Monday, 21 November 2011

Amazon Petition - Look Who's Signing!


Currently, I'm trying to attract press attention to my petition to ask Amazon not to stock books which advocate the physical abuse of children. I'm compiling and circulating the following list of 'notable signatories'. Of course, every one of the ten thousand seven hundred and ten people who have signed the petition so far are immensely notable and significant to me. But with Amazon refusing to respond, I want to try and attract attention, both to the petition itself, and to Amazon's silence.

I have therefore been in contact with the following signatories and gained their permission to make public their support of my campaign. I am immensely grateful to them, not just for this support, but also for their individual contributions to the awareness of child protection.

  • Prof George.W.Holden, Professor of Psychology, SMU, Chair of the Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline, 2011, Dallas, TX. Prof Holden's research at the Holden Lab focuses on understanding the determinants and significance of the parent-child relationship in development.
  • Robert Fathman Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist, Co-Founder of the Center for Effective Discipline and the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools. Co-Chair EPOCH-USA (End Physical Punishment of Children, part of an international federation of organizations seeking to end corporal punishment of children)


  • Peter Newell, Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, and long term advocate for children's rights in the UK and internationally. In England he chaired the NGO Children’s Rights Alliance from 1992 to 2002 and is Coordinator of the Children are Unbeatable! Alliance, campaigning for abolition of all corporal punishment. Together with his partner, Rachel Hodgkin, he prepared UNICEF’s Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He has worked frequently as a consultant for UNICEF, in particular advising on general measures for implementation of the Convention and on establishment of independent human rights institutions for children. He is also Adviser to the European Network of Ombudspeople for Children. 
  • Margaret Sims, Professor of Early Childhood, University of New England, NSW, Australia, author of numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, and reports, all with focus on the importance of early childhood. Of particular note to this campaign is Policy Brief no.20 on Physical Punishment.






As you can see, this list just keeps growing! If you have signed the petition, are an author, campaigner, psychologist, expert or scholar, or think your signature adds to the campaign in any way, please get in touch with me.

In the meantime I'm sure the list as it stands - creaking under the weight of so many great minds - will gain press attention and increase the pressure on Amazon to respond.

Fingers crossed, and thank you ALL for your wonderful support!

Friday, 4 November 2011

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 series, from my personal favourite blogger, when you ARE that woman. Her blog is not particularly high profile. Unlike many bloggers, she doesn't do give-aways, or sponsored posts. Unlike me, she rarely gets political, she doesn't rant or jump from soap box to soap box. She just writes. She writes beautiful, lyrical, touching and funny posts about her life as a mother. Here she writes with characteristic honesty about post-natal depression. Her lovely words deserve to be read. 

Small Comforts

I'm not surprised Churchill referred to his depression as his 'black dog', because in my experience depression is the worst kind of bitch. Even when you are classed as 'over it', you can hear and smell it somewhere nearby, panting in the shadows, snuffling around and threatening to shit in your path.

Earlier this week I felt a little overwhelmed by what I think (and hope) are the stuff of normal, common all gardening parental anxiety. They spiralled and wormed their way into my mind like the worst kind of dizzy headache. Where will Spider-boy go to school? Will we ever have any money? Have I destroyed my career by having kids? Have I destroyed my children by working? Am I any good at parenting? Are my relaxed days good for everyone or evidence that deep down I'm still feckless and lazy? Do I have expectations that are too high or not high enough? What happens if I never sleep again? Can you get so tired you forget what love is? And on, and on, and on.

With my first child, these were the symptoms of a disease. I spiralled and stumbled and became undone each thought cascading into another until I lost myself and was happy to drown. At the moment, I suspect I'm just wallowing in these waters (albeit with the trepidation of someone who's already been out of their depth). As I said, depression is a bitch, and I suspect I'll always be able to hear her if I listen carefully, roaming somewhere near my house, howling in the dark.

But this is a post about love and comfort. Slightly shaken I took two mornings *off* this week wondering if I was stricken or just, you know, tired and a bit emotional (and frankly, not drunk enough). I went back to bed 'til midday, just newborn and I, and we snuggled and cuddled, he in his nappy and nothing else.

One of the days he was snuffly and cross and not in good sorts himself. Still beautiful you understand, proud ballooning belly, wide wide smile, the only crooked thing on his gloriously symmetrical face, but also grizzling and crying and fussing while he fed. I tried all my tricks, placating and soothing, rocking and rubbing, playing, shhhing, kissing and almost gave up. I lay down next to him with a sigh and he looked over and grabbed at my face, pulling it towards him with his tiny insistent arms. His hands on my cheeks and hair, his too sharp nails digging in. I went with the move and he pulled me close, like a clumsy lover, my face into his, until his lips rested on mine. He gazed up at my eyes and breathing back at me fell asleep. He wanted our breath close and hot, needed it to feel safe. As he started to snore it dawned on me, the light of the sunny day we had been missing streaming from the edge of the blinds, that perhaps he was holding me because he wanted me to feel safer too.

It may be wishful thinking; children have every right to be selfish (parenthood has confirmed to me the absolute truth of that teenage cliche I didn't ask to be born, because however annoying that may be in 11 years time, it is a true accusation and one I don't have an answer for). But it whizzed me back to 2007 so fast my stomach lurched. I remembered another bright day, light hitting my face from the crackleglaze of the institutionalised windows in a horrible, dirty side room where Spider-boy and I had been placed. He was 15 days or so old, and we'd been readmitted in a bloodsoaked frenzy to the sticky, hot postnatal ward which smelled of rust and powdered tea and fear and bliss all churned together.

There he was, as too fat for his goldfish bowl crib as I was too small for the pregno shaped nightie. His presence was partly pragmatic, because I was breastfeeding him, but also a legal requirement. As he hadn't been registered we were told he didn't exist as a separate entity from me. He was still 'Baby thatwoman', nothing without me and our matching tags. It was between visiting hours, scary and the height of Summer. There were things I wanted to do but I was pinned to the bed by some nasty needles in my hand. Mr Thatwoman was firefighting his new job and sorting the house hoping we'd be back soon. I started crying, and a little hand reached up to touch my chest. It rested there as Spider-boy snuggled in, and I felt better.

A fundamental truth of parenting knocked my imagined future apart. I realised that he could comfort me even at this very young age; the relationship was two-way and being offered. It had never occurred to me that right from the start this was possible, yet here I was, something tiny and fragile and legally non-existent holding me and caring for me when I felt broken.

I know that it is no certainty and no right of mine to expect it, but even knowing that my boys have held me and cuddled me back, whether on purpose or as an accident of motor skills, makes me feel better and more optimistic. Seriously, how fucking lucky am I? To have had a two-way love from the start? To have had been able to grasp and find love even in moments of potential blankness? It certainly gives me hope, even if it was depression barking at the supermoon...

Thursday, 3 November 2011

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 view.

You can imagine why the following image caught my eye.

Doing the rounds on facebook, Cassie's Fox's photo of her own tummy when her baby was six months old has been shared thousands of times over. Her image and accompanying words have sparked everything from cathartic release, to spiteful bitchiness. For me, they raised mostly guilt. My tummy looks a bit like this, and yet I have never really so far been able to integrate the way it looks with the gratitude I feel for my children's existence.

I shared her image via the facebook page for my blog, and although some who commented, like me, felt negatively, I was inspired by how many women echoed Cassie's feelings of pride and acceptance in their changed forms.

An artist friend and follower of my blog, Anna Appleby, offered to take these women's words and transform them into a piece of art to be shared here. I am so grateful to her for taking time out from caring for her two small children to create the beautiful image that follows.

The next images are close-ups of the main picture, with some of the words transcribed beneath.

doughy, squashy, home, mature, mummy's like a zebra, love handles, cuddle

womanly, curvy, proud, strong, feminine


scarred, striped, complete, someone's left a cake out in the rain

stretched, stitched, lucky, powerful

powerful, lucky, torn, stitched, stretched, scarred, now empty, complete, stripes

nourishing, finally have a purpose, disconnected

For me, these images, and the little chain of events that led to their creation, has been a welcome challenge to my entirely negative feelings about my melty-down tum. I don't love it yet, and perhaps I never will, but I have certainly nudged a little bit further along the long spectrum of feelings, a small step away from repulsion and disgust, and a tiny tiptoe towards pride and acceptance.

Please feel free to share your own feelings and responses in the comments below.

If you would like to find out more about Anna's art, or would like a print of Acceptance Nude, please contact me, and I will put you in touch!

You might also like What's Good About This? Re-Framing Our Post Baby Bodies

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 a little voice inside that wonders if there is something missing in this slightly crazy modern world? Read on…..

In a small corner of the South West of the UK, a woman by the name of Kate Woods (Doula and Doula Educator, Conscious Birthing) came to the conclusion that what she needed, what all women need, is a real life Red Tent like the one in Anita’s book. She posted the seed of her idea on Facebook and the response was a resounding YES!

So the dream was born. The plan is to raise funds for the building and furnishing of 20’ red yurt, a space for women to come together, to bleed, to birth, to create, to cry, to heal, to be women. The seasons of women’s lives will be celebrated and the sharing of wisdom honoured.

The yurt will travel to festivals and events around the country, offering workshops and celebrations. As Kate puts it ‘The elders can support and educate the new young women and the Mothers can empower the pregnant women, and so on, like a set of Russian dolls, each sharing her power and being nurtured in her own.’

When not on tour the yurt will reside in Somerset as a birthing and celebration space. There are negotiations happening regarding a piece of land, giving the yurt a home in which there can be a wood burning stove and birthing tub.

Since the project was first conceived in the Spring of 2011, many women have joined the circle. Nearly a £1000 has already been raised through individual contributions and circle hosted events such as pamper evenings. A circle member is even running a marathon to raise funds for the project.

More is needed, the project needs £5000 to build the yurt, another £1500 to furnish it and then on-going funds to support it as a space in which we can all nurture ourselves.

We would welcome you to join us, does this project call to you? We need volunteers, we need fundraisers, we need your voices to spread the word.

We are offering you a place to be safe, to honour your body, to connect with women, to connect with yourself. Come inside, who knows what you may find.

You can keep up with the Red Tent Project on facebook by clicking here. Please get in touch with them if you would like to help or be involved in any way, however great or small. Follow on twitter @Redtent_uk. More info can also be found at or

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

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 Cambridge UK. 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, floating in the warm, wet other world of birth transformation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

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 on with it...although ‘it’ didn’t happen and after a year we both went to see our doctors and were referred on to the Assisted Conception Clinic. I was found to have Polycystic Ovaries and Paul a low sperm count and we were told, in no uncertain terms, that our chances of having children together was a big fat zero (although the consultant did point out that we would probably be fine if we were both with different partners!!).

So that was that. A relief, in some ways, to know one way or the other and time to focus on something new. We decided against IVF or other things we could have tried as we both agreed that having a ‘birth child’ wasn’t what was important for us, being parents was. We applied to adopt through an agency and after our training courses, medicals, references and assessment we were set before a panel of 13 people to be told whether we were fit to be parents or not-defiantly the most terrifying hour of my life to date! Anyway, we were successful so then started the search for ‘the one’! I found this bit of the process really hard. I fell in love with every child I looked at and would then be presented with a file, some of which were HUGE, with every detail the child’s Social Worker had on them and their families. Some of them were harrowing to read to begin with but as we read more and more we managed to close off a bit, I think it’s the only way to be able to make an informed choice about the child you choose. After about 6 months of looking we found O. He was 4 at the time and the first picture we saw of him he was sitting on a swing, with a face like thunder and his wellies on the wrong feet! After meeting with his S.W and foster carer we were ready to meet him! I will NEVER forget that day for as long as I live and still feel emotional now when I think about it! We were sitting downstairs in his Foster carers split level house and she had popped to get him from nursery. We both felt sick with nerves...what if he didn’t like us? What if we didn’t like him? What if, what if, what if...suddenly the front door banged above us and this gorgeous little voice shouted out ‘where’s my new Daddy?’ and he stomped down the stairs! The rest of the two weeks of introductions went by in a blur and before we knew it we were on our way back with him!

O is, and always has been, a lovely, kind hearted child. He has global developmental delay and is currently working at a level 7 years below where his peers are. He has a little bit of lots of things going on really (dyslexia, ASD, Attachment disorder, PTSD) which has made it hard to get him help in school. His main issues are, and always have been, his lack of confidence and massive anxiety, both of which he has due to hideous early experiences. *just had a little break to refill my wine glass and tell O to get in the shower...he came in and asked what I was writing about so I told him briefly...he has told me to write that he is good on his scooter, that he has a tortoise called Raff and that he is quite good looking :o)*. He has had fairly extensive therapy and has just changed schools. He now has 70% of his lessons in a nurture group and is coming out of school with a smile on his face for the first time in what feels like forever!

O’s sister and brother were both placed for adoption around the same time as him and we have maintained contact with them twice yearly since. It was during one of these contacts with his sister (and their second newly adopted daughter) that her Mum mentioned in conversation that their new daughter’s birth mum had had another baby that was also going to be placed for adoption. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could have her? It would make contact very easy! We didn’t even know if it was the right time for us to do it again. We had discussed it at various times during the last 6 years (since we had had O). Well, don’t ask, don’t get so we fired off a letter to the head of Social Services, praying that she would remember us from when we had O, and then kind of forgot about it! All seemed a bit too good (and easy) to be true. We had a phone call two days after posting the letter to say that they thought it was a fab idea and wanted to come and see us with more info! After a very quick assessment, panel (no where near as scary the second time round) and meeting with her foster carer we were introduced to our little pocket rocket, (A) then 13 months. She arrived two years ago and has turned our lives upside down, but in a good way! Whether she will have any future issues remains to be seen. She is doing everything she should be at the moment although she was subjected to massive substance misuse before she was born and we were told she ‘would not come out of this unscathed’...we don’t really care to be honest, we will deal with whatever life throws at us.

A came to us in the October and by January I was exhausted! She was (and is) a full on toddler and I assumed my lethargy and extreme tiredness were down to parenting her...I was wrong! After chatting with a friend about my ridiculously itchy boobs she convinced me to do a pregnancy test. I have done literally hundreds in my lifetime, all of which were obviously negative and I should point out, not that I expect you will really want to know, but since we found out 12 years ago that we were infertile as a couple we have never used any form of contraception. Anyway, I did the test, put it on the sink and started sorting the washing! I totally forgot about it, I was so sure there would be nothing to see. Wrong again...there was the word ‘pregnant’ (I got the expensive ones rather than the blue line ones!). I collapsed and hyperventilated (not exaggerating) and Paul swore about 30 times in a row when I told him! We were shell shocked and if I am honest it took some time to sink in! Why was it happening now when I already felt like I was struggling to adjust to having a two year old? How would O cope, going from being an only child to having two siblings in less than a year? Could we afford it? Did we need a bigger car? The week after we found out I went to the doctors, then to the midwife who found the heart beat (we both and the midwife!), then for a scan which revealed I was 21 weeks by this point! By the end of that week life was great, sod the money and the car, we were growing a baby :o)

Ez was born in September 2010 and is beautiful, cheeky and a little bit stroppy! We feel so so blessed to have experienced the joy of having a birth child but are eternally grateful that he didn’t come first as then we wouldn’t have had O and A. Adoption is an amazing way to become a parent. Of course there are hard times and uncertainties but our children bring us so much happiness that the hard times are still hard and the uncertainties become irrelevant.