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Archive for the ‘pregnancy and birth’ Category

“We need to think hard about how risk is communicated to women on issues relating to pregnancy. There can be real consequences to overstating evidence or implying certainty when there isn’t any,” said Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS. “Doing so can cause women needless anxiety and alarm, sometimes to the point that they consider ending an unplanned but not unwanted pregnancy because of fears they have caused irreparable harm.”

Ellie Lee, director of Kent University’s center for parenting culture studies, added that the new guidelines risked socially isolating or even stigmatizing pregnant women.

“As proving ‘complete safety’ [of drinking in pregnancy] is entirely impossible, where does this leave pregnant women?” asked Lee. “The scrutiny and oversight of their behavior the official approach invites is not benign. It creates anxiety and impairs ordinary social interaction. And the exclusion of women from an ordinary activity on the basis of ‘precaution’ can more properly be called sexist than benign.”

 

From “Telling pregnant women to avoid alcohol completely is more ‘sexist than benign’ at New York Times Live. 

As I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve been bloggingand also, how I got my blog name. 

 

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My friend, Mary-Rose MacColl’s memoir about motherhood, For a Girl has just been published and you really must read it.

If you read any of the reviews about this book you’ll know that it covers experiences of sexual abuse and adoption. Because of this, there’s a tendency to reduce this book in any discussion to a very well marked trail through victimhood. But MacColl’s book, like all her writing, is filled with nuance. There are no typical victims, one’s survival past trauma is not victimhood. It is life, being lived.

And this book is about joyful, puzzling absurdity, about unexpected tenderness, about loss at its most profound, and the line between forgivable and unforgivable flaws in the people we love. It’s about the jarring experience of being thoroughly misrepresented until one day, through the rebirth of motherhood, you find yourself flooded with a sense of self-discovery.

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What would happen if we all created SuperBabies? Would we make a SuperRace? Fleets of SuperAdults so smart and wise and strong and nontoxic that they would never get cancer? (But they would of course discover its cure.) By age fifteen, they would teach their teachers. They would outrun all world records. They would eradicate every harmful chemical or they would somehow render all chemicals harmless to SuperBodies. They would, each one, win prestigious awards in their fields, twisting the bell curve into a radiant point of light from which would emanate their stellar, star-like performance. They would never know rejection. They would not know depression. They would not cry, or if they did cry, they would shed tears of existential meaning and fulfillment, reflecting on their infinite successes. And on their holidays, they would gather around fires—propping their lean, tall, muscular bodies onto core-boosting exercise balls—and tell stories of the generations past, when people were not Super but Regular. In those bygone days, RegularPeople had autoimmune disorders and chronic pain. They had broken hearts and failed dreams. They had something the SuperPeople only know through history books: suffering.

We want a SuperRace because we want to eradicate absolutely everything that terrifies us. We want SuperHumans so we can transcend that thing we are: human. But a SuperHuman would lack that crack in everything through which, as Leonard Cohen sang, the light gets in. There’s something in our suffering that we need. We’ve known this for millennia, and we make it clear in the stories we keep telling. The Buddha gave up his palace and meditated beneath a tree for a week. Jesus of Nazareth said yes to a cross. Our ache is our unfortunate, undeniable doorway. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, says the copper lady with the torch. When we walk into our pain, we sometimes find ourselves on the other side, freed of what we once thought we needed to feel free.

Suffering is a part of life. –Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

From Heather Kirn Lanier’s “Superbabies don’t cry” in VELO. This is a wonderful piece on ableism, so worth the read.

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This is so clever, but go read the whole thing. “Woman Facts” at McSweeney’s by Sandra Newman.

Once women who lived unconventional lives were seized as witches and burned. Now people just say to them, “You look tired.”

– – –

Large numbers of women can be caught by baiting a trap with a crying infant. Though only one woman may fall into the trap, hundreds of others will gather to criticize everything she does with the child.

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This article by Catherine Deveny on the ABC called “Financial abortion: Should men be able to ‘opt out’ of parenthood?” is infuriatingly limited.

I have recently come to the conclusion that, as a feminist, I support men being able to opt out of fatherhood early in a pregnancy via what is known as a financial abortion.

I believe a woman should not be forced to become a mother any more than a man should be forced to become a father. If a man has not said, “I want to have a child with you now-ish”, it is fair to assume he doesn’t, and therefore should be able to legally withdraw from becoming a parent.

It would also be less traumatic for children, and more empowering for women.

A financial abortion (also known as a paper abortion or a statutory abort) would essentially enable men to cut all financial and emotional ties with a child in the early stages of pregnancy.

Men can ‘opt out’ already. Don’t have sex with women, get a vasectomy, take lots and lots of responsibility for contraception. Oh.. you mean not that kind of “control over reproductive choices”.

Men can have more control than they do currently over whether parenthood happens (see my paragraph above), but just like women they don’t have full control over conception. Pregnancy is not something you can ‘make happen’.. you can provide circumstances that will facilitate pregnancy or which won’t… but conception is a biological action that happens outside of women’s and men’s control. We all need to carry responsibility for that.

It is not something one can ‘opt out of’ if you, like me, happen to enjoy the act of putting sperm near eggs inside women’s bodies.

What certain men are seeking to ‘opt out of’ is not whether parenthood can occur, it is the responsibility of parenthood. How very user choice, what part of reality might possibly be missing from this?

The parent with the ability to decide to carry a pregnancy to term (or not) is the one whose body has a foetus inside it. If we lived in another reality where men could choose to carry a foetus in their body to term then they could opt out of doing so.. and I am sure many women would be content to concede that right to men.

 

And of course on the wider issue of opting out, as someone said on my Facebook page, is this…

“In practice men do have this choice: courts won’t demand men conform to care and contact agreements & DHSCS has a poor record of enforcing compliance with child support assessments/ agreements. Women’s access to abortion remains practically constrained and single mothers a group at high risk of poverty – these remain the bigger issues than further expanding masculine financial & paternal discretion.”

 

 

 

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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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