20 Dec 2012

Shout it from the rooftops?

Yesterday, Ian Watkins of Lostprophets was charged and remanded over sexual offences.

I loved Lostprophets when I was a teenager. I first heard them in sixth form when a boy I had a crush on lent me their EP. I then rather adored them until around 2006. Then, I got married and had kids and whatnot and stopped paying much attention to the music industry. However, I had a massive crush on Ian Watkins.
And, according to the response of social networks to the charges, so did many other teenagers and adults alike. The overwhelming response, before the charges were detailed in full, was "NO! HE CAN'T HAVE! HE'S TOO FIT/NICE/GOOD AT MUSIC TO BE A PAEDO! IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOME SLUTTY FANGIRL!"

Then, the charges were released. Initially, the charges were those of possessing illegal images and sexual charges concerning a "child under 13 years old". Legally, there is a difference between a child under 13 and a a child between 13 and 16 insofar as their ability to give sexual consent. A child between 13 and 16 can give sexual consent in certain situations, for example with a partner of similar age, though with a partner over 16, it's statutory rape.. Someone between 16 and 18 cannot give consent to a person in authority (e.g. their teacher, their GP).
A child under 13 CANNOT give consent. Sex with someone under 13, even if their 13th birthday is a week away, is rape. So, all children under 13 are grouped together, in sexual offence classification. In this case, it was interpreted by many to mean a 12 or 13 year old girl. On this alone, victim blaming sprang up across twitter. References to slutty fangirls, bullshit lies, belief that he would 'never' do such a thing went viral.

And then the charges were clarified:
A charge of conspiracy to rape a one year old girl
A separate charge of conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with another child under 13 
Four offences relating to possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

Conspiracy to rape a one year old. A baby.
A baby cannot invent a sexual assault, or a conspiracy to assault. A baby cannot be a crazed or rejected fan.

AND YET, the youth of the internet continues to deny that he could do any such thing. The diehard fans, who cannot fathom that their idol could be something other than what he portrays through interviews, lyrics or stage performances. Well, that's what they thought about Jimmy Savile when his offences first came to light. Jimmy Savile is now universally portrayed as a monster, and it's easy to see why. He dressed strangely, had a penchant for cigars and bling, and was known to be a bit of a weirdo. Since the truth was slowly outed, media figures have come out in force to say they 'never liked him'. He was no sex symbol to the youth of today.
Ian Watkins very much IS a sex symbol. A tattooed, moody skater, who has the girls screaming. He does not look like a monster. He is not easy to revile. As far as the public know, he's had normal relationships, he doesn't have a nasty reputation. It is far easier to assume that his victims are liars, than to wonder if he might be a sexual predator. Until you find out there's no way at least one of his potential victims could have even known he was planning to rape her.

We still have this image that paedophiles and rapists are deformed men, skulking on corners and offering sweets to little girls. Why would a good looking young man resort to attempting to rape a child? Surely only people who are evil and rejected would do such a thing, people who can't get anything else?
With Jimmy Savile, there has been a discussion that suggests that, during the 70s, it was culturally acceptable to treat women as pieces of meat, as if this somehow exonerates him from guilt. However, even in today's culture, it is easier to decide a girl or woman is lying about sexual assault than to admit that someone you like (or love) is a rapist, or a paedophile. Every day, there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of women and girls who are terrified to tell the truth about what has happened to them, because they fear not being believed, being called a lying slut, or being vilified when it is THEY who have suffered.

Ian Watkins has been denied bail, and will appear in court again on 31st December.

4 Dec 2012

Module Results

Of the 1500 students that took the K101 exam, around 6% got a first (85-100%).

I was one of them.

I cannot believe it. I got 90%!

Added to my TMA average of 69%, I got a PASS! No distinction, coz my TMA scores weren't high enough, but I don't care. 90%. It's unbelievable. On all three questions, I got a first (they don't give you exact percentages, just the marking band your answer was in).

So, that's K101 done and dusted. My first year complete, my first module attained. Only seven more to do...

27 Nov 2012

Women and video games

I love video games. I have loved video games since I was old enough to boot up my grandparent's Amiga and learn DOS commands. I would have been about eight (circa 1993). Before then, my earliest memories are playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World on the Mastersystem II. I used to play Zork, and various other interactive fictions, the original Civilization and Eye of The Beholder. It sparked an interest in fantasy RPGs that hasn't gone away. We didn't own a family PC until I was 14, but my older brother went through consoles like other people go through socks. We had (at various points) a NES, a SNES, a Playstation and  an N64 (my favourite console of all time). Once we got hold of a PC, I started playing games like Baldur's Gate, Theme Hospital and SimCity. I spent HOURS of my life on there. My very first blog was a gaming blog, written in HTML from scratch and published on the burgeoning school intranet. Nobody read it, obviously. Now, I have been through various gaming PCs and consoles and have an XBox 360, and an Inspiron One, which is shite for gaming  - I only use it to play The Sims 3. I intend to upgrade in the next year.

However, as a female gamer, I've always been aware of heavy bias towards male gamers. As a child, I wasn't allowed to play on my brother's consoles unless he needed someone to make up the numbers on four player Goldeneye. I was a girl, the games were for him and my younger brother. It would certainly never have occurred to my parents to buy me a console in my own right. My family thought I was a bit strange for spending so much time on the old computer at my Gran's house, and then later doing the same at home. I was supposed to be into makeup, and clothes (PAH!), not hacking and slashing away in forbidden realms.If I joined in playing Quake on the school computers, there would be one or two girls and fifteen boys. I rarely chose to play as a female character, as they were inevitably crappier than the male characters. Look at bloody Princess Peach in the Mario series - she was never where she said she was going to be and seemingly incapable of just NOT getting abducted by Bowser. In Street Fighter, it took them years to have more than one female character, and then it was the semi-naked Cammy. Even in Baldur's Gate, the women were either irritating (Imoen), mental on religion (Jaheira/Branwen) or vile tempered (Viconia).

I always felt like I was on the fringe, only allowed into the male dominated sector of gaming because they hadn't noticed I was there.

Now, of course, I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks of my leisure activities, and games are certainly more inclusive than they used to be. On my shelf at the moment, I have the following games (not many, coz I trade in as soon as I'm done): Oblivion, Skyrim, Soul Calibre IV, Lego Harry Potter 1-4, Sims 3, Sims Medieval. The latter three games are genuinely genderless. Harry Potter is aimed at kids, and the Sims games are (almost by definition) inclusive. Oblivion and Skyrim are slightly orientated to male gamers. Soul Calibre is a sexist piece of junk, full of heaving bosoms, short skirts and camel toes. I play it because I'm amazing at it, and it amuses me to kick ass.

Sexism, however, continues. There are games that are basically developed on the premise of sexism, like Leisure Suit Larry (which I loved, rather hypocritically). Consider GTA, one of the more popular video game franchises. Screw a hooker, run her over and get your money back! Almost every interactive NPC is male. I grant you, part of GTA's charm is it's wholehearted lack of political correctness. It makes crime fun, and allows you to be someone you would never want to be in reality. However, its misogyny goes beyond what it necessary to stay in the character of the game.
Tomb Raider is another subtly (or not so subtly) sexist game. At first glance, it seems fine. A female protagonist, doing all manner of traditionally male activities, shooting guns and fighting tigers (and whatever other bollocks she got up to). But the game's biggest selling point is Lara Croft: fantasy woman. Make her do a backflip and watch her boobs bounce. See also: Dead or Alive.
Even in Sims 3, a game I usually consider to be admirably inclusive, has sliders on the female characters to make their breasts bigger or smaller.
It is rare that a video game has a female protagonist that is not incredibly sexually attractive. The only reason I can think for this is to tailor it to the men who want to game. You don't generally get cut scenes lingering over the male character's arse or crotch.

Sexism is alive and well in videogames. But why? Are female gamers so incredibly rare that they should be discounted altogether? I'd have to say no to that. When I was growing up, I certainly felt like the only girl who knew how to use WASD (or even QWOP), but now I know it's just not true. Women do not just play Brain Training on DS, or have a go on a WiiFit every now and then. Some of us have racked up 100+ hours on Skyrim, and completed Mass Effect on insanity (not me though, I hate Mass Effect). Some of us get really angry when Fable sequels just keep getting crappier, and Hitman tries too hard. Thousands, if not millions of us play Xbox Live. We are no longer the minority group.

Despite the institutionalised sexism, and the downright misogyny of many games, women still play and enjoy them. There is little alternative, when female developers are treated like crap. If women are massively underrepresented at a development level, the end product is going to be male orientated at best, vilely sexist at worst. And until there is a major backlash, nothing will change. I sincerely hope that #1reasonwhy starts the ball rolling.

20 Nov 2012

The shock of breastfeeding

People, I have news for you: 1% of UK women breastfeed for the minimum recommended six months. Considering that breastmilk is the optimal food for new babies, and most women want to give their babies the best start they can, this statistic should be shocking. But it isn't.

Here's why. When midwives tell women they should breastfeed, they fail to tell them that it is bloody hard work. When women go to breastfeeding classes, the teacher fails to tell them that it is bloody hard work. They harp on about the health benefits, the satisfaction, the close bond. And then, babies don't feed much immediately after birth, and midwives are on hand to latch the baby on and offer reassurance.

It's when the new mother gets home that the problem starts.
Picture the scene. A woman has her first baby. All is joy and light.Three days later, the new mother is crying because her boobs are huge and full and painful, her nipples cane, the baby won't sleep, she doesn't know if the baby's latching right, the baby's always hungry, she has mastitis, she doesn't want the baby anymore, she just wants to sleep. The midwife comes in, says everything's fine and the mother feels better. Then two hours later, it starts again. The father may suggest she puts the baby on a bottle 'so he can help', other relatives chime in with handy hints like 'well, he SHOULD only be feeding four hourly' or 'Maybe you're not making enough milk' or 'All mine were bottle fed and nothing bad happened'.
The mother is undermined, hormonal, unhappy and weak. Why the HELL would anyone want to continue the torture of initiating breastfeeding against all that? The establishing of breastfeeding takes around 4 to 6 weeks to complete, yet most midwives handover care around day 10. Health visitors are far less frequent visitors, and far less hands on. It is a lucky woman indeed who gets a good midwifery team and a good health visiting team.

The reason that so many women give up breastfeeding, often at considerable emotional cost to their postnatal recovery, is simple. There is insufficient support available, and education is unrealistically optimistic, presumably to try not to put off women who want to breastfeed. But what is the point in painting breastfeeding in a glowing light if women are just going to become demoralised, and give up within weeks?

A woman who has just had a baby needs positive encouragement. Nobody should suggest to a mother who wants to breastfeed that she is doing it wrong. Midwives need to be allowed to offer proper postnatal support. Alas, this is not usually available due to budgetary constraints. Fathers and family need to be supportive of the decision to breastfeed, rather than sulk because they 'can't help', as if feeding a baby is the only available way to interact with a newborn, or offer help to it's mother. It is usually the mother who ends up doing all the bottle feeding, however good the intentions are to begin with.

And here's the thing. IF a woman can get through the difficult first six weeks, with cluster feeding and disturbed nights, and the constant refrain of "my baby slept through the night from TWO DAYS on formula", "my baby fed four hourly from birth", "you should put him/her on a bottle", "Oooh, that's a bit weird", breastfeeding is practical, simple, hygienic and (once you've got the hang of it) EASY. A breastfed baby is incredibly easy to comfort, to settle to sleep, to keep quiet at awkward moments. There are well documented health benefits, to both mother and child. It is also deeply rewarding on an emotional level.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to formula feed from the start. There is nothing wrong with formula feeding if breastfeeding fails. But this isn't about the choice of feeding methods. It's about the lack of support given to women who WANT to breastfeed.

I have now been breastfeeding for 40 months. I had a three month gap between weaning the eldest and giving birth to the youngest. Neither of them have every had a drop of formula, which was my decision, and one I have stood by despite endless, well-meant advice about how my children SHOULD be fed, and how 'strange' it is to be feeding a toddler. With my eldest, the breastfeeding relationship was the only thing that stopped me completely losing it with postnatal depression (it was the only thing I felt I could do for him), and was a struggle. With my youngest, it came naturally and easily because I'd learnt the hard way how to do it.

I have written before about how a lack of support was damaging following my first birth, and I stand by that. If I had given up breastfeeding (as I was often tempted) when he was tiny, I would have felt a complete failure. Emotional and practical support is such a simple thing to need, and yet such a struggle to receive.

14 Nov 2012

Moving from Level 1 to Level 2

SO, K101 is DONE. I get my result is around a month, and to be honest, I've barely thought about it since I stepped out of the exam hall. The exam, for what it's worth, was much better than I was expecting. I wish I hadn't got in such a massive, life-damaging stress about it. By that morning, I was catatonic.We got to take in a notes sheet, so even if our minds went blank, we had somewhere to start. My mind didn't go blank, the questions were all on bits I'd thoroughly revised. I regurgitated 2500 words onto the answer booklet, and I finished with about half an hour to spare. My wrist was complete agony after an hour, then I stopped feeling it. I'm considering getting plastics to have another look at it. The tendon is two inches short and I can see the scarring moving up and down inside when I clench my fist. This is not good!
I then had to wait for the bus for an hour, but that was mere BAD TIMING. I don't even want to guess how I did. I think I passed. That's all I can say.

K203 started ten days before the exam and I did NOTHING until after the exam. Then I just couldn't get my brain in gear. I was still in revision mode. This is why I'm never doing two modules back to back again. It took me three whole weeks to do one unit (you're supposed to do a unit a week), though I had sick children to contend with as well. I did the first TMA without reading half the relevant unit.
But SOMEHOW, I got 71% ! 
My highest TMA essay score in K101 was 73%. I was expecting a significant drop in marks on this module, with it being higher level. Let's see if I can do as well next time (probably not).

Without naming names (and I put all this on my feedback form after the module), my K101 tutor was a disappointment. Her feedback was minimal, her group interaction worse. When I asked for help with my exam prep, she had nothing useful to say. The only good thing was her tutorial notes (I never went to a tutorial).
My NEW tutor is a REVELATION! She's very active on the forum, does regular tutorials with excellent notation and her feedback is exactly what I need. It tells me what I've done wrong, without being insulting, and tells me what I've done right. She praised my structure and paragraphing, which tutor#1 marked me down on every time.

It's buoyed me up to get on with it. I've managed to mostly catch up in the last ten days and I've got a reading week next week, so I can get up to date and write my next TMA, which is due on the 28th. The course content is one subject, but in great depth (the polar opposite to K101, which is broad and shallow) and the first block is theory. Theory, and difficult reading, and nonsensical statistics. It's challenging every preconception I had about health and biomedicine. It is MESSING with my HEAD.
But I think I love it.

25 Oct 2012

Why I wear a poppy

 If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

It's 2012, 98 years since the outbreak of the First World War, or Great War as it was once known. All the veterans are dead now. Few civilians survive who could give any account of it and as such, it slips from the national (and international) consciousness. It stands alone, a military campaign like no other.

Almost ten million soldiers died. That equates to the entire population of Hungary.

Just under one million of those were British. Imagine now, if a million young men were wiped out of our population. Everyone would know someone who died, and since 1914, the population has risen by a third. Only 52 parishes in England and Wales had all their men returned. No parish in Scotland or Northern Ireland was unaffected. The scale of the devastation is absolutely unimaginable these days, when every dead soldier is reported on the national news, and given full military burial honours. 435 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001. Over 400000 British soldiers died, or were injured in a 19 week campaign at the Somme, in addition to another 60000 German soldiers.
The only member of my family that I categorically know was involved in the first world war was my great grandad, who was invalided out with a shrapnel wound. The leg was later amputated. I know that all my great grandfathers would have been in service, though that particular one is the only one whose story I know. Your great grandfathers would have been too, because of conscription. Conscription - when you are legally required to sign up and fight - was introduced halfway through the war to try and bolster numbers. However, the sheer weight of moral expectation to sign up made conscription largely pointless. The healthy men had all signed up, only those in poor health and essential work were left.
And the healthy men were decimated.

In 1920, the remembrance poppy was introduced by an American women called Moina Michael, who was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields. Field Marshall Haig adopted the idea for the Royal British Legion in 1921, and they have been sold ever since, from the end of October until Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The funds generated go towards providing support and care to veterans of conflict, no matter where or when they fought. The RBL have received criticism for taking donations from the BNP and Tony Blair. The RBL's work, while admirable, is not the reason I wear a poppy.

Some adopt the poppy as an aggressively nationalist tag, claiming it as a symbol of British pride. They argue for the right to wear their poppy, which nobody has ever disputed outside the world of diplomacy and international football. Yearly, the rumour mill claims that Muslims are trying to stop people wearing poppies. Yearly, the rumour mill is wrong, and yet it still inspires so much racism that it makes me ashamed to be British. The poppy is a highly unpopular symbol in Northern Ireland, yet this doesn't create half the ignorant, ridiculous ramblings of idiotic racists, bellowing abuse in the name of 'patriotism'.
Nationalism is not something I identify with. It is not the reason I wear a poppy.

I am vehemently pacifist. I don't idolise soldiers, I don't deify the military dead, I don't glorify war. Neither does the poppy appeal.

The reason I wear the poppy is simple. In 1914, a war started that the common man could get involved in.
So, they were fed into a system of trenches, barbed wire, tanks, mustard gas, shells and bullets. They lived in mud, they suffered from trench foot, lice and diarrhoea. If they suffered shell shock, they were court martialled and shot. Millions died. There was no post traumatic stress counselling for the survivors. Families were devastated, children left fatherless, women left to cope. Those that were lucky enough to survive came home and they carried on. Some carried injuries for life, like my great grandad. Some never recovered mentally. Not one was left without a scar somewhere, in body, mind or spirit.

I wear my poppy to remember that it must never happen again.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

22 Oct 2012

Informed choice and dissent in post-term induction of labour

Recently my little sister gave birth to her second baby. She was 42 weeks pregnant exactly, and had a spontaneous natural labour, that she described as peaceful. Her little girl was a healthy weight, and is absolutely beautiful.
However, the day before her labour started naturally, she was admitted for a routine induction of labour, which she refused. Despite saying repeatedly to her own midwife, the midwife on the phone and the midwife on the assessment ward that she did not want to be induced, she had to see an obstetrician to make sure she understood the risks of refusal. And that obstetrician did what all obstetricians do when women refuse induction solely for being overdue: she pulled the "YOUR BABY WILL DIE" card. Luckily, my sister refused to be scared, had a normal placental flow scan and was discharged. Her labour began properly the following evening and she had a quick, painkiller free delivery. I am VERY proud of her.
I had my second child at 42 weeks gestation as well. I was due to be admitted for an induction (which I did not want) a few hours after he was born. I had an exceptionally fast labour and when he was born, he was shown to have two knots in his umbilical cord. Not only could this have killed him at any time from around 14 weeks of pregnancy, if my membranes had been ruptured, he would have become distressed and I would have had either a caesarean or stillbirth. Instead, I had a natural birth at home, exactly as I'd wanted, and he was born healthy.
 My mother's sixth child (the sister mentioned above) was 19 days late before she was finally browbeaten into an induction, however she was already in early labour. Her EIGHTH child was twelve days late, when the obstetrician on call asked her if she wanted her baby to die, to try and force her into an induction. Considering my mother's seventh child was a premature stillbirth, this was incredibly cruel. My youngest sister was born safe and happy 12 hours later. 

Are there risks associated with overdue babies? Yes, of course there are, or it wouldn't be an issue. One study shows that at your due date, in a normal pregnancy, your risk of stillbirth and neonatal death sits at 0.24%. By 43 weeks, it has increased to 0.58% (Hilder, 1998). A much larger, longer case study was done in Scotland, which put the mortality rate at 43 weeks at 1.15%, as opposed to 0.22% at term. The baby, being presumed more mature, may pass meconium in labour, which may poison them. However, this is not exclusive to overdue babies.There has been a Dutch report that suggests there is increased likelihood of ADHD in postterm babies. (NHS choices, 2012). Otherwise, aside from fears of large babies, postmaturity syndrome, and placental problems, there are few risks associated with prolonged pregnancy that do not exist in ALL pregnancy.

However, although the NICE guidelines are that pregnancy should not progress past 42 weeks, and suggests induction of labour in these circumstances it also states that "Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be given every opportunity to go into spontaneous labour." and "if a woman chooses not to have induction of labour, her decision should be respected. Healthcare professionals should discuss the woman's care with her from then on." (NICE, 2012). It also advises that induction of labour should not be offered solely because of likely macrosomia (NICE, 2012), otherwise known as a big baby.

My sister had previously told her midwife that she was uninterested in an induction, and was told that the last patient who'd done that had died, along with the baby, in a teepee in the garden. She then asked my sister if she was also planning on giving birth in a teepee. When I told my midwife that I did not want to be induced, she shrugged, said she had to follow protocol (in booking it) and that it was up to the consultant. A friend (who delivered under the same midwifery team as me) tells me how her midwife was equally surprised at her induction refusal and implied it was the consultant's choice.
Another describes her delivery team as: "I was given the impression that they thought I was a silly little girl for wanting it my way and that I'd change my mind and do what they wanted me to do."
Another women said "It didn't feel like a choice at all, just something I was told was going to happen. The actual process of breaking my waters was done without my prior consent - I was led to believe they were simply examining me."
Informed, unpressured consent in the small pool of women I consulted happened in just under one third of the cases. All women described an amount of expectation, and pressure that they would conform to having an induction.Several described having to demand the information on the procedure and risks, rather than it being given as a matter of course.

What of the risk in being induced? Induced labours are markedly more painful than natural, as the body is being forced to do something it is not ready to do. Induced labours can also be much slower, which in natural labour is not much of a problem - you just carry on until you're fully dilated, unless you want to be augmented with hormones. However, once the induction process begins, you are on a timer, and if your body fails to do as it's told, more intervention is necessary to bring forth the baby.
Both of these factors can cause problems with the labour. Painful labour often means an epidural, an epidural means lying around in bed, and that slows labour down. The labour is then not progressing fast enough for doctor's, who start considering instrumental or caesarean delivery. One study quotes a threefold increase in risk for induced labours to end in caesarean, versus spontaneous delivery (Thorsell et al, 2011). There is not a lot of data available for perinatal mortality rates in induced vs natural post-term labour, however one study suggests that induction does not reduce the mortality rate (Wennerholm et al, 2009)

A due date is an estimation. Unless you have a patient who knows categorically when she concieved (for example, in an IVF pregnancy), it is difficult to know when a woman ovulated, when the sperm met the egg, when the egg implanted. Early gestational scans make the dating process much more precise, but the five days for error allowed in them means the difference between being considered 9 or 14 days overdue. Not all babies who are supposedly overdue are born with postmaturity syndome. My youngest certainly wasn't, and he could not have been less than 11 days overdue by my dates (14 days by scan), though he did have a most luxuriant mane of hair. Equally, my new niece does not display the features of postmaturity syndrome, and she was at least 14, if not 17 days late. Babies do not all 'cook' at exactly the same rate.

When the NICE guidelines advise that women are fully counselled in the risks associated with continuing the pregnancy, or inducing it, they do not also advise belittling, or ignoring the woman's preferences; or scaring her with statistics. Quite the opposite: the woman is supposed to be informed and supported in her choice between induction and natural labour.
We need to find out why this is overlooked so frequently. Do obstetricians genuinely believe that they will have a flood of stillbirths on their hands if they allow women to go more than ten, or twelve, or fourteen days overdue? Or are they trying to control an otherwise uncontrollable natural process? Are we going to end up like certain parts of the USA, where inductions are booked before the expected due date is even reached, to fully medicalise the process? Inductions are not cheap: they require drugs, monitoring, observation, and bedspace, and like any birth, can require surgical intervention at any time. However, with the increased likelihood of interventions, is it cost-effective to panic women into induction of labour before 42 weeks has even been reached?

Women deserve informed choice, especially when they are on the cusp of undergoing a physically and emotionally demanding delivery. They do not deserve to be frightened or coerced into any procedure, least of all one as life-changing as birth.

Hilder, (1998) 'Stillbirth and infant mortality births in term and post-term gestation'  http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/12012/41260/41260.pdf
Smith (2001), 'Perinatal death at term and post-term' in http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/12012/41260/41260.pdf
NHS Choices (2012) http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/05may/Pages/overdue-post-term-babies-adhd.aspx
National Institute for Clinical Excellence, 2012 http://publications.nice.org.uk/induction-of-labour-cg70/guidance
Thorsell, M,. Lyrenas, S. Andolf, E. and Kauser, M. (2011)  'Induction of labor and the risk for emergency cesarean section in nulliparous and multiparous women.' in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica; Oct2011, Vol. 90 Issue 10, p1094-1099
Wennerholm, U. Hagberg, H. Brorsson, B. Bergh, C. (2009) 'Induction of labour versus expectant management for post-date pregnancy. Is there sufficient evidence for a change in clinical practice?' in Atta Obstrecia et Gynecological Scandinavica; Jan2009, Vol 88 Issue 1, p.6-17
- Women's opinions and statistics gleaned by the author, from a brief online survey, comprising 13 participants between October 18th and 21st 2012.

18 Oct 2012

"I didn't mean YOU!" Oh yes you did...

"I wish I could sit on my fat arse watching Jezza all day, like those benefit dossers"

"There is another feckless actor in this dysfunctional family drama — the mother, who may be having children by a series of different men." (Daily Mail, 20th June 2011)

"Get rid of benefits and make the lazy scum work"

"My taxes pay for you to sit on your arse"

"In 2009, 6.7 per cent of the households in Britain were led by single women with children under 15, or older children still at school or college." (Daily Mail)

"By conceiving, [young women] are willingly making themselves unemployable and should receive reduced benefits!" (Daily Mail reader)

"Although single mothers don’t automatically mean filthy ignorant feral underclass scum offspring, the vast majority of filthy ignorant feral underclass scum offspring spawn from single mothers."

These are some opinions I have found on the internet about those nasty, evil, benefit scroungers. There are millions of others, usually voiced on Facebook by people who are barely above the underclass they revile. "FUKIN DOLE DOSERS SHUD GET A JOB!" is the illiterate howl of those who consider facebook a valid place to voice prejudiced hate, regardless of who might be reading.
As a dreadful dole dosser, I take these frustrated cries of the overtaxed very personally, and respond, only to be told "Oh, we don't mean YOU. We know why YOU'RE on benefits and you're OK".

Why? I'm not some sort of special case. I had my children relatively young, getting pregnant at 23 and then again at 25. Not a teen mother by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly younger than many of my peer group. My children have the same father - my former husband - and have a good relationship with him. I didn't choose to be a single parent, I was abandoned. At no point did it occur to anyone involved that my ex should get custody of the children, because that is not the way society works. Neither do we have joint custody, because that wouldn't work either. So, I am literally left holding the baby. I gave up work because it wasn't financially viable, if I also wanted to look after my kids. Some women can do it, I'm not one of them.

It suits the government to push this image of the young woman, using her womb as a mealticket, but the truth is somewhat different. Most women become single parents through desertion or death: few indeed decide to simply BE a single mother.
For a start, having children is INTENSELY hard work, even more so as a single parent. The knowledge that if something goes wrong, you're on your own, is tremendous responsibility. The ultimate job of a parent is to keep the child alive until adulthood. If you begin to fail to do this, social services rightly take your child away. I miss work because it gave me an opportunity to get away from that ominous responsibility for a few hours a week, as well as be recognised as a person other than 'Mumma' and get some adult company. When my eldest had a vomiting bug early this year, I did not leave the house or see another adult for six days. Six. Days. Single parenthood is isolating, difficult and exhausting. It is not something vast amounts of young adults choose. It is certainly not something I would have chosen.

The single mum, in her free house, surrounded by a variety of children with different fathers persists as the default image of single motherhood. It's not true. For a start, getting a council house is a massive ballache, often involving periods of either living in an overcrowded house with extended family or living in a hostel until a house becomes free. In Peterborough, there are about 1000 council houses up for auction each year, but a waiting list of 3000. The alternative is private renting, but this is a headache too because landlord's HATE benefits claimants. Most letting adverts bear the ominious "NO DSS". I have no idea why they're allowed to be so prejudiced, but it is their fault that social housing is so in demand. I privately rent, because I got my house before I technically stopped work. If I'd waited til my maternity pay finished, I would have struggled.

That is the real core of living on benefits: everything is a struggle. Benefit provision is at subsistence level. They give you the minimum you need to live, according to their research. I have enough to live on, purely because I can't drive. I do not get enough money, even with child maintenance factored in, to run a car. Most people consider a car essential to maintain an average standard of living. Not I! Every purchase I make has to pass the 'do I really need this?" test. If the answer is no, and I haven't paid the rent yet, it doesn't get bought. This extends to things like repainting the living room, buying a hedge trimmer to sort my front garden out, and even buying clothes. If I splurge, I feel guilty. Food prices are soaring, and when a bunch of bananas costs almost as much as a Happy Meal, you can see why so many people on benefits have such a dreadful diet. The worst thing for expenditure is energy. I have a gascard meter. It costs me about a pound an hour to have the heating on, and if I run out of money in the night, the gas keeps running, putting me into debt. Since I moved into a dual-fuel house, my energy bills have tripled. The choice is to have cold kids and more money, or warm kids and less money. The gas meter wins, every time. Trying to achieve the basic trio of shelter, heat and food is not easy on a low income. I often hear people say they are too proud to be on benefits. When you have children to look after, there is no such thing as pride. If my pride had stopped me claiming benefits, I'd have been homeless two years ago, despite being in work.

When people assume that everyone on benefits is on the highway to luxury, it makes me angry. When people assume that everyone on benefits is a workshy, babyfactory, that makes me angry. And when people say "Oh, we don't mean YOU", I get REALLY angry. The stigma extended to those on benefits is universal, from the top down. I get blamed by the government for the deficit, I get patronised by the jobcentre, I get judged by my son's preschool (because he has subsidised lunches), and everytime someone bitches about dole dossers, I get insulted. 


Now, you'll all be pleased to know that I've finished K101 and am now moving onto K203, which will doubtless mean less benefit-related bitching, and more perceptions of childbirth bitching.

10 Oct 2012

The Conservative Conference

The government like cuts. They REALLY like cuts. Someone (with a lot more patience than I) has compiled a list of all the cuts here. It makes for disturbing reading. The services that are being cut are primarily in the health, social and education sectors, and almost nobody will be unaffected by them. We're all in this together, according to David Cameron. However, it soon becomes apparent that this Utopia is quite Orwellian. We may be all in this together, but some are more in it than others.

For example, George Osborne wants to cut 10 BILLION pounds EXTRA off the welfare output, to rebalance the deficit. He thinks limiting the amount of children a family on benefits is allowed may help this. How, exactly, I'm unsure. I have two children. They were concieved before I required benefits to live on. If I'd managed to have five children without needing assistance, and then found myself needing it, would I be expected to have a cull? Put some in care, maybe? What is an acceptable amount of children for Mr Osborne? Two, like him? Or four, like Mr Cameron?

This country needs to stop punishing the poor (who are in increasingly less position to be able to contribute to the economy at all) and start taxing the rich. Our economy collapsed due to the greed of bankers, playing games with the country's money, yet mansion tax was scrapped because, apparently, it will soon spiral out of control, and people who have saved and worked hard will resent having to pay for their houses. Their enormous houses, that they cannot possibly NEED, that use up huge swathes of land. A worthy target for taxation.

However, the con-dem party aren't interested in this viewpoint. It is preferable to pretend that the enormous amount of people living in poverty are to blame. Iain Duncan Smith declared that "Now we are toughening up the penalty for failure to seek work." (BBC News). How does he define failure to seek work? There are no jobs to be had for many people, and most jobseeking benefits ARE stopped if you fail to seek work.
He also said "Gone must be the days when governments spent money to buy their way out of a problem." (ibid) but this is the problem. The only way to fix the amount of people on benefits is to invest. Invest in creating jobs, in improving areas of deprivation, in removing social exclusion. A child born into a debt-ridden, workless household will only have that to aspire to, unless social change happens.

This government are deliberately targeting those without a voice, in their benefit cull. The rich spoke out in droves against mansion tax, and were heeded. The poor have no choice but to accept cap after cut, because the government own us. In blaming us for the recession and deficit, the government are alienating and excluding us from society.

However, that's no longer enough and they're beginning to attack the workers as well. The minimum wage for over 21s (because, despite paying tax, you're not an adult til then in the government's eyes) is just over £10k a year. Can anyone live on that, without help? Can anyone support a FAMILY on that, without help? No. Yet, there's no call to introduce a living wage, and working families are resentful of those on benefits because they apparently have more money. This isn't true: for a childless adult, working is more profitable than being on income support. When I was a single, working parent, I got £200 a month more than I do now, overall.
In addition to this, Mr Osborne wants to remove people's employment rights. How humanitarian of him! Instead of allowing people to be protected from unfair dismissal, be permitted maternity leave, training and have a right to redundancy, they will get er...shares in their employing company. Aside from the legal ramifications of trying to enact this, it reduces employees to money-magnets, not people.
The new target is childless people under 25, who dare claim housing benefit. Apparently, these people should continue living with their parents. At what point did 25 become adulthood? At what point did income tax and national insurance start only applying once you reached 25? Oh, that's right, it doesn't.

The coalition government has no sense of what it's like to live in the lower classes. Instead, they fear and blame them and increase the distance between us and them, hoping that nobody notices. Legal tax loopholes mean that the rich are not paying into the economy, only taking from it. There is no push to close these loopholes. Instead, the lowest strata of British people are punished repeatedly, and vilified.This is not an acceptable way to run a country.

3 Oct 2012

Victim blaming and child abduction

Victim blaming is a concept more usually associated with rape. A woman goes out in a short skirt, she gets raped, she was asking for it. A woman gets drunk, she gets raped, she shouldn't have got drunk. Instead of blaming the man who chose to rape her, she is blamed for putting herself in his path in the first place. The insinuation is that the perpetrator could not help it, and it was the woman's fault. It is a dreadful reaction.

However, since the abduction of April Jones, I have noticed the same response repeatedly, aimed at her parents. The child was out playing with a friend after school, and someone abducted her. Those are the bare facts. The fact the child was only 5 and playing outside at 7:30pm has horrified some people. One person on my facebook list went to far as to accuse her parents of neglect and say that if April is found alive, she should be put into care. Many others have simply asked "Why was she playing outside so late?" The insinuation is clear: her parents are to blame for letting her out to play.

Now, hang on a minute. Your thoughts on what is an appropriate age for a child to play out late will be entirely subjective, based on where you live. There's no way my two would be allowed out where I live: it's a busy road and I don't know many neighbours. However, in my old village, I'd have been more than happy to allow them out to play with schoolfriends.
7:30pm seems late, but again, it's subjective. If you're still in 'summer mode' (which I certainly was until a few days), you may not realise how late it is, or think "ten more minutes won't hurt" or "I'll just finish this job and then I'll go and get her".

It's all completely irrelevant. It would not make any difference if the child was playing out at 3pm or 3am. Nothing gives a person the right to abduct a child. A child is not a dropped five pound note, that you might consider picking up if no clear owner was evident. A child is a small person, and whoever abducted her did so with grim intent. If she hadn't have been out, it would have been a different child, or maybe he would've waited and snatched her at a different, more socially acceptable time.

When  Myra Hindley, murderer of at least four children, was asked by a journalist why she abducted, raped and murdered Lesley Anne Downey, she replied "It was her mother's fault. She shouldn't have been out so late."

Victim blaming is merely a way to detach yourself from the horrors of what has likely happened to that little girl. Abduction is any parents worst nightmare. The guilt her mother must feel right now is far beyond anything most of us can comprehend, or would ever want to be able to understand. Stop blaming the parents, start blaming the monster who knows where she is.

1 Oct 2012

Exam nerves

I just laid on my bed and ate a massive cream cake from Greggs, like a decadent Northerner. And why (aside from the fact that cake is great) I hear you ask? Because, dear reader, I am procrastinating. Like a boss.

My exam is in fifteen days. I haven't sat a formal exam since June 2002, when I did my AS levels. I always did far better in exams than coursework at school, so technically this should cheer me (I got a coursework mark of 69% overall). I am not cheered. I am petrified.

The exam is three questions, in three hours. There is a choice of question in each section, one on each block of the course. In short, I 'only' have to revise seven units instead of all twenty three (although, some people are revising all of it in case they don't like the questions that come up). My eldest is now at preschool, so I get two and a half days without him. However, my youngest has decided that if I look busy, he wants to sit on my knee. Even as I type, he has clambered up to sit with me.

So, I'm panicking. I'm anxious and stressed and tired. I wander about the house bellowing Bowlby's theory of attachment. I have made cue cards about important topics, for one of the two big blocks I need to revise. I keep telling myself I'll be fine, I need 40% to pass, there's no pressure to push for a distinction, I just need to pass. But still, my mind flails around shrieking.

My next module starts on Saturday, and the first TMA (a thousand words on perceptions of health) is due on Halloween. Gawd help me.

14 Aug 2012

The Olympics

Ah the Olympics! Sixteen days of sporting achievement, with blanket BBC coverage so you cannot POSSIBLY MISS IT, EVEN IF YOU TRY. YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE OLYMPIC JUGGERNAUT, LICENSE FEE PAYING MORTALS.

Ahem. Despite generally loathing televised sport, I have a soft spot for the Olympics. I don't know why. I have a huge love of the Winter Olympics, primarily for it's vicious edge and risk of blood on the ice (I watch Dancing on Ice for the selfsame reason). For Beijing, I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and WEPT HELPLESSLY at every medal ceremony. Usually on my lunch break, eating toast. Then I had to go back to work and try not to let on that I was pregnant and make excuses for my tear stained visage.

I digress. Despite inauspicious omens (the G4S security fail, the sponsorship fascism, the dreadful logo), it all fired off, an improbably long time ago, with the opening ceremony to end all opening ceremonies. I don't know about anyone else, but I sat down to watch it in FULL snark mode (which some of you will know is quite a terrifying spectacle). I proceeded to tweet about it to such an extent that I exceeded my tweet allowance before the lighting of the cauldron. I LOVED every melodramatic, all singing, all dancing second of it. There may have been no Sherlock Holmes and the Voldemort swaying around over the top was a bit...strange, but it was a celebration of British culture. If anyone has ever tried to summarise British culture, you'll know it's quite hard, but oddly the opening ceremony did just that. Kenneth Branagh as the legendary IKB? Yes, why not! A massive celebration (/fuckyouDave) of the NHS? YES! Paul McCartney? Sadly yes. It was a triumph.

We have won sixty four medals, across the board. Thats the most since 1908, when we won a rather improbable 146. Did nobody else come that year?
There have been no massive logistical errors since it actually started. The TV coverage is supplied by the Olympic Broadcasting Service, and has had some flaws - like cutting away from Andy Murray before he got to his mum. DAMN YOU, OBS! I WANTED TO SEE JUDY CRACK A GRIN!

Highlights of actual sport for me are:
Andy Murray winning gold off Federer. Federer's heart may have not been wholly in it, but who cares?
Tom Daley winning bronze in the 10m diving.
Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis winning gold and flying the flag for British athletics, British diversity and everything the Daily Mail hates (HUZZAH).
Victoria Pendleton's performance in the keirin, which was breathtakingly amazing and won her the gold.
Beth Tweddle finally getting a medal. Which rhymes.
And, representing my very own Peterborough, Louis Smith!

It has been such an excellent year for Team GB that it's really difficult not to just list every single medal and request a small, desktop round of applause. I've missed most of the athletics and swimming, because it coincided with putting my kids to bed. In truth, it would be impossible, even with the TWENTY FOUR channels of coverage, to see everything. But, not a day has passed where I haven't sat and watched SOMETHING. My three year old son has loved it, and he's never shown any interest in watching anything other than Jake and the Neverland Pirates during the day. He has informed me he wishes to take up diving.

He's not going to be the only child inspired to take up some sport. But most olympic sports are not part of the school curriculum. Swimming lessons aren't even on the curriculum anymore in some schools. There are after school clubs, saturday clubs. They cost money. They cost time. They're not always local. For example, I live in a small city in the East Midlands. The nearest small-child-friendly swimming pool is 15 miles away, well out of the city. The only pools in my locality are Bannatynes and the college pool, which is all lanes. You can't take a three year old lane swimming, let alone a 15 month old. Swimming is a fairly common activity to undertake and yet there's no 'leisure' provision in this city.
There has been much talk in the media about the proportion of privately educated athletes being greater than state school educated. Is that really a surprise to anyone? If you're going to become an elite athlete, in almost any sport, you need considerable financial backing. You need a high level of parental commitment. You need transport, you need time to train, you need to be able to afford to train. Your talent needs to be recognised. Increasingly, school PE is being cutback. When I was at school, in the lae 90s/early 00s, we had about 4 hours of PE a week. The girls did hockey, netball, crosscountry, track and field (mostly track) and tennis. If you were like me, and had long legs, you were entered into the high or long jump, or hurdles, come sports day. I went to a (non-fee-paying) Grammar school, and in years 10 and 11, we could go and do FUN sports like horse riding and skiing, but I couldn't because my parents couldn't afford the extra cost. I sat in the gym doing improbably vertical sit-ups for a laugh instead. I could've been an olympic showjumper. It's unlikely - I'm terrified of horses for a start - but the finance to back the opportunity was not there.

The big medal winners have been the USA and China. Neither of these should be a surprise, but what did surprise me was how badly Chinese athletes took winning silver. They seemed to take it worse than if they'd won nothing at all. I wonder if they're going home to be flogged half to death on account of COMING SECOND. IN THE WORLD. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
The internet has been awash with talk of how Yorkshire has been the predominant medal winning county, but it is the largest county in the UK, so should we really be surprised? They also gave us Peter Sutcliffe, but you don't hear anyone crowing about that.

The boom of social media in the last four years (Twitter, I'm looking at you) has meant unprecedented access to athletes and other people's opinions. Did you think the boxing was rigged? So did hundreds of other people on Twitter, and they're all discussing it. You want to tell Nick Griffin that the whole Olympic experience proves how beautiful multiculturalism is? Feel free, but I warn you, he thinks the UK kidnapped Mo Farah and we should all be ashamed... Some arsehole kid decides to troll Tom Daley? Twitter fell on him with all it's might and got the police involved.
Now, I'm probably in the minority of thinking that serious internet trolling IS a police matter. You wouldn't stand for it via any other media, so why does the internet make it OK? The rise and acceptance of online bullying is a pervading evil, especially amongst teens (and Tom Daley is only 18, in case you missed them screaming it in your face every 30 seconds). It is not 'just the internet' to them. "Don't feed the trolls" doesn't work; they cannot leave alone, or take the resulting abuse.

Now, Steve Redgrave said the other day that gold is the only medal that matters, anything else is failure. This does not strike me as what the Olympics is about. These people are the best in the world. They can't all win, the medal ceremonies would go on forever. Obviously, I am not an athlete. I couldn't run to the shop and back without dying in the road. But if I was good enough to get to the Olympics, good enough to get to a final, then I'd be content. Disappointed if I didn't manage a medal, but not wrenching my hair out and howling no. It must be a most crushing disappointment, to work so hard and fall at the final hurdle, but surely getting to the Olympics IS the final hurdle? As I said, I'm not an athlete, but the ethos of "gold or die" strikes me as tremendously egotistical and unrealistic. If that's your life's goal and you fail, what do you have left? Bitterness and freaky muscle structure?

The closing ceremony was notsomuch of a triumph. It was like a school disco, circa 1997, with added Jessie J. I don't know if anyone's told the organisers that Jessie J and Emeli Sande are NOT the only women in British music. There was papier mache, and a pyramid tribute to Kate Bush. Madness, not sounding amazing. A cover of Parklife, while Blur and Phil Daniels appeared at Hyde Park.  Liam Gallagher scowling and posturing. The Kaiser Chiefs pretending to be the The Who. The Pet Shop Boys in Klan hats. Bloody One Bloody Direction. A time wasting segment advertising British fashion. A lot of pandering to Yoko Ono. An enormous amount of bad miming and a static Victoria Beckham. Gary Barlow's appearance has split the internet - was he brave or unfeeling? Brian May was given far too much time to fretwank, and then was joined, once more, by BLOODY Jessie J. Annie Lennox appeared on a doomed galleon. Eric Idle in a bizarre banghra sketch that came across uncomfortably racist. Muse, in all their shiny glory. George Michael and Jason Orange seemed high as kites. The highlight was either Elbow, or the inflatable, neon octopus and Fatboy Slim. It was just...no opening ceremony...

They wanted to Inspire a Generation and they have. Now they need to take this legacy, while it's still fresh, and invest in better sporting facilities for our younger, and increasingly unhealthy, generations. Otherwise, all this public expenditure will have been for nothing.

And thus it ends. Except, it hasn't. The Paralympics start in a few weeks, to extremely limited fanfare. I shall be watching!

14 Jul 2012

A tale of wristy woe

A long time ago (1990), in a far away place (Bourne), a five year old girl punched a french window. The glass was illegally thin and the girl ripped her right arm to the bone, from wrist to elbow. By miracle or chance, the girl's radial artery was missed by millimetres.
Some plastic surgery, fifty stitches and a couple of nights in hospital, and she was home. She was five, she was resilient and, (filthy, thick shark-bite scar aside) she was fine.

But alas, the girl grew older and larger. The scar tissue from the repair of her tendons and ligaments did not grow with her, and her right hand was permanently weakened. However, by this time, word processing had become the norm. Handwriting was old fashioned, and she joined the workforce entirely computer literate, confident that she would never have to handwrite anything longer than a shopping list again. The only other lingering ill effect was a lifetime phobia of wrists.

Then she started a degree module with a three hour, handwritten exam at the end of it.


I have a weak grip in my right hand. When the weather changes, it gets worse. So, I can imagine in mid-October, it's going to be hard to write. And that's when my exam is.
I need to start strengthening exercises NOW. When I say it's weak, sometimes all the power goes out and it's like I have a wet fish attached to my wrist. I cannot be doing with THAT when I have loads to write.

In joyful news of joy, I achieved 80% on my last TMA and have now achieved the pass grade on continuous assessment, with two more TMAs to go. I am HAPPY about this :-D

27 Jun 2012

Fifty Shades of NSFW

...and now for something completely different...

So, recently, my facebook feed has been SWAMPED by a DELUGE of women expressing how turned on they are by BDSM porn.
I'm not even joking.

Here's a little exercise in literature for you. Compare and contrast these two excerpts of fiction for me...

1) "’You’re very beautiful. I can’t wait to be inside you.’ Holy shit. His words. He’s so seductive. He takes my breath away.”
’I’m going to fuck you now, ’ he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex.”
“’Don’t hesitate,’ he admonishes me softly, an undercurrent in his voice"

2) "Laying her down on the shag carpet, her wrists still bound behind her, he put an ankle on each shoulder and began to pump into her, hard and fast and carnally intent. She gasped and then cried out as he split her open, this position allowing him to delve incredibly deeply into her body... with her hands restrained she was powerless to stop him, unable to touch him, a receptacle for his pleasure... as he was the creator of hers."

One of these excerpts (the second one) is cadged off Literotica, home of free porn lit for over a decade. It's the second top rated BDSM story, if you want to read more.
The other is from the fastest selling paperback novel ever.

Now, the one from Fifty Shades of Grey is the one that's written like Mills+Boon with swearing. ENTRANCE OF MY SEX? *vomit*
E.L James started as a fanfic writer, taking her cue from Mr Grey in Twilight. I once saw Twilight described as 'a 400 page waste of paper, bound in black with an apple on the front'. Having read the dark monstrosity, I cannot help but agree. It's four books about an incredibly emo teenager falling in love with a vaguely malevolent 100 year old vampire. Their obvious and dull love is weakly threatened by some badass Italian vampires, and her (male) friend's a werewolf, BUT GOD,THEY'RE JUST FRIENDS, EDWARD! STOP SNARLING! Nothing really happens. Oh, until she gets pregnant (after marriage, natch, and lovely romantic, VICIOUS sex) and then gives birth to a baby who BITES IT'S WAY OUT. That's teen parenthood for you. Hence, emo becomes vampire, and decides that's what she should have been ALL ALONG. The best bit in all this is probably the werewolf falling in love with the baby...
It's allegorical for every emo teenage love story, but with slightly more traumatic birth scenes.

So it's a badfic of a bad story, in short. I have heard people tell how MAGICAL the love story between Mr Grey and his loveslave is, but I know and they know that they are essentially reading it for the porn.

This outpouring of lusty facebook statuses is essentially people declaring how incredibly horny they are. This is not normal behaviour. I would never write a status along the lines of "Just watched Emmanuelle In Space, time to get flicking! LOL!".* Yet, this book seems to have released a generation of women from their masturbatory guilt. That in itself is no bad thing, but why publicise it?

And the internet is full of porn. There is no need to buy it.

*Emmanuelle In Space is amazing, if only as a genre piece

22 Jun 2012


Motivation! You're back! Thank God!

I cannot lie, my motivation has been flagging like a bitch of late.
I've just been pottytraining my eldest, my baby's turned into a mobile, happy MONSTER and I can't seem to leave the two of them for five minutes to get on. They're either engaged in A WAR (aged 3y and 14m, there's no hope of a peaceful life) or the elder is crapping on the floor, or the younger is halfway up the stairs. What I really need is four LONG arms, six hands and eight pairs of eyes. Mutant mothers are the future.

So, I finished block 3 and wrote a TMA following the guidelines exactly. I did this because I didn't particularly enjoy the content (institutionalised racism, something that disgusts me to my core) and my personal reaction to the question was BURN ALL RACISTS. This was unlikely to get me decent marks. I also had to stay away from the facebook group for my course, where people suggested diversity was a Bad Thing, in case I actually ragegasmed all over the group page. It was, to say the least, an emotive topic.
When I worked at a GP surgery, I came across indirect racism on a daily basis: "Is the doctor...ENGLISH?", patients would hiss across the reception desk. "I don't want to see that black one again". And also, direct racism, usually bellowed at the door of the offending clinician. Racist patients generally assumed that we reception staff (entirely white british) would wholeheartedly agree with them, and were always surprised when we pulled them up on it or reported it for further investigation. I never experienced any racism from staff to patients, but the patient population was 99% white, against a doctor population that was 10% white. The majority ethnicity ruled the day. It sickened me then, it sickens me now.

ANYWAY, back to the point, I wrote the TMA with as little personal inflection as I could, toning down the journalistic urge to use emotive language. I also wrote it firmly against the guidelines and I got...

(or a B, or a 2:1)
70%, basically

Previously, I've had 60% and 61%, neither of which I was remotely pleased with.

This has cheered me up beyond measure, and I have powered on with some of TMA04 today. The rest has to wait for the project (o'doom) which starts tomorrow, on evaluating information on the internet. I also have to finish a bit of block 4. Next month, I've got two TMAs due within a couple of weeks, because of the way the project has fallen, so I shall be a busy bee. Doubtless outside will be all sunshine and roses and I will be in my dining room, sweating and swearing at my laptop and brain. Or it'll piss down with rain.

14 Jun 2012

My Black Dog

I'm going away next week, just for a few days. On my return, I have a project to do. The project I feared when I first recieved my study planner is upon us! I cannot believe I'm halfway through this module already. The project is on analysing the usefulness of self help websites. We pick our own topic, find our own websites and then rate them (and each others) before writing a report on the general quality of information, and a TMA on the report. This is all done over 3 weeks. We work in small groups, and currently, I'm co-ordinating my group, which sounded terrifying to start with, but actually, I LIKE THE POWAH!

Anyway, it makes sense to pick a subject close to one's heart and (if the rest of the group don't pick it) I'm going to do postnatal depression.

Twenty five months elapsed between the births of my two children. I was cripplingly depressed for thirteen of those months.

It started about three days after my eldest was born. I got the baby blues. EVERYONE gets the baby blues. It's caused by an oestrogen crash, and a sudden massive rise in progesterone with the DAWN OF THE LACTATION. Some women get it on day 2, some not til day 14, but everyone has a bit of a wibble at some point in the first 10-ish days where they want to put the baby back where it came from and carry on as before. If you can remember what before was. Which you probably can't, because pregnancy erases the memory of all that has gone before. Either way, you have this baby blues crash where you mourn all that has gone before, and then you feel fine and start to pick up physically and mentally.
Except, I just didn't.

I remained steadfastly in denial, but various events transpired to make me worse. Like the impetigo he got on his mouth at 5 weeks old, and the herniae that even the GP missed at the 6 week check, and the continuous reflexive vomiting from the umbilical hernia that made him continually wet or feeding. My husband was rarely there, because he had a lot of work and was very much of the "BUT THIS IS YOUR JOB NOW" mindset. Due to the vomiting, my boy ate continuously. He fed 3 hourly until he was almost two from habit, but as a newborn, ate every 90 minutes, vomited and then started again. He wouldn't sleep, so at 10 weeks, I started co-sleeping, but then felt even worse because everyone said CO-SLEEPING BABIES DIE (this is a fallacy, as I later found out).
I would sit in bed, alone with him, in the evening, and I would want to jump out of the window and run. And that feeling didn't go away. I didn't wish him harm, but I didn't love him or want him. I felt like I was looking after someone else's child and that they would come back and take him and I could go back to normal (whatever the hell that was). I went back to work on odd days when he was a few months old just to have an excuse to get away from him.
My health visitor spotted all was not well, when I finally divulged that my support was nonexistant most of the time and I was very depressed. I then had one to one sessions with my HV for a few weeks and everything started to get better. My relationship with my husband improved immeasurably, and I fell in love with my little boy.

When he was six months, I was ill and it was thought I might have multiple myeloma because I had strange red cell formation. While we waited for my protein banding test to come back, we were on holiday. It was our second wedding anniversary. For the first time, I had to face the prospect that I might not be able to watch my son grow up. I got the all clear after five ENDLESSLY LONG days. I never looked back.

I had a year of feeling well mentally, and then my husband buggered off with another woman when I was pregnant with our second child. That was a kick in the tits. I went suicidal, then I went rageous, then back to suicidal. I sat at suicidal-without-ideation for months. Then it developed into suicidal WITH ideation, so I got some help and even though I felt much the same about the baby (i.e. nothing), I managed to get on with my life as best I could. I thought I would have him and hate him and want him gone. I thought he would be born looking exactly like his father. I thought he would remind me of everything and tear me in two. Then he stopped growing and I started feeling guilty, because I knew I wasn't looking after myself. I was barely eating, sleeping fairly badly and just not bothering much with my health. I was plagued by UTIs and dental infections, which I couldn't much be arsed to sort out. I went for a scan at 38 weeks and I saw my baby's face and he looked like his brother and then EGAD did I feel guilty. I was still terrified of having him, scared of the reality of having two kids on my own, but I started to want him. He wasn't born until 42 weeks, giving me a whole month from that scan to get used to the idea of having him. When he was born, it became apparent that he was a miracle, his cord should have killed him weeks before. He was meant to be.

So there's a wholly too candid glimpse of the reality of ante and postnatal depression. I didn't suffer postnatal depression after Jack was born, possibly because I had far more support (chiefly from my mum who stayed with me, or I with her until he was 2 weeks old), possibly because I had such a massive jolt when he was born and healthy, possibly because I immediately moved house. I had a few bad days, but I've not suffered depression in the (almost) 14 months since he was born. Huzzah!

But this is a disease which is difficult for family to understand - "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T LOVE THIS BABY? HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS BABY? YOU WANTED THIS BABY? LOOK AT HIS FACE!" - and even worse to live with. You know, as a mother, that you are not supposed to feel this way, you are supposed to love this child unconditionally, yet with all the physical, emotional and mental changes of having a child (postnatal depression being most common with the first healthy baby), how are you supposed to adjust without support? Women should be taught antenatally that there is no shame in having postnatal depression. I know so many mothers who struggled through (myself included, obviously) because the SHAME of admitting it to a professional was too great to bear. You have a fear that your child will be taken away from you, partly because you feel they should be anyway, partly because of the great crossover in people's minds between postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis (when the hormonal shift is so great that the mother becomes a danger to herself and the child). It is isolating. It is scary. It is treatable, it is common and it shouldn't be the taboo that it remains.

10 Jun 2012

Thoughts on hospital design

The worst stay in hospital I've ever had (and I've had eight, two of which were taking care of my poorly eldest) was immediately after the birth of my first child. I was an inpatient for just 16 hours, on the ward for 12 of those hours, and I loathed it.
The hospital was an old one, built in the 70s and never massively updated. The obstetric area was split into antenatal assessment, central delivery suite and antenatal longstay/postnatal. I had care on all three of these areas across my two pregnancies.
The antenatal assessment unit was shared with the abortion clinic and women's gynae/urodynamic department. I went there once for a scan with my eldest and twice for assessment with my youngest. He wasn't growing properly. They failed to identify a cause, and he was born with two true knots in his cord. This should have been seen on scan. He nearly died when he was being born. Thankfully he didn't, and I'm glad I was able to have him at home instead of by caesarean at 38 weeks.

Central Delivery Suite was amazing. I had multiple observations done there, and I delivered my eldest there, 90ish minutes after arriving. They kept me waiting 20 minutes when I got there, and I needed to push. Not the snappiest service, but once I was pushing, all was fine. They also stitched me up after the birth of my youngest. Ambulance transfer after you've managed to have a (miraculous) safe homebirth is a bit gutting, but they got me a comfortable bed to lie on and left me to it, discharging me after 6 hours.

However, the antenatal longstay/postnatal ward was dreadful. In modern hospitals, the two are kept broadly separate. If you're pregnant and in hospital for more than a day, there's probably something amiss and you don't want to be hearing newborns cry all day.
I was put in a four bed bay with two other women and newborns. One had been there a week while her baby was in SCBU and went home fairly early. The other was a spanish lady who was on her third baby and quite indignant about not being immediately discharged. I had asked for 6 hour discharge, but had torn quite badly after having a large baby. They wanted me to stay in overnight (he was born just after 4am) and I was vehemently against this. I went on the ward at 9am, and saw a midwife at 11am and 2pm. Then a paediatrician came and did newborn obs and declared that since my baby had been fast asleep for 5 hours and thus not fed (despite feeding 3 times in the first 5 hours), there was something wrong with him and we'd have to stay in.
We tried to wake him up to feed him, but he was having none of it. He'd had a fast, wet delivery and was snotty, sicky and tired.
No midwives came to see us. A snotty auxillary told us that we wouldn't be allowed home til feeding established. The window was wide open and it was freezing (he was born in March). I kept closing the curtains to try and sleep - they kept opening them. I had a fluorescent light over my head that I couldn't switch off. I couldn't sleep, and hadn't slept for over 36 hours by then (and had delivered a baby!). The food was dreadful - dried out pizza and chips, with no ketchup, and a tiny pot of jelly. Had I known I was allowed to bring my own food in, I would have sent my husband out for a McDonalds, but nobody told me that.
Eventually, they rang the 8pm gong to tell all the fathers to bugger off and I burst into tears. My husband went and found a midwife and bellowed at her. She was head of delivery, and tried to persuade me to stay in overnight, so I said I would self discharge. Finally, a midwife came round and checked me over (for the first time in over 6 hours) and said that it was totally normal for newborns to sleep after birth, and the paediatrician was wrong. We got home at 10pm and lo! The baby woke up and fed every half hour for the whole night.
Newborns are not easy, but if I'd been allowed home, or to stay on CDS, I would've slept and I would have coped and maybe I wouldn't have had postnatal depression.

The postnatal stay was the reason I had a planned homebirth second time round, and when I had to go into hospital afterwards, I asked to remain on CDS.

My best hospital stay wasn't for me, I was in with my eldest, who was having a tonsillectomy. He had them out in a brand new hospital, with a very well designed children's ward. He was in a four bed bay, designed in a cross shape, rather than 2 facing 2. There was loads of room and toys for him to play with and the whole bay was closed off with a nursing bay and locked door. When he went to theatre, he walked down, rather than go on a huge scary bed. He sat on my knee while they cannulated him and sat and watched when they anaesthetised him. It was nothing like the various general anaesthetics I had as a child, where I was gassed twice because I was hysterical and terrified. I was older than him, and more aware, but being stuck on a huge bed while men fiddle about round your hands and arms and everyone's dressed in scrubs is SCARY. However, he took it like a pro.

My current OU unit is on hospital design, and deisgn really makes a difference. Being treated (or ignored) in an overbright, cold, friendless room when you're feeling weak, battered and emotional is horrible. It's not really treatment at all - any medicinal benefit I was supposed to get from the 'rest' was lost.  I don't class uncomplicated childbirth as something to be overmedicalised: the key to a fast recovery is good food, supportive company, and good quality rest (even if it's in small doses). I got none of these the first time.

23 May 2012

Has anyone seen my confidence?

I got 61% in my second TMA.
I am sorely disappointed and feel, quite simply, thick as shit. That's a 1% increase on my first TMA. One. Per. Cent. To break it down, I actually scored 5 marks higher in my essay, but lost them on the mini-essay and self reflection. HOW CAN YOU LOSE MARKS ON SELF REFLECTION??? Nobody can answer me this.

My confidence is pretty much gone. I know that part of the 'joy' of distance learning is writing how THEY want you to, and my writing style is waaaay too descriptive, I can't get myself into the right mindset to work on it. I keep wondering what the point is. I know it's a pass, I know it's not a bad pass, I KNOW I SOUND MELODRAMATIC.
But I feel like my marks are not reflecting my understanding of the course. I just don't know quite how to turn what I've learnt into something my tutor can give better marks to.

My next TMA is due in two weeks and I haven't started it yet (bearing in mind my last two were submitted long before the cut-off). I've done all the reading and tomorrow, I shall write an essay plan and I shall try and make it a PROPER essay plan instead of some bish-bash-bosh notes. I read on someone's blog that think of essays as a 'tree to hang their knowledge on' and this has slightly inspired me. I need to write in shorter sentences, make sure it makes sense and flows.

Then begins the project, of which I am nominated co-ordinator. I am actually looking forward to it at the moment, though God knows for how long! I will get my next TMA results when I'm on holiday...so I hope they're not shit or I'll be sad. Kinda gotta write the thing first...

At least I'm still getting 100% on the iCMAs!

9 May 2012

The Welfare State

Today, I went to the jobcentre plus for my Very First Interview.
And dear God, what a dispiriting place it is.
In my city, the jobcentre is on the corner of a busy intersection, and the building has turrets (presumably to give an air of gravitas). The building wastes it's time. Outside stand the great unwashed, smoking and otherwise passing the time until they have to go to an appointment, catch the bus, or wait for a lift. I cannot blame them for preferring to wait outside, smoking or not, as I've rarely been in a place with such a condemnatory atomosphere.

As regular readers know, I'm a single mum of two. I officially stopped work in January, and since then have claimed income support to live on. I don't like being out of work, but I'm unlikely to find a job I like with hours to suit my kids while they're so young. The choice seemed to be investing in my children, or investing in work, so I chose the kids and started a degree so when they're old enough for me to work, I can get a decent job.

Anyway, back to the jobcentre, with a lower case j. I dislike such typographical absurdities. There's something demeaning on being given handouts by an agency that doesn't even recognise it's own name as a proper noun.
I went to the wrong door at first, and somehow ended up in their offices, where I was patronisingly redirected by a man in a suit. Everything about his face, his manner and his tone said "You do not belong here".
Once I found the right door, I was faced by a busy reception, and one woman directing the human traffic, flanked by two G4S security people. Up the stairs I went to a room full of desks, and a line of phones along one wall. I passed a temping agency recruitment desk who brightly asked me if I was looking for work, and looked utterly baffled when I said no.

There was no privacy, but more security. One woman was crying into the phone because a cockup with her benefits had left her skint, another man was loudly abusing a staffmember because his own mistake meant he hadn't been able to feed his children. I was directed to a sofa to wait for my appointment, and could hear every word of the conversation happening at the desk a few feet in front of me. It was noisy, it was hot and it was uncomfortable in atmosphere. Claimants were either distressed or ill at ease, staff members forcing jollity to try and bridge the gap, security guards on the alert for anyone kicking off.

I was called to a desk, in the middle of the room, where my allocated job advisor (let's call her Helen) went through my personal details. My full name, phone numbers and address were broadcast for all to hear, not because Helen was indiscreet, but because of the design of the place. She explained the purpose of the interview and then asked about my previous job. It went something like this:
Helen: "It says here you worked in administration, can you tell me more?"
Me: "I worked for the NHS, doing data analysis"
Helen: "Oh...is that office management?"
Me: "No, clinical coding - you probably have people here that do something similar, gathering information and then writing reports on the statistics"
Helen: "Oh...boring then"

She meant to lighten the tone, but it wasn't the best start. Neither was it her fault that the computer system lacked a category to put data administration in, so I ended up being classed as 'office manager'. She then asked how long I'd worked there, and on being told 8 years, looked amazed.
We continued on to my current plans and I described my intention to gain a degree and then return to work at a higher level than I'd previously worked in. She asked if I needed to do a degree for such work, and I explained it varies vastly by organisation. She then asked what qualifications I had
Me: "GCSEs and AS levels"
Helen: "How many GCSEs? Have you got maths...?"
Me: "Eleven, A* to C"
Helen: "Oh"

She told me, at length, about her daughter who is currently struggling with her AS levels. I gave her the names and ages of my children, and she asked if I wanted to look at taking part time work. I said not at the moment, and she said fine, and I'd be recalled in six months for another interview. She told me how the benefits are different for single parents in work, and I pointed out that I know this as I was a single working parent for fifteen months.
She sent me on my way with a sheet about benefits for those getting back into work - essentially, some cash if you take a job of full time hours for more than five weeks.

I left feeling faintly depressed, even though I'm lucky enough to know that living on benefits will be a short term thing for us. I cannot imagine how people who have to go every month must feel, having to admit that once more, they have failed in the eyes of the government.
We are lucky to have a benefits system to catch us when bad luck befalls us, but must it be so designed to make us ashamed? It's not my fault I ended up a single parent, I didn't PLAN my life this way. Twenty months ago, I was married, well-educated, comfortable financially, owned my own home, was working, had a beautiful baby and another on the way. Now, I am allegedly among the dregs of society, living from government handouts and aware that everything around me conspires to keep me on the borders of society, with rehabilitation masked by bribery.

There must be a better way.

3 May 2012


Hello, I'm a single mother of two preschool children. Feel free to cast aspersions on my character: everyone else does.

Here are some of the assumptions people make about me (and have voiced, I'm not being insanely paranoid here)

1. The boys have different fathers.
2. The boys have no contact with their father/me and their father loathe each other entirely
3. I am thick
4. I cannot cope/am depressed
5. I have always been unemployed
6. I am in debt

The first one is common - most people assume my boyfriend is the father of my youngest, as we've been together for quite a while. However, I was four and a half months pregnant when we started dating. This shouldn't annoy me as much as it does.

The second is also very common. People tend to think me and my ex have a dreadfully acrimonious relationship, and when they realise that we do not (well, mostly), they seem disappointed. With this goes the assumption that he doesn't see the boys. He does. It's all good in the ex-contact-department.

I'm not thick. End of.

I told the boys' playgroup that I'm single and they offered me lots of 'emotional support'. Equally, every time I see a health visitor or GP, they ask probing questions about my mental health. Now, I do understand why, because I've had postnatal depression in the past, and reactive depression when I was pregnant with my littleun, but being a single mother does not always equate to depression. I have bad days, but by and large, life is nice. My problem is more one of inescapable stressful children, but that's hardly unique to singledom.
I worked from the age of 18 until I was 37 weeks pregnant with my baby (aged almost 26), and didn't become legally unemployed until my maternity leave ran out. I paid tax the entire time and, were it not for the burden of caring for the boys singlehanded, would dearly love to go back to work. Instead, I'm doing a degree. Being a stay-at-home-mother has never appealed to me and I don't like it much, truth be told.
I'm not in debt, I manage my money rather too well and I dislike the insinuation (made by landlords, chiefly) that being on benefits equates to being rubbish with money.

So, stigmatic rage over, I shall continue working through this unit on poverty and social exclusion and then go and vote. Yeah!

24 Apr 2012

The pain of essays

I hate writing TMAs.

I've just submitted my second one. I was going to hold out, keep revising it, and submit it closer to the closing date (which is in 9 days), but the PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE got to me. So it's gone. And now I will attempt to forget it EVER HAPPENED.

Even with analysing the question, reading the assignment guidelines and considering my grasp of the subject to be pretty good. I think I've done a dreadful essay. I wrote an ESSAY PLAN, for god's sake. I haven't written one of those since I was 17, under duress from my extraordinarily evil English teacher. I wrote my essay plan weeks ago, long before I'd finished the block. When I came to writing the essay itself, I looked over my plan, nodded at my own amazingness and went ENTIRELY BLANK. I started writing randomly and somehow, it became coherant. I cut about 300 words out, rearranged it a bit, and decided that it was actually Quite Good.

Then doubt set in. My last essay was shocking. Well, it wasn't objectively, but to me it was shocking and I, originally, thought it was quite good. So, for several days, I have pondered and edited, and re-read units and decided I am dreadful. My essay, once something I could read, and follow and feel faintly proud of has filled me with ANGER. I can't even read it anymore, it's like I know it off by heart and the words just blend into a giant, glowing turd on the screen. Dread, unwholesome DREAD at seeing some painfully crap number appear on my student record again, has reared it's vile head.

So, I will attempt to wipe it from my mind as my tutor won't mark it for a couple of weeks. It's my baby's birthday tomorrow *yay*. Time to concentrate on the child, for once.

19 Apr 2012

MOAR essays

I haven't written in an age. Mainly because nothing has riled me of late and I haven't felt the need to pontificate at length about religion or the perils of Amanda Holden. Since I last wrote, Blogger has changed 'backs off hissing'. I think it's a sign of getting old when websites change, and instead of embracing the new technology, you bitch and moan. It won't run on my phone anymore! Boo!

It is TMA time again. Already. They get closer together as the course progresses, though there's six weeks between the last one and the exam. My exam date is the two year anniversary of my ex buggering off, so I shall have a welcome distraction. I took a different approach to this essay, since my last one didn't work.
First, I actually wrote an essay plan. It was a very brief essay plan, but a plan nonetheless, and in doing so, I ANALYSED THE QUESTION. Second, I started writing somewhere in the middle of the essay because I literally had no idea how to start. It would seem to be a downside of planning an essay. You know what you want to say but then brain and hands do not connect. You end up spouting something that reads very much like a 6 year old's What I Did In The Holidays story. "Bowlby wrote about children who attach to their mummys because they love their mummy the most. But then they wake up and it was all a dream"

So, the bones of my essay are in place. I've used references to back up points, rather than just dumping them in the middle of a paragraph and hoping that's enough. I have Harvard referencing DOWN. I need to carve about 200 words off the word count, and rephrase some of it to answer the question a bit better, but otherwise, I *think* it might be better than the last one.

Submission deadline is in two weeks, so I have some time to DWELL and revise endlessly. I also need to do the other two mini-essays, one of which is 'how do you think you did?'. For which, I may just write this blog address.

Once this TMA is submitted, I'm a third of the way through the course. Huzzah!

31 Mar 2012

The results

I scored 60%.

That equates to full marks for parts B and C, and 45 out of 85 for my essay. I got full marks on the writing skills elements.

I am a bit disappointed, I cannot lie. I nearly cried when I read my score, like a prick.

It's a pass 3, which is a C according to OU classification. I probably shouldn't be so disappointed. I can see exactly where I went 'wrong', even without feedback, and I need to try and work out how to fix it for next time.

My next essay is due on May 3rd. I'm halfway through the reading for it. I think this time I might try more formally planning it, rather than just mind-vomiting all over my laptop. I think I'll take my time, panic less and not be in such a massive anxious haste to submit.

In better news, I got 100% on my first iCMA. So in a surreal turn of events, I did better at maths than english!

28 Mar 2012

For my next trick...

It's been a week since the TMA submission deadline passed and I wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Everytime I see I have an email on my phone, my pulse quickens. Then I remember that I only checked StudentHome twenty minutes before and my results weren't up then.

This week, registration for 2012/13 courses opened, so I've registered for my next course. K203 - Working For Health is 60 credits and level 2.

I'm also considering doing another level 2 course, of 30 credits concurrently. That one starts in February. I qualify for transitional funding and I want to get this degree. It's the most motivated I've been to do anything EVER.

See, times are a-changing. My eldest son has just turned three and will start preschool in September (if I can find him a place) and my baby is close to being one and steadily turning into a Real Boy. In a few months, he'll be old enough to stay overnight at his dad's.
I have more time on my hands than I did even two months ago when this course started.
I am coping fine with the current workload; even with the kids being ill and me having weekly dentist trips, I'm still two weeks ahead. I LOVE it, I'd recommend it to anyone in a similar(ly bored) boat.

But I really want my TMA results so I can see how dreadful I am.

16 Mar 2012

The God delusion

I've been ruminating on the nature of faith recently. Partly because, although I identify as Christian, I'm not a very good one and I've been getting cross with various christian churches for taking issue with matters to do with love and sex. Also, because my boyfriend is an atheist, we have various debates about religion in general and this makes me question myself.
Although I was raised Anglican, and confirmed young, I have been questioning the existence of God since I was old enough to understand not everyone believed what I did. I went through a phase, at around 16 (when my incredibly devout grandmother died rather horribly) of wondering if there really was a God. This coincided with an AS level course in philosophy and ethics. I started to understand that if God existed, we couldn't compare Him to us. He was on a whole other plane, ethically, morally and physically. He was not human and to try and give Him human attributes to explain the suffering on Earth was ludicrous.
Can I explain the problem of evil? No, can anyone? If God exists, we were created by something which is happy to let us suffer. Some people believe we have to suffer to earn a place in Heaven. I believe we suffer because we have autonomy, the freedom to choose whether we hurt people or not. We have to die, it's population control. We're not perfect, or immortal. Natural disasters, I can't explain them. There is an argument that God, if he exists, could have created a perfect world. I can't argue with that.
But what we have is pretty fucking miraculous.
For example, reproduction. When I think of pregnancy and birth, in any creature, I can't explain how it's so perfect. Two people have sex and 40 weeks later (ish), out comes another human, completely different to any that has gone before. From two cells comes a baby, with a mind and a personality and a spark in it's eyes that tells you it is an intelligent being. That's a real miracle. And yes, science tells us how it works, and how the mother nourishes the foetus, and how the foetus develops and learns to breathe, to sleep and to eat before it ever comes out. But when you see a newborn baby, still covered in womb-yack and pale and screaming, you can think of the billions of tiny things that could have gone wrong in the last 40 weeks, and wonder how healthy children are ever born at all.

But that's all irrelevant, because I'm not expecting anyone to look at the nearest child and shout "EGAD! GOD EXISTS" and run and be baptised.
It seems faith is something you either have or do not have. You can find it, you can lose it, but you can't have 'a bit' of faith.
But faith is just a feeling. A feeling you cannot justify. You cannot PROVE what you feel and you cannot explain it. People expect you to - you tell an atheist that you believe in God and some will tell you to prove it. But you can't. Others just RUN AWAY from the crazy bible-basher. It seems incredibly unpopular to admit faith at the moment, like you're admitting to every crime people have ever done in the name of God, or sanctioning all the hateful bullshit the churches spout in His name.

It's like being in love. Nobody can tell you you're in love, nobody can expect you to prove that you're in love, and yet you are.

I feel God all the time. If I lost my faith, I would feel empty. Is this just a delusion? Some would say yes, but they could equally say all emotions are delusional. I don't need to go to church to feel close to God, I don't need a priest to intercede for me. Do I think my faith excuses me from every bad thought or deed? Hell no. Quite the opposite - my faith inspires me to be tolerant, and forgiving.

15 Mar 2012

Attachment theory and attachment parenting

I've been doing some work on attachment theory as part of my course. It's particularly interesting as I have deliberately used the attachment parenting model for my children.
In brief, attachment parenting is being a giant hippy-mother. You breastfeed, co-sleep, baby-wear, focusing everything on nurturing the child. The idea is that a secure child is a happy child. It is the absolute polar opposite of that babynazi Gina Ford.

Every pregnant woman, and many women who haven't got that far, have ideas about how they will raise their child. With my eldest, I knew I would breastfeed, but that was it. I'd read up on the AP ethos and it didn't suit my way of thinking back then. I was going to have a natural labour, I was going to adore him from first sight, I was going to cope fine when I got back from hospital. He wouldn't need a dummy. I would never sleep in the same bed as my baby. I'd wean him at six months. Blah blah blah.

In the event, I had a natural labour, and a giant (9lb 1oz) baby a few days past my due date. He split me like I was a banana. I didn't feel anything much for him. The giant baby fed well twice and then went to sleep and refused to wake up. The paediatrician panicked because he hadn't established feeding and I didn't escape from hospital for 16 hours. I got home, and giant baby woke up and devoured me every half hour, all night.
My giant baby then developed awful reflux from his umbilical hernia. So, he would feed for 20 minutes, vomit up the whole feed and feed again for another 20 minutes. The health visitor assured me this was 'normal' and he was 'overeating'. HA! The paediatrician we later saw about his hernia told us that it was definitely the hernia causing the sick. In the mean time, I'd resorted to a dummy because I'd been convinced he wasn't actually hungry. At 10 weeks old, I cracked and started co-sleeping and a miracle occured: I started getting some real sleep.
However, the damage was done and I had moderate/severe postnatal depression. A traumatically fast delivery, sicky, hungry, clingy baby and periodically absent (through work) husband took it's toll and daily, I wished to jump out of the window and run far away. I didn't feel like he was my son, but that I was looking after him for someone else and they would come back and get him soon. Eventually I got help, but my eldest remained an insecure, screamy little boy until he was about two years old. I breastfed him until he was 22 months old (I stopped coz I was 7 months pregnant and my boobs were killing me) and co-slept until he was 2 and a half. He still gets in my bed at night, but I don't mind. He'll grow out of it.

With baby two, I vowed things would be different. Until my husband buggered, and then I didn't think about the baby much at all until he was about ready to come out. It didn't seem important. I had him at home, for minimum interference, and he was born in under two hours. When he was born, I felt nothing but love. That first rush actually happened and took my breath away. The first picture I have of him is him feeding, holding my boob with his little claw-hands staring at me like I am the GODDESS. I've co-slept since day 1, despite my mother trying to persuade me otherwise. I also babywear, which I didn't do with my eldest. It makes life much easier for a non-driving single mother; I just lob him in the sling and we're off. And he is a hilarious, social, happy child.

No two children are the same, but for me, attachment parenting has saved my sanity and produced at least one secure baby. I wish I'd done it from the start with my eldest. But, you live and learn.