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Showing posts from 2011

Crying It Out - The Damage We Can Measure, The Damage We Can't

'Crying it out'...'controlled crying'...'sleep training'....when I had my first baby nearly four years ago, I was told that I needed to do it by everyone from my hair-dresser to my Baby Massage teacher, who handed out badly baked cakes and half baked parenting advice and told me my baby would never sleep through the night. The practice of leaving a baby to cry alone in a cot in order to encourage them to learn to be less dependent on their parents at night is so common and widespread in our culture that it is considered an absolutely normal if not essential part of a baby's first year. The number one best selling author of childcare books in the UK, Gina Ford, recommends it in several of her books, and even the NHS endorses it: on their website and in the book 'Birth to Five', handed out to all new mothers in England, they state:

By the time your child is six months old, it’s reasonable to expect them to sleep through most nights. If there’s no obvio…

Birth Special: Small Comforts

This week I've been running a special series of posts on one of my favourite subjects, Birth. On Monday, Michelle told the story of her empowering VBAC, and on Tuesday we heard Anna's story of her adoption experience, with a very surprising twist. On Wednesday Maddie from Developing Doulas shared some passionate thoughts about motherhood and pointed us in the direction of the fantastic website, One World Birth. On Thursday, Awen Clement wrote about the Red Tent Project, which hopes to create a travelling space in the UK for women and their many rites of passage. 
During the week an artist friend of mine has also been busy making a beautiful painting inspired by women's words about their 'post baby' bodies, especially for this blog. Late last night I shared images of her art work, and took the rather bold (or foolish?!) step of including a photo I took of my own tummy button, in the post Acceptance Nude.
I'm so thrilled to introduce the final guest post in this se…

Birth Special: Acceptance Nude

Before I had my two children, I really liked my body. I know girls are notorious for having bits of themselves they despise, but I liked all of me. I never really worked out, I never really watched what I ate, but I just had a great body, that looked good in clothes, and even better naked. Before you really start to hate me, here is a picture I just took of my tummy button:

This is what it looks like when I bend over. So if I'm naked, and reaching down to pull the plug out of the bath or pick up a discarded toy, this is what I see. As the three year old so beautifully put it, 'Mummy, when you bend over, your tummy goes all sort of melty-down.'

And I dislike it. I dislike it intensely. I realise this may make me seem shallow and superficial. But I'm afraid that I cannot quite accept the rather dramatic fall from grace my body has experienced; transformed, almost over-night, from something I willingly and happily flaunted, to something I'm keen to keep hidden from v…

Birth Special: The Red Tent Project

Today's post for the week long Birth Special comes from Awen Clement, a mother and trainee midwife, whose love of the book The Red Tent was one of the many reasons she felt called to become involved in this wonderful project. If you feel equally inspired, they would be thrilled to hear from you!

The Red Tent Project

"We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.

This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing...

..And now you come to come hungry for the story that was lost. You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them."

( Prologue, 'The Red Tent', Anita Diamant)

Have you read Anita’s book? Did it speak to you? Did you feel a tugging of your soul, a tingle of ancestral memory that you couldn’t quite place? Even if you haven’t, do you have …

Birth Special: Mothers Matter

This week I'm running a Birth Special. On Monday Michelle told her moving tale of achieving the VBAC of her dreams, and yesterday, Anna shared a wonderful story with a truly unexpected twist about her experience of adoption. Today’s guest post comes from Doula Maddie McMahon. She writes with passion of the wonderful power of mothers and motherhood, and calls for a better world for those who bear and raise children. Maddie writes posts about birth and motherhood at, and offers Doula services and training in CambridgeUK. You can also follow her on facebook.

Mothers Matter…
Mothers nurture a growing child in their wombs, fiercely protecting that future human despite having perhaps been rejected by the child’s father, despite rape, poverty, despite extreme emotional and physical suffering.
Mothers give birth. Some hunker down and roar their babies out; lioness mamas ecstatic with earth-shattering power. Some dream their babies into the world – flowing, spiralling…

Birth Special: Adoption - A Beautiful Story with a Beautiful Twist!

Becoming a mother doesn't always mean giving birth. Some take a different, but equally transformative, empowering and arduous journey into parenthood. This week is National Adoption Week in the UK. Having worked extensively as a therapist with children in foster care I'm happy to do anything I can to promote this cause. I really hope the following story encourages those of you for whom the circumstances are right to explore the idea of fostering or adoption.

Anna's Story
Paul and I met in 1997, at the church we both attended. He was the youth leader and I was the youth! OK, so that’s not entirely true and sounds a bit sinister...he had been the youth leader and at 17 I was the youth! The usual comments about the 12 year age gap followed but we ignored them and married in 1999. We were both keen to have a family and started ‘trying’ for a baby shortly after our wedding. I had never been particularly ambitious and my only goal in life was to be a Mum so we thought we would get…

Birth Special: From Emergency Caesarian to Blissful VBAC!

Today is Halloween, and it's also Samhain, the Celtic equivalent of New Year's Eve. This ancient festival looks towards nature for its symbolism, and celebrates endings and beginnings; taking seeds of hope for the future, spiralling deep into the dark of winter, facing our fears, waiting and enduring, and emerging anew when spring finally returns. What better time to bring you the first of a week long series of posts on the subject of birth!

Back in July I ran another Birth Special, and the most popular post by far was Michelle's story of how her planned home birth ended in an emergency c-section. Perhaps one of the reasons it spoke to so many people is because the tale is, sadly, all too familiar; of a birth in which hopes and dreams of a natural and positive experience slip slowly and painfully away and are replaced with trauma and disappointment.  I'm delighted to say that for Michelle, healing has come in the form of an incredibly empowering second birth, and here …

Pre-School 2: Finding New Mirrors

One of the side effects of having Group Therapy is that in can make you a bit disinhibited when it comes to sharing your feelings in public. It's the emotional equivalent to a fortnight sunbathing topless on the Med: suddenly, you just don't care who you bare all in front of any more.  In Group Therapy, you share your deepest darkest thoughts, brace yourself for the diagnosis of 'utter nutter', and instead find a whole circle of folk nodding kindly and muttering 'that's just how it is for me' to their folded hands. You start to realise how normal it is to be a neurotic emotional wreck, and to feel not just comfortable, but positively evangelical about sharing your hopeless fragility with others for the good of all mankind. Often, being really honest about our feelings in public can provide a real release for others, giving them permission to share their own frailty more comfortably, but sometimes, it just makes people think you're nuts. For example, wh…

Guest Post: Spanking, Regret, and Parenting in Technicolor

This story has been sent to me by a U.S based signatory of my petition to Amazon. It is so powerful, moving and eloquent, I feel it needs barely any introduction, except to say that it is written by a mother who, like all of us, has made mistakes, mistakes which she cannot now contemplate without feeling a painful amount of shame and regret. She could have chosen never to speak of these feelings, or to tell this story, but instead she shares it with us in the hopes of helping to bring about positive change.  I find this choice immensely brave, and hope that you as readers can extend to her the warmth and support that she surely deserves. 

In January 2008 a friend of mine asked me a question about something she thought was not right which she figured I would know about. As I began to answer her, it led me to answers I had never considered before and ended up thrusting my family into a year of "transition" and really changing the future of my family tree. What did she ask me?

Forget Perfection, Celebrate Mistakes, Apologise Loudly

Parenting books - I've always been a fan - at least of the ones that challenge my assumptions, expose my weaknesses, and most importantly, give me new and creative ideas on how to deal with life at the pointy end of parenting. I'm pretty sure there are times when we can all make use of the advice of those who've read more, thought more, researched more, or just parented more than we have.  I know there are some people who say they don't need them, but to me, that's a bit like saying you don't need therapy - it means you probably do.

At the moment, with a one year old and a three year old tantruming, throwing stuff at me and bashing each other intermittently, I'm hungry for any information I can find about gentle parenting.  I totally get the principle - as parents we should not use aggressive, threatening or violent behaviour in order to tame or shame our kids into compliance.  If the toddler gets angry and hits the baby, we mustn't punish them by smack…