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Archive for the ‘babies’ Category

File this under: Maybe how you feel about mothering, and your feminism, says something about how your country feels about you as a mother.

Great article from Abigail Rasminsky in The Cut, “I had a baby in Europe; here’s what it did to me”.  

But unlike my husband and me, my expat friends didn’t struggle over the gendered turn their marriages had taken. These women had already given up their careers upon moving to Vienna, or had always expected a year or two of paid leave with a new baby. They felt little anxiety about keeping their careers going — or, like me, getting them out of the red. Why should they? By law, their jobs were protected.

A few months in, I started to understand the question my midwife had posed when I asked her about using a breast pump. “But where are you going?” she’d wanted to know, as if I were planning to abandon my child. The logic seemed to be: My husband had his job, and I had mine, which was culturally mandated and for which I was paid. What else could I possibly want?

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This is an excellent article on the infuriating mistakes made in public health policy for co-sleeping.

As states have adopted the AAP 2011 recommendations, the advice to never sleep with your baby has backfired in the worst possible way. Rather than preventing deaths, this advice is probably even increasing deaths. Included in 2009 study that the AAP even cited in its statement for other conclusions, parents of two SIDS babies who slept with their infant on a sofa did so because they had been advised against bringing their infants into bed but had not realized the dangers of sleeping on a sofa. In fact, deaths from SIDS in parental beds has halved in the UK from 1984-2004, but there has been a rise of deaths from cosleeping on sofas.

In contrast, medical authorities in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia have different messages than the American Academy of Pediatrics. They all acknowledge that most mothers do share a bed with their infant at least some of the time. If one chooses to bedshare, they educate the public on risks and on ways to markedly decrease the risk of infant death.

In addition, research shows that bedsharing facilitates breastfeeding and is associated withlonger breastfeeding duration.

Breastfeeding mothers who try not to share a bed with their baby either end up giving up breastfeeding or bed share anyway. The nutritional content of human milk necessitates frequent feeding both day and night and frequent close contact.

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My son Zain was born with the kind of reflux and colic that no doctor seemed able to cure. He screamed for up to eight or nine hours a day for the first twelve months of his life. There was nothing I could do but push him up and down the streets of my neighbourhood at all hours of the night and day. So much of those long hours of walking are in my next book, which doesn’t really focus on motherhood at all but rather, on a close and intimate portrayal of all those people and places I observed while walking. It wasn’t just that it was the first time in my life in which I had given myself permission to sit on a bench on the river or to hang out in a park all day and really look at those everyday things I had never taken the time to notice before, it was also that everything had so much more emotional intensity and significance than it had previously had. It doesn’t last forever but there is this crazed state you exist in, in those early months, that is something right out The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I remember, distinctly, standing on the Parramatta River, looking at Jamie Eastwood’s mural on the footpath which depicts the local Indigenous population trying to fight off the boats in that same place where the ferries were now coming in to dock at Parramatta Pier. The whole place seemed so heart-breakingly gorgeous and tragic in a way that I think I could never understand if I wasn’t in such a heightened emotional state. That space is now the central image that my next book revolves around. It was feeling that space in such a different way that made me realise I needed to write a book about it.  I wrote a lot during that first year of being a mother. It wasn’t the kind of long concentrated writing I had done before but I came out of it with a lot of lines scrawled on bits of paper that turned into great things some time later.

From “Who gives a shit? On motherhood and the arts” by Felicity Castagna in the Southerly Journal. 

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Here in Daily Life:

Chabon suggests, “I think it was training. We were practiced doing it together and we had our lines down. Also, people are not very observant, thank God”.

That’s the thing about sexual relationships, isn’t it? Part of it is real but part of it is always appearance, too. This facade is as much for yourselves as it is for others. Because a sense of self both feeds and is fed by intimate relationships. Ironically, the pressure to stay together is precisely what may be limiting passion in those women Waldman observed from in the mothers’ group. Children may have nothing to do with it. People stop having sex when they get bored with one another, too, but they are prevented from ending relationships by the pressure to ‘perform’ relationships.

Waldman wanted women to be more passionate, but there are limits to how comfortable any of us are with the pursuit of desire by women, and particularly, with mothers focusing on it. Having been a single parent for a couple of years I now find myself falling in love with another man and re-partnering. Sexual desire prioritises itself in a new relationship. Libido is all-consuming, it does not require conscious effort. In fact, it can be confrontingly disruptive to the calm necessary for parenting. I ask myself, is this how someone’s mother behaves?

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The good…

However, the interesting point here is the assumption that expressing (more and faster) is the answer. Buchholz’s comment is consistent with workplace norms under neo-liberalism that require mothers to minimise their breastfeeding relationship with their infants and to instead pump milk. As sociologist Kate Boyer recently observedin the US context, without longer maternity leave or proper provisions to breastfeed at work we are not so much accommodating mothering as squeezing it – quite literally – to fit into the ‘needs’ of industry. While centering the importance of ‘human milk’, expressing actually pushes mothering – the act of embodied nurture – to the periphery. This, she contends, is a new form of ‘neoliberal mothering’ that extracts both care work and labour from women without regard to the unique problems this creates.

The new norm is not to exclude women outright, but to exclude the particular embodied relationships women have with infants and young children (and, perhaps more fundamentally, that infants and young children have with their mothers). In the new model, liberalism has been surpassed by neo-liberalism: mothers are allowed in ‘the house’ (or out of the house as the case may be) but they and their babies are under pressure to minimise physical contact. As I have written recently, keeping up a ‘supply’ of milk and work is the new norm, which promotes ‘pumping’ over breastfeeding. These are, of course, not the same thing. The intimacy and bonding, the stroking and face-to-face contact, the intersubjective experience and embodied care are diminished in preference to disembodied ‘expressing’

From my friend, Dr Petra Bueskens’ “Keeping up supply: it isn’t only about milk” in On Line Opinion.

And the bad..

Despite the nice pictures with Kelly O’Dwyer, a former Costello adviser sporting the latest feminist political accessory, a baby, the five women who are ministers in cabinet, Michaelia Cash, Julie Bishop, Marise Payne, O’Dwyer and Sussan Ley, all supported Turnbull, although two were in Tony Abbott’s cabinet.

From Angela Shanahan’s “Politics divorced from the people” in The Australian.

And the good..

From the first stages of my pregnancy I was alarmed by feelings of dependency on my partner that I had never experienced before. As my pregnancy progressed, my sense of physical vulnerability increased and my capacity to maintain my equality through independence was repeatedly challenged. Finally, when my daughter was born, her utter vulnerability shook me to the core and I realised that I could no longer operate in the world as a wholly autonomous unit. I was encumbered by this incredibly dependent little person who needed me for her very survival. My understanding of myself and of what I needed from the world shifted completely, as did my understanding of the feminist project. I could no longer relate to the ambivalence of liberal feminism to the needs, indeed rights, of dependent women (and children).

This ambivalence of liberal feminism to the rights of dependent women is one of the reasons that it finds favour with some areas of right-wing politics. The individualism and market focus of the independence model of equality dovetails neatly with economic liberalism (or neoliberalism) and the belief that the market is the best arbiter and distributor of value. Single mothers, for example, are readily vilified as ‘welfare queens’ greedily bludging off the State.

Left-wing liberal feminists responds differently to the issue of single mothers and are more likely to support their right to government assistance. Nonetheless, this assistance is rarely framed in terms of payment for the unpaid work of caring for children. Instead, it is viewed as a safety net to assist women to survive until they can rejoin the path to equality through autonomy. This is because left-wing liberal feminism still envisages liberation through market participation and, thus, tends to focus more on the issues of affordable childcare and (occasionally) flexible work arrangements in order to support women to more easily become independent post-motherhood.

From Cristy Clark’s “Feminism and the terrifying dependency of children” in The Australian Sociological Association.

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