Motherhood and guilt
Posted on November 11, 2008
Abby O’Reilly’s got an interesting piece up on the F Word this week, about birth, breastfeeding, and how everyone’s got an opinion on it.
Just read the thread and you’ll see how right she is.
I resisted commenting for as long as I could, but in the end I couldn’t stand it any longer. So I had a bit of a rant:
“I’m so glad my children are older now, and that I don’t plan on having any more; the guilt trip some of the posters here try and lay on other women who choose to do things differently from them just does my head in.
For what its worth, and just to lay out my credentials from the outset, just in case I get accused of not being qualified to speak on this subject – I’ve got 4 children; I’ve had 1 forceps delivery, 1 induction, 1 “OMG panic panic we’ll have to cut the cord while the baby’s still inside, push it out now or you’ll never forgive yourself!”, and 1 home birth.
I breastfed 1 for 9 months, 1 for 2 weeks, 1 for 4 months (and got criticised and told I was selfish for stopping when I had to go into hospital for emergency surgery ffs – apparently I should have taken the baby in with me and carried on with the breastfeeding despite being completely out of it for 2 days and unable even to walk let alone lift an infant) and 1 for 3 years.
And do you know what I learnt from all of this? None of it makes one iota of difference to your child growing up strong, healthy and well adjusted.
A difficult delivery that doesn’t go how you wanted it, followed by bottle feeding much earlier than you’d planned, and certainly earlier than the earth mother absolutists and the bloody NCT (no offence to anyone here, but my advice would be avoid that bunch like the plague) would have you believe is healthy, is not going to result in you producing some kind of juvenile delinquent with heart disease, obesity and an inability to form attachments to others 16 years down the line.
I accept that in developing countries where access to clean water etc is an issue then breastfeeding is best, and I fully support Baby Milk Action and the Nestle boycott, but that argument really doesn’t wash here.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed breastfeeding and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone, but it’s not the be all and end all that people here are trying to make it out to be: the world won’t suddenly stop turning if you decide it’s not for you.
As for: “Positioning breastfeeding as a lifestyle choice, is both the language of patriarchy, and of capitalism”
I’m sorry, but that’s complete and utter tosh. If you’re going to go down that route I could just as well argue that breastfeeding suits the patriarchy because it helps keep women tied to home and hearth and out of the workforce, and indeed that you’re adopting patriarchal language and aggression by trying to dictate to women how they should live their lives.
Women need to do what feels right and most comfortable for them and their child, they don’t need to be told what to do or made to feel guilty about their decisions by every other woman who’s ever given birth.”
Seriously, some of the stuff pregnant women have to listen to not just from the medical “experts” but from other women just infuriates me. Pregnancy and birth are stressful enough times as it is, without all this pressure to get it “right”.
If women end up having emergency caesareans, or suddenly realising they want pain relief when they’d vowed not to, or having a hospital forceps delivery when they’d planned to give birth naturally in a birthing pool in the middle of the front room ‘cos that’s what it tells you to do in the latest birthing guru’s new book, then so bloody what.
Yes, birth can be disappointing, and yes, sometimes it can even be incredibly traumatic and distressing, but once the baby’s out and everyone’s safe, it’s the parents’ relationship with the child that matters at the end of the day.
And all this bloody guilt just gets in the way of that.
Yup, “natural childbirth” and breastfeeding are -dare I say it – largely middle class obsessions. Like worrying about the environment
And no I haven’t got any children but I was born at home. My 2 years older brother was my only sibling born in hospital because my mother had high blood pressure. My sister told me recently how she remembered this happening when she was 13 and being terrified my mother was going to die.
You don’t need to have kids to realise that most of the time childbirth isn’t dangerous. But when it goes wrong it can go badly wrong and both the mother and child can die. My friend used to work in a maternity hospital recording statistics and one of the deaths she recorded was of a consultant’s wife who haemorraged distastrously.
I’m all for women having more control when they give birth, but that includes not being made to feel guilty by middle class obsessives just because they prefer not to suffer agonising pain, or want the reassurance of knowing medical help is on hand if something goes wrong.
Thanks for posting over there, the whole thread was a lot of food for thought, but I found myself agreeing with your comment a great deal. I’m not a mother, nor do I believe I will be one day (though I’ll never say never) but the whole thing sounds terrifying when people speak so opinionatedly about what ‘they’ believe ‘you’ should do.