Archive | October, 2011

Baby Angst

19 Oct

I have a huge issue with other women’s pregnancies – whenever a friend announces theirs on Facebook or a celebrity announces theirs in the media, I feel a searing jealousy and sadness that is difficult to describe  to others and to understand myself.

It more or less started the day my daughter was born, possibly even before then. During my pregnancy I’d had hyperemesis and was completely bed-bound for  about 4 months, and I only left my flat between 10 and 15 times during the whole of my pregnancy. That includes antenatal checks and wedding-related appointments (my daughter’s dad and I got married when I was 7 months pregnant). This made it pretty clear that a further pregnancy would take careful planning and lots of support. When I was still in the throes of hyperemesis I begged my husband to remind me if I ever mentioned the possibility of another baby that I could never go through this horror again.

Then my daughter was born and from the first moment I saw her proved to be an amazing, captivating and utterly heart-melting tiny being. When she popped out, my first thought (after ‘wow, so there was a real baby in there!’) was ‘I want to do this again’. This thought got louder and louder with every gurgle, smile and milestone. When she started noticing other children I thought ‘She would be really great with a baby sibling’.

And then my husband and I separated.

A year and a half later I am still trying to come to terms with the dashed dreams of my perfect family. I feel sad for my daughter who has now lived in a single-parent household for longer than she ever did in a two-parent household. Co-parenting is a nightmare at times. I’m dreading the possibility of her dad’s insistence on overnight stays. The idea of a potential step-mother for my daughter makes me feel sick to my stomach.

So now I have no idea if or when I’ll have more children. And it’s so difficult. One reason it’s so difficult is that I just don’t understand why I feel this way.

But sometimes I read something that throws a little tiny light on the jumble inside my mind. Today it was this post about the representation of motherhood as a reward.  Katherine Don from bitch magazine says:

I’m wary of Bravo’s chronic portrayal of motherhood as some final reward for being a no-nonsense, hardworking, trend-setting capitalist.

My most recent friend to announce her pregnancy comes from a family of travellers. She went to an excellent school thanks to a grant system which no longer exists, received counselling while at school to help her deal with her mum’s emotional abuse, got her A-Levels, got her degree, passed her driving test and bought a car, trained as a secondary school teacher, got engaged, bought a house, got married this summer, and is now expecting a baby. She’s a middle-class capitalist dream come true.

Part of the reason why hearing of my friend’s pregnancy has thrown me back into a downward spiral of melancholy is that my friend has chosen to organise her life in the traditional way that most people around me choose too. It’s not how I’ve done things, but it’s how I wish I had done it. Constructing a family by numbers (car – tick, job – tick, house – tick, husband with stable and moderately impressive job who likes to play football in his spare time and gets on well with your girly friends and their boyfriends – tick) symbolises safety for me. Being a single mother while studying rather than being in a stable relationship and working makes me feel like a teenage mum whose lifestyle is frowned upon by all of society. I worry that when my daughter goes to school I’ll be the flaky mum with the odd dress sense who is shunned at the school gate and thus ruins her daughter’s social life and emotional development forever. I keep thinking that perhaps if I quit the PhD and get a ‘proper’ job, I can have another baby. Now I know that I’ve been trapped in a ‘motherhood as reward’ thought.

On the whole giving birth and being a mother has been a hugely positive, transformative experience for me so far. For the first time in my life I have a feeling of purpose. Although I am frequently uncertain about how to deal with tantrums and how I will ever manage the potty training hurdle, I am a lot more confident than I was before I had my daughter. I seem to have endless reserves of strength and energy. I just need to get over this feeling of sadness and disappointment.

Toddler Organisational Skills

12 Oct



I asked daughter to put her teddies on the stairs ready to take upstairs for bedtime (mainly so she had something to do that kept her out of the kitchen while I was getting dinner ready), and this is what I found!
















Hyperemesis Support Update

11 Oct

Further to these two posts, I have recently come across some very useful websites about Hyperemesis Gravidarum (extreme nausea and vomiting in pregnancy). One problem for sufferers in the UK is that treatment is, well, a bit antiquated compared to that available in the US and Canada. So these websites are especially useful because they are tailored towards the UK medical system.

Pregnancy Sickness Support is a great website giving an overview of facts, figures and causes, information about how to cope with the illness in a general way, information for carers (very important too – how partners and families care for HG sufferers has a huge impact), a literature review, and, most crucially, a treatment overview.

There is also a Facebook group which, I think, is linked to this website.

Next, we have the really excellent Pregnancy Sickness SOS, which is a very comprehensive site listing medical research, nutrition tips, information for midwives and a ton of other helpful things. I wish something like this had existed when I was pregnant. They seem to be in the process of setting up a UK Sufferers’ Support Network to help Hyperemesis sufferers via phone, email or in person, which I think is such an excellent idea that I signed up straight away. If you are currently experiencing HG, there is a form you can fill in so someone can hopefully get in touch with you.

Last we have a really lovely blog by a two-time HG survivor who is pregnant again, the aptly named Spewing Mummy. The treatment and lack of support she received from the medical community during her first two HG pregnancies sounds remarkably similar to my own, and she is now doing what she can to raise awareness and treatment standards. Thank you!

The Medium vs. the Message

7 Oct

The other day I was reading a chapter by the translation scholar Luise von Flotow for my PhD. She is one of the bigwigs of feminist translation theory, and her chapter dealt with a German translation of Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology. She wasn’t a big fan of the translation for numerous reasons and noted that the translation was so difficult to read as the result of footnotes and explicated puns that German women formed reading groups in order to read the text together and discuss it.

It is important to note that the translator added all this paratextual material out of her admiration for the book – she wanted its German audience to be able to understand exactly what Mary Daly was saying even if some puns and phrases were difficult to bring across in another language.

While von Flotow acknowledged the translator’s laudable aim to educate women and make it possible for them to read this influential text in their own language, she made a very important point: the translator lost track of the text’s audience. Mothers rarely have the time for regular meetings, to sit down for a couple of hours, and to spend this time deciphering a complicated text. It might be a generalisation, but as someone who has struggled for months now to find time to go to the gym (no excuse), I think it’s true to a large extent. I don’t mean to insinuate that women can’t cope with complicated texts, it’s just that sometimes you need to cook dinner, sort out Dr’s appointments, perhaps it’s someone’s birthday, then a child is unwell… This problem is multiplied when a group of women all need to find time to attend meetings. So texts which can be read quickly are more convenient.

Enter The Internet. Twitter and Facebook were the message-spreading tools of the protesters in Egypt and the rioters in the UK. One of my friends is even writing her MA dissertation on this subject, that’s how effectively they worked. And I would say that is also how they are being used by feminists and mothers: I see breastfeeding advice by trained IBCLC every day on Twitter, birth stories encourage women to attempt a VBAC, or forego an induction; when a mother is prevented from breastfeeding her baby in public, the story is immediately circulated so action can be taken.

Obviously books are still important, and I would love it if there was a feminist mothers’ discussion group in my town! But at the same time, the internet has done a lot for women.

I’m not sure what I mean to say with this post really. Mostly I wanted to bring von Flotow’s realisation to your attention because it is a good point.