Archive for April, 2010

The Chicken, The Egg and The Syringe.

This morning’s BBC Breakfast News brought to light a charitable project currently active in the US whereby drug addicts are being offered cash incentives of as much as US$ 300,00 to undergo long term contraception or sterilisation.

I can barely think of anything more controversial. The word ‘eugenics’ has cropped up several times during this debate. On one hand, the defenders of the project present horror stories of children badly neglected, abused or abandoned by their addicted parents; on the other, the opposition argues that addiction does not necessarily equate to bad parenting and that with support many addicts can raise families successfully.

I can see both sides of the dispute. While an eugenics programme is a mistake (‘Lest we forget’), many people  are incapable of meeting their children’s basic needs; and other people, damaged though they may be themselves, remain remarkably caring parents. There will always be a dichotomy in this respect. The one point of view I noticed was absent from the BBC Breakfast News’ coverage is the element of choice.

To force somebody to undergo sterilising treatment against their will is nothing short of committing grievous bodily harm. But I find it courageous and humane to offer vulnerable people birth control when they might find themselves in situations where they are too high to think about contraception. It is necessary to look at the matter head on, without hypocrisy. Even sober people mess up on birth control. I feel certain that the majority of addicts who have participated in the programme so far did not actually want to have children depending on them whilst they are incapable of bringing them up adequately. Let’s also not forget that the US does not boast of a National Health Service, and undergoing some of the procedures outlined would be costly to people who would rather spend their money elsewhere. The cash offered is an incentive to those who would not get round to it otherwise. Another point in question is that sterilisation is not generally irreversible; there are many long term contraceptives(such as the coil or subcutaneous implants) that last for years yet are easily removable. Even vasectomies and tubal ligations can be reverted.  In short, if any of the subjects decided that they were ready to start a family it would not be out of their reach.

I look upon this matter not only through the prism of drug addiction. In Brazil I grew up with the hypocrisy of the Catholic State. The poorest families conceive again and again, to their despair, because sterilisation and long term contraception is out of their reach. To make children is very easy, and there are too many people who feel it is out of their control to stop.  I feel projects such as this give people a choice, as well as prevent more children from being born to people who do not and cannot want them.


Swings and Roundabouts

I am very aware that I am making no new claim when I say that motherhood is a condition filled with woe and wonder.

You draw amazing strength from your children, and in return, they leave you drained.

I thank my lucky stars every day for my beautiful, happy, healthy little boy but I still think how beautiful, healthy and happy I might look sprawled across a beach chair in Thailand with a giant bucket in front of me.

My dear son was the main reason I managed to get out of bed in the mornings after my father’s recent death, and all my friends know how grateful I am to him for that. What I failed to tell them is that I meant it literally:

‘Get up mummya! GEEEET UPPP!

‘Uhhn…? Whaaaaaa…?’


‘Just a minute darling, *yawn*  mummy is a little bit sleepy…’

‘I WANT CEREEEEAAAAALLLLL!!!! Nooooooooowwwwwwww!!!!!!!’

A quick glance at my phone would confirm that this was 5:50am. Cbeebies wasn’t even on yet. That’s how you know it’s too early for your child to be awake.

Nevertheless, the age of three is a pretty magnificent time, there’s so much going on:

The acquisition of speech is remarkable and often incredibly funny and cute, and there’s this persistent drive toward independence, this desire to be a ‘big’ boy or girl. Unfortunately you don’t often get to choose which task your offspring wants to perform on their own. Cue milk all over your carpets, broken plates, broken bones. While you appreciate their kind offer to help you with the housework, it’s always *a little bit unfortunate* when they clip an expensive picture frame with the end of the broomstick.

Yet one thing I can never understand is how my toddler son decides that he’s perfectly capable of diving headfirst into a swimming pool with no arm bands on, because he wants to swim ‘all by myself‘, but whenever he goes to the loo he shouts tyrannically at me from the end of the corridor:


And I wonder what his last slave died of.

This particular phase of (ahem) motor development is something I would, frankly, rather speed up. But then even that has elements of cuteness.

After a long bed wetting spree, I started doing the clever mum’s trick of picking up their child late at night in their sleep and taking them to the toilet.

As the sun rises I invariably hear the ‘MUUUUUMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYAAAA‘ calls coming from his bedroom, but this time he is smiling proudly, absolutely beaming, and he announces,

Mummyaaa??‘ (that’s how he pronounces ‘mummy’)

Yes, dear‘,

‘I didn’t wet myself tonight!!!!’

I am tempted to let the incontinent little rascal into my secret, that this is actually all due to the astuteness of his very clever and talented mother,  but decide I’ll be gracious and let him bask in the glory of this achievement all by himself.

Especially as he flings his arms around my neck, kisses my cheek, and says

‘Mummya, I love you SOOOOO much…’