Why Just One Day?

This post is dedicated to all the amazing doulas I know who ‘mother the mother’, to every breastfeeding support worker I know and to every single mother I have ever supported – you are all incredible.

One day? One day of the year we get. Just one. One day to appreciate, to thank, to hug to our hearts and sadly, sometimes, to remember, our wonderful mothers.

And whilst it’s lovely to be celebrated in this way, especially when the children are little, receiving homemade cards and flowers picked from the garden, this day always makes me think of all the mothers around the world just getting on with a million thankless tasks.

One day? Just one? When we do what we do? I can’t even begin to find the words to describe the awe I have felt for mothers I’ve met since I became a doula.

Mothers nurture a growing child in their wombs, fiercely protecting that future human despite having been rejected by the child’s father, despite rape, poverty, despite extreme emotional and physical suffering.

Mothers give birth. Some hunker down and roar their babies out; lioness mamas ecstatic with earth-shattering power. Some dream their babies into the world – flowing, spiralling, floating in the warm, wet other world of birth transformation.

Others have their children ‘untimely ripped’ from their wombs by induction, c-section, instruments – sometimes necessarily, but all too often at the instigation of an ‘all powerful, all knowing’ paternalistic figure.

But they all keep their dignity, their strength, their abiding love. Frequently, around the world, mothers sacrifice their babies, or even their own lives on the altar of poverty and ignorance.

Some mothers feel that overflow of piercing, painful love the minute they feel their child’s hot, wet body at her breast. Others, many who have been separated from their babies, find the love blossoms slowly over days and weeks. Some revel in the warm,  liquid, primal, sensual experience of the babymoon but many suffer pain, social isolation, lack of skilled support, physical complications or the black hole of postnatal depression or post-traumatic stress.

Whatever our journey, all of us mothers fight for their children, even to the extent of killing themselves in the belief their children will be better off without them. Really? Overly dramatic? Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death but we don’t hear these stories. Society is rightly, too ashamed to air these herstories, too scared to examine what it reveals of a world that allows such tragedy.

Without exception, we all bear guilt. Motherhood, especially in the West, has become a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ competitive battlefield. In our anxiety to get it right, we turn to the marketplace – to the legions of ‘experts’ and childcare manual authors who grow fat on our insecurites and doubt.

30% of UK mothers now work full time at the same time as still doing the majority of the childcare and domestic tasks. Around the world, the economic contribution of women means the difference between full stomachs and starvation for the majority of families. Most female work is drudging, badly paid, back-breaking, illegal and often downright dangerous.

Mothers around the world ‘bring forth in suffering’, not through God’s Will but because mothers must be submerged, disempowered, forgotten. What is the alternative? What trouble would we cause if we were all strong enough to stand up to a world that disenfranchises our daughters, sends our sons off to war, drags our children into drugs, violence and poverty and celebrates the machismo of our husbands when they leave us.

What would happen if our bodies were celebrated for the effortless way we can bear children and feed them, instead of using our curves and breasts to sell products?

What if Mothers had a voice. What if we all took back what is ours by right – our birthright – to labour and give birth safely with skilled loving attendants, in the place of our choice; to be supported with patience and loving care through the transition to parenthood; to be supported with affordable childcare, equal pay, financial support to stay at home with the children (after all, isn’t this a JOB, even if it doesn’t register in the GDP of a country?). To live without fear of starvation, rape, slavery, or domestic abuse.

What if we had the time and energy to actually get a say in the way the world was run?

One Day? Just One? Bad show, I say. Let’s make every day Mothers’ Day

As an afterthought I’m adding some fascinating facts to the end of this post:

According to the WHO: Every day, approximately 1000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Amnesty International’s report Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, urges action to tackle a crisis that sees between two and three women die every day during pregnancy and childbirth in the USA….With a lifetime risk of maternal deaths that is greater than in 40 other countries, including virtually all industrialized nations, the USA has failed to reverse the two-decade upward trend in preventable maternal deaths, despite pledges to do so.

Unlike the US, Britain has an independent body that records all maternal and perinatal deaths so that clinicians can learn and be held accountable. The Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries is crucial but its continued existance seems uncertain.

On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner. (womensaid.org.uk)

In the UK, PM David Cameron admitted pre-election that the NHS was short of 3000 midwives and promised to recruit that number. That promise has been forgotten. Midwives and mothers are worried maternity sevices are being parred down to dangerous levels. Meanwhile, in many developing countries, millions of pregnant women have no access to antenatal care or skilled intrapartum support at all.

If you want to find our more or join the movement to take back motherhood, visit www.oneworldbirth.com

this was originally posted at the birth hub here by the gorgeous maddie december 6th 2013

this blog is part of the #postnatalrevolution in honour of sheila kitzinger passing on to the light.

wysewomen workshops hold a very popular motherwarming workshop at different locations all around the country – the motherwarming workshop looks at different ways to keep mum, baby and family healthy in the immediate postnatal period –  find local dates near you here

having a postnatal doula can support you during your babymoon – find out more here and here

the babymooners

This article originally appeared in the Scottish Herald – saturday 21st february 2009 and was written by the very talented Vicky Allan

Should you rush back to work after childbirth? Vicky Allan talks to those who prefer to take this post-natal business lying down

WHEN the French justice minister, Rachida Dati, returned to work five days after a caesarean section, she triggered a savage debate.

Dati, hair perfectly coiffed, with just a hint of baby bulge about the midriff, was one in a long line of public figures who had paraded their maternal resilience for the cameras. There was Jennifer Lopez looking svelte six weeks after having twins. Then there was Nicole Kidman, showing “no sign”, as one paper put it, “of a baby bump just after 10 days”. Though we know this may be an airbrushing of reality, it remains a forceful ideal. In Britain, one year’s maternity leave from work is a legal right, yet the sense remains that a successful woman does not allow a baby to interrupt the continuity of her identity as a socially and economically active, sexual, independent agent. A strong element of damage control must be applied to any impact a baby might have on one’s life. No phrase embodies this more than the idea of “getting one’s life back” after childbirth.According to Tina Cassidy, author of Birth: A History, Dati is symptomatic of a trend, and her age, 43, is an indicator of this. “Women who wait so long to have their first baby have already established their careers as being central in their lives. And when you have been working at a job so hard for so long, it becomes your whole identity. I think women also feel insecure about losing that identity when they have a baby so they fight their instincts to push themselves out of the house.”

The impetus to get back in action quickly after childbirth is a relatively new one. Throughout history most cultures have practised the opposite: a period of “confinement” in which the new mother is looked after by family and community, often away from men, fed certain foods and nursed through the early weeks after giving birth. “These customs,” says Tina Cassidy, “were meant to facilitate bonding, establish good breastfeeding practices, ensure that the baby thrived, that the mother recovered and the newborn was kept removed from potentially dangerous diseases.”

Even now, women in much of the world still follow the practice. Here in Scotland, however, it is rarely entertained as a possibility, though a friend of mine was advised by her midwife to remain in bed for 15 days after giving birth to her second child, ringing a bell whenever she needed anything. “Allow yourself to be treated like a queen,” she was told. “It will be your last opportunity given you now have two children.”

Edinburgh childbirth educator Nicola Goodall went further following the births of three of her four children. Goodall, who converted to Islam at the age of 23, opted to follow the traditional Muslim 40-day confinement period. During that time, she tried not to leave the house and succumbed only twice: when she had to take her daughter to hospital and to buy a nursing bra. Other people took her children to school. Friends brought her soup and shopping. Her husband took over many household jobs.

“I would spend as much time as I could in bed for as long as possible. Then I would spend as much time as I could sitting around reading. It was like a honeymoon, the babymoon that Sheila Kitzinger the social anthropologist, writer and childbirth campaigner talks about. Relaxing, eating well and just spending time looking at the baby,” she explains.

This practice isn’t so far from what might have been the norm in Scottish culture a century ago. The oral history book, Scottish Midwives, records the experiences of midwives and “howdies”, the uncertified midwives or “handywomen” who were their precursors and often spent around four weeks in a mother’s home, helping out with chores.

“We had to try and keep the mothers in bed,” said Margaret Foggie, who conducted postnatal home visits in Glasgow in the 1930s. “We would tell the husband to remember the wife was not well, so run the messages and look after the weans’.” Annie Kerr generally stayed with mothers for around two weeks after the birth, and described having “sic a shock” when one woman got up to pick up her baby while she was baking in the kitchen. Another midwife from the Outer Hebrides recalled: “In the olden times the mother really stayed in bed – she didn’t come out at all in the first 10 days. The friends went before she got up, to see the mother and the baby and there is an old Gaelic word for it, bangaid’, which is like a banquet.”

The book includes testimonies from women working in the latter half of the 20th century, including, one, Ella Clelland, who observed the transition from confinement to shorter hospital stays and said: “Mothers nowadays don’t or won’t rest enough. They possibly think they don’t need to. But they get very tired and I think that’s why postnatal depression is more now.”

Was Clelland right? Reports of postnatal depression are certainly on the rise and some people, including Diane Nehme of the Association for Post-Natal Illness, believe that lack of rest may be a contributory factor. “There is no respite care, and women are often discharged in 48 hours, even after first deliveries. There is so much pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations to return to work after short maternity leave and no paternity leave, juggle childcare and raise the perfect baby.”

Japan, which practises a month of confinement, has one of the lowest levels of postnatal depression in the world. “The problem,” says Cassidy, “is that the support system to encourage mums to stay with their newborns has frayed.” The physical distance that strains family ties and the detachment from local communities means many first-time mothers don’t even consider a period of rest. No-one is telling them they should behave like a queen for a week and they wouldn’t know how to find the help to do it even if they wanted to.

Confinement wouldn’t work for everyone and, over the centuries, many women have felt repressed by it. But what matters is that women are aware of it as an option and can make an informed choice.

Of course, some women – particularly those who run their own businesses – cannot contemplate this short holiday from career obligations. A few weeks after the birth of her second child, Karen Macartney, who runs the website informedwomen.co.uk, turned up for a business appointment, but was physically ill with nerves to such an extent that she couldn’t enter the meeting room.

The broadcaster Gail Porter talked, during a recent interview, about doing voice-over jobs within a month of giving birth to her daughter, only to find herself leaking milk into her shirt and sobbing into the microphone.

On the whole, women who run their own businesses seem to be among the most successful at managing the transition to motherhood, perhaps because they have more control over managing their workloads around the needs of their children.

Lorna Pellet, who currently runs Graduates For Growth, recalls that her two pregnancies were creative times in which she expanded her businesses – her original venture was Edinburgh’s Café Florentin. “The best time for planning, for a woman,” she says, “is when she’s pregnant. You can have expansive thoughts because there is a finite timeline. For me the process of being pregnant and having a child was also about reshaping my lifestyle. I think you have to be prepared to go with the rhythm of the child, coping with the changes as opposed to trying to fit the child into your life. Having my first child felt completely natural. I did have childcare and we had a flat above one of the shops. It was very flexible. It’s about having a great infrastructure and this is where community is incredibly valuable, and something that it takes all parties to invest in.”

There is no obvious path back to the days of the howdies and that associated secret world of female knowledge – nor would we want it. Bringing fathers to the birthing bed has been one of the great revolutions of modern times. If we are to create a society in which men and women can operate with freedom and equality, then we need them to stay there. Indeed, we would like them to stick around for longer, ideally with equal paternity leave rights to those afforded to women. They need to hold the baby for longer.

Meanwhile, Goodall believes the idea of lying-in will have its time again. “Not long before I was born, you might have got into problems as a healthcare professional for encouraging a woman to breastfeed. Now the opposite is true. And I can’t help but think that it will come around that way with rest after childbirth.

“We know so much about maternal bonding today, and even breastfeeding is now seen in the context of this whole biological nurturing thing. So I think having a time of seclusion with your baby, a babymoon, will soon be seen as part of that.”

find the original article here 

wysewomen workshops hold a very popular motherwarming workshop at different locations all around the country – the motherwarming workshop looks at different ways to keep mum, baby and family healthy in the immediate postnatal period –  find local dates near you here

having a postnatal doula can support you during your babymoon – find out more here and here

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth.

she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.