Posts Tagged ‘children’

Maybe Baby

February 4, 2011

Being a girl isn’t so bad.  Or at least, that’s what you think until you’re about seven and someone sits a bunch of you down in a room and tells you you’re going to bleed out of an orifice you didn’t even know you had for a week every month for the next 50 years.

You will eventually come to terms with this news – although probably only because a pair of boobs seem to be included in the deal and suddenly nobody wants to talk to you unless you’re at least a B-cup – and everything goes back to being pretty rosy until they sit you all down again to show you a video of someone giving birth, at which point you generally start to think something along the lines of ‘sod this for a game of bloody soldiers’.  (Years later it will occur to you that while your teacher was carefully laying out the lifetime of gynecological torture which awaited you, the boys were off being given condoms and told it was ok to masturbate.)

In hindsight, though, I think the birth video should be a bit more graphic.  A bit of sweating and groaning and a glimpse of afterbirth?  Your average teenage female product of Broken Britain would happily endure that in her bid to rise triumphantly to the top of the council housing list.  Maybe if they knew a little more about what birth is really like, they would think twice.

For the record: I have not given birth, nor have I actually witnessed someone else doing so in person.  But being at a certain stage in my life – i.e. 7 months away from being a married woman – I am starting to seriously consider the idea that at some point it is probably going to happen to me.

Thanks to a family full of children you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, I grew up with a fierce conviction that I would never breed.  I clung to this conviction well into early adulthood, but unfortunately what my mum told me once turns out to be true: one day you just wake up and want a baby.  I mean this literally.  For a week I had nightmares about babies every night – forgetting a baby on a bus, leaving a baby on a sofa and accidentally sitting on it, dropping a baby in a pool.  I woke up from these dreams relieved that in real life I wanted nothing to do with babies.  And then I had a different dream – a dream where once the baby was handed to me it was the one thing I wanted in the entire world, a dream where I carried it around in one of those sling things and swelled with pride as everyone cooed over it, a dream where I loved the baby so much that I would rip the throat out of anyone who ever dared hurt it.  I woke up and was actually nearly in tears when I realised that this baby did not exist.  And just like that, I felt the first tick – my biological clock was off and running.

I should clarify for any gossip-mongering friends (hi James) or horror-striken relatives (hi Mum) who may be reading: I AM NOT TRYING TO GET PREGNANT YET.  I have a wedding dress to fit into in seven months, after all.  Please remain calm.)

So, to hop back on my original train of thought – I have never given birth, or seen anyone else do so in person.  What I have done, however, is watched too many episodes of One Born Every Minute and spent far too long on pregnancy forums trying to pretend that my morbid fascination was borne out of a genuine interest in the process I was going to have to go through if I was ever going to get that baby.  In the course of this research I have learned the following things:

1:  I want the drugs.  I have no intention of being one of these “oh, I want a peaceful natural birth” women.  No.  I want the drugs.  All of the drugs.  I know I am not even pregnant but if someone could just start getting the drugs ready right now so I know they will be there when I need them, that would be great, thank you.  And don’t talk to me about the drugs not being a good idea because it has been twenty years since my mother last gave birth and she is STILL going on about how much she loves gas and air.

2:  I do not want to give birth in Southampton General Hospital’s maternity ward. This is unfortunate as I live in Southampton and am too poor for private pregnancy healthcare.

3:  If I do have to give birth in Southampton General, I REALLY don’t want to do it with the help of the sweet, charming and actually-sort-of-cute male midwife.  I’m sure he’s great at his job but I even lock the door to keep my own fiance out of the bathroom while I’m using the toilet.  What I am getting at is that if it really is absolutely necessary for me to do an accidental poo in front of another human being I would much prefer it to be a woman because chances are it has happened to them too, so I will not be obliged to die of embarrassment. 

4:  Chris will be staying next to my head and will at no point be allowed to look at any part of my body below my waist.  Without wishing to be too forward (hello again, Mum) I don’t want him to be having mental images of the bloody horror every time I take my pants off for the rest of my life.  I can accept that things are going to be messy down there but there is no reason for him to have to see it.  Also I know he would take great delight in describing it to me afterwards and frankly I don’t want to hear it.

5:  I am a vain and horrible person.  The pregnancy-related potential life changes which apparently concern me the most are stretch marks, saggy boobs, c-section scars, and a messed-up ‘downstairs’ area (I have been having nightmares about episiotomies ever since someone on a forum described the ‘gunshot’ sound they make).  I should probably be more concerned about the fact that childbirth has been killing women off since the dawn of time, but in this era of emergency caesareans and life-support systems I just can’t muster up any real worry about it.  The idea of a tummy covered in red zebra print patterns, however, makes me genuinely sad.  (It should be noted here that I am duly disgusted with myself, so please spare me the hate mail.)

Having said all this, though, I find it almost impossible now to remember why I used to be so adamant that I never wanted to have a baby.  I guess this change of perspective is actually fairly common in women my age, but it’s still very strange to feel your own opinions and priorities shift so dramatically in a relatively short period of time.  After all, it was only two years ago that I was babysitting my cousins and begging the youngest, Tommy, not to do a poo on the leather sofa, swearing blind that I would never ever put myself or my soft furnishings in this perilous situation.  Now, only a couple of short years later, I wander through the baby sections in clothes shops and find myself wondering whether it would be creepy to start buying baby things now to save myself having to spend a massive amount of money in the space of 9 months when I actually get pregnant.  (The answer to this question, incidentally, is “Yes, but if I keep them stashed in a box in the loft, nobody has to know.”)  

Whilst watching One Born Every Minute never fails to make me cringe and grit my teeth, it has also considerably eased my panic about hypothetically giving birth one day, which is a fairly surprising side effect for a program which has shown me – among other things – a woman crawling around on her bed unable to stop pooping because she ate after they told her not to, a woman who literally did not stop screaming throughout her entire labour, an army of gormless insensitive birth partners and more ugly red goblin-like babies than you can shake a stick at.  I think there’s something reassuring about the dowdy midwives who have seen it all before and rarely bat an eyelid at anything, the cheerful soundtrack they put over even the most gruesome scenes, and the cut-in post-birth interviews with the women (which serve to prove that they survived the experience and are even, in some cases, able to look back and laugh about it).

Once you get over your squeamishness about birth (if, that is, you actually manage to) you are left with a surprisingly clear idea of what the whole thing is all about.  Despite all the horror stories about morning sickness, sciatica, weird cravings, stretch marks, and getting stuck in the bath and having to wait for your partner to come home and heave you out (I’m not joking – there are some hilarious stories on those forums), you will eventually realise that for all your secret, desperate c-section hopes, for all your fretting about stretch marks and your boobs migrating towards your feet, all that really matters is that at the end of all of it, you hear that first scream, and the woman who has seen you through your ordeal hands you a healthy baby.  And when you think about how cool a moment it must be to meet your own child for the first time, all the stuff that comes before suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting.  Although, having said that, I’ve always been secretly convinced that my first words to my first child will be along the lines of “DON’T YOU EVER. DO THAT. AGAIN.”

Aww, will you look at that.  I wanted to come up with a funny ending but I just ended up getting all soppy.  I really must be getting broody.  When is my implant good ’til again?


Mums in the Media

February 21, 2010

I know, I know, the title makes this sound like something I’m writing for a journalism class, but stick with me.

I’m fairly embarrassed to admit this, but at around 4.30 on weekday afternoons, I get so bored of work that I start reading the Daily Mail website.  I like to think I am reading it ‘ironically’ but really it’s just fucking hilarious.  Anyway, in the course of today’s ironic browsing, I came across an article about how childbirth is becoming a competition of sorts and how many first time mothers feel that they will be looked down on if they ‘give in’ and use painkillers or have an epidural.  Apparently, many of them feel that they have been ‘bullied’ into having a painful and traumatic natural birth, when really, they secretly wanted to do one of two things – a: die quickly, or b: get pumped to the eyeballs with drugs.

I think this sounds a little bit ridiculous.  Are there really women out there who will turn down readily available, highly effective pain management, simply because they think other women will look down on them?  Apparently so.  Surely the sensible thing to do if you are a: not retarded and b: for some reason want snooty, holier-than-thou bitches to respect your childbirth choices, would be to just lie about it.  I mean, who’s going to check?  You get to happily trip your tits off during the birth (and don’t tell me that’s an exaggeration – 21 years on and my mum is still reminiscing about how much she loved gas and air), and you get to be smug at po-faced bitches with their squished little gnome-looking babies.  Everybody wins, especially you.

If it was me (as, in a few years, it probably will be), I would be telling any natural birth advocates exactly where they could stick it.  I’m not quite sure when ‘natural’ started automatically meaning ‘better’, but I’m pretty sure it’s ‘natural’ to just slog it out unmedicated through cancer, too.  Survival rates aren’t too hot, though.

I’m not saying that whenever you can use medicine, you should – I have some outspoken opinions about that too, but I’ll get to them another time. I’m just saying that in a situation where your choice is between horrible pain and no horrible pain, well, it doesn’t seem like a tough decision.

The most common subject the media covers regarding mums is whether they work or not.  Public reaction to articles about ‘career mums’ seems to be overwhelmingly negative – but on the other side of the coin, stay-at-home mums who claim benefits are also vilified.  This seems almost too obvious to point out, but right now there are very few families who can afford to feed, clothe and house themselves and a baby on the father’s income alone – so a mother’s choices are to work, or to milk the government for every penny they’ll give her.

Personally I don’t think either of those choices are wrong, or inherently detrimental to the family.  I think staying at home to raise your child is an admirable choice and I can’t imagine any woman regretting spending so much of their child’s early life interacting directly with them instead of sitting in some office somewhere drinking too much coffee and hating her boss.  I also think that having a mother who manages a successful career, no matter what field it is in, can have a very positive effect on a child, demonstrating the importance of working to support your family.

Having said that, though, when it’s my turn I will be staying at home hoovering up whatever free money I can get – and why not?  The amount I’ll have paid in taxes by the time I’m ready to start squeezing out sprogs, I think I’ll have earned the right to sit back and have some of that money returned to me.