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'Childism' - As Utterly Unacceptable as Sexism and Racism

In the past few decades, mankind has had to shake up their attitudes about a number of things. It is no longer considered to be 'ok' to degrade, humiliate, taunt or insult another human being on the grounds of their sex, race or sexuality. It still happens of course, but it is not considered acceptable. Make a sexist or racist joke down your local pub and you might get away with it. But post an image on Facebook that derides another human being, and you're likely to be reported or even prosecuted. That is, unless that image is of a child. Then it's ok.



These images have been doing the rounds this week. Most commenters seem to agree that they are 'hilarious':
"Comedy Gold' "Gave me a smile - thanks" "A bit of humour" "I just love this!"
I beg to differ. The children in these pictures look sad, and humiliated. At a time when they clearly need help to sort out their sibling rivalries and calm their emotional storm, the grown …

Should We Be So Very Scared of Giving Birth?

Sometimes I Pass the Place Where We Once Lived - A Sonnet

Sometimes I pass the place where we once lived
And glimpse three ghosts arriving at the door
A woman - me, a man, a newborn child,
Alighting, in the darkness, shocked and sore.
I watch them cross the threshold, disappear,
They don't exist now - all of them are gone,
For brand new parents barely last a day,
And babies only live 'til they are one.
In twenty years I'll show you our old haunts:
"We used to come here once when you were small"
You'll shrug, but I'll see flashes everywhere -
Each gate you climbed, each park, each village hall.
       Our lives move on, we change, evolve, adjust, 
       Leaving our trace, our imprints in the dust.














If you are partial to sonnets about parenting you might also like: 
I Lie With You Until You Are Asleep

The Positive Birth Movement: What It Is and How to Get Involved

Too many women are not having a positive birth experience. A positive birth experience does not always have to be a natural, blissful, drug free birth. But it does have to be a birth in which a woman feels she has had freedom of choice, access to accurate information, and that she is in control, powerful and respected. And it should also be a birth that she approaches with some trepidation, yes, but without fear or dread, and a birth that she then goes on to enjoy, and later remember with warmth and pride.

Currently, we are stuck in a loop that is hard to break. It goes something like this:





Often, when as birth activists we try to address this loop, we focus, quite rightly, on what happens in the hospital. We wish there was less intervention, we question how much of it is necessary, and we shake our fists at the doctors who anaesthetise, yank and cut away women's hopes of a natural or positive experience. But what if we let that be, and tried to break the cycle at a different poi…

The Positive Birth Movement: Meet Up, Link Up and Shake Up Birth!

In September I had two wonderful and life enhancing experiences, firstly I began my Doula training, and attended an excellent week-long course with Kate Woods of Conscious Birthing, and secondly, I took a rare evening off nursing my daughter to sleep and went to a screening of Freedom for Birth. Both - coincidentally - took place in Glastonbury, a Somerset town dominated by the mystical Tor and filled with a sense of creativity and transformation that never fails to inspire.

For a long time on this blog I have tried to cover the subject of a woman's right to a positive birth. One of my first ever posts was an attempt to address the politics of power in the birth room: "They Let Me" Go Overdue. Later, I wrote about how Every Woman Deserves a Positive Birth, the impact of what I called The Wallpaper of Fear on the birthing woman, the importance of giving our daughters positive messages about birth, and most recently, the global Birth Revolution and the Freedom for Birth s…

Responsive Parenting: Moving Towards Parenting Without Punishment

Responsive Parenting begins in utero, as we start, however tentatively, to recognise a life at once within and beyond ourselves, and to consider their needs alongside our own. It is this deep and strengthening connection with another person, and the resulting desire to respond to their needs rapidly and with love, that forms the bedrock of Responsive Parenting. Responsive Parenting is not about how we feed our babies, how we transport them from a to b, or where we lay them to sleep. It is deeper, and much much more important than that.

Maternal responsiveness - the way mother (or other main caregiver) watches, understands and meets their child's needs - has been shown in study after study to be fundamentally important to everything from language acquisition, to social competence, to long term emotional well being. Here is my definition of Responsive Parenting:

Responsive Parents:
Observe their children, notice and interpret their cues, and take prompt action.Respond to their child w…

On Jimmy Savile, and Why We Should Listen To Our Hunches About Child Abuse

The UK news this week has been dominated by the story of Jimmy Savile, the television presenter and media personality currently under investigation for a string of sex offences. It's emerging that Savile, who died in October 2011, abused a series of young people - the exact number is yet to be established - over a showbiz career that spanned several decades. Our reaction: shock, horror, sadness even, but surprise? Not really, because, we sort of knew, didn't we?

We sort of know. We have uneasy feelings, gut reactions, hunches, intuitions, sixth senses. The hairs stand up, very slightly, on the backs of our necks. We don't know how we know. But we do. No one could capture this better than poet Simon Armitage, a former social worker, in his poem, The Guilty:

They look us dead in the eye
and deny it. They turn out their pockets -
nothing but biscuits and shreds of a tissue.
They will undress their children this very minute.

Suggest their names, they are astonished.
Push them…

Creating a Ritual for Weaning at Four

I'm aware that the title of this post makes me sound a bit whacky, and, to be honest, I quite like that. I'm hoping you've already got a mental picture of me, hair matted, eyes rolling, dancing naked around a ceremonial fire with my tits swinging in the breeze. Or perhaps, worse still, you've got me eyeing the camera sexily as my daughter stands on a chair for a bit of 'extreme nursing'. Of course, none of it was really like that.

Let me tell you the actual story.

Like most mothers who breastfeed beyond one, or two, or three, I didn't set out with that plan, it just happened. My daughter loved nursing, and so did I, well, most of the time, and when I didn't, I loved her, and could see that she loved it, so kept going anyway. In many ways, nursing a child who no longer needs you as their main source of nutrition is easy, compared to the frantic dependency of babyhood. It becomes more flexible, more negotiable: a mutual loving experience that is almost en…

Reflections on Freedom for Birth

Freedom for Birth, a new documentary film about human rights in childbirth, was screened in over a thousand locations across the world last Thursday, and I was there, keen to take part in a 'Mother's Revolution' supported by leading lights from the field - Ina May Gaskin, Sheila Kitzinger, Michel Odent - all calling for women to 'take back birth'.

The film took as its focus the plight of Agnes Gereb, the Hungarian midwife currently under house arrest for attending women in illegal home births, and the related case of Ternovszky vs. Hungary, in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled that every woman has the right to choose where and how she gives birth.

Quite clearly, there are some circumstances in which the compromise of freedom and the violation of human rights are tangible, for example when imprisonment is involved, or, as in another case touched on in the film, a woman's baby was taken away on the grounds of negligence because she has refused medica…

I Lie With You Until You Are Asleep: A Sonnet

I lie with you until you are asleep,
Ten minutes, twenty, thirty, often more,
Clocks tick, frustration builds, yet still I keep,
And stay with you on your side of the door.
Out there, my old life tempts, a voice cries, "Fail!",
And tells me there are better things to do,
Release: the world shrinks down, we both exhale,
And drift together, touching souls, we two.
In age, perhaps, you'll do the same for me,
And hold my papery hand, and stroke my hair,
You'll know the worth of love's proximity,
The gift we give by simply being there.
  A final kiss, a sigh, a comfort deep:
  I lie with you until you are asleep.







If sonnets about parenting peel your potato, see here for another: Sometimes I Pass the Place Where We Once Lived.