience, and in particular about how I felt and was unprepared for “off-plan” contingencies.

I had written a detailed birth plan, and specified how I wanted it to go. I was fully aware that things might not go as I hoped and that complications might arise – yet my contingency planning was practically zero. I had spent almost no time thinking about the “What if..?” questions.

Why is that?

In antenatal discussions, I had been told that I shouldn’t necessarily expect everything to go to plan so I should be prepared for the possibility that things might end up differently. I had been told that it was unwise to set up absolute expectations because, until labour was actually underway, I would not really have much idea about how well I would cope with the pains or what complications might arise.

I think this advice, to be flexible and open to changes of plan, made me think that it didn’t really matter a great deal about what choices I made before labour because, once I’d got started, I wouldn’t have any control over it anyway.

Another point is that the birth didn’t seem that important at the time. It was something to be got through. A hopefully short, intensely painful transition from pregnancy to motherhood, but not in itself important.

Why didn’t anybody tell me how important it was? Why didn’t anyone explain that this was a profound, life-altering event that I would live and relive time and again, that I would tell and re-tell to anyone who would listen? Why did I let myself slip towards it and through it without ever fully, consciously relishing it? Why didn’t I prepare for it as for a true, unique experience of a lifetime? No mere wedding could be as life-altering, yet women spend months and even years planning and preparing for their weddings. Why not their birthings?

If I am ever fortunate enough to get a second chance at this, I will seize control and heaven help anyone who tries to stop me. I will plan, and prepare, and be the most empowered woman you ever saw.

Oh, dear. Getting stressed and turning into shouty mum tonight – the usual consequence of trying to do too many things at the same time – has left me in a state of humility.

The little darling forgave me as soon as I said sorry and gave her a hug and said “Yes, OK, let’s play wroo wroo” (Row, Row, Row the Boat – which she loves and constantly wants to play even when I am trying to call the bank and pay the gas bill and look for the car’s MOT certificate and cook dinner all at once…)

But it’s harder to forgive myself so that – even as she drifted dreamily off at bed time, nestled against me and clearly perfectly content – I was tensely cursing my bad temper and stupidity instead of glowing in the pleasure of her little sleepy caresses. Grump.

Of course, if I’d decided to leave calling the bank and paying the gas bill until after bed time, if I’d been more sensitive to her (obvious) need for some post-nursery mummy time, if I’d been more organised when it came to the Last Straw Poo Incident… Well, perhaps next time, I will have learned my lesson.

It took a whole hour of de-cluttering to make me feel better!

Update on the milk experiment: no wakings tonight…

My efforts at night weaning over the last few months were abandoned some while ago for a combination of reasons – mainly because it became clear that we just weren’t ready for it, however much I might have thought I needed it.

However, one thing I learned from the whole experience was that what I really want isn’t night weaning so much as evening weaning. What is really valuable to me is not uninterrupted sleep but an uninterrupted evening.

We have recently been through a patch of waking and crying out on an hourly basis (or worse) and, although that seems to be more or less behind us now, it has really shown me the value of having two or three or more hours during the evening to do my own thing.

So, experimentally, we are trying out a new rule, for the next seven nights: which is that there is no milk allowed between baby’s bedtime and mummy’s bedtime. As much in the way of snuggle-pie as may be needed, but absolutely no milk… I am hoping that, by this method – stepped up next week if this week goes well – we will eventually get to a point where waking up and crying for mummy before mummy has come to bed is a thing of the past.

Night 1 has gone pretty well – so far, one waking and no milk needed. I’ll keep you posted. UPDATE: 3 wakings and no milk needed!

This from Dare to Know: a step towards the long-awaited updating of the growth charts for babies.

If the WHO guidelines are adopted in the UK then in future we face the prospect of breastfed babies being seen as a normal weight, and formula fed babies (who on average are a little larger) being the ones who weigh too much. Who knows, we might even find that fewer breastfeeding mothers will face pressure to “top up” with formula or solids… :-)

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