Monday, December 30, 2013

Good old NHS

Being in Canada makes me so grateful for our British NHS!

There is a certain amount of provincial healthcare for everyone in Alberta. But it is limited: prescriptions and ambulances, for example, are not covered. And anything not covered must be privately funded or paid for by health insurance, often via an employer, as in the USA. With some things you can opt to pay if you want to control the way your healthcare happens. So, we asked for a private room in the hospital when the twins were born and there was a small charge for the privilege of not being on a ward. (Which would have been covered by Alberta Health Services).

Quite how an ambulance can be seen as a non-essential service I don't know. Anyway ....

There are family doctors here, a bit like GPs. They are the first port of call in most situations and are the 'gatekeepers' for other services. But from what I can gather, there are financial incentives for them to see large numbers of patients and to write prescriptions. I like our family doctor but was struck by the speed with which she prescribed drugs whenever I visited her.

Gradually I saw the problem: I was making an appointment in order to chat through a health issue and be advised on how to manage it. She expects her patients to make appointments in order to request a particular drug or referral (and she is paid, at least in part, for doing that).

I see healthcare as a service. She, a commodity.

I have seen my family doctor for initial referrals; a private company handling only blood and urine tests for those; a women's health clinic for obstetrics / gynaecological issues; a local health centre for my babies' immunisations and some post-partum services; a paedeatrician's clinic for my babies' regular check ups; one hospital for the birth; another hospital for a lactation consultant.

There is a certain amount of clunkiness when the services must overlap due - I assume - to the lack of central responsibility for me as a patient. Most frustratingly, when I asked for breastfeeding advice in the hospital (feeding twins is bloody difficult) I was told they didn't have anyone who could help me and I needed to go to another clinic to be referred to another hospital with such a member of staff. I dutifully went to the clinic but either they or the second hospital screwed up the admin, so it was several months before I actually saw a lactation consultant. By which time I had dealt, miserably, with mastitis and various other complications on my own.

Even the wards of a hospital adopt mutually exclusive systems for dealing with patients. So, when Rowan was in the NICU and Willow with us on a post-partum ward, it was impossible to manage conflicting demands. Nurses would come to give me a check up when I was supposed to be feeding Rowan. Wheelchairs to travel from ward to ward after a c-section were not available. Connecting doors to allow me to get from one ward to the other were locked. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when both twins and mum were discharged on the same day. It could have been otherwise.

The NHS may be a bit doddery sometimes. And certainly its admin is not perfect. But, at least in principle, the centre of British healthcare is the patient and her needs. As opposed to the systems, finances and designated responsibilities adopted by a particular provider of a specialist service.

Here in Canada, of course, things are a world better than they are in the States. There, being unemployed and ill is a fate to be dreaded. And having twins, even for those in gainful employment, can lead to bankruptcy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's parenting.

Comparisons are the mainstay of conversation amongst new parents. (I think comparisons are probably just as rife throughout all of life, we just don't discuss them openly.)

"Is little Jane doing this yet?" "Will Jonny do the other?" "How much do they cry / nap / eat / seem advanced beyond their tender weeks?" "How did you manage to get yours to do that?!"

Somewhere lurking behind all this is is the ultimate question - which of us is the 'better' parent / person, capable of producing 'better' children?

For some strange reason, little people give us a sense of permission to vocalise this envy and insecurity. I have blogged before about the way passers-by think it's okay to pass comment on your life and decisions once you are pregnant or in the company of a dependent child. This mystifies me. But perhaps it is a subtler way of saying 'I'm better than you' than would be saying 'I'm better than you'. Even the apparently innocent 'is he sleepy?', which might be a well-meaning question, often means 'He's sleepy. You, as a bad mother, haven't spotted it. But I, as a better sort of person, can tell.'

Why get angry if you see another parent doing something you wouldn't? Is it genuinely because you care more for their children than they do? Or are you angry because you're jealous to see them being so carefree? Annoyed their child is inconveniencing you in some way and wanting to apportion blame? Wishing you had been that careful with your own offspring?

I don't know. But I will be careful not to pretend my hatred of others (and we all have that darkness in us, somewhere) is really something else by diverting its expression towards their children. Children cannot challenge us, so they're an easy focus for jealousy, insecurity and self-obsession. But we do them a disservice to use them thus.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baby bubble

Everything about parenthood is intense and extreme. There are no 'okay' moments, - it's either amazingly wonderful or unbearably awful.

I have my fair share of desperate half hours. But during those that are sublime, I realise that living thousands of miles away from friends and family in sub-zero temperatures with none of my regular activities or pastimes to partake in ... is actually rather good.

There is no need to worry that I'm not keeping up with people, because I can't. There is no need to mourn the fact I can no longer get to orchestra, church, fitness classes or social occasions. Because I never started doing them here (that much, anyway.) There is less temptation to wish I had my old life back because even without the babies I couldn't recreate it in this context.

I can't even get in a flap about stupid little things, like not having chance to cook dinner. Our diet and culinary habits are so different in Edmonton that the rarity of an Anna-cooked meal, just one other change on top of many, goes largely unnoticed.

This is my baby bubble, for however long it lasts. And it's different in every sense to what has gone before.

The question (of course I still question myself - some things never change!) is, whether it would be more sensible to try to invest in the longer-term aspects of life despite the fact this is probably a temporary home. My babies will not be babies, or even children, for very long. But I will be me, with my quirks, abilities and needs, for the rest of my life. By not attempting to invest myself in things other than motherhood, am I missing out? Am I holding onto things that are better given away?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Attachment) Parenting Problems?

I sit here listening to my babies scream. It. Is. Awful. But I cannot rock twins to sleep four times a day or as often as they need to go to bed. (I attempted it a few times but don't have four arms or a steel spine).

Having two at once challenges many theories about 'ideal' parenting. (There is no such thing of course but don't they try to make us believe it?!)

Attachment Parenting is currently in vogue ... but it is impossible for a mother of multiples. As I have seen it practiced (rather than according to the theory - I have no idea whether the science will stand up to ongoing scrutiny) it is all is about: feeding on demand - so, yes, for comfort if that's what the baby wants - ; 'wearing' your child rather than using buggies, prams, swings and rockers; co-sleeping; never letting the child cry; avoiding dummies or 'artificial' means of comfort; creating a strong and exclusive bond between baby and mummy; letting baby drive all or any routine. Spoiling is dismissed as an impossibility and mum's well-being cannot be discussed without mum appearing weak or selfish.

Letting my babies cry themselves to sleep is a total NO.

AP is, in my view, a reaction to a previous generation's preference for DP (Detachment etc) in the extreme. Babies were once fed and changed according to their carers' schedules; left alone for long periods; kept in a different room to mum and dad who were authority figures not providers of comfort. That's all a bit Victorian: but letting baby cry themselves to sleep; setting a strict eating / napping routine and making them stick to it; making baby fit into mum's routine for the day are today's mutation.

No doubt a grey fuzzy place between the two is what's needed. A slightly different version for every family.

One of my two babies has to be left alone at any given time when dad's at work; they cannot both feed on demand; if I am to get any rest, they must learn to sleep at the same time and get there without human contact.

In many ways, although it's hard, I'm grateful. Try as I might I, can't fall into the trap of trying to be perfect according to the Attachment textbooks. I do what I must to get through the day. I look for patterns that suit me and the babies, attempt to implement them, and get used to the crying.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"worst of times, breast of times ..."

There are various things I wish someone had told me about having babies. I had lots of 'you should's and generalities spouted at me. But very little specific information.

Here are some of the things I was never told about breastfeeding, as a single topic:

1. Colostrum, that magic stuff your breasts produce as soon as the child is born, comes in tiny amounts and is clear gold in colour. We had one twin in intensive care for 5 days and Jon had to pump this stuff out of my boobs to take up to him. We would get maybe 10 drops total for half an hour's effort.
2. People talk about your milk 'coming in' about 2-4 days after the birth. This feels like a sudden inflation, your breasts like hot water balloons filling to bursting. It isn't comfortable. But it passes quick.
3. Breastfeeding is physically demanding, and not just tiring because it keeps you up at night. I am eating like never before.
4. There is no set amount of milk that your body knows to produce. It's a game of supply and demand: babies wanting to eat more and your body catching up; your body producing in anticipation of demand and babies catching up. It's hard. Most of the time you don't know what's going on, whether babies are hungry, why your breasts are leaking everywhere, what you should do about it, etc.
5. Engorgement happens and is terrifying but it is very likely to pass. Essentially, a boob overfills and becomes rock hard and swollen - significantly bigger than the other side - and very sore to breastfeed on. It's often lumpy where you have blocked milk ducts. The advice I was given when it first happened to me (and sent me into absolute terror in the middle of the night) was to rest, take a long hot shower and rub hot flannels over it. Also, massage it when baby was eating. Within 24 hours, it had gone.
6. I am convinced that engorgement, blocked ducts, low milk supply, etc happen to me when I haven't eaten or rested enough. SCOFF! NAP!
7. Breastfeeding is an all-consuming task. It is not just one of the chores you fit into your day of baby care. It is the focus of your life. Other people will most likely not understand this. Do not be afraid of that misunderstanding as you press on with the task in hand ...

Will add more if I think of more!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Assimilation for the nation

I have always been good at getting assimilated. One can never tell for sure, but I expect the affinity for camouflage sprang from some of the circumstances of my childhood.

First, I relocated aged 8 to Middlesbrough, a charming (ahem) town in the north east of England into which few 'outsiders' enter and from which few 'natives' leave. I was clearly a foreigner who needed to rid myself of embarrassing ways. Most notably, nobody in my peer groups spoke like me and difference was mocked, so within weeks I learned to speak with another accent. This being self-consciously done rather than a natural process (along with, I suspect, a certain amount of disdain for the local twang in the homestead) the new voice never took hold: between the ages of 8 and 21 or so, I had two ways of speaking - one for 'boro friends and one for everyone else.

Second, there's something about being the child of a church minister that requires an ability to toe the line. Our home was also a place of work and of refuge for the congregation: its peculiar type of privacy was protected with some angst by the nuclear family. My dad's family was always on show in his 'office'  on  Sunday and his working environment was also his community of at once friends and dependents. There is more to be said about this but I digress .... the point is, I learned to be very sensitive to the ways in which others might react to what I did and therefore to (subconsciously) adapt myself to ensure I never jarred their sensibilities.

Perhaps also I was a little girl among many children and especially girls of my generation who was taught that drawing attention to myself in the wrong ways was the bad thing, while making others happy was the good thing. But again, I digress ...

Having come to it in a very roundabout way, what I wanted to say is that my move to Canada has shown me I still do this assimilation thing. Anticipating without a second thought the blank look I might have got by using the word 'trainer', the first time I referred to that particular article of footwear in Edmonton, I called it a 'sneaker'. My greeting to others since day one has been 'Hey!' rather than 'Hi' or 'Alright?' as I would have said back home. I'll often hesitate to use a phrase or a word in a sentence because I find myself wondering if they have the same term here. I've picked up subtle conversational habits - a tendency to start sentences with 'So, ...' and a greater willingness to talk about daily trivia at length with strangers. Within a matter of weeks.

Not as quick at picking up accents any more though. It'd take quite a while before I could do a convincing Albertan. The best I might manage is something indistinguishable from a standard north American imitation that I can more or less pull off following years of a Hollywood media diet.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Final stretch. Ahem.

Last few weeks of pregnancy now (see my last post about the wonders of human gestation.)

I am more or less completely preoccupied with my physical state and struggle not to exclaim about it with every utterance. Perhaps blogging will lance the boil somewhat ...  ?? Hmmmmm.....

Each day I think, well this is surely as uncomfortable as it's going to get. And then there's a next day. I shed frustrated tears in bed last night at the sheer effort of rearranging (the 8) pillows and (just 4 of my own) limbs yet again in order to try and find a position comfortable enough to pass more than 30 mins' sleep.

I have to pull my legs about with my hands in order to reposition on the sofa, as abdominal muscles are so shot (or buried?) that they can no longer cope with this simple task.

My will is all for walking about in the fresh air, taking little trips, swimming every day: exercise is usually a great way for me to release physical or emotional tension. But in recent days I find that walking more than a mile is difficult. I must seriously consider each length of the pool or trip to the shop - will the journey there and back, combined with whatever activity is necessary once I've arrived - be too much? If I put myself through that physical challenge, am I going to be too exhausted to clean the bathroom (or whatever else it is that I need to get done today)?

My favourite thing is the way I have, again only in the last couple of weeks, developed stretch marks around my outrageously protruding belly button. This area is quite sore. I always bang it against things because each day it's a bit more swollen than the day before, so there's no opportunity to get used to its precise position out in front. And this area is the only part of my exterior where the babies like to play. So I can watch them merrily rolling hands or feet or shoulders or knees (hard to decipher their exact configuration) against this tender bit of skin time and time again, stretching it out and out and out a bit more.

Lovely stuff.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Getting to know you, Edmonton, AB.

Now I am a seasoned Edmontonian, what with having been in the city more than 7 weeks, here are some more observations.

1. Pedestrians are seen not as a commodity to be protected but a threat to the territory of the truck. We are a curiosity, perhaps. Alberta has jaywalking laws like the US - crossing the street other than at a designated place is NOT ok. But sometimes you find sidewalks blocked without a pedestrian diversion. (Jon and I had to do battle with a construction site today which blocked our route entirely. The driver of the heavy plant vehicle swinging foot thick chains around made no attempt to cease and let us pass.) And if you end up getting across the road a bit late after a green walking signal, you will find yourself in a tussle with a vehicle as likely as not.

Everyone drives huge trucks with tyres as big as me, usually carrying just one person and nothing in the back. And these trucks have no qualms about confronting pedestrians as if they were equal rivals for the roadspace. The same applies to cyclists. It's a little unnerving.

2. The weather is mental. A couple of weeks ago we had a day with max temperature -1. It hovered around -5 for most of the day. And within 5 days we had a day with a high of 30. I am serious. It is weird. Spring hasn't really happened. You can see the trees straining themselves to produce leaves and buds and blossom in a few short days in order to catch up and make something of the short summer. No doubt they dash through the process of autumn as well.

3. The cakes are plentiful and great. People often eat at 'bakeries' - it's kind of a city hobby. And most coffee shops feature an array of ginormous, lavishly decorate slabs of calories. It's good.

4. People are obsessed with Kate Middleton and the royal family. There are more news stories here about KM and more magazines with her on the cover than ever I had seen in the UK. And the huge West Edmonton Mall (biggest in the world, I believe) currently has an exhibition on Diana.

5. It's kind of dirty. The snow has now melted, leaving in its wake grime and the mounds of grit and salt thrown down during the 7 month winter to keep it at bay. Everything is dusty and coated.

6. But the sunshine is lovely. A walk today by the river at 25 degrees with my husband, from whom I lived apart for 5 months, more than makes up for the rest of it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

28 weeks later

Are women who say they love being pregnant, that it is a 'lovely', 'special' time, to be believed?

I suspect these sentiments are uttered because 1) they are easy to say in hindsight and make one sound positive and healthy 2) society pressurises women to believe being pregnant is some sort of natural state in which to languish.

But, then, I tend to assume that everybody must, at some level, be just like me... and often I'm wrong. Perhaps I am more of a grumbling old softie than the average gal. Perhaps some women really enjoy the whole physical process.

Having had a remarkably straightforward twin pregnancy thus far (28.5 weeks - it can only get worse!!) I have not enjoyed any of it. I am grateful and happy we have twins on the way. I enjoy the thought of them growing. Most of the time, I am very excited about their arrival in our lives. I am glad that I am pregnant. But do I enjoy the sensations and symptoms of pregnancy? No, no, no! How could I?!

Minor complaints: One gets fat and heavy - this is a novelty and source of amusement. One can't eat and drink certain pleasant things - this is easier than I expected. One is more tired - but only a little. One is continually anxious about the wellbeing of the passengers - I have managed to keep that fairly under control.

Common, relatively insignificant but nonetheless 'Aaaaaaargh' complaints:

At 6 weeks came the sickness. I barely suffered in comparison to some of my friends - only actually vomiting twice and with only a fortnight or so of severe dietary constraint - but I hated it.

Nausea was more or less gone by 14 weeks, with one exception: I can no longer tolerate mint. Tooth brushing is a daily bind.

I have had a blocked nose for the duration and it often bleeds.

Around week 22, I developed unbearably itchy skin on my tummy, breasts, upper legs and upper arms. Possibly PUPP. Mercifully and unexpectedly, this faded after a fortnight. I had tried to steel myself to cope with it until the birth (which seemed likely, given its usual pattern) but admit the prospect of rising to slather on steroid cream / calomile lotion / aloe vera 6 times a night for four months was making me nervous.

Aches and pains in the back, torso and legs multiplied steadily as the weeks went by and now standing, sitting and lying down are all problematic. Putting on socks or getting off the sofa require assistance or incur discomfort. These developments have irritated me since around week 18, when I found I could no longer jog. (Walking for anything up to an hour and swimming remain quite comfortable. Hurrah!)

Today, I am kept entertained by a tummy that feels like a sack of rocks, a crushing sensation on my lungs that (combined with the blocked nose) makes breathing hard, a bladder so squished I wee about 10 times a night, an ongoing battle with constipation, veiny boobs and swollen fingers.

Oh, and there are the non-physical things as well. Most notable, the constant comments about my condition from strangers. I don't want to be uncharitable: it's nice to be talked to. But it can also be intrusive and is extremely repetitive. I could write a week-by-week guide to the things said to you daily at each stage of your pregnancy. One example - at around week 20, the question of the moment is "Can you feel them (it) moving 'yet?". Which, like many of these 'Yet' questions, is pointless and angst-inducing for the woman who must answer 'no'.

The physical symptoms of pregnancy are so all-encompassing that the last thing I want is for every person who speaks to me to reinforce the message that my existence can now be summed up in one word: PREGNANT.

In summary: hats off to all those of you out there who enjoy this time of your lives. Really. If you feel that way, I am full of admiration. I can't wait for it to be over!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Relocation, relocation, relocation!

Here in Edmonton, Alberta just shy of 2 weeks.

It's a funny thing, international travel. In We Need to Talk About Kevin Eva, the travel-writing protagonist, explains to those impressed with her adventurous spirit that she's terrified before every trip: the idea of it overwhelms her. But, in bits, the task is so banal she can manage to get it done: book a ticket; pack a case; get to the airport; board a plane. And these few simple acts, completed one at a time, lead you to a strange place where you just have to exist. I feel a bit like this about the last months and days.

Culture shock or homesickness are the process your body and mind go through in order to catch up with the undeniable reality: the surroundings, habits and people you so recently faced every day are gone. You are confronted with the unfamiliar at every turn, forced to create a new routine and face every person as a stranger.

I've been very fortunate because Jon had done much of the scary admin in the 5 months before my arrival: navigating immigration; finding a home; sorting eligibility for healthcare; making contacts; learning how to cope with the weather; getting used to the transport system etc. Not sure how he managed it all on his own, to be honest. One of those 'had to get on with it' things, I guess.

Two observations, for now:

I am enjoying how laid back and friendly people are. In comparison, encounters with new people in Britain are suspicious: characterised by an "I don't know you yet - prove yourself to me" attitude. Connected with this, there is much more openness in Edmontonian conversation. Generally, those I've met are more talkative and happier to chat away about the trivia of their daily lives than their British counterparts. There's no obvious fear of a 'bovvered?' reaction. As a newcomer, this is welcome. Though my intolerant, cynical national characteristics may kick back in once I feel more settled and everyone starts irritating me!

I am not enjoying the weekly shop.

It is much more expensive so, for example, we buy the cheapest Canola oil rather than olive. There are things you can't get that I'm used to eating / drinking (stock; orange squash; a range of cheeses...)

More importantly: I see now that I was an 'ethical' shopper in the UK because of what was on offer. Fairtrade isn't really a thing here. Almost everything comes packaged in three layers of plastic. (You can get freerange eggs, much more pricey, but they come in a plastic box unlike the battery kind. What to do?!) There is a separate organic supermarket in the city, should one have the money and time to visit it. Similarly, one can buy less environmentally hazardous cleaning products - but it's not without significant consumer sacrifice. In the regular stores organic / envonronmentally-friendly is rare and costly. I haven't to date bothered too much about buying organic (as opposed to ethical) because food standards in the UK are pretty rigorous. But here, 'organic' may mean that your piece of beef or pint of milk has not been pumped full of chemicals and hormones. It may mean your tomato is not an affront-to-nature giant grown in a huge, energy sapping greenhouse.

I find myself concerned about the contents of my dinner, for the first time ever. And worrying about what we will feed the children once they are at that stage.

No doubt the unfamiliarity of it all exaggerates the anxiety. Obesity and strange allergies etc are more of a problem here. An Edmontonian's carbon footprint is huge. And yet people thrive. And if I think things are bad, I can reflect on the situation of our neighbours to the south and realise how good I have it.

If one chooses to live in a place that's a three-hour drive from its nearest neighbour and is under feet of snow for 7 months of the year, one must take some culinary adaptation on the chin.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Labouring in vain?

Just finished my first read relating to pregnancy and child-rearing, at 26 weeks. Child Rearing for Fun by Anne Atkins.

She is fairly annoying: right-wing, evangelical Christian, forthright. But for every 'fact' presented as such because it once appeared in the Daily Telegraph (!) there was an insightful sentence or two.

It's my first 'mummy' book because I studiously avoid most sources of advice. In general, be they online, in print or spoken by acquaintances, these are presented as vital and unequivocal when in fact they are the opinion of one or more people who are much more concerned with justifying their own parenting style than helping you with yours.

And they lead me to feelings of inadequacy, stress and confusion.

Why are we bombarded with attention and words of wisdom once with child? I do appreciate that the task ahead is profound. And that a swollen belly gives people otherwise shy and unsure a great way to connect with you. It can be nice.

But it is more often disconcerting. Strangers suddenly start explaining how you ought to live your life. Or even, in one case, stroking my tummy for about 10 straight seconds. Borderline abuse, really. And quite unsettling when heretofore you have been completely ignored by the world!

My husband would say I am rebellious ... but even the (again, very often conflicting) professional advice is claustrophobic. And I confess one of the ways I have dealt with that is to have eaten most of the foods one is not supposed to eat once or twice, had the occasional drink, carried on exercising in the same vein as before and avoided coming up with a birth plan with great determination. (I wouldn't advise anyone else to do these things, incidentally.)

Going back to the book, a friend whose parenting I respect recommended it. It tries to drag parenting back from the grips of wide-eyed, earnest advisers into the realm of the amateur human-being, for whom this great task can be normal, natural and more-than-likely something they do well and enjoy.

When you push all the well-meaning advice to its limit, I suppose what it is all about is avoiding death. The worst outcome of the 'wrong' choices during pregnancy or parenthood is the death of a child.

This would be inexplicably awful to endure.

And yet .... it lies not within my power to eradicate death from my child's future. I do not say this to advocate carelessness - simply to point out that carefulness is not the final answer.

One of Anne Atkins rather frustrating 'faith' interjections did make me stop and wonder about the source of my own attitude, which seems to be rather laid back and dismissive of those who advocate striving for parental perfection. She says that even death is a temporary separation. That our mortal choices will always be flawed but that if mistakes are made, they and any consequences can and will be redeemed in some wider realm. That human birth and death are only one part of a journey.

I too have this belief running through my veins. And perhaps it alters how I approach childbirth and child-rearing. I think that may be right. I hadn't considered my own stance in that light before.

In any case, now that's done, I'm back to Harry Potter and Doris Lessing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A bee in one's bonnet

Got rather irate over an email at work today. I do hope this isn't too dull for you all ...

Christian Aid Week mobilises somewhere in the region of 200,000 British and Irish volunteers to go out collecting money for the poorest communities in the developing world. They come, almost entirely, from churches: those who give them money and those who receive it are of all faiths and none.

My email informed me about a vicar in a certain Wiltshire town who has instructed his congregation to cease volunteering in this way because it is "such a bad witness to those who are not Christian when churchgoers knock on their door and ask for money."

Is this not crazy talk? There may well be valid reasons for objecting to house-to-house fundraising. But this 'bad witness' lark is surely not one of them.

It makes me cross because it assumes people who are not Christian somehow need mollycoddling.

It makes me cross because it puts the reputation of a local church ahead of the most vulnerable in the world.

It makes me cross because it is an example of a church leader abusing their power and the trust placed in them.

And most of all, it makes me cross because it makes a mockery of what church should be about. We cannot let ourselves get preoccupied with our image, popularity and survival. We need to stop caring whether the church as we know it means anything to the 'non Christian' and think about glorifying God and bringing in his kingdom on earth. A God whose glory may have nothing to do with our own; a God whose home will be characterised by justice for the poor.

Jesus didn't go around telling people to look at how great he was and keep him alive. He went around telling people to look out for signs of God's kingdom. Sitting rather lightly to his own survival.

Just saying. Tsk.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

On Why You Shouldn't Have Children, and other things

Got a bundle of feminist books for my birthday last year and am just on to reading them. (Finishing the BBCs 100 books you should read has had me distracted.....)

Ashamed to say I haven't before read The Female Eunuch or The Golden Notebook. They are yet to come. But I have just finished How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.

 * Incidentally, I have made the most awful reading choices recently, in terms of how it relates to my life. Not long after a miscarriage in June, I read The Time Traveller's Wife, which is punctuated by several such tragedies. I had seen the film previously but had somehow forgotten that part. Then in early stages of pregnancy, I read We Need To Talk About Kevin. I knew it was about a high school killer but not about his mother's reluctancy to be pregnant and struggle to feel positive about his arrival. And finally, thinking I was safe, I embarked on How To Be A Woman. Best not to read the chapter on having children, pregnant ladies, I would say. But I digress. *

I expected to be guffawing away at this book, and it wasn't like that. But I did enjoy it. I think the last 4 chapters were best, possibly as these discuss the life stages closest to my own.

I like Moran's admission that we're kidding ourselves to suggest women have achieved as much as men, as we trawl out the token female scientist for our list of acclaim. Women have not. But this is to be expected: after years of being sidelined, it was always going to take years for us to get our mojo back. I also like her suggestion that we females need to stop thinking it's enough just to 'be', while letting the men 'do'. Why should we believe what we're told - that it's enough for us to look pretty, manage relationships well and be the stable force of the domestic sphere? We can also go out in the world and work hard, make a difference, get in people's faces.

I especially enjoyed the chapter Why You Shouldn't Have Children. Even though I'm about to have some, I wish women who say they don't want to were typically a) believed and b) applauded. Why do female celebrities get asked about work / baby balance when men never do? Why do we all shy away from saying pregnancy and labour and motherhood are a bit shit, for very much of the time? Why do we feel sorry for a woman who reaches 45 without children, as if her life is really now over and she hasn't done the one thing she was made for? And, most exasperatingly, why would we suggest it is selfish for a woman not to have children; an accusation it would never cross our mind to direct at a man? Hello! Apart from the fact this is patriarchal rubbish, you may have noticed that the world already has quite enough people.

Moran says: "Every woman who chooses - joyfully, thoughtfully, calmly, [...] not to have a child does womankind a massive favour in the long term". Hear, Hear! Being honest, I have often wondered to what extent societal pressure made me believe my own qualms about motherhood were invalid.

To quote Moran, when considering children, "If you're insanely talented and not at all broody, why not just go and have more fun?"

Friday, January 25, 2013

Leave of absence

Hello. I am still alive. And occasionally having thoughts about the world. In case you all missed me UNBEARABLY.

Blogging is meant to be vaguely regular, I suppose, but I do find it difficult to keep up when life gets hectic. Some of my friends say the opposite is true for them - it becomes an outlet for the swarming thoughts of an overcrowded brain.

I batten down the hatches at these times. I can only present something in a public forum when a) my brain is otherwise clear and b) I have at least 20 minutes free to ponder over exactly what I'm going to say.

This post is breaking the mould, rather, as I haven't thought about it at all. I'm afraid I simply felt pressurised to add something, after two months' absence. Hence this being incredibly dull.

Please note that I have added some new links to exciting blogs that belong to my friends.

I shall endeavour to think interesting things a bit more often for coming months. In other news, I will be thinking about: leaving work (short-term); moving country; dealing with two people who live in my tummy. It is highly likely that somewhere along the road I will find myself rocking in a corner, losing my marbles one by one.

(Tip of the day - everyone should read We Need To Talk About Kevin at some point but not in the early stages of pregnancy)