Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Motherhood Approaches

Firstly, I should apologise for the lengthy silence. It was my turn to blog, and blog I did not. But I hope you'll understand, when I fill you in on some of the crazy shit that's been happening. Like, we moved house. But that's not really important. What's important is why we moved house.

I'm going to be a mother.

I know, right?

Writing this, I am 23 weeks pregnant. We are going to have a little boy. He's (hopefully) going to be born around February 15th. We're going to call him Arthur. I am overjoyed. And freaking out a little bit. And, while I could happily blather away about pregnancy and babies for a whole series of posts, I will spare you that and instead muse on some of the issues pertaining to feminism I have encountered in my pregnancy journey thus far.

I had no idea. Firstly, I had no idea that I would feel like this. I wanted a baby, sure, but I never dreamed I would love him so completely before he was even born. That little boy is the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep. He's with me constantly and I daydream about him all day. His name is like a talisman. And if I never do or achieve anything else in my life, if I never have any more children, if my career never happens, that's actually fine by me. I feel like I've found my purpose, and it's him. I will dedicate my life to him. Which is probably not very traditionally feminist, but it's how I feel, and so much of how I understand feminism is to do with choice. It's my life, and if I want to focus it completely on this baby (at least for now), I'm free to do so. And I think it's shit that mothers of small children are sometimes forced to return to work for financial reasons. What happened to the choices that our predecessors fought for? If mothers want to work, then all power to them, but childcare is so expensive that, unless they're quite high up the ladder, they may well end up paying more than they're earning. I know we got a lot wrong in the past, but a man used to be paid with the assumption that he was supporting a family. Why have men's wages gone down, instead of women's wages going up? Please don't get me wrong: I'm all for stay-at-home dads as well. I think it's good for under-fives to be cared for by one of their parents at least some of the time. I think that individuals should be paid enough to make that possible. I guess the solution is the 'village approach' pioneered in this excellent article on babies' sleep: as a society, we need to get behind young families and all pitch in. Which works if you're in a church community like mine, or if you have really good friends, or live in an actual old-fashioned village community, or live near your family, or something. Otherwise, I'm not sure how it works. We're trying to work out what we'll do when my maternity leave ends. I'd like to finish my PhD, if they'll let me go part-time. We're in a privileged position: Jon works four days a week so he could have Arthur one day. My friend is thinking of starting up childminding and says she'll charge us not very much to have him one other day. So maybe that'll work.

Another thing I had no idea about was that EVERYONE has an opinion on everything and anything to do with children: how to raise them, and how to birth them. I've had near-strangers chiming in on Facebook with their supposed wisdom. Sometimes I've asked for input, sometimes I haven't. Arguably, when one posts something to Facebook, one invites comment and participation, but I have felt a little scrutinised, a little attacked, when I'm questioned about my choices. We have decided to have a doula attend the birth. For lots of reasons. But, gosh, some people disagree. There you go. I'm also not going to breastfeed. Not because I don't want to but because I'm on medication, and if I don't take that medication, I will become very ill very quickly, and if I feed the baby that medication... well, obviously not good. But I don't half feel shit when this sort of thing gets posted:

Yeah, that's really helpful. Feminism is supposed to be empowering. Mmm. And let's just get a reality check here. Baby formula is a formula designed for babies. It's not liquid crack. We do the best we can for our children. Feminism 'in its purest form' should honour that, and facilitate it, not guilt-trip us because we cannot live up to the ideal, whether that be breastfeeding, vaginal birth, or whatever.

This blog does seem to get a bit ranty. I apologise - I intended to be thoughtful rather than ranty. But can I just have one more little moan? When you step into a shop that sells baby stuff, be it Mothercare or Matalan, why is the shop divided in half with everything blue on one side and everything pink on the other, with one sad-looking rail of white stuff for the parents who chose not to find out their baby's gender until the birth? It just seems like outdated, heteronormative bullshit to me. It's not like a baby is even aware of their gender. And, if gender is social performance rather than just what genitals you have, do babies even have an established gender? Do they care?

Anyway, those are just a few thoughts!

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