Sunday, 23 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: The things that make a difference...

Whether you have a home birth, hospital birth, natural labour or c-section, there are no guarantees that it will all go along as you expect or hope. Labour, birth and the postpartum period can be a nerve-wracking, vulnerable time. The kindness, compassion and support you receive really can go a long way and will never be forgotten.

Here is a collection of contributions from mothers about the things that made a positive difference to their birth experience. This could read as a tribute to all the wonderful people out there who have made a difference to pregnant women, be it supporting their partner or their patient. In a way it is also a manifesto – this is what women want. It is not about a medical versus a natural model of care, it is about showing women respect, compassion and support when it really matters most.

Most of all, for me this is an emotional read. I feel so angry and frustrated when women and babies are not treated as they should be but these stories show such lovely, beautiful moments that it makes me feel almost teary. Thank you so much to all the women who contributed. Enjoy!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: What if it's more than one baby!?

Multiple births account for 1 in 62 births in the UK, with the rising use of fertility treatments and women having children later in life increasing the likelihood of twin pregnancies. Experiences of pregnancy and birth with twins can vary substantially, twins who share a placenta for example are perceived as higher risk than twins who have a placenta each. In this piece, we hear from Mars Lord, who is a mum of five, including one set of twins, and works as a doula in London specialising in twin births.

Friday, 21 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: Across the 'ole fish pond: What's it like having a baby in the US of A?

So according to the movies, sitcoms and HBO box sets, life for mums in the US is good. They seem to have a pretty decent healthcare system. How many times have you heard American women refer to having their own gynaecologist or dermatologist, as though they have expensive specialists at their beck and call to do their smears or check their wrinkles. Similarly, American parenting books often advise you to take your child to your paediatrician to check minor symptoms, as opposed to the long drawn out process in the UK involving begging your GP for a referral. And what about maternity rights? Well, it’s a modern, liberal democracy, mothers probably have pretty decent access to rights and services, right?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK GUEST POST: "An environment conducive for birthing"

In this guest post, Clare Thomas, a mum of two and veteran of both a hospital birth and a home birth, considers the NICE guidance that women having their second child should be supported to have their child at home.   
In May 2014, NICE began a consultation on new guidelines for birthing, which propose that women with straightforward pregnancies, and especially those having second or subsequent babies, should be supported to birth their babies at home or in midwife led units. Evidence shows that for second timers it is as safe for mother and baby to give birth at home as in hospital, with there being very similar outcomes at home for first time mums, with an increased risk of one percent, often attributed to the element of the unknown in a woman giving birth for the first time. Having experienced giving birth with lots of intervention in hospital and with none at home,  I wholeheartedly welcome the proposals.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: "Work out what a positive experience means to you" Rebecca Schiller, Doula

In this Q&A Rebecca Schiller, doula and co-chair & campaigner for Birthrights, tells us about the role of the doula and how they can support women before, during and after birth.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: "It's totally OK to say you will see how you feel!" Dr Ruth MacQueen

In this post we hear from Obstetrics & Gyaecology Registrar and mum of two, Dr Ruth-Anna Macqueen. While we all hope for a straightforward birth, our NHS doctors work incredibly hard to help women and babies get through difficult and complicated labours. Here Dr Macqueen tells us why it's good to be prepared but we also need to be able to go with flow if things don't pan out as we expect.

Monday, 17 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: Childbirth is a "social, not a medical, event" Sheena Byrom OBE, Midwife

In the first instalment of BIRTH WEEK, we hear from inspirational midwife, Sheena Byrom OBE, on her role as a midwife, supporting women in childbirth and the current state of maternity services in the UK.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Introducing BIRTH WEEK...

As Christmas beckons (don't panic, we have a few weeks left!), what better time to talk about birth? While many women are unlikely to face the straw, manger, stable scenario, across the world women's experiences are hugely different, some women giving birth in truly adverse circumstances, others' surrounded by love and support.

Friday, 7 November 2014

What I learnt at the Feminism in London Conference


So I attended the Feminism in London Conference for the first time 2 weeks ago. Slightly apprehensive about dry academic debates, exclusive women only zones or maybe hardline activists, my fears were put to rest when I found a buzzing crowd of women and men of all ages, creeds and professions there to engage with important issues of our time. All the campaigns of the moment had a stall: the 50:50 Parliament Campaign, Everyday Sexism, No More Page 3, Fawcett Society, Mothers at Home Matter. Comedians. Academics. Health Professionals. Women's Advocates.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Is feminism the new COOL?

BrittRenee Photography (edited, Creative Commons Licence)

So feminists have complained for a long time that feminism is ignored by the mainstream, derided by the media and is generally under-valued as a movement to tackle social injustice and improve the rights of women. A few older women in the public eye have been vocal about their support for feminism including Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Kristen Wiig and Emma Thompson.

Friday, 17 October 2014

To Be A Woman

This is a piece I wrote six years ago in a creative writing workshop. 

To be a woman is to be everything and nothing, Woman is nurturer, healer, spiritual guardian, provider of life, the all-seeing and all-doing. Women are essential to the flow of life - the cycles, the actualities, the happenings, they make the social, the civilised, the cultural possible.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

How to update your autumn wardrobe GUILT-FREE!

So it's that time of year when you start rummaging around the drawers under your bed looking for a chunky knit cardigan, a stylish snood or some cosy pyjamas and come up for air with frankly, bits of boring/zany knitwear that you cannot believe you ever bought, let alone wore every day last winter. Can you really justify buying anything new? After all, money is tight these days and the message is "waste not, want not"!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stories for girls, stories for boys? We all like dinosaurs and tutus in our house!

It all seems so simple. Wander into your local bookshop or library, find something for your little one that is bright, colourful, interesting. It attracts their attention and they wave it aloft, crawling into your lap so you will read them a story. The problem is, more and more often, books are displayed in rows with titles like “Girls’ favourite princess stories” or “Adventure tales for boys”. You would think that was something out of the 1950s, wouldn’t you? Oh no. Campaigns across the country such as Let Books Be Books, are demanding that publishers withdraw books that specify gender in the title and assume a very narrow range of interests based purely on the sex of the child. And, of course, this debate has been going on much longer in the world of toys.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Brand "family": how we never seem to get that amazing holiday snap

So it's been holiday time recently and whether it be vacations or staycations, no one goes anywhere without a camera or camera-phone these days, so you probably have some photos to trawl through. Rather than like in the olden days when you had a couple of films of dodgy pics to print off (blurred, red-eye, of nothing...), you now have hundreds, possibly a thousand photos of your gang on holiday.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

In defence of the anti-feminists...

Over the summer there has been an outcry amongst feminist commentators and left-wing columnists about the website Women Against Feminism. This website allows individuals from across the globe, mainly young women, to post a photo of themselves holding a placard with an explanation of why they are opposed to feminism. Some of these statements are expressing traditional, conservative, right wing views as you might expect. On August 28th, a woman states “I don’t need feminism because I want to promise my man to love him, honour him and obey him”.

Friday, 25 July 2014

CAREERS WEEK: Getting to grips with childcare!

For working families in the UK, childcare is probably the biggest headache. Choosing the right setting for your child/children, how to make it work with drop offs and pick ups, full-time or part-time, making the sums add up. Women often seem to feel that it all falls on their shoulders; making the decisions, working out whether their salary will cover the childcare costs for 1, 2 or 3 kids. In this rather epic review, I take childcare by the horns; examining the UK childcare situation now and the changes that are coming up.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

CAREERS WEEK GUEST POST: Want to climb the career ladder? What's stopping you?

By Liz Rouse OBE

Where next?  Been doing the same old job or wanting to get back into work? Thinking about stepping on to the management ladder?   

For most of us, the way to progress within an organisation and indeed earn a bigger salary is to take on management responsibilities. If the case studies of "superwomen" profiled in the press are correct, some women can't wait to be managers - to be in charge. Not only do they run highly successful businesses or rise to the top of their profession, they also seem to have wonderful partners and children, and great childcare! But when faced with an opportunity to go into management or take the next step up the ladder, many of us are more ambivalent. Perhaps we are not so eager to take on extra responsibilities, worrying how this will affect our families and how we will manage childcare. Anyway we don't necessarily see ourselves as "managers", part of the hierarchy. Would we have to change, can we be true to ourselves and our values? 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

CAREERS WEEK GUEST POST: Same World... different planet... What do you want now?

By Kerry Hales
Motherhood is a strange, yet wonderful place and the extra earth shattering news is that now your values have changed too.  You don’t want the same ‘anything’ that you did before – how could you?  So who are you now, and what do you really want?  Here are five exercises on ‘Finding what you want’:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

CAREERS WEEK GUEST POST: On why motherhood and entrepreneurship can be the perfect fit

Emily Guille-Marrett is a mother of two young boys and founder of new company Here she talks about how having a baby changed her life and gave her the flexibility, creative space and confidence to set up her own business.

Monday, 21 July 2014

CAREERS WEEK: Q&A with Karen Mattison MBE, Co-founder of Timewise

Karen Mattison MBE

Multi award-winning Karen Mattison MBE is the co-founder and director of Timewise, along with business-partner Emma Stewart MBE. Karen was initially motivated by the skilled and experienced women she’d meet at the school gates, who wanted work to fit with family, and is now passionate about the gains for business of taking a more flexible approach.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Introducing CAREERS WEEK on Feminist Mum

Credit/Howard R. Hollem - Own photograph of original

For women with children, careers can be a tricky topic. Something to steer clear of during parent & baby coffee mornings. The sighs....stressed about going back to work, can't find the right job, stuck in a rut, the childcare problem. The word "career" itself can be pretty intimidating, maybe you don't imagine yourself with a career at all. Maybe you have simply hopped from job to job or juggled several jobs simultaneously to pay the bills. On the other hand, you might be in the career you always wanted but finding juggling family needs with professional demands an unexpected headache. You might be having an identity crisis about opting out for a while (forever???) to spend more time with the kids, or contemplating setting up your own business so you can be the boss for a change.

Friday, 18 July 2014

JOINT POST: On “free birth”. Tempted? Not tempted?

A woman gives birth unassisted at home. 
LaVergerrayCherie-birth, credit Lisa J. Patton, available by Creative Commons license

"Free birth”, or “unassisted birth”, can be defined as the decision by a pregnant mother to give birth unattended by medical or health professionals. This isn’t the stories we all know of babies arriving in hospital car parks or in the lift. It’s not a planned home birth when the midwives get stuck in traffic and the father ends up having to catch the baby. This is a decision to give birth in a place of your choosing with the people you want to be there. Maybe even alone.  A birth without medical supervision or intervention but not without a certain level of risk. In this joint post, Chrissy from AttachmentFeminism and Francesca from FeministMum tell us their opposing views: “tempted” and “not tempted”!

Monday, 7 July 2014

What's in a name?

Edmund Blair Leighton "Signing the register"

So recently there was an article in the Guardian by Lauren Apfel about how she wished she had given her daughter her surname. It sparked quite a lot of interest - what women decide to do with their names when they co-habit, get married or have children is tricky. All, yes ALL, my married friends, many of whom I think of as having feminist leanings, simply switched to their husband's surname. No debate, no inner turmoil. Just the simple, straightforward route. What was the reason? Mainly because they wanted a "family name"; something that would unite the couple and their children, creating a sense of identity and belonging. One friend said she just "sleepwalked" into it.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mothers who have abortions - the last taboo

Abortion is a scary topic. It is an extremely powerful and emotive issue with complex arguments over details - number of weeks of pregnancy, how it is performed, who should sign the form, when it is or is not justified. When does life begin?

Friday, 30 May 2014

Attachment Parenting vs the NHS – what’s the problem?

I am a mum of two whose ethos, I would say, is pretty sympathetic to "attachment parenting". In my view, we are basically mammals, and natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing are all normal and natural things for mothers and babies. Here’s the thing, I am also a qualified paediatric nurse. And NHS professionals often seem to have a problem with attachment parenting.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The reluctant cook

My first attempt at Spanokopita today involved random ingredients in random quantities and a very determined sidekick in a Postman Pat apron that has seen better days. After two broken eggs, a pastry brush rammed through my last crucial sheets of delicate filo, much wailing and gnashing of teeth on both our parts, I was just about still talking to him when the pie made it into the oven. Phew!

Remembered it was in the oven on the cusp of brown to burnt. WIN.  The boy then ripped the top off when my back was turned.  LOSE.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The tempting world of diet shakes...

Me looking muddy, healthy and happy! (and clearly never was and never will be a size 8)
You know the dream, mum working from home, makes great income while still being there for the school run?  So, one way that "mum entrepreneurs" are earning much-needed cash these days is by acting as direct sellers for diet companies. Herbalife, The Cambridge Diet, or LighterLife might sound familiar? You sign up for a monthly direct debit and they promise to send you a bag of shake mix and a box of "nutritious cookies". The mums who sell the stuff look great and, I mean, who doesn't want to look half their age and fit into a size 8?

Monday, 5 May 2014

GUEST POST: The view from Norway

Bianca with her son

In the UK, we hold up Scandinavia as the shining light of gender equality, parental leave and quality childcare. Bianca Johansen, a working mum of two, tells us what it's really like having kids in Norway. The road to real equality has great benefits but also sacrifices...

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

School Places: Everyone Only Wants the Best for Their Children Right?

Children at school by Lucelia Ribeiro

Spring is a tough time for parents. 3 March was 'National Offer Day' for secondary school places. 16 April is National Offer Day for primary school places. Parents around the country receive email notifications and letters through the post with news that will certainly impact on their family's day to day life and possibly, their child's life chances. Yes, that nail-biting moment; which infant, junior, primary or secondary school their child will be attending from September.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Q&A with Jade Beall, Founder of the Beautiful Body Project

Jade Beall is the founder of the brilliant Beautiful Body Project. As a photographer and mum, Jade started photographing real mothers, celebrating bodies in all their glory, including the stretch marks, c-section scars, bumps and curves. Her beautiful photographs have stunned the world and become a global movement, expanding to include older women, cancer victims and women with disabilities.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Time for some fresh perspectives?

On the Dining Table/Smylers

In the endless mummy blogs out there, it is really hard to find female writers from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds. It takes time, space and technical skills to generate these blogs fully of witty repartee and stunning photographs of children, baked goods and craft activities, resources which many people just don't have.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The elusive "Me time"

Photo by Swire, available by Public License

I have heard recently of two Dads I know taking a bath before work in the morning. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the morning in a house with kids a time of frenzied hair brushing, shoe searching, porridge hurling and debates over which coloured vest to wear? A morning BATH strikes me as something of Mr Darcy-esque luxury...I imagine these blokes luxuriating in warm bubbles, gazing dreamily into the distance. Their valet lays out their attire for the day and waits to give them a proper shave, perfecting their sideburns perhaps...

Monday, 3 March 2014

GUEST POST: Baby feeding is a Feminist Issue

Baby feeding is a Feminist Issue by Chrissy D
For many parents, how to feed your baby seems to be hugely controversial. Whether you choose breast, bottle or a mix of both, you might feel like you need to defend your decision to your partner, family, friends, health professionals or childcare providers. You might find it hard to find information or support. Here Chrissy D, mum of two, breastfeeding advocate and author of Attachment Feminism, looks at why we need to look beyond the barricades. Feminism is about supporting women whatever they choose to do, and tackling a culture that is expert at making mothers feel bad!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Save the children #firstday campaign

2.9 million babies a year never reach their second month of life.


Save the Children's new campaign, launching today, is 

Ending Newborn Deaths

Sunday, 23 February 2014

If giving birth is safer than at any other time in history, why is the prospect scarier than ever?

Giving birth is a pretty nerve wracking thing; anyone thinking about going through it or looking back on the experience can testify to that. It seems to me that it is especially terrifying in the UK at the moment, which really shouldn't be the case. In terms of medical advances in monitoring high-risk pregnancies and special care for premature or high-risk infants, we should be comforted that, chances are, mother and baby will come out the other end ok.

Friday, 14 February 2014

I like Valentine's Day. There... I said it!

I know Valentine's Day is supposed to be all tacky and commercialised and sickly and just another excuse for those card manufacturers and chocolate companies and florists to squeeze us for yet more cash...but I like it. You know me, I like a celebration. I like an occasion, especially with a theme.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

"How do I look?" The hang ups stop here...

My 3 1/2 year old daughter has recently started looking in the mirror in our bedroom, usually wearing some fancy dress finery, and asking "How do I look?" I feel slightly paralysed by this question. Do I say "beautiful, sweetheart" and make her feel good or is that reducing her to her physical appearance? Or do I just say "It doesn't matter, honey. It's whether you are a nice, kind person that counts"? I think I've kind of said both but haven't felt very confident in either. It feels like I am skirting round the issue and need to take it by the horns!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Are you a "motherist"?

There has been a lot of controversy lately about "Motherism". This seems to be about negative attitudes towards women who stay at home to raise their children. After reading Zoe Williams' article in the Guardian back in October, Do stay-at-home mothers upset you? You may be a motherist, I have realised that I was and, I must confess, still am a "motherist".

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Purees and power struggles...

So this post has a very tenuous link to feminism. It is adapted from a piece I wrote a while ago for our local NCT newsletter about weaning your baby. The thing is, weaning is another one of those things that involves a decision. Parenting always seems to be full of controversy. Epidural versus natural birth, bottle versus breast, sling or pram…and just when you thought all the tough decisions were made, someone asks you how you intend to go about weaning your little one.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The story of Controlling Mum and Disempowered Dad...

On the weekends, the following conversation often takes place in our house...

"Dad! Let's get dressed now..."
"Well, there's not much point in me dressing you, your mother will just change all your clothes."
"No I won't, go on. Daddy will get you dressed".
 A few minutes later. Kids re-appear with Dad, dressed.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A tribute to my own Feminist Mum OBE

I'm not sure exactly what feminists of the 60s and 70s really wanted, really fought for. I wasn't there. But I think it seemed to be a lot about not being restricted in your life choices. Build a career, travel the world, have kids, forge supportive relationships and make the most of your talents. Never think that you can't do something because you are a woman.