Birth

Note: I’ve been wanting to write about the birth of Aidan for some time.. but it’s a hard topic for me to confront . So I’ve decided to do it little by little, if and when I can. I suspect my feelings will change over time, they often have.. but I still need to get these feelings out there. Today’s installment is less about the events around his birth and more a question about how we can raise our children not to be ashamed of their bodies.

From the time we can understand concepts of nudity, we are told to cover up.
We are taught to protect our privacy and be respectful of others privacy.
As women we are given bras at puberty and in recent times I’ve seen tiny bra-like tops for girl children.
We are chastised for lifting our skirts up and told to keep our legs crossed.

Then once the deed is done and we are finally opened, we give over. Apparently we don’t just open to the one man who we hopefully trust and love, but to everyone else as well.

Our arms are uncovered so we can be stuck with needles and blood taken from us.
Our legs are forced open and our insides are probed all “for the wellbeing of you and your child”.
We are watched, monitored, scrutinised, often naked or half naked as the agony of childbirth comes upon us.
More needles, more pain, sometimes we are cut right open, right then “for the wellbeing of you and your child”.

But no-one tells us this is ok.

No-one undoes those years of conditioning that privacy is all important.
And so instead of joy at the miracle of birth, some of us, just some of us, are left feeling forever violated.

Love for the child will give us the courage to feed them openly in public, or maybe we won’t. Maybe we will try furtively to hide our breasts and bow our bodies over the tiny life we’ve brought into the world. Maybe we will walk the lopsided walk of a proud mother, made ashamed of her body. Nowhere to hide, everything exposed. All of the things, we had been told to keep to ourselves from the moment we could understand the words.

Yet something written some time ago and read amongst the university crowds and the feminists movements, still strikes a happy chord for me.

‘Virgin’ means one as yet unmarked by them, for them. Not yet a woman in their terms…Not yet penetrated or possessed by them…A virgin is but the future for their exchanges, their commerce, and their transports. A kind of reserve for their explorations, consummations, and exploitations.1

Brutal and true. Does it have to be this way?

What if we were empowered to be open on our terms. What if in that crucial moment when it is our life and our chlid’s life on the line, we could feel OK with opening ourselves? What kind of programming early on, would it take to instill a sense of ownership like that? Certainly something stronger than “put your dress down, everyone can see your undies” that is purely based in the fear of embarrassment from others!

Maybe now, three years later, I understand why they try to make you write birth plans or think harder about what will happen during birth.. maybe that is the insitutional way to empower… but I don’t think they go far enough and I don’t think they can.

I think it is now up to me – to teach my daughter that her body is beautiful, is hers, to be cared for and developed. I will teach her, that sex is not something to be ashamed of and I will abolish the word virgin from my vocab. I will share with her the realities of childbirth and make her proud that through her body a new life might come into this world and it matters not what her body looks like at ANY time before, during or after that event.

I will teach her to be proud of her body. God forbid it should ever sustain violation, but I will teach her all the same, that her body was designed to protect her soul and she alone can let attacks on the soul through those outer defences. She will learn not to measure what is inside of her, by what is on the outside of others.

I might never be able to change my programming, but it is the responsibility of one generation to pass our learnings to the next. I hope these are lessons, my daughter can use.

Ron Mueck's "Mother and Child" (2003)

Ron Mueck's "Mother and Child" (2003)


1Luce Irigaray, “When Our Lips Speak together,” trans. Carolyn Burke, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 6, no. 1, 1980, p. 74. This Sex Which is Not One. Cornell Univ. Press, 1984.

Judge Mental

I think the older I get, the harder I am finding to handle the judgement of others. Whether that judgement is directed at me, or directed at other people, it has begun to grate me. Am I judgemental? I know people irritate me for a whole host of reasons but I don’t think I then progress into judgement of their character or their makeup. But today I am going to get all judgey on the judges.

I’m finding it harder to socialise normally. Everyone strikes me as being judgemental and critical to an unnecessary level. Because this girl, is wearing those shoes, she isn’t worth talking to. Because that man, said that thing, to that child, he obviously knows nothing about parenting. Because they didn’t call, because they didn’t write, then they are inconsiderate morons. It is the negative conclusions drawn from the behaviours of others and I can’t join in with. I can’t agree. I want to disagree, but who knows maybe the judgey pants police are completely correct? So often I am quiet or I try really hard to tune out. I’ve probably been judged for this too.

I free range my chickens and my kids and they all squabble loudly and they roll on the grass. When I take them to the beach I will strip them off and hose the sand off them, because they are little and because I don’t think little kids should be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed just because society is ashamed and embarrassed of itself. I am not putting them on display for perverts. I am simply washing my kids because they are sandy and cold. In case there are perverts on our beaches do I march the wet cold kid the 2km home for a private shower and then back again? Do I make them take the shower in their swimmers knowing full well they are clogged with itchy sand? Should my child get some sandy rash because I’m afraid that some sicko is on the beach with a camera?

No.

I won’t be terrorised by a fear or by your political correctness or threatened by the judgements you make about my parenting. I have happy active kids, I have healthy fat chickens, I have a solid interesting career, I have a deeply devoted husband. Yet oddly, in person I do not have the will to argue with the judgements everyone seems so willing to make. Judging without knowing. Whispering without listening. Sowing seeds of doubt all of the time, without praising the growth and the good that is around us all of the time. I just don’t understand. As the TSA complaints rage on, I can’t help but think how terrorists won the war. Yes they killed thousands of people, but they crippled millions more by making us live in fear. Behaviours have changed “in case of”.
Those critics amongst us, can do the same thing! “In case of” rain, you must equip your child with full protective clothing and umbrella and pair of gumboots and waterproof shield for their bag and and and … and suddenly this poor kid is overloaded, and never gets to experience the joy of rain on their bodies, the squish of mud through their toes, having a cold, and getting over one! “In case of” perverts, I have to be careful not to take photographs of my own children at the beach! “In case of” ticks, I can’t let my children play on the grass. “In case of”… so much concern and care and so much stupidity all rolled up into one.

Yet dare I say this… if I don’t follow the words in the books, the advice from others, the guidebooks, the manuals, the Internet videos of how tos and when tos… then I will be judged. I will be putting my kids life in danger and my career into a death spiral. In the judgement of me, you will change my behaviour. I might start to think I am a bad mother, I might start to follow all of the rules and invest in a cotton wool factory…and in the end I will become what you think that I am now, a bad mother. I might be so concerned when you judge the clothing that I wear, that I start to withdraw from conversations, to think that I am not cool enough to speak. Sounds crazy I know, where’s your self esteem gone lovey? I might truly believe, that because I don’t call weekly, I am a bad friend.

But none of this is true and for the sake of all that is me, and all that my children might be. I will continue to tune out to the judgey pants police when I can.

So next time, when you are talking to me and you dare to say that I should not let my children watch star wars before they are twelve because it will rot their brain, or that the woman across the road that is thoughtless and deranged because she is a lesbian and leaves her garbage bin out two nights in a row, I hope you will forgive me for not joining in and forgive me even more when I argue in opposition to the judgements you make (even if I hate star wars, or have never met the lady across the road).

Sorry to all of those reading this post, that never wear the judgey pants. Feel free to judge me for being so bloody judgemental about those other people.