Obvious Child – a witty, touching romcom written and directed by Gillian Robespierre – has been nicknamed the ‘abortion romcom’. But this isn’t quite accurate. It’s a comedy, yes, but the jokes revolve around the seemingly doomed love life of a twentysomething woman and materialise in her self-deprecating one-liners. There are very few jokes about the actual act of terminating a pregnancy.
The narrative arc begins with stand-up comic and book shop assistant Donna’s discovery of an unwanted pregnancy, followed by the ‘will she/won’t she’ conflict and the resolution is an abortion. Comedy does weave in and out of the dialogue but to dub the film ‘abortion comedy’ makes light of Robespierre’s courageous decision to tackle one of the most taboo feminist issues of today.
According to Guttmacher Institute, ‘half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion’. So it’s fairly common. Why, then, does this remain such a touchy topic, and one that is most often excluded from contemporary arts? Perhaps it’s because acknowledging a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy means giving women power and in patriarchal Hollywood, this doesn’t sit comfortably.
That’s why it’s such a triumph that the film, which made it to Sundance following a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, has been a resounding box office hit. You see, people are ready to talk about feminist issues – and they’re ready to admit that women are funny too. Well, some of them are.
I found the film sensitive, endearing and empowering to watch. The writing is intelligent, the acting is great – particularly Jenny Slate’s portrayal of Donna – and it is genuinely funny. But most importantly: it makes you think. It takes you on Donna’s journey and challenges you to put yourself in her shoes – what would you do if you found yourself pregnant from a one-night-stand?
While abortion may be legal, common and perfectly reasonable subject matter for a film – let’s not forget that it’s a difficult, painful decision to make; and it’s rarely taken lightly. But we all respond differently to traumatic situations. Some might cry, others will become introspective and withdrawn – and others make jokes to ease their inner turmoil.
What makes Obvious Child so realistic is that it cleverly depicts the complex emotions Donna is experiencing. It doesn’t trivialise abortion; it documents how one woman deals with it – and that happens to be by turning it into a big joke.
Thankfully, Robespierre didn’t opt for a trite Sex and the City-esque monologue, detailing every last thought flying through Donna’s mind, to demonstrate her inner distress – instead she found clever, alternative ways to hint at it. Like the single tear that wells up in each eye as Donna lies in surgery, waiting for the anaesthetic to kick in before the procedure. Whoops – spoiler alert. But you may as well go in knowing that the outcome won’t necessarily be everyone’s idea of a happy ending. For me, it is the perfect ending because women should absolutely have the right to terminate or to go through with a pregnancy – and Obvious Child simply documents one example of the former.
Following her termination, Donna sits in the recovery room surrounded by other young women in gowns. This scene is poignant, as it addresses the fact that abortion really is commonplace. It’s happening every day. And the patriarchy, Hollywood and the anti-choice brigade ought to get used to it.
As Paul Simon says in the song that the film title is derived from, The Obvious Child: ‘I don’t expect to be treated like a fool no more’. We’re hearing you Paul – and neither do us laydees. We’ve had enough of being told what to do with our bodies and we’ve had enough of being dictated to about which subject matter is appropriate to discuss. Good on Robespierre for going with her heart and creating such a compelling piece of art.
The moment I found out I was pregnant with Joni – after weeing on a stick and seeing two blue lines appear – I went for a run. It was early, around 6.30am, so Rich was sleeping. I remember it being a cool September morning with a clear blue sky and the sun just beginning to shine. I ran fast through the streets of Walthamstow, elated, a new bounce in my step.
I’d been running daily, between three and seven miles, for five years. Nothing put me off – i’d be out there with severe hangovers, in torrential rain, on icy winter pavements, in the blisteringly hot Sicilian morning sun. I love running. I love feeling my heart beat fast, my body warming up – and perspiring – controlling my breath so that i’m not panting. I love crunching the auburn autumn leaves with my heel, feeling the sting of a December morning on my cheeks, running under a pink sky as the sun begins to rise and darting past newly blooming spring flowers.
So when, at 8 weeks gestation, I developed bad morning sickness – throwing up from the moment I rose until midday, sometimes longer – I was fairly disappointed that I could no longer go for my morning run. I assumed that the sickness would ease at 12 weeks (that’s what everyone tells you) and that i’d then be able to run again – but mine continued until week 30.
To plan b: swimming. I realised I could swim through the sickness if I had a small snack first thing, so from then on I swam between 30 and 60 lengths every weekday morning. If I felt particularly weak, tired or sick – i’d take it easy, but often I felt amazing in the water so i’d take to the fast lane and swim front crawl – much to the surprise/ dismay/ disgust of fellow swimmers who assumed pregnant women are disabled by the foetus growing inside them – until I hit a (metaphorical) wall. I was still swimming up to, and past, my due date. I could see the man on the front desk growing increasingly concerned as my bump got bigger and bigger and I kept appearing. He’s Chinese and explained that in his culture pregnant women stay at home, sometimes in bed, for the last few months.
Swimming helped me to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout my pregnancy. I felt heavy and tired towards the end, but never breathless. And so after giving birth, I spent the first two weeks resting and doing pelvic floor exercises (SO important – if you don’t want piss yourself when jumping/ sneezing/ laughing etc for the rest of your life) then I began doing gentle pilates, using YouTube videos, and baby yoga classes. At six weeks I got back into the advanced pilates I was practising pre-pregnancy and today, at 12 weeks postpartum, I went for my first run.
As well as being my first post-birth run, it was the first time i’ve been separated from Joni. I left Rich with two bottles of expressed milk and a recently-fed, chirpy baby and set off. I was wearing my new Nike running trainers from Runners Need, chosen by the assistant after she watched how my feet landed when I jogged on a treadmill, and a very supportive Nike sports bra. As I ran along the pavement and into Priory Park, I was surprised by how comfortable it felt to run. Then after a half a mile, I felt a burn in my throat. It reminded me of when I first started running and all the shit that had settled in my lungs was pushed up into my throat. That’s why runners spit. So I spat, did some stretches and set off again. I went round the park three times (about 5k), stopping to catch my breath and stretch, remembering little tricks like arching your back for a burst of energy (yoga tip), then spotted a dodgy geezer lurking in the Philosopher’s Garden and sprinted back home to safety. Feeling a bit scared always helps me to pick up speed.
At home I warmed down, did half and hour of pilates then showered. And I’m still feeling HIGH an hour later, as Joni feeds and I write this.
So good to be running again.
Yesterday morning, Joni and I got up early for our first trip into town without Rich. This may sound like a simple task but when you have a big heavy buggy to lug up and down stairs, potential mid-journey meltdowns or nappy disasters and a baby who likes to feed a lot – it takes some planning. Basically, disaster could strike at any time.
Fortunately, the 91 goes from Crouch End – where we’re staying – all the way to Trafalgar Square. So we hopped on and Joni had a feed which, along with the vibrations of the bus, lulled her into a deep sleep for the duration of the journey. I sat reading my book: Blueprints for Better Girls by Elissa Shnappell – a great collection of short stories about women and girls – waiting for that meltdown, or nappy disaster, but it didn’t happen.
We got off on The Strand, walked through a bustling Charing Cross station and over the Golden Jubilee bridges – posing for a photo, bopping to the steel drums and then delighting at the discovery of a lift to take us to ground level – and walked down the river to the BFI.
We met our friends for a coffee then the three mums pushed the three babies back towards Southbank Centre, feeling like a power buggy brigade. Feeling like those mums. But whatever – spirits were high, the sun was shining and the babies were all being lovely and smiley and calm.
As part of Southbank’s Festival of Love, the Heartbreak Hotel – a 70s motel – has been set up in Festival Village, under Queen Elizabeth Hall. The theme is the brainchild of Lyn Atelier – and Walthamstow’s neon sign maker-extraordinaire, Chris Bracey, designed a whopping bright sign for it:
We had a soda water at The Department of Cheer, a pop-up bar, though the strong smell of mint and ginger suggested a mojito might have been the drink to opt for if you’re not a breastfeeding mum. But they did their best to jazz up our non alcoholic drinks with fresh lime. That was after walking through The Museum of Broken Relationships…
I’ve wanted to see this touring exhibition for years. The curators ask people to donate relics from past relationships that they no longer have any use for. So there are kinky handcuffs, an unworn hand-sewn wedding dress, shoes, a wedding ring and lots of other memorabilia.
With each object, the previous owner has scribed a note explaining the significance. Some are so sad – tales of broken hearts, lost love and adultery abound. Some are humorous (the ones about sex). But all touch a nerve, because most of us have been in that position when a relationship ends: what to do with the photos, presents, letters – burn them? Keep them in a box? Donating them to this museum seems like a good option, as you’re letting go – but without the rage of destroying your material memories, or the secretiveness of keeping them stored away.
On the same floor, there’s an installation homage to the problem pages of 70s teenagers. Dear Cathy and Claire: an Exhibition of Letters to Jackie Magazine’s Famous Agony Aunts is exactly what you’d predict: lots of letters. But they’re displayed in a mock 1970s office – brown with patterned wallpaper, typewriters and desk lamps. And they’re rather funny to read.
After a discussion about what we’d each done with the physical remnants of past relationships, we headed to Canteen for lunch before going our separate ways.
Joni slept most of the day – just waking for feeds and to have a little look around – and I was pleasantly surprised by all the lifts and ramps, which make Southbank really accessible and buggy-friendly. It wasn’t until we reached the front door that she began to CRY so I hurriedly pulled the buggy in, slammed the door and tended to her, feeling grateful that she’d held out all day.
When I was about seven, my mum said I was allowed to walk the half mile to school with my friends and without adult supervision. I was delighted. I’d meet four friends, excitedly, at the Park Avenue North entrance to Ally Pally, then walk through the alleyway towards the school gates, always finding time to pop into ‘Amit’s’ sweet shop on route. Amit was the son of the owner and in our year at Campsbourne primary school – I never knew what the shop was actually called.
There were big plastic tubs of old school sweets: aniseed balls and twists, lemon sherbets, Tom Thumb drops – as well as a selection of magazines, cigarettes and household items. We were only interested in the sweets and the Hubba Bubba bubblegum (9p a packet).
I remember standing in front of the counter, a tall man looking down at me, deciding what to spend my 50p on. And I have a vivid memory of it being very dark. The lights were never on, or they were extremely dim, so it was cool in the summer but also a momentary downer as you left the bright sunshine to buy a lollypop from a near pitch-black shop.
The reason I was reminded of Amit’s – and of childhood sweet shops in general – is because I went to see Lucy Sparrow’s felt installation: The Cornershop, last weekend. Set in a little shop on the corner of Wellington Row and Ravenscroft Street, just off Columbia Road, Sparrow spent months sewing replica feminine hygiene products, sweets, chewing gum, fags, newspapers – and everything else you might find in your local convenience store – to fill the shelves and units.
Walking around the cramped, dark shop – eyeing up the familiar items so perfectly reconstructed in felt – took me back to childhood. But not in a superficial, rose-tinted way; it mimics the slight grottiness of those shops, which makes it feel incredibly real. Sparrow’s installation made me realise that the cornershop, as I know it, is dying out. (Amit’s closed down years ago and is now someone’s house).
Take your children, who’ll love this life-sized, exciting installation – and if you grew up frequenting cornershops, as I did, you’ll love the trip down memory lane too.
Open until 31st August 10am-7pm daily.
19 Wellington Row, E2 7BB
Before Joni was born, I spoke with friends about how I intended to continue seeking intellectual stimulation after the birth and to not become completely lost in a world of nappies and newborn baby photos. I was, and still am, keen to socialise with other mothers – but as well as sharing baby anecdotes, I wanted to be discussing adult issues.
And I maintain that it’s important to engage with the wider world. But what I didn’t realise was how utterly all-consuming motherhood would be. You can’t convey, sufficiently, to someone who isn’t a parent how it feels to bring a new life into the world. How besotted you become with this wholly dependent being. And so I didn’t understand other parents’ attempts to relay this to me.
So then Joni was born and suddenly my life completely changed direction. Or perhaps it was the same direction – but just playing out at a different pace. A much slower, more considered pace. Everything I do, including but not limited to: going to the loo, preparing food, shopping, getting on the tube, leaving one room to get something from another, going to bed – requires careful consideration because I’m no longer rolling solo. Now there are two of us, at all times.
I enjoy the challenges of motherhood – there’s nothing as satisfying as soothing a crying baby. Or as joyous as making your baby smile and laugh, or as funny as hearing them release huge farts – and so I want to share these experiences with my friends and family. But then I’m reminded of those conversations during pregnancy – the ones where I said my Facebook feed wouldn’t be filled with photos of my baby, or that my conversations wouldn’t be dominated by poo stories – and suddenly I feel guilty for every conversation about Joni. Like I’m burdening other people with the details of my seemingly mundane life. But to me it’s so far from mundane.
That’s why reading psychotherapist Naomi Stadlen’s book: What Mothers Do (especially when it looks like nothing) – and her stance on becoming a mother – is so refreshing, and reassuring. She compares the initial shock of having a newborn baby to the emotional and physical changes we experience when falling into ‘erotic love’, but we prepare very differently for each event:
‘We don’t go to falling-in-love preparation classes. Rather, the enormity of falling in love is described in songs and poetry, as tragedy and comedy, so it is communicated on many different levels by one generation to the next. ‘Oh, she’s in love,’ we say, and those two crucial words convey a wealth of meaning. We expect the person who is in love to be dreamy, moody, forgetful, unavailable for ordinary commitments and wholly focused on the beloved person.’
This, too, is how a new mother may feel and behave. And yet she’ll often feel guilty for being fixated on the new object of her love and affection: her baby. Imagine feeling guilty for putting up pictures of you and your boyfriend on Facebook? Or for worrying that you’re talking about him too much with friends? You wouldn’t, because friends should be delighted that you’re happy and should revel in your tales and photos. Of course, most of the guilt a new mother feels is self-inflicted. I know that my friends and family love hearing about Joni, and my experience of motherhood. They’ve not once made me feel as if I should change the subject – I issue myself with limitations.
But I want to be out and proud, rather than apologetic, about falling in love with Joni. There’s nothing more beautiful than new love – this is why it’s the subject of some of the greatest films, novels, poetry and paintings – and this certainly is new love. I’m writing songs and poetry about Joni and the new journey I’m on, as well as filling my blog with posts about motherhood because, right now, this is what I’m doing. And it’s beautiful and enriching and eye-opening – and as wonderful and inspiring as falling in (romantic) love for the first time.
The novelty of true love never wears off but we become less utterly submerged in the object of our affection, and more able to focus on other aspects of life. So if my Facebook feed’s a little baby-heavy, or my conversations centre around sleep routines and nappy breaches, fear not: I’ll soon come back down to earth. But in much the same way that your first love opens your eyes to something so all-encompassing and magnificent, Joni’s arrival has changed me profoundly and i’ll never be quite the same again.
I wrote an article for Motherland London on pregnancy and body image. Read it here (or click on the image).
Throughout pregnancy I was surrounded by women who dreaded the thought of giving birth. Some of those women weren’t even pregnant yet. But I managed to avoid fearful thoughts by focusing on what my mum had told me: contractions feel like period pains (and i’ve had enough of them to know they’re manageable) and the actual birth is, really, very quick.
I also avoided people and books who, though well-intentioned, couldn’t help but slip in a negative: “it’s the most amazing thing, and you’ll be fine… but it is painful. There’s no escaping that.” All I wanted to hear was the first part; that giving birth is mind-blowing and that I’d be fine.
Because it was mind-blowing and I was fine.
And so here are some common lies, myths and misconceptions about vaginal births debunked:
1. It’s like pushing a melon through a lemon.
This metaphor is not a useful one, as a lemon doesn’t have the flexibility or stretchability that a vagina does. If you attempted to push a melon through a lemon, the lemon would break. But vaginas don’t break from childbirth – they’re fully capable of stretching out to accommodate a little baby head.
Robbie Williams said that watching his wife give birth was like watching his favourite pub burn down. Someone else described his partner’s post-birth vagina as looking like a trifle that had slipped onto the floor. These jokes make women terrified that they’ll never have ‘normal’ vaginas again.
This is not true. Granted, it might be wise to not send your partner down to the business end during the birth if he’s squeamish (Rich kept his eyes locked to mine at all times) – but once you’ve been cleaned up, the healing begins. I was swollen for a couple of days and had to take care of my episiotomy stitches, but doing lots of pelvic floor exercises – straight away – reduced swelling and pulled everything back into shape extremely fast. I’m seven weeks post birth and you’d never know a head with a 38cm circumference had exited via my nether regions. Our bodies open up to birth our baby, and close up afterwards.
Labour and giving birth is excruciatingly, unbearably painful.
Women’s bodies are designed to give birth. Our hips are wide to create space for a baby’s (malleable) head to push through the pelvis. The contractions you feel are your body preparing the birth canal for the baby to make her/his way down it – and there are lots of ways to distract yourself from the discomfort you may feel. The TENS machine worked wonders for me, gas and air also worked a dream – and then if you need more relief (I did), there are other options. I had an epidural after about 36 hours of contractions. Other women use hypnobirthing, different breathing techniques, birthing pools, movement. Whatever feels right at the time. And midwives are amazing – they’ll give you options before and during the birth. It’s not unbearable. It’s a relatively short timeframe. And just remember: you get a baby at the end of it.
Giving birth zaps sex from every relationship.
You might need to be a bit more imaginative about finding the time to have sex with a newborn baby, but physically – there’s no reason you can’t get back into it as soon as you feel ready. I was told that it would really hurt. It didn’t. Everything tightens up a bit but if you’re gentle, take your time and stop if it’s not happening for you – you’ll soon get back into the swing of things. Move at your own pace and enjoy it. Of course, it will feel different for every woman but one thing’s for sure: having an open mind will relax your body, and that’s the most important thing.
It hurts to do a ‘number two’ after an episiotomy
As above – being scared about going to the toilet post birth won’t help. Relax your mind, know that nothing will go wrong if you do a poo and go to the toilet just as you always have. I was prescribed laxatives by a doctor but I chose not to take them as I didn’t want them to interfere with breastfeeding so, instead, I ate LOADS of fruit when I got home (two mangoes, a pineapple, five apples, raisins, a couple of bananas – every day) which softened my stools and going to the loo was no problem. The only problem, initially, was that I was quite tense after the doctor telling me lies about how it would feel. You needn’t be – I assure you. But a good tip is to hold a pad against your lady bits and apply some pressure if you do feel concerned.
There are so many more bullshit stories that people share but you should just ignore them if they’re making you feel worried about giving birth. So remember: you’ll be in great hands (and there will be lots of hands: midwives, doctors, anaesthetists are all available if you’re having a hospital birth), your body is designed to give birth and you’ll have the most amazing baby at the end of it. It was one of the best days of my life giving birth to Joni (see the slightly blue-looking, squidgy baby in the photo above). It wasn’t what might be considered a smooth birth but I kept an open mind, was well looked after, had an excellent birth partner and look forward to doing it all again.
Baby. Breasts are for babies, not lads. Lads may like them, but babies need them for nourishment. And yet our Western fetishising of boobs means that breastfeeding mums are stigmatised; they’re made to feel as if they’re doing something naughty.
While pregnant with Joni (my firstborn, six-week-old baby) I was sat in a cafe. A woman walked in, pulled out her entire breast, pushed it into her infant’s mouth and walked up to the counter. Now that i’m a breastfeeding mum, I think: wow – that takes some skill (and courage) but at the time I thought: is that really necessary? Why not just sit in the corner, drape a scarf from your shoulder over your baby’s head and feed her discreetly?
However, I now get why she did that – and fully endorse it. Covering a baby’s head in a scarf not only upsets the already hot, sweaty baby but it also means that the mother can’t observe the baby as she feeds. Keeping a muslin covering both the breast and the baby is quite an art. And all so that the men (and women) around you don’t feel uncomfortable.
That woman got her breast out because her baby was hungry and newborns will NOT wait to be fed – when they realise they’re hungry, they need milk immediately. So finding a muslin, positioning herself, latching the baby on and making sure they were both covered up – so as not to offend – would have been a faff, probably resulting in a screaming baby. And the reason she walked across the cafe is because she wanted to order a drink. If her baby was settling down for an hour-long feed, she was going to get thirsty. There was no other option.
As a society, we frown upon women openly breastfeeding. Women who dare to do so are accused of being exhibitionists, of trying to flirt with the men around them or of showing off. But in most other cultures, feeding a baby milk from your breast is the norm and so needn’t be hidden. We’re not a prudish nation when it comes to baring flesh if it’s on display for men to gawp at – and we shouldn’t be in a breastfeeding context, either.
I was in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago and Joni started pursing her lips, signalling her hunger. I decided to finish my shop then walk home to feed her. Except as I mentioned earlier: baby doesn’t wait for mum to be ready because she’s not yet a rational being. And so she started crying softly, and then loudly and then she was WAILING. People were looking at me like I was an incapable mother. So I dumped my trolley, found a seat by the toilets, got my tit out and shoved it in her mouth. She was instantly appeased but the people around me were appalled.
I was frowned upon for having a crying baby and I was frowned upon for stopping my baby from crying.
Many of the women within close proximity were wearing burkas, as there’s a large muslim community in Walthamstow. So here were two ends of the spectrum: these women completely covered – with only their eyes showing – and then me, exposing a part of a breast, as well as arms, legs etc. Perhaps each of us making the other feel uncomfortable.
The Qur’an encourages women to breastfeed and within female only groups, behind clothes doors, muslim women often breastfeed openly. But in public they’re told to dress modestly and breastfeed discreetly so I wondered what they made of my behaviour.
Before Joni came along, I didn’t understand anything about breastfeeding in public and how taboo it is, how difficult it is to do discreetly – and comfortably – and about the stick (perhaps unspoken, but we’re sensitive to every glare) women get for feeding their baby with their breasts. So I get that other people feel the same. But it’s high time we made breastfeeding public again and dropped this limited view on what boobs should be used for. Enjoy them during sex, if that’s your thing, but let mums enjoy using them to feed their babies; in private, as well as in public – if they choose to.
Sometimes I want to go to my room and feed with no one else around, and at other times I’m happy to be around friends and family. Then there are times when we’re out – because mums, like everyone else, do need to leave the house – and Joni needs feeding. Whether I do it behind a cloth or openly, in a park, supermarket or café shouldn’t matter to anyone else because these are my tits and right now: they’re for feeding.
So get over it and cast your judgmental gaze elsewhere. Maybe on the woman with the hoiked up cleavage who has hers out because she wants you to look – and gives a shit about what you think.
I was sat topless on the sofa on Wednesday – babe sucking on one boob, electric expresser on the other churning out breast milk. The repetitive hum of the machine reminded Rich of his days milking cows with his dad. He was laughing. I found it less funny. “I’ve turned into fucking a cow!” I exclaimed.
But at least i’ll be able to go out for dinner without my baby, I reassured myself. So I finished giving Joni her milk from my right breast, and filled a plastic bottle with milk from my left breast to decant into little milk storage pots (laboriously washed and sterilised) which I labelled with the date and lined up in the freezer.
I wondered how Rich felt that night as he walked to the tube station to meet his friends in Hoxton. Would he replay the image of me looking like a human milk machine, lamenting the days when i’d be dolled up beside him? Or would he cast the image from his mind and focus instead on the cold lagers he’d be sinking, while discussing anything but babies with his pals. (There’s a third option, of course: that he’d lovingly recall my efforts to both nurse my baby AND produce spare milk so that I could be all his for one-nite-only. But I’m no idiot).
And it was then I realised how much pressure western society puts on new parents to quickly ‘regain independence’. Parenting author (who has no children) Gina Ford tells new mums to have sex two weeks after giving birth to make sure their relationship doesn’t turn to shit. Women are encouraged to think about returning to work immediately by arranging 10 ‘keep in touch’ days during maternity leave. And we’re all told to make sure we have a life away from the baby.
But why is this? Can you imagine an African tribeswoman expressing milk so she could have some time away from her young? Or a cavewoman dumping the baby on a friend so she could join her man for a romantic candlelit dinner? It wouldn’t happen. And that wouldn’t lead to them falling out of love – because there’s no greater bond than creating life together.
How have we moved so far from this innate need to stay glued to our babies – and to be supported, not resented, by society for doing so? And when did we stop listening to instinct, and adopt this insular, western method of parenting?
In Kate Evans’ The Food of Love, she discusses human beings as a tribal species:
‘…Just as surely as fish swim in shoals and wildebeest run in herds, we have evolved to live in a close-knit, extended family group. There is a common saying in many countries that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and if we were living as we used to live, at least twenty other people would be actively helping you and you partner to look after this baby.’
While I’m perplexed by this urgent need so many of us feel to abandon the baby as soon as possible for some ‘me time’ – I certainly advocate calling in help. So I take comfort in Evans’ tribal attitude towards parenting. My mum, dad, sister and close friends have all held Joni while i’ve rested, they’ve helped with cooking and cleaning and supported me emotionally. They’ve been amazing. But i’ve been a few metres from Joni at all times because she needs me. She’s distressed when i’m not there. And that’s because a mere five weeks ago she was nestled in my womb, oblivious to the big world outside where you have to wriggle and cry and poke out your tongue to indicate your needs (thirst, hunger, tiredness, nappy change, wind).
Babies need their mothers. And mothers need their babies. So the next time I was sat feeling like a milk machine, questioning my motives for all this unnatural pumping, I decided to pull the plug. I’m not saying i’ll never express again, or that i’ll not leave Joni’s side until she’s grown up. But well meaning friends and family offering to take Joni out while I sleep, or to babysit, will hopefully put those offers on hold until she’s a bit older, because right now instinct tells me that we need to be together – and instinct overrides all parenting manuals, advice from seasoned parents, and suggestions from society about how a new mother should behave.
Everyone has their own ideas about parenting and I fully respect other women’s choices. The only way to cope with the hugely demanding job of parenting is to decide what works best for you and stick to it – regardless of what other people think. That will make both mum and baby happy, and that’s the only thing that matters.
In bygone years, parents consulted mammoth medical tomes for answers to their anxious first-time-parent questions. Now we use the internet. So throughout my pregnancy, I visited many a pregnancy/parenting site looking for reassurance.
One aspect of these sites that I’m not down with is the acronyms. If you log on to a forum right now and ask any pregnancy question (ie. methods for naturally inducing labour) – you’ll be met with an array of personal accounts detailing how women tried to speed their labours along, and within these accounts they’ll casually drop in DS and DD.
What’s a DS? I thought on first reading – and what’s a DD? I soon realised that the D and S stood for daughter and son but I had to google the first initial as I couldn’t work it out. That’s because it stands for ‘darling’ or ‘dear’. And that would never occur to me because WHY WOULD ANYONE REFER TO THEIR CHILDREN AS DARLING SON/ DAUGHTER???
I vowed never to use these ridiculous acronyms and continued to read the badly-written (but sometimes reassuring and useful) comments feeds, silently judging everyone who dropped in a ‘DS’ or ‘DD’. And that’s pretty much everyone.
But then I discovered an even better one. And not because the acronym is new to me but rather because the information it’s teamed with makes it hil-ah-ree-us. It’s TMI (too much information). My favourite example was this…
Person A asks the Mumsnet community if sex really does kickstart labour. Person B says that she doesn’t really feel up for sex and is surprised that other people do – isn’t it awkward? She asks. Person C responds: Soz for TMI but don’t you or hubby have hands? Don’t need to be penetration.
And so it’s in this context – or similar – that TMI is utilised. Someone will discuss the consistency of their discharge but will first prepare you with: sorry for TMI! [emoticon] but noticed (insert colour) discharge and want to know if it’s normal.
(For a selection of gems, check out this Netmums feed – these laydees do not hold back. Saying that, I was told by a qualified midwife that doggy-style would get things going. No one holds back when it comes to pregnancy/birth/parenting.)
Lastly, the partner of the comment-leaver will almost always be referred to as OH (other half), DH (yes – darling husband) or just good old ‘hubby’. And chocolate, which the entire Mumsnet community seems to crave during pregnancy, is ‘choccy’.
And so there you have it. A quick introduction to popular pregnancy and parenting acronyms and abbreviations from one of those tedious forum-users who makes use of other women’s contributions, disses their grammar and never leaves comments.