Posts Tagged 'motherhood'

Mother’s Milk

I’m sure many of you have read about the furore involving Gisele Bundchen’s interview to Harper’s Bazaar where she is quoted as saying ‘I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months’. The model has since apologised on her blog, saying that the comment was borne out of her ‘passion for children’ rather than a desire to marginalise mothers. Technically speaking, her advice could save thousands of children’s lives worldwide, but it’s been interpreted as an affront to us, less perfect mere mortals. Whatever.

The thing is, breastfeeding is AWESOME!!!!!! Sometimes I think there are not enough people bringing this point home. I have friends who really struggled with it and had to give it up, and I couldn’t help feeling like they were missing out. The first two weeks, where one is still trying to get to grips with the milky boob mechanics, were really painful for me- bleeding, swollen, sore nipples; rock hard tits the size of a cartoonish Pamela Anderson’s; inadequate milk flow – But once I got over that obstacle I never looked back.

I’ve often struggled with competitive motherhood and it’s been the subject of many posts in this blog. So this is my disclaimer. No criticism is intended here.

But breastfeeding is AWESOME! The health and post-partum slimming benefits are well documented, but for me it was a pretty magical experience.  I didn’t have to carry all sorts of fiddly and expensive feeding and sterilisation paraphernalia everywhere; my milk dispensers were easily portable, healthy and always the right temperature. Maintaining something that resembles normal life after you have a baby is pretty challenging and breastfeeding helps a lot. And also, just relax! If occasionally your baby needs to have a bottle for any given reason, why the hell not? It’s only the one. Don’t lose sleep over it. Your milk supply should be just fine.

Did I mention… BREASTFEEDING IS AWESOME!!!

The absolutely most incredible thing about breastfeeding is how it made me feel. It is a continuation of a physical bond between mother and baby that starts at the moment of conception. It’s a very feral, instinctive thing; a constant reminder of the human being as animal. In a way, it’s a continuation of a sexual bond. Breastfeeding your baby is a unique and intimate ritual in a similar way to sex. I’m going to sound like a right hippie here, but both work on a physical and an emotional level: In sex, the physical objective is procreation. In breastfeeding, once procreation has already happened, the physical objective is nutrition. But in both, the ultimate emotional objective is LOVE!!!

See, I told you I was going to sound like a hippie. But those hippies were onto something. They were usually also on something, but that’s beside the point.

Breastfeeding feels like falling in love.

And that’s fucking AWESOME.

But then, many of you might feel a bit grossed out by my explanation. We don’t like to think of sex and babies as somehow linked… But they are. You’re not the Virgin Mary, love.  And a lot of people can feel a bit shy about breastfeeding because of this too. However I was really surprised to hear that Denise Van Outen, no stranger to posing for lads mags, gave up breastfeeding at 3 weeks because she feared being photographed while doing it. Eh? Where’s the logic in that? I’d hate to be followed by photographers everywhere, but still. Furthermore, if you don’t want everyone to see your boobs while you’re trying to feed your baby, just use some kind of shawl or something. The end.

Don’t Pill the Rappers

Yesterday morning I walked into my kitchen to be greeted with a harrowing sight.

I saw the buoyant carcass of my son’s black goldfish, Sharky, being mercilessly devoured by his tankmate, the ever-so-dull Nemo. Sharky had been showing signs of ill health for a while. His erratic and distressed swimming had me tearing out my hair with concern. Once Google explained that this was most likely due to fish constipation I decided the fatty should go on a strict diet; he improved but he wasn’t quite the same vivacious, charismatic goldfish he once was. And now this.

Horrified, I diverted my son’s attention and scooped out the mortal remains, diligently disposing of them in the bin. I made the decision to deceive him in a fraction of an instant. Act now, I thought, and work out some explanation for Sharky’s sudden disappearance later.

I referred to our wet pet’s sad passing and my subsequent pondering on Facebook. One friend encouraged me to tell the truth, retrieve Sharky’s half-eaten rotting cadaver from the bin, and give him a proper burial befitting of how much joy he single-finnedly brought into our lives. I could see her point, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. I rather preferred another friend’s suggestion to say that Sharky went on holiday and then replace him with an identical fish later, but the former friend pointed out that I might have to prepare for questions such as ‘How did he carry his luggage? Has he got a passport? Will he need suncream?’. I confess I began to concoct fairly plausible responses in my head.

I have written here before about the lies we inevitably tell children as they grow up.  While I know I can’t avoid the death chat indefinitely, I didn’t feel quite ready to do it just yet, particularly because I am very much grieving at the moment. I can’t make sense of death myself, let alone explain it to a three-year-old. So it’s not just sparing the poor child from a trauma, it’s sparing myself from confronting some difficult facts. I think I’m going to invest in an impostor, buy myself some time and address the matter in a more appropriate way once Sharky the Second kicks his bucket too.

The fact is that this is not actually my son’s first encounter with death. The other day he came back from a weekend in the countryside relating that him and his Daddya had gone to ‘Pill some rappers‘.

What? Pill some what? Pill some rappers? Wtf? Imagine my confusion.

Me and Daddya went to Granny and Papa’s stables. And Daddya had Papa’s gun, and I had my bubble gun, and we pilled some rappers.’


EXCUSE ME?!!

I turned to the ex, or shall we refer to him as the Exterminator, and demanded an  explanation.

As it happens, his parents’ stables are currently infested with rats, and they’d asked him to shoot some to cut down numbers. Now, I am no vegetarian, nor am I averse to culling, but I was pretty darn cheesed off with the idea of him taking our 3-year-old son shooting with him.

Relax! I think it was a nice thing to do, go out shooting with his dad. It will teach him about life and death, and to have respect for guns’


‘But he’s THREE! He doesn’t understand! We live in London, we’re going to struggle to keep him innocent as it is, without you taking him bloody shooting! As far as I’m concerned he doesn’t have to have any contact with guns at all.’


This all eventually descended into an argument, of course. One which we haven’t quite settled yet.

My point is that this exercise hasn’t really taught the kid anything about life and death. He doesn’t understand that once the rats stop moving, they don’t ever start again. He doesn’t have any emotional bond with the rats to be made to rationalise it, or make a connection with his own life. He’s just lost a grandfather and doesn’t really grasp the concept. The cancer was like the bullet; he stopped moving and never will again, just like the rats. The mechanics may be similar but the emotional significance is radically, overwhelmingly, different. The grief is the very reason why I can’t face a death chat at this moment in time.

But I can’t suppress my smile when I think he might go to school and tell his poor teacher that he and his daddy got some guns and went out ‘shooting rappers‘…

The horror, indeed.

How do you Like your Lies for Breakfast?

A good friend of mine posted this link on facebook. It is an essay by Paul Graham about the lies adults tell children about the world in order to raise them from childhood to adulthood. It reminded me a lot about my constant battle with the ambiguities of postmodern parenthood.

I remember an event some years ago, when I was still an angry teenager. I had just been beaten up for no reason by strangers for the first time. I was growing more and more bitter with the world, moving further away from the open hearted tree-hugging country girl I had been. Dismayed at the realisation so many people seemed irrevocably evil, I asked a similarly  jaded friend whether she thought we would be better off telling our children the truth about the world so that they would be tougher early on. And she said ‘No. I think we should let them have their dreams.’

This was a long time ago but I still remember it vividly. And now as a mother I agree with her. The only difficulty is determining just how much wool parents should pull over their children’s eyes before they cross the line between protecting them and harming them.

Up Shit Creek Without a Parenting Book.

I know I keep alluding to postmodern parenthood, with its joys and pitfalls, and you must be wondering what I’m yakking on about.

I’ll explain: 

Gone are the days of the Grand Narratives. The lines between male and female roles are finally blurred. In fact, even the line between genders is blurred. The line between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’  shifts from whichever perspective you choose to look at it. Every ideology has its crack, thank God. But I don’t even know if I believe in God. Isn’t it great? You can decide what you want to believe in.

 

And then you have a kid.

 

Suddenly your world is turned on its head and you desperately need to find your bearings.

 

 

The first role that generally comes into play is the traditional, patriarchal family. Mummy dearest reigns supreme within the confines of her immaculate house. Daddy comes home from the office at night to a home filled with the delectable aroma of hot food, and smiling children with impeccable table manners throw their arms around him and say Grace before tucking in. Even today there is something aspirational about this image, but when you start zooming in, the whole thing begins to unravel.

 

Well, for starters, who is mummy dearest? Me, that’s who.

 

And I am currently under enforced domestic incarceration(i.e. unemployed). I love cooking though, and if Daddy dearest dares suggest I overcooked the broccoli, he gets a slap round the face. In the rare occasions I manage to get my house to look immaculate, it only lasts for five minutes. I am MESSY. I wasn’t made to be a housegirlfriend for prolonged periods of time.

 

And don’t get me started on the kid. He’s the biggest conundrum of them all. All these different schools of thought:

 

There’s the foodie brigade, who say the key to bringing up kids is to slave over the oven and feed them nothing but organic everything, even if the only thing the bloody child will eat is packet noodles with fish fingers.

There’s the Gina Ford brigade, who chastise the soft-hearted mother that cannot bear to let her newborn baby scream itself to sleep for two hours straight, and demand that she runs her life rigidly by the stroke of the clock, no excuses.

There’s the religious brigade, who will avert their eyes at my lovechild and fear I’ve chained him to the gates of Hell.

There’s the middle-class, middle-aged mum in Wandsworth brigade, who treat me as if I were the nanny.

There’s the paragon of virtue brigade, who spend their days pulling flashcards out of their pockets, looking on serenely while their angelic children garner ridiculously high I.Q.s that will doubtlessly make them future World leaders.

There’s the… uh, you get the picture.

 

 

WHO IS RIGHT? No one is completely right, so I should be happy to find my way and muddle along, right? There is no right, there is no wrong, right?

WRONG. The Karen Matthews school of parenting is definitely wrong.

 

NOW FOR A LITTLE ANECDOTE:

I took my son to the supermarket yesterday. I thought I was doing ok. He only ran off a little bit, and kept coming back for me. I went to the till, basket in hand. He then runs off behind a corner, I run after him, customers start looking pissed off, I drag him back, impatiently.

 

With absolute composure, the woman behind the till commands him to come back and stand next to mummy, that’s it, what a good boy, wait until mummy is finished, well done, what a good, good boy, here you go, have a green plastic coin. He looks on, sweet as an angel, and starts naming the items cutely as she packs them in a bag.

 

Thanks, I mutter under my breath. I feel crushed. An absolute stranger has a better grip on my child than I do. I am a TERRIBLE mother.  I undoubtedly have been lax with his discipline. Those of you who know me personally will laugh at the thought of be taking on the role of the stern disciplinarian. And why would I want to be a stern disciplinarian? But then, what if I’m raising him to become a hellraising thug? Am I condemning him to getting an ASBO? Should I start taking him to church? I want to be a good mum!

 

Can someone tell me the way? Please?

Jumpin’ for Joy

You would never guess from the sight of the ever-deepening lines of my once balmy and youthful visage that I am regressing in mental years. I blame it on children’s television. It has permeated the corners of my brain with such insiduous precision that I have only just taken account of the fact I seem to know every single theme tune available to the under aged spectator. No more cool underground music knowledge for me. No more knowing who is ‘the next big thing’ before anybody else.  And who would think? I even gave up on waiting for Axl Rose to release Chinese Democracy.

Tell you what, though. This one here is a corker. When I’m lying in my bed cuddled up with my son in the morning watching Milkshake, pulling my pillow over my head, this song will come on and before I know it I am up on my feet, doing a silly dance. What a tune!

(Forward to 0:10)

Back with a Bang

Many apologies for my prolonged absence from blogspace. Are you still there? Good. Just making sure I wasn’t merely apologising to myself for letting myself down, not carrying out my good intentions with a discipline of steel, yadda yadda yadda.

 

Turns out rather a lot has happened since my last post. After a gruelling exam season, I have finally graduated from my degree with a 2.1.  I did have a 1st for about half an hour due to misreading a friend’s text message at first, and I screamed the house down with jubilant excitement, only to have to retract the news later! Nothing is ever straightforward.

 

 

As I mentioned before, I went for a (much too short for my liking) holiday in Rio in May, where I unsuccessfully planned to revisit the Vila Mimosa, Rio’s biggest prostitution district. During the trip the Boyf proposed! Yes, it was during a beautiful pink sunset on Itauna Beach in the town of Saquarema. The location was filmworthy, but I was sweaty and breathless and red in the face from running along the sand… So, I guess my days as a professional housegirlfriend are numbered. My heretofore bare fingers are now adorned with a rather sparkly bit of bling.

 

 

After getting back to London I have been struggling to get back into the swing of things. I have found I really miss my life in Brazil and desperately would like to go back to live there soon, even if only for a couple of years. I can’t bear the thought of my son growing up without experiencing a bit of my own childhood. You heard it here first.

 

After living off my student loan, my bank account is now looking rather poorly. Like pretty much everyone else in the country I am feeling rather downbeat about the economic situation. I am bloody skint! Time to get a job. A full time job, which will involve leaving my baby at nursery from 8am to 6pm five times a week. Which will leave little money left over after said nursery fees are paid. Which will mean my child spends more time being looked after by others than he does by me. It is all rather painful… Part of me is desperate to begin my career and put myself out there, to stop feeling completely dependent on my partner’s income and pursue personal achievement; another part of me just can’t help feeling that these early years with my son are infinitely precious and ephemeral. I think he still needs his mummy an awful lot and I find the thought of handing him over for such prolonged periods of time absolutely terrifying. I am completely certain that I am not alone in feeling like this!  My lack of experience is restricting the number of home based work I could do too… I can’t imagine how difficult some women must find to be pressured to going back to work some times as early as four months after childbirth. Evidently many women relish returning to their careers away from the world of nappies and perennial catnapping, but I can’t help feeling there is something unnatural about forcibly breaking the mother-baby bond so soon…  And so I am feeling excited and also rather terrified of re-entering the work force. What is the answer? I imagine my son will be ok… But I am going to miss him like HELL.

Facts of Motherhood

#1- Realising that despite your swollen ankles and waddling step, there are plenty of men who will think nothing of chatting you up on the street or honking their horns at you when you’re heavily pregnant(and I MEAN heavily pregnant).

 

#2- You will be shocked the first time you catch yourself picking crusty snot out of another human being’s nostrils without any vestige of cringing or disgust.

 

#3- Getting poo and urine on your hands is something that will happen several times a day for a few years. Realising after you ate a whole packet of crisps that you got sidetracked on your way to wash your hands after changing that nappy is hopefully something that doesn’t happen quite as frequently.

 

#4- Breastfeeding makes you feel amazing and elated and gives you FANTASTIC boobs. For a bit, that is. What you’re left with afterwards is pot luck. But still worth it!

 

#5- Even if you think you’re really unpopular, your house will resemble a florist’s for a couple of weeks after the birth.

 

#6- Unless you have preemies, at least a third of the clothes you get as gifts for ‘newborn’ babies are unlikely to get you through the first week. Make sure you get those gift receipts!

 

#7- You are likely to spend a good proportion of the first year in your comfy t-shirt and tracksuit bums. Then you will get into your maternity jeans(they’ll still fit after the birth for a bit)to go to the shops, feeling like you achieved something with your day. Then you will see the magazines on the shelves, and on every other cover will be reports of amazing post-baby celebrity weight-loss. Then you will curse your luck and your imaginary entourage of nanny, dermatologist, endocrinologist, personal trainer and make-up artist for their screaming incompetence in making you look slightly presentable.

 

#8 Breastfeeding burns 500kcals a day. Get baking some cakes! (Wonder what the nutritionist might say).

 

#9- You will realise that although the world is a fucking awful place, Father Christmas doesn’t exist, Sleeping Beauty’s prince was a bit of a creep for coming onto her when she was passed out and TV stars always seem to be shorter in the flesh, there is one thing you were told as a kid that is real. TRUE LOVE. Look into your child’s eye and revel in it.

 

#10- It takes at least an hour to get ready to leave the house. FACT.