Following my post on breastfeeding a few days ago, I entered into conversation with Valerie, the lovely lady behind Atlantamonofthree. She has a wonderful page on breastfeeding. She’s also a great proponent of natural childbirth, which you can also read about on her blog.
It is a topic that greatly interests me as well. There seem to be two approaches to childbirth. One is to see it as a natural process, that should be allowed to proceed with as little intervention as possible. The other is to see at as a medical affair, and the mother as a patient.
The Netherlands, where I’m from, seems unique in the developed world in that natural childbirth is still very much the norm. As many as 30% of births are planned home births. Most births, even in hospital, are attended by midwifes; you get to see a doctor only when things go wrong. Epidurals might or might not be available, even in hospital – though I believe recently guidelines have changed to make their more accessible.
In most other countries in the world, childbirth is more medicalised in varying gradations, with the United States perhaps being one of the most extreme. My new home country, Ireland, is somewhere in the middle. Births generally take place in (maternity) hospitals, though midwifes take care of much, if not all, of the woman while in labour. Prenatal appointments are often with doctors, though for low risk cases, there’s the option of attending a midwife led clinic as well. Epidurals and other pain medication are routinely available.
Which is best, natural or medical, is a topic that people tend to feel very strongly about one way or the other. It’s difficult to take a truly objective view on the matter. I would recommend the film ‘The business of being born’ as it gives an interesting insight on childbirth in the United States. However, while it presents some interesting facts, it is very much a propaganda piece pushing natural labour and indeed home births. Good arguments for medicalised childbirth can also be presented. One the one hand, yes, our bodies are designed to carry and birth babies. On the other, why not make use of modern medicine. Why suffer through the worst pain you’ll ever go through when an epidural is readily available?
Being Dutch, my approach to childbirth was always that it was a natural process. When I became pregnant I was determined to have as few interventions as possible. Part of this is because I dislike medication, doctors and so on at the best of times. More important, however, is because it is clear that one intervention tends to lead to another. For example, epidurals, while they obviously take away the pain, do also tend to slow down labour. In response, a drug called pitocin is often administered. Pitocin does speed up labour, but it also makes contractions far more intense, which might well necessitate a top-up in the epidural, which might slow labour down again. And so you enter into a vicious circle, which might end in an assisted delivery, or even an emergency c-section, that might not have been necessary had nature been allowed to take its course.
This vicious circle can also be entered by starting a labouring woman off on pitocin. Modern doctors and hospitals often practice something called ‘active management of labour’ (pioneered in Ireland), which pretty much means you’re contracting towards a deadline. If you fail to progress according to their schedule, interventions, including pitocin, are carried out to speed things up.
Ultimately, I believe women should be allowed to labour in the manner that they want. There are plenty of mothers who want to have epidurals, pitocin and elective c-sections. In addition, you never know how you actually feel when you’re in labour and despite your previous decision to ‘go natural’ you might well change your mind, especially if labour is very long, or, for example, back to back. Conversely, if your labour is very quick or if you’re coping well, you might never have that epidural you planned on. The problem arises when doctors propose such interventions when there’s no real medical reason to a mother who would prefer not to have them. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to give informed consent whilst in labour. This is particularly true if the doctors play the ‘for the best of your baby’ card, when in reality it’s nothing other than active management of labour.
In the end, I had the natural birth that I had hoped for. The two midwifes on duty that delivered my daughter were wonderful and supportive in this choice. Though baby was back-to-back (making for very intensive contractions), I felt my body was taking over and just making it happen. My labour was very short though, kicking off with my waters braking and baby being born ten hours later; had it gone on for days I may well have changed my mind!
Of course, I do think it’s a blessing that we have the medical knowledge now to save lives where they might have been lost in the past. However, in my opinion, childbirth is mostly not a medical affair. Use the medicine only when needed
My wonderful little daughter is now eleven months old. In the last few weeks, she’s been interested in the breast less and less, and now we’ve begun the slow process to wean her completely. By the time she’s a year old, she’ll no longer be taking the breast but instead be eating real food and drinking cow’s milk. A journey we have taken together is coming to and end, and while it makes me a small bit sad, I also know that it’s the right thing for us.
When I was pregnant, it was never in question that I wanted to breastfeed the baby. I figured that it’s what my body is designed to do, it’s what nature intended. That being said, I wasn’t too hung up about it. I’d give it a go, but wouldn’t have been too bother about using formula either. Initially, I figured I wanted to at least get to two weeks. That way, the baby gets the benefit of the initial boost from the mother’s immune system.
As it turned out, my daughter was a natural nurser. She was thriving on my milk. We really had very little trouble, though not everything was smooth sailing. At the start, my nipples were cracked and quite sore, though that soon healed. I also experienced some D-Mer, which I have mentioned on this blog before, and there was a bout of thrush, soon cured with some cream.
The biggest obstacle in breastfeeding, however, was the staff on the post-natal ward. While I was pregnant, the midwifes in hospital really pressed me that I should breastfeed – even though I had made it clear from the start that this was my intention. However, when my daughter was actually born, I found attitudes of hospital staff (aside from the wonderful midwife who actually delivered baby) not rather unsupportive. The staff on the ward had clearly very little idea of what breastfeeding entailed, and were unable to give me any useful advice on positioning when I asked. I eventually figured it out on my own, but it should have been a very basic bit of guidance to offer a new mother. In fact, I got the impression at times that this breastfeeding craic was a nuisance, making their life more difficult as they couldn’t schedule things around predicable bottle feeds. In addition, and to me this was worst, they wanted to keep me in hospital for a second night. Why? Because I was breastfeeding.
When I challenged this, the nurse told me, “even though breast is best (she didn’t sound convinced, but rather like a broken record), we need to make sure your baby is feeding”.
Uhm, hello? She’s been barely of the boob at all. She’s had loads of wet and dirty nappies. She’s lively and alert between feeds and sleep. Of course she’s feeding!
My one and only night was a miserable experience. My bed was pushed into a boiling hot radiator. I felt so hot that I actually thought I was feverish. I couldn’t eat (got my appetite back the minute I got home, funny that). I didn’t sleep a wink the first night although I had been up for 48 hours, given birth, and baby miraculously slept for a good bit as well. I was just to damn hot. I did complain about this by the way, but was told, rather aggressively, that it needed to be warm for the babies. That’s all very good and well, but if I couldn’t even touch that bloody radiator. It would have burned me. It’s one thing keeping the room warm, quite another expecting someone to sleep in a bed touching a radiator.
Anyway, in the end it turned out I could be seen in my own home by a community midwife, so they let me go home. I think I would have checked myself out of hospital anyway. There was absolutely no reason to keep me or my daughter in. It had been a straightforward pregnancy and labour. We were both in excellent shape and there were no complications whatsoever. Nursing was going great, baby was thriving and soon back on her birth weight. We had no trouble making our first target of two weeks breastfeeding.
In fact, it was great. I enjoyed the close bond. It did mean that I wasn’t really able to leave the baby behind much, though I did express milk and she had the odd bottle so I could go out on my own for a few hours once a week. To be honest, I didn’t really want to be separated from my precious baby anyway; it seemed that other people saw a problem here where I did not.
I also found it very convenient. Night feeds in particular, were easy. Just grab baby, attach to boob, feed, tuck back into bed, and go back to sleep again. Okay, I’m presenting an idealised picture here, but I can’t see how having to make up bottles would have been less work. Of course, it meant my husband couldn’t share in night feeds, but as he has a full time job it would’ve been me doing most of the night feeds anyway. If it got too much he would get up and get the baby for me in the middle of the night, in which case I barely had to wake up at all.
During the day, as well, I found breastfeeding most convenient. I could go out without ever having to worry about bringing enough bottles. My milk is always available and always at the right temperature. No need to find ways to sterilise and reheat. Again, this worked in particular because I am my daughter’s main carer anyway and rarely away from her.
Thus, the target of two weeks turned into six, and from there into two months. I felt proud that baby thrived, taking in no other nourishment than what my body made for her. By 5.5 months, however, she was becoming more and more interested the food people around her were eating. When she started to try and grab things of my plate, I started her on her first solids. She continued to breastfeed, but she was no longer completely dependent on me.
As the months went by she began to take more solid food and less milk. We did go back to exclusively breastfeeding just after the New Year, when she became sick, but soon after, she lost interest in the breast again. She’s nearly eleven months now, and only feeding twice a day, first thing in the morning and just before bed. Even then, she’s not really that bothered. For us, this is the right time to wean.
I won’t lie and say that it does not make a me a small bit sad. For me, breastfeeding my daughter was an extension of the special bond I had with her as a mother, while she was slowly growing inside me. Ending the breastfeeding relationship is like seeing her grow from a baby, fully dependent on me, to a toddler, ready to explore the world. It’s right, and it does make me feel proud as well.
I’m very grateful to have been able to share this with my child, and I wouldn’t want to change it for the world. If I’m blessed with more children in the future, I will determined to make it happen again.
The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in October last year has led to new surge in the abortion debate here in Ireland.
In Europe, only Malta, where abortion is banned outright, has stricter abortion laws than Ireland. Here, the high court ruling in the ‘x case‘ has determined that abortion can only be permitted in a case where the mother’s life is in immediate danger. This ruling, however, has yet to be converted into law, which was undoubtedly a contributing factor in Savita’s sad death.
I’m from The Netherlands, where abortions are available on request, free of charge, up to a gestational limit of 13 weeks. I remember this being presented in school as a hard won feminist right. I don’t know if this was the teacher’s perspective seeping through (she, thinking back, did probably hold strong feminist opinions), or the view proposed in our schoolbooks and the national syllabus as well. In any case, as a teenager, I took this view without question. I was in favour of abortion, believed it to be an undeniable woman’s right. Of course, at that time in my life, it was a purely academic question. I wasn’t even sure I wanted any children ever, never mind the possibility of me getting pregnant any time soon.
Fifteen years, a marriage and a child on, my views are a lot more nuanced. I think I am still pro choice. Ultimately, I believe that it is the mother, and the mother alone, who should be allowed to decide. Her body, her decision. If you are morally opposed to abortion, you don’t have to avail of one should you find yourself faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I guess that means I am pro choice, though I dislike applying that label to myself. Personally, I don’t think I could have an abortion. But my point of view is based on a happy marriage, and having a safe and happy home to offer to any children. I am honest enough to admit that under different circumstances I might well decide very differently too.
The abortion question in Ireland is a political affair as much as a feminist one. The Eight Amendment of the Irish constitution reads as follows:
The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
Changes to the Irish constitution must be endorsed by the electorate in a referendum. I like that about Ireland; it is very democratic. Five such referenda on abortion have been held in the state, last in 2002. All these proposed changes were rejected. This would suggest that a change in abortion laws do not have the support of the general public.
To complicate matters further, most women in Ireland who want an abortion do in fact have access to one. ‘Taking the boat to England’ is an euphemism for getting an abortion. It is estimated that around 6000 people make the journey each year. The thirteenth and the fourteenth amendments of the Irish constitution in fact preserve the right of women to travel abroad to obtain services (such as abortion) not available in the Republic.
What makes me uneasy about the whole debate is that both sides tend to be very extremist in their opinions and arguments. A friend of mine regularly posts pro-life propaganda on Facebook. He is otherwise the most logical person I know. I greatly value his opinion on most topics as he takes a very objective approach to most issues. On the abortion question, however, is refuses to consider any of the arguments in favour. The photographs and stories he shares are sensationalist and often not very representative of the reality of abortion. In Dublin city, I regularly encounter pro lifers sharing the same sort of material openly. While I’m not sure why they are protesting against something that is already illegal anyway, I can’t help but think that this sensationalist approach is not doing them any favours. It’s hard to take a position serious that appears to be supported mostly by gruesome pictures.
Of course, the pro-choicers can be as extreme in their campaigns, equally refusing to acknowledge the other side of the argument and equally using horrid and non-typical examples that have little do with reality. This is why, although my opinion is essentially pro-choice, I loath to actually be associated with the pro-life campaign.
Savita’s death was tragic and unnecessary. It has reignited the abortion debate in Ireland. It looks like the ruling of the ‘x case’ will finally be passed into legislation. A lot has changed in Irish society since the last abortion referendum was held in 2002. Perhaps it is time for another referendum. However, given that a pro-life vigil in Dublin recently attracted 25,000 participants, while the counter pro-choice demonstration only attracted 200, I wouldn’t be too sure that there will be a change in outcome.
This series of posts describes by attempts to turn myself from a Staying-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) to a Working-From-Home-Mum (WAHM)
It’s all very well deciding one wants to find a way of making a bit of money working from home, it turns out that it’s not that easy to make it happen.
After coming to the realisation that it was not possible, for me, to make any money with crafty work, I identified the skills I did have as mostly language based. To be honest, it’s taken me several months to figure out how I could put those to use. I really could not see how it might be done.
Until I happen to stumble upon Elance.
The website basically acts as an agent, bringing together freelancers, who offer their skills in all sorts of areas, and employers. These jobs include some of the things that I, indeed, can do. So, it seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. Elance does charge a fee on top of the agreed amount between client and contractor (paid by the client) but the advantage is that they offer an escrow service. This means the client can deposit the agreed fee for a job with Elance, and once the final product has been delivered and deemed satisfactory, the contractor can request for it to be released. This gives a small measure of protection for both parties.
Now, it became clear to me very quickly, as I browsed the jobs on offer, that Elance is far from perfect. Competition is fierce, and most of the time you’ll see freelancers bidding ridiculously low rates for very time consuming or difficult jobs. While one has to wonder what the quality of the work those contractors have to offer is, in part it is also due to the fact they are based in countries with much lower wages. A Euro (or Dollar, really), just stretches much further in many parts of the world than it does here.
Often, the remuneration offered for jobs by employers is also ridiculously low. Insultingly so, especially where they make demands for the highest quality, yet want to pay mere pennies for the privilege.
Then, it seems like there is quite a few employers who regularly post jobs but never actually award them. This matters because because as a contractor, you have a limited amount of times you can bid on jobs each month. I actually think this isn’t a bad idea; it prevents people from spamming every job offer, instead bidding only for those things they can and want to do.
Browsing on Elance it became evident that one of my language based skills in particular gives me the potential to earn a small bit of money. Given that I am a native Dutch speaker but also have excellent English, and have some experience translating (mostly academic) text from each of those languages to the other, this is the type of job I’m bidding on.
Still, it is not easy. In the last two weeks I’ve landed one small job, but have been rejected for many others. One of my biggest problems is my lack of experience. Clients won’t hire me because nobody else has. This is a bit of a catch 22, but one I’m hoping that with perseverance, I might eventually break through.
I’ve been at this for less then two weeks now, but it has become clear that you have to be careful what jobs to bid on. Some things are clearly of a scammy nature, and I prefer to stay away far away from those.
I’m not going to be making a ton of money this way, and what work I do get will be relatively poorly paid. Yet it is offering me a chance to actually do something. I’ve managed to get one job translating a website so far, and it is looking like this might be turning into a regular thing. Only 10 to 20 euro a month, a couple of hours of work, but it’s a start. That’s enough for me for now.
To be continued….
The last two days I have been chronicling my journey from being a Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM) to Working-From-Home-Mum (WAHM).
Yesterday, I described how I concluded that it was unrealistic to hope that I could make any sort of income from my crafty hobbies. So, back to the drawing board.
Aside from the crafty stuff, I began considering what other skills I possessed.
I am, ultimately, an academic. With my degrees in history, I very quickly had to conclude that my true strength lies in language. I’ve always been particularly good in writing essays, both in school and later in college. I can structure an argument extremely well. In addition, I am a decent writer with a strong vocabulary, particularly in Dutch, my first language, though my English has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years as well (writing a PhD dissertation will do that to your command of a language!). In addition, though it drove me despair at times, what I enjoyed most about being an academic tutor was teaching students how to write good essays and guiding them to improve their skills.
My skill at constructing (and deconstructing) academic arguments is partially talent, I think, but also most importantly, training. At my Alma Mater in The Netherlands, first and second year history students had to attend compulsory seminars that taught what were considered essential skills for an historian: public speaking, debating, essay writing, the construction of arguments, research and so forth. In fact, in the first year, several hours a week were dedicated to this work, a very significant portion of the overall workload. It’s left me with some very solid academic skills, that I have been extremely grateful for over the years.
Identifying my skills, however, was only the first step. Next, I had to figure out how to turn these skills into something marketable. This proved to be very difficult. I looked with envy at my husband, who, with his master’s degree in Maths, made a very good living giving tutorials as a student. Unfortunately, there is very little demand for history or essay writing tutorials.
I struggled with how to turn my skills into a WAHM activity for quite a few months, until I eventually stumbled onto the answer.
To be continued….
Yesterday, I wrote about how, about six months after my daughter was born, I was getting restless being ‘just’ a SAHM, or a stay-at-home-mum. I had a strong desire to find something to do, an outlet for my mind and creativity, and hopefully make a small amount of cash along the way. I wanted to become a WAHM, a working-from-home-mum.
Of course, the difficulty was to settle on something to do. Initially, I was thinking about crafty stuff. It seemed the obvious thing to do. I spend a lot of time on sites like etsy and pinterest, and I do a lot of knitting, crocheting and other crafts. I know some of my items are good enough to be sold.
The difficulties of this approach were obvious. First of all, there is a very large offering of very high quality handmade products out there. It is difficult to stand out from the crowd and get potential buyers to look at your things to begin with, never mind actually purchase them.
Second, there is the profit aspect of it. The fabrication of marketable items is very, very timeconsuming. Thus, converting potential earnings,when setting a realistic price for my items, to an hourly rate came as a bit of a shock. I wouldn’t even mind that much as I would, in theory, be enjoying the work, but in addition, materials tend to be expensive, making profit margins very small. I considered various options, but in the end, it just did not seem worth the effort. Especially as I know myself; recreating the same item over and over again would become boring very quickly.
I know there is people out there who successfully make money selling handmade items. The best way to do it is to find an item that is relatively cheap and quick to produce, yet appealing to a certain market which you can directly target. I eventually had to accept that this wasn’t going to happen for me. I haven’t given up on the possibility altogether, I’ll keep considering possible products, but for now, I had to look in a different direction.
To be continued with the next step in my journey from SAHM to WAHM….
That I should become a stay at home mum was never a question. Our circumstances pretty much dictated that it should be so. And of course, I am grateful that we can manage well enough on just one income. We might not have much to spare at the end of each month, but we’re hardly penny pinching either. Yet what looks like an ideal arrangement in theory has of course some snags in reality.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was in the finishing stages of my PhD. The next eight months were rough. Going through the highly stressful process of finalising a dissertation, while being hormonal, first nauseous and then increasingly round and uncomfortable. With six weeks to go before my due date, I submitted my dissertation and was able to spend a month and a half relaxing and actually enjoying thinking about how life was going to be like with my baby.
Researching and writing my dissertation had been my job for the previous four years. So following submission, I was pretty much out of a job. Of course, I didn’t mind. It really was perfect timing. Unlike so many of my peers who finished their PhD and found themselves not having a clue what to do next, I had a baby to look after.
Academic jobs, especially in the arts, are thin on the ground. I was offered some hours tutoring, but the childcare I would have required would’ve cost more than the job would actually pay, so I turned it down. I do want to go back to my academic career, but I’m happy to just take a break from it for the next few years. As an historian, my expertise is not going out of date in a hurry, and I can keep doing some work independently, while staying in touch with the world of academia. In other words, I can keep my name out there even if I’m not working.
For the first half year after my daughter was born, I was happy being ‘just’ a stay-at-home-mum. It is incredibly satisfying looking after a little person. Eventually, however, I was becoming restless. I felt I needed an outlet for my creativity and something to exercise my brain. Moreover, I found it more difficult than I expected to be financially completely dependent on my husband.
The obvious answer was to find something to do which would challenge me [i]and[/i] provide me with a small income. In other words, to go from being a SAHM to a WAHM (work-at-home-mum) This, however, proved easier said then done.
To be continued with the story of my journey from SAHM to WAHM…