Archive for the ‘pregnancy and birth’ Category

This graphic novel style telling of two birth stories is gorgeous and compelling at The Nib by Leela Corman.

Strongly recommend (unless you’re pregnant at the moment and don’t need to read any birth drama).

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I’m not personally a home-birther, but I strongly believe there is a fundamental feminist principle at stake here. Women give birth at home, always have and always will, whether you like it or not. (Mammals are in the habit of being very determined about their birthing).

As I’ve said before.. here’s the thing about home birth, like abortion the real issue is not whether you would choose home birth yourself, or not. The issue is that some women will choose a home birth and that home birth has always been around and always will be, and given all that, how do we want to legislate for the reality of women’s lives?  And do we not feel the tiniest bit suspicious of motivations to criminalise women’s lives? Good long read from Petra Bueskens in New Matilda.

This problem is fundamentally about the paradigm war between a women’s rights perspective and a medicalised perspective on childbirth, and while these two need not be mutually exclusive, they often are. The one group – independent midwives – assume birth is a normal physiological process and support women’s bodily autonomy, up to and including their right to choose a birth that is deemed ‘high risk’, and adapt their clinical expertise around this; the second group – mainstream medical practitioners, namely obstetricians – assume birth is “only normal in retrospect” and want instead to adapt birthing women to the medical model of risk, health, and illness. The latter group, it has been repeatedly observed, see the first group as risky and cavalier by definition – hence the constant reporting.

The other key dimension here is the massive power difference between independent midwives and the medical and media establishments – evidenced most clearly in the fact that independent midwifery is disappearing against the will of the midwives themselves and the women who want homebirths. There is no level playing field between these two positions; no sense in which accused and maligned midwives like Gaye (and many, many others), are able to present their case with clarity and equanimity. They are a maligned group with no access to a voice that reflects their interests in the mainstream media or medical establishments; many have blogs but these are ignored or cherry picked to ‘prove’ their ‘extremism’.

If, as Marx said, ideology is the mechanism through which the powerless experience their reality systematically distorted – “upside-down as in a camera obscura” – then the representation of independent midwives, and homebirth more generally, is a perfect illustration of this. The ‘dangerous baby-killers’ are the very midwives advocating strongest for women’s rights! They are the midwives on the vanguard of social change and whose human rights perspective is the international standard, notwithstanding that they are often treated as an aberration.

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I am close to someone who had her first baby through IVF and who is attempting a second baby and all I can say is… I see that what you go through is excruciating and all my love to those battling along.

These are beautiful demystifying links on IVF.

This from Dan Majesky.

And then we wait.

You’re warned against taking pregnancy tests because they measure hormone levels, and after taking all sorts of weird shit all month, you can trigger a false positive. So you wait. And there will be spotting. Is it spotting, or is her period starting? You don’t know. So you wait. And you wait.

And you wait.

And sometimes her period comes, and you start over. Step one.

And sometimes it doesn’t come. But the second line doesn’t appear, or the plus, or the whatever these tests do.

So you wait. And it’s negative, but you hope, and you see your friends getting pregnant, and you get a little sad. But you get mad at yourself because you want to feel happy for other people, and that’s not fair to them. And then the 17-year-old across the street gets pregnant, and you get a little sadder. And your cousins get pregnant, and you get a little sadder.

And you see people scream at their kids, and beat them in Kroger, and you just want to die because you would give anything to have a child throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle.

You don’t want to hate people. You don’t. I think babies are beautiful. I think kids are awesome, but you can’t help the jealousy. The envy. The resentment. It really creeps up on you. And you search for positive things. And you talk on end about your capital-O Options.

And then you see people on the internet post screeds about how dare anyone assume that they would want to have kids because not having kids is the best – which is fine, have at it or don’t have at it, I really don’t care – but we want to be procreating, and we want what you could have, but are choosing not to use.

And we want to tell you, but people don’t talk about it. Because you don’t want to talk about it.

Because you spend all day thinking about it, managing it. Trying not to cry. Trying to not turn into HI and Ed from Raising Arizona, stealing babies in the night.

And this over at Essential Baby from Macy Rodeffer.

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Remember that whole ridiculousness when Meghann Foye said she wanted maternity leave ‘perks’ for those who don’t have children? And I wondered at the time would Foye feel at all comfortable trivialising bereavement leave or sick leave in the same way?

Anyway, here’s a lovely reply to that sentiment… all this grim loveliness.

Andrea maternity leave

This is maternity and paternity leave: a time of terror, joy, fear, wonder, pain, blood, and tears. A time of leaking breastmilk and sleeping for no more than two hours at a stretch. A time of your partner having to lift you out of bed.

In an era of highly curated selfies, it isn’t easy to show the world what we look like at our most raw. But we want the world to see us, and know us, like this. No, we wouldn’t trade a moment of it, and no, we’re not complaining. We are simply showing the emotional, painful, joyful, unreal realities of new parenthood. We’re doing the work of humanity, and we’re asking you to see and value that work for the beautiful mess that it is.

From “8 Honest, Raw Photos of What Maternity Leave Really Looks Like” by Jessica Shortall in Elle. 

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This is really interesting! From “What does it mean when we call women girls?” by Robin Wasserman in Literary Hub.

Here’s how Louis CK draws the distinction between girl and woman:

[22-year old girls] might say, I’m 22, I’m totally a woman… Not to me, sorry. To me you’re not a woman until you’ve had a couple of kids and your life is in the toilet… when you become a woman is when people come out of your vagina and step on your dreams.

If it’s easy to see how the girl label attaches to unmoored millennials, it’s less evident how it applies to women firmly rooted in the adult phase of life. But it makes sense if we read the “girl” narratives as corrective to the Louis CK threshold, the “girls” as women who refuse to let a little thing like people coming out of their vaginas ruin their dreams.

All the Single Ladies, journalist Rebecca Traister’s recent take on the rise of the single woman, opens with her childhood conviction that the marriage plot was less fairy tale than Shakespearean tragedy. “It was supposed to be romantic, but it felt bleak,” she writes of the nuptial trajectories of her girlhood literary heroes. “Paths that were once wide and dotted with naughty friends and conspiratorial sisters and malevolent cousins, with scrapes and adventures and hopes and passions, had narrowed and now seemed to lead only to the tending of dull husbands and the rearing of insipid children to whom the stories would be turned over.”

The girl books crowding the nonfiction shelf are written by and about women who insist on sticking to that wide path, women who refuse to Jo March themselves into a supporting role in their own life: girlhood as a state of mind.

The word attaches itself with special frequency to women in music and the sciences—not as diminishment of their achievement, but as its trophy. Girl in a Band, Lab Girl, Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl, Rise of the Rocket Girls: these are women who followed their girlhood passions into male-dominated fields and triumphed. Their stories speak of subverting gender expectations, breaking barriers, and—at least on the page—prioritizing work and art over the role of domestic caretaker.

In Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon pauses—briefly—in her tale of Sonic Youth’s rise to acknowledge the birth of her daughter: “Yes, she changed our lives, and no one is more important to me. But the band played on.” Gordon spent the first half of her career answering journalists’ inevitable question about what it was like to be a girl in a band; the moment she gave birth, they instead wanted to know: “What’s it like to be a rock-and-roll mom?” Her daughter might well be the most important thing in her life, but she’s nearly irrelevant to this story, which is about music, ambition, and the need to create. Gordon writes about her difficulties expressing her true self, relieved only by art: “For me the page, the gallery, and the stage became the only places my emotions could be expressed….Art, and the practice of making art, was the only space that was mine alone.”

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New CDC recommendations released Tuesday state that all women of childbearing age should abstain entirely from alcohol, unless they use contraceptives. Come again? On first reading, one might think that they are on to something. Everyone knows that drinking during pregnancy is bad. Well…the research is actually mixed. But, aside from attempting to address the real problem of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, which can have lasting impact on children, it makes a lot of bad assumptions about women, it’s unrealistic, and it might not be entirely evidence-based.
My first thought when reading the report was that this type of government recommendation sounds like something out of The Handmaid’s Tale. In Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, a theocratic dictatorship takes away women’s rights and separates them into classes. Fertile women of childbearing age are kept as handmaids for reproductive purposes by the ruling class after a large portion of the female population becomes sterile due to pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. They live under strict control of their wealthy male captors, and are treated as vessels for potential life.

From Steph on Grounded Parents with “The CDC Can Rip the Wine Glass Out of My Childbearing-Aged Hand”.

I have written about the policing of pregnant women and alcohol .. oh, once or twice before..

Compare and contrast

Light drinking during pregnancy

Mystery results

Public health message of the day: don’t trust women, especially when they’re incubating

Whenever people start talking about the “unborn child”



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When Julian was born, my euphoria intensified. To this day, I still can’t articulate how deeply and fiercely I love my son without shedding a few tears. He was this perfect, amazing little thing. But because I was a nineteen-year-old new mum, there was a sharp polarity between how I thought I should feel and how I actually felt. Stigma said that my life was over; I knew something significant had just begun. Society demanded sacrifice and selflessness but parenting my son never felt passive or transactional; it was always more rich and complex than giving something up in exchange for something else.

From my friend, Antonia Hayes’ “Why I loved being a teenage mum” in Marie Claire.

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