Sunday, 14 October 2012

And You and I; or, attachment parenting.

Before you have a baby you are full of ideas of what things you will and will not do. You won't be using dummies, you will be using a certain brand of nappies, you won't be plonking them down in front of the tv to get a break, you will spend all your time entertaining them. I know it's a well versed song but you really know nothing of the reality. 

I didn't read any parenting books pre-sandy. You might think this was because I couldn't be bothered but it was actually because I already knew how I wanted to raise my child. I knew nothing of Gina Ford and controlled crying, of EASY routines and baby whisperers, and of the concept of attachment parenting. All I knew was I was having a baby and my husband and I would do what we wanted. When women working in mamas and papas told me "oh I just let mine cry" I just smiled and walked on, superior in the knowledge that this was my baby and I would do what I damn well liked with him/her. Him as it turned out.

Regardless of whether you subscribe to theories of parenting or your own ideas this is probably going to be threatened immediately after your little ones arrival by the institution of the hospital. And this will vary to large degrees depending on the hospital you attend. I attended the princess royal maternity hospital at Glasgow royal infirmary. When my baby came he was put on my chest for skin to skin. He started to suck a little after that. That was my request and indeed something the hospital promoted. However, they then brought in the magical post evacuation tea and toast and the woman who did it picked my son off my chest.  "I'll put him in the cot while you get your tea" she said, lifting my 15 minute old baby off me, wrapping him in a blanket and placing him into a cold Perspex box on the other side of the room. My husband looked at me and the woman left and our tiny, confused newborn - who had only ever known the womb and had just found a whole new world - started to cry. Stuart promptly took him out and held him and he quietened down then gave him back to me, and he proceeded, for the next 5 days, to only cry two more times in hospital (during a forced bath and when I was told to just leave him on the ward while I went to the canteen for dinner, where babies weren't allowed). Honestly the whole hospital experience is hard to change from. They enforce a routine that you have no say in as its policy and you are so bewildered by medical intervention, and the fog surrounding your general mindset from having pushed a person out of you, that you let it happen. You let them tell you you can't sleep with your baby in bed. You let them force you to change him in the cot and in the cot only, even though it is impractical. You let them send your husband away for half the time you are there, regardless of the fact he is half of the team making and caring for your baby. I suppose many people get off easily, being incarcerated for only a day, sometimes less, but if you combine an epidural with jaundice you end up with 5 days on the ward which feel like a lifetime and result in you going home and putting your baby down to sleep in his cot like they told you before promptly breaking down in tears worrying that you will wake up and he won't be alive any more. The same institutionalisation makes you unaware that you can breast feed lying down in bed (sleeping while you do) and results in you sitting up for 6 hours straight in the middle of the night feeding a newborn trying to stay awake and failing and again manically weeping as the tiredness is so much you can't take it anymore. And when you do eventually get it together enough to take your baby out you put him in a big open space in a pram, the complete opposite of the secure and warm womb he is used to, and it proceeds to break your heart as he cries the whole time lying in that massive white bed as you wish you were back in the safety of home, and so does he.

So once my baby arrived all my ideas of what I would do seemed to go out the window as the enormity of the hospital experience clouded my judgement. Luckily it didn't take too long for us to work out what worked for us. Well, I say we worked it out, but actually sandy did all the working. Babies are tiny little bags of meat who are apparently born three months too early because otherwise they wouldn't fit out of our narrow pelvises and thus spend the first 12 weeks of life doing exactly what they would do in the womb - eat, sleep, grow. They are ill equipped for maintaining their own temperature and their brains are too underdeveloped to understand that people who are gone will come back. When we got home sandy took over and managed to overrule the inflexible policy of the hospital. He demanded two things to keep us all happy: 1. That I feed him, and that I feed him as often as he wanted. And 2. That I hold him, and that I hold him all the time. And thus a chain of events took place which resulted in me becoming an advocate of "attachment parenting" without even knowing the term or what it entailed, which I expect is exactly how attachment parenting wants the theory to be used.

Attachment parenting's key theme is that a baby's parents spend time with their baby. That's pretty much the crux of it. A baby who is used to constant contact with their parent, having all their needs met by that parent, for all of its life, expects this to continue after birth. I was already breastfeeding and so I breast fed on demand. I quickly realised that the only time my son cried in the early days was when he was hungry. If he wasn't going to sleep it was because he was hungry too. So I fed him. The joy of breast feeding is the simplicity of the process. The more he wants the more I make and as he grows it changes to his needs and if he wants it NOW it is ready and he can have it. Because of all this breast feeding it soon became apparent that I would not survive if I had to be awake the whole time he was feeding. I was knackered so I lay down in bed and fed him there. And I learned to fall asleep while he did this. And he stopped when he was full and he slept too. And 10 weeks on he still feeds with me lying down at night and we still fall asleep together there and we wake in the morning, him safe and content between his mum and dad in a bed that smells of his family and me having had a more or less full nights sleep. That's the joy of co-sleeping, it just makes so much more sense than putting your baby to sleep in a cold unfamiliar basket, where your baby cant see or feel its parents and where he or she will sleep much less soundly and for much less time. And as for the pram it has come to be used now, don't worry, but for the first few months if your baby wants to be right beside you, warm and safe, at night, why wouldn't he want that during the day too? Enter the sling. What more genius idea is there than taking a baby who technically should still be in the womb, and recreate that situation (warm, close, tight and with mum)? So sandy went in his sling and each time he fell asleep within minutes, waking only to tell me he was hungry. 

And may I now outline the whole philosophy behind attachment parenting? 

The Three Bs
- Breast feeding
- Bed sharing
- Baby wearing

The joy of all of this is that I didn't need a book or a website or a charismatic entity to tell me to do this. All I needed was my baby. Funny how someone so small and new was far more wise than all the supposed intelligence and wisdom of a hospital. 

We are now approaching week 11 of Sandy's life and the end of the so called fourth trimester. He is still breast feeding and currently we enjoy the benefits of the night time 'dream feeds' where he doesn't even seem to wake to feed, he whimpers with his eyes closed and I feed him and he goes back to sleep. We share a bed at night, the three of us, and I never worry about his well being and I feel strangely lonely if he's not there. He still uses his sling though now he sticks his head out the top wanting to see the world so we plan to upgrade to a more supportive one which will allow him to go on my back as a more attentive passenger. I feel like all of a sudden he is no longer a newborn and that tiny baby phase is inching away with every minute of each day. I am sad to see it go but I'm happy to see my boy developing into himself, becoming a player in the game more than a spectator. Today he watched the formula one and spent the morning chatting with his dad, saying 'a gloooo' and mimicking the shape of his mouth and his tone, talking during the gaps in a conversational back and forth style. I can't believe how interactive he is now. And as we turn this corner to a new phase I am grateful to him for dictating the terms of our relationship. I will continue to listen to him and give him what he needs, and I fully expect the three Bs to take precedent in our lives.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Water-resistant Sling Cover Tutorial

Since my baby arrived my sling has been my best friend. Sandy falls asleep in it within 10 minutes without fail. And the best thing about it is the ability to just pop it on, pop him in and go anywhere. There is no hassle at all it's just like wearing a backpack on your front. A really cute and great smelling backpack.

Anyway it's been so hot since I had sandy and I'm really glad for this more autumnal weather but of course that has meant rain. And also wind. So how do you keep a baby in a fabric wrap dry in typical Scottish drizzle? I tried an umbrella which works to an extent but certainly fails in wind. Others suggested buying a too big coat and zipping it over both of us... But I spent 9 months wearing tents and really want to wear my normal coats again. So therefore it has been necessary to find a water resistant sling cover. I was pointed to Hoppediz who make one but after one sling meeter suggested you could easily use a bin bag similarly I had the inspiration to make one myself. 

At first I imagined I would go and source some fabric but then I realised there was a much cheaper option which also took out 90% of the sewing work too. So if you want to make one take yourself to primark and buy one of their parka in a pocket jackets in a size small, they are £9 and all you need aside from this is a sewing machine, or even just a needle and thread if you are a fast hand sewer. 

1. Take the jacket and pull it inside out. From the inside sew up the arms (I.e. where the hole for the arm is).

2. Cut off the arms. When you turn it back the right way there should be no arms and it will resemble something like a poncho. 

3. Now go to the very bottom of the coat where there are two separate toggles on strings. Push the coat all the way along so most of the string is free and snip off each string.

4. Go to the inside of the jacket where the zip starts. There is a flap running down the inside. Tuck the end of one of the strings under here at the top and sew it down. 

5. Now tuck it in all the way down and sew the flap down. You want to finish sewing the flap down 1 inch further down than the horizontal strip that has another string and toggle already on the jacket. Repeat on the other side with the other string.

6. Now go to where the horizontal toggle strip is and measure 3 inches down from this and cut the jacket across. Fold up where you cut and tidily sew it up.

7. Take the removed bottom part of the a jacket and cut a horizontal strip from each side (the bits where the string and toggles used to be) about 3 inches wide.

8. Fold up the cut bit of each of these strips under and sew together to make neat straps. 

 9. Take one end of a strap and sew it onto the jacket just above the seam where the hood joins the body, next to the zip. 

 10. Hold the cover up to your body with the hood where baby's head would be and take the strap and loop it round your shoulder, measuring how long to make it and then sew down the other end on top of where you first attached it (see photo). Repeat for other strap.

11. Take the sleeves you cut off earlier and cut out the strap and poppers of each.

12. Fold up the surrounding fabric, shortening the strap a bit by tucking it underneath before sewing each on top of the place you already sewed down the shoulder straps.

Here is the finished thing... from the inside:

  And from the outside:

Here are Stuart and Sandy demonstrating it:

Now to use it! You have three methods of sizing the cover with toggles. The ones in the hood will be tightened to make the hood the right size for your baby's head. The ones down the side and the ones at the bottom both tighten to make the cover a shell which fits over your baby's body.

To secure it on over your sling use the shoulder straps to fix it on top. If you are wearing a bag on  your back you can use the poppers to attach it to your bag straps so it is even more secure. Finally you can tuck the bottom of it under your sling fabric where baby's feet are so it is secured a the bottom.

In total it took me about 2 hours to make but this included working out how to make it and photographing the process so it won't take you long at all.

I'm going to make a fleece liner that can be added to the inside of the cover for when it is colder too, for which I will make a follow up tutorial later.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


Tomorrow my husband goes back to work after what has been pretty much three weeks off after the arrival of our son. Several times last week I got a bit hysterical imagining what it will be like without him to pass me the bottle of water I've left two centimetres out of reach as I feed sandy. Then I got even more hysterical imagining what it'll be like without him there to talk sense into me when I get hysterical about not being able to reach a bottle of water. So you know how that goes. 

It's true having a newborn baby to attend to is hard work. I don't know about how other people describe it but to me it is a long hard slog... A days hard work followed by an evening and a nights hard work and then straight back to the office. I realised this when he had been asleep for a little while and I started to do something and he stirred and it became clear I had to leave anything and everything else when he needed me, no discussion. You'd have thought I'd have known that but it was like slipping back to my old life for a bit in a dream. 

Things are finally settling a bit now as we hit the middle of week 4. Ok sandy is still unpredictable. In fact he sleeps less now than he did, and has less tolerance of time in his cot or basket or anywhere that isn't in his mum or dads arms, and his feeding is irregular and often. But I think it's me getting a handle on my hormones that has allowed things to seem better. I felt pretty disheveled most of the time at first and routinely terrified all of a sudden for no reason, then manically happy and positive an hour later. Now I feel the calmness you get when relaxing at home again. This is probably a lot down to managing to have a nap, make and eat dinner all in a row without him needing to feed. Funny how a couple of hours of being normal again makes you feel so much more yourself again. Plus our moby sling is a godsend, he falls asleep within an instant in it! 

I know stuart really doesn't want to return to work but I think it will be good for all of us in some ways. It will give him some time out of the incessant baby bubble where all thoughts revolve around every microscopic movement and noise this tiny human makes. It gives us some structure to the day too, stuarts return being something to work towards when it's heavy going. Basically I am feeling rather nervy about being alone with him all day on one hand but relishing the challenge on the other. I'm worried I'm not good enough for him, that I alone can't be trusted to care for something so tiny and precious and perfect. But I know that we are a team and we will manage as long as we work together, and as long as my sling is nearby! 

Being a mum is both the most alien and the most natural thing I've ever experienced. And this time the three of us has been simultaneously a feverish dream and a vivid perfect reality. I wouldn't change it for the world. He's my son, and it's hard to imagine I could love anything more than this. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Bobben's Guide to Pregnancy: Part 1

Pregnancy sucks. It really does. I just wanted to get that out there straight away so I can never be accused of lying about it after I have this baby and apparently get that hormone which erases all the memories of discomfort and pain. It’s probably the same hormone that makes you go all squishy and rose-tinted so I thought I’d better start writing this just now, before it’s too late to be brutally, helpfully honest. I’m not trying to put anyone off doing anything; I’m just trying to provide a bit of transparency.

Before I got pregnant I had this image in my head of me as I was with a perfect round bump, wearing tight fitting t-shirts and flip flops, wandering around my daily life like a ray of sunshine, happily performing a miracle with seemingly no extra effort. All of these daydreams were hazy and warm and contented. I used to say to people “I can’t wait to be pregnant. I don’t mean so I can get a baby, I just mean to be pregnant and have a bump”. It was a funny and endearingly odd thing I liked to say and it was true that I felt that way. Oh how I laugh now when I think back on it.

I’m going to go into a lot of detail about how pregnancy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that people were lying to me about the reality but actually I was warned a little. My Mum told me what happened when she found out that she was pregnant with me. She had been trying to conceive for many, many months and had given up caring to test or notice. When she started feeling ill she took the bleed she had had that month as good reason not to suspect anything other than a stomach bug. It was when she had been suffering for two weeks that she went to the doctor to tell him she thought she was dying she felt so awful. He told her that she was pregnant and signed her off work. She told me of her disappointment as the family came to visit her poorly self and she sat in a crumpled heap by the radiator uttering angrily “I’m pregnant”. I really should have taken a lot more heed.

So, when I found out I was pregnant I smiled back on her story and planned with my husband the perfect way of telling the family. I assumed it was just a bad experience for her, to feel so awful all at once. I thought of all the other information about receiving the good news and all the television programmes which portrayed that happy moment. I smiled and we decided to make our news a Christmas eve surprise; what better present could anyone have at that time of year? That was on the Friday. On the Monday I went to the doctor and decided I was coming down with something as I felt so hot and iffy waiting in the corridor. Immediately after eating my dinner that evening I wanted to bring it all back up. I didn’t, but I wanted to. From the next morning until 4 months later I felt like I was going to vomit at every moment of every second of every day. Truth number one about pregnancy: Morning Sickness is hell.

Morning sickness is like no sickness you’ve ever experienced before. There are few ways to really described the all-encompassing direness of that incessant nausea. Now I know some people get that morning sickness where they wake up, in the morning, and are sick. They vomit, they feel a bit better, they perk up by midday. That’s what you expect isn’t it? I was watching television the other day and the woman on it was pregnant. At one point she dramatically pulls the back of her hand to her forehead and closes her eyes. “Are you okay?” asks her partner and she nods sadly. “I get my morning sickness in the evening” she replies, before promptly going back to washing the dishes. Earlier in the show she was on the beach in a bikini eating chips. I have a few points to note about how false this whole situation was. Firstly she was in the kitchen doing the dishes. No way are you going to manage to do anything, especially not the food covered dishes in the edible-hell-hole that is the kitchen during your MS. In fact, you can tell it was a totally inaccurate portrayal of MS by the fact she was wearing normal clothes. And standing upright. Think more lying down in scuzzy pyjamas. She probably should have been groaning in discomfort too.

I really want to properly describe morning sickness to you so here is my best shot. Imagine you go out drinking. You drink A LOT. You mix your drinks. Some of them are really sugary alcocrap shots in quick succession. You then eat a massive big donner kebab way too quickly without chewing properly and go straight to sleep. You wake up and you feel awful. The worst hangover of your life bar none. You feel that sensation you get right before you puke, you run to the bathroom, you stick your head over the toilet… and nothing. Nothing emerges, nothing changes. You can’t be sick but you feel just about to. Now, imagine feeling like that for months. And imagine that you not only feel like that but you have to somehow force some sort of food into your stomach while you feel like it. And water. Imagine that point when you are embracing the toilet bowl, knowing there will not be the release after you vomit up the culprit which is making you feel so unbelievable awful, and then having to eat something. The culprit is your baby and you are going to feel like that until your placenta is fully grown at 4 months.

See people who say “oh yes, morning sickness, I didn’t really get that”, or “oh morning sickness… ugh! … I had it for three days straight!”? Don’t talk to them. Just walk away. The injustice in knowing you suffered day and night for months and they had nothing is far too much to handle on a good day, never mind when chock full of crazy pregnancy hormones.

Anyway, to continue with my story. I started feeling like this three days after receiving our positive pregnancy test result. This was two weeks before we were due to tell everyone on Christmas eve. The first few days I remember sort of enjoying the sickness. It took a bit to come to its full strength and I was still reeling in excitement about becoming pregnant. The idea that these were symptoms of my precious baby made them just as easy to cherish as any other aspect of pregnancy that was to come. I felt a bit like I was going to vomit each day and for the first time in my life I didn’t mind. I imagined myself a happy martyr, protecting my baby’s tiny form from all those harmful things in the world that could penetrate it’s wellbeing through my digestive tracts. I was being Mother for the first time. Take a few more days of that and the fun started to wear off. It’s easy to suffer something horrible at first when it has a positive end, your morale is high and expectations are too. But after a week of it my patience was starting to wane and I was starting to get fed up of immediately regretting eating anything.  I think the worst part was that I didn’t vomit once. Not once. I’m presently at 36 weeks and 2 days pregnant and I have not once in this whole time brought anything back up. So it was the Monday before the Saturday we were going to tell everyone about the baby. My Mum happened to visit me and I sat on the couch feeling like death, lying about how I thought I was getting a flu and did I have a temperature and wishing I could tell her as being home alone all day everyday feeling like someone had poisoned me and left me to slowly die was wearing thin. I didn’t tell her but the next day I hit rock bottom. I got up and felt so poor, I couldn’t face anything. But I felt I needed to eat, I was growing a baby and it needed sustenance! So I went to the kitchen and heated up a half bowl of tomato soup and ate it with a slice of plain white bread. Ten minutes later I was on the bedroom floor hunched over our orange sick bucket (fond memories of this chap I must say) crying. I called Stuart and begged him to come home. I had reached breaking point. Stuart said he would try and get home from work and would call me back. I felt marginally better, at least he could scrape me off the floor and help me put on some fresh clothes or something. He called back to say his boss had said he didn’t want him going home because it was now ten and by the time Stuart got back to me it’d almost be afternoon anyway, and I was “only sick in the morning, wasn’t I?”. How I would have laughed hearing that had I not been curled in a ball weeping at that point. I told him enough was enough I was calling my Mum and thus the image of us all sitting around then imaginary fire on Christmas eve, tree lights twinkling as we told them the news and hugged and hugged shattered and all I could see and all I could feel was nauseau. I called my Mum on her work number as it was class time (she is a teacher) and I knew she would be worried as I never call her through the front office so I had to offer it up straight. “What’s wrong?” She said as soon as she answered. “I’m pregnant.” I said. “And I don’t feel well.” I stuttered. “And I need you” I sobbed. Her reply: “I’M ON MY WAY!”. And so Super-Mum flew into action. As she drove to me I cried into my empty sick bucket and felt a weight fall off me. No longer did I have to pretend I was fine when all I wanted to go was lie in a ball and groan quietly and not eat. She arrived in ten minutes and she came in and whisked me off to her house where I sat on the sofa wrapped in a duvet next to the pine smell of the Christmas tree. It took several days for her to realise that I was pregnant I think, but I was looked after like a pro. So, the moral of the story? Don’t expect there not to be morning sickness. Don’t expect the sickness to be bearable. Don’t expect anything less than feeling the worst you have ever felt in your life. And don’t expect to be able to manage it yourself. So many people wait until they are 12 weeks to tell everyone they are pregnant, but believe you me, holding off for ten days was a feat in itself, and I have no idea how others manage to convince their loved ones they are just “under the weather” when they feel as though they are going to vomit all over them every second of every day.

We told my Mum and called my Dad that day. Stuart came and got me from my Mums and we drove via his parents and told them. I sat white and shaking on the couch as Stuart told them I wasn’t feeling well, that I had morning sickness, and they jumped for joy and smiled and hugged and hugged me and I felt I could just die at that moment as I felt so awful. We told the extended family on Christmas day and that was that. I thought back to myself scoffing at my Mum’s miserable tale of telling the family with disgust that she was pregnant but at least she got to do it all in person. My fate was the same and to be honest the whole scenario set the scene for the entire pregnancy: unrealistic expectations shattered by obnoxious reality. I am so, so happy to be having my baby and I would never give anything back or change a single thing that has happened. However I would wish that at the start someone had told me just how hard it was going to be and just how debilitating. Every aspect of pregnancy has been unimaginable and unexpectedly hard and I feel continually that I have been conned and that the tales told of pregnancy are sugar coated fairy stories used to continue the populating of the world unabated. Pregnancy is tough, and the morning sickness is just the beginning. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


My husband is hurtling down the country on a train at present. I hate when he goes away like this. It's funny how he travels to work every day and I don't worry, because he always does. Yet now he's headed on a different track in a different capsule of metal and it's at the back of my mind. It's not like I think anything bad will happen, it's just that the change skews things. How would I get to him if he needed me?

When I first started going out with him we were close right away. You know how there are couples who've been together for five months and are still reluctant to refer to each other as "boyfriend"/"girlfriend"? We were the opposite of that. We started out a few days prior to Christmas. We loved each other and said so by the end of the first month of 2006. For Valentines day he got me a bracelet. He knew I would like jewellery, knew I wanted all those token gestures of relationships that get put in your head from external sources of information. He bought me a silver bracelet made by an independent jeweller in Glasgow. I think he ordered it online, though I don't know for sure. It was delicate and silver, little chain links with minuscule charms on. It had a silver heart, a silver star and a quartz star. It came in an irregular red fabric pouch with white dots. I wore it every single day.

One day late last year I came home from work and it wasn't there. It being silver had made the tiny clasp move with my body heat before, but I had always felt it slip away. This time I hadn't and I noticed it was gone but it wasn't a cruel blow yet. I thought it would turn up, that I would find it somewhere. I was complacent even after it was gone, assuming it would reappear as it always had done. Perhaps I was being taught about that complacency. It didn't turn up and I began to realise it was lost and I suddenly realised how much it meant to me. I searched in as many places as I could remember looking for it. I felt the elation of the possibility of its return when I remembered somewhere else it may be lying, and the stinging defeat of it's not being there. It had always been there before, on my wrist every day. I felt naked without it and where it used to live was ugly and old. I stopped wearing anything on that wrist and I mourned the loss. People will always tell you that things are just that; objects and nothing more. Cars are "just heaps of metal" when lost in a crash, and jewellery given by a loved one no replacement for the person themselves. I don't know about the truth in that. I felt as though I had been careless with our entire relationship letting it slip just because I could and not guarding it enough.

I got pregnant not long after and by the end of December last year I was sick all the time. We told the family early because it was so bad. Our anniversary came and I didn't even realise what day it was until my husband presented me with a card and tiny wrapped present. I hadn't even thought of him, hadn't got him anything, and inside the silver tissue was a little irregular red fabric pouch with red dots. He had contacted the jeweller, described the long since defunct design she had once made. It contained the same charms. It contained a new charm, a tiny silver plate with the date on it; 22.12.11. I wore it every single day.

Last Saturday we went swimming. We were going out afterwards to a market of nearly new baby items. I took my watch and fastened my wedding and engagement rings onto it, before securing the bracelet through the watch too and putting it in my bag. We swam. We dried and changed. We left the baths and as we walked to the car I clipped the bracelet on to my arm. Hours later we got home and I started to take off my jewellery and my wrist was once again naked and ugly and old. This time the pain came straight away and I shouted and it was gone and the same flooded back and I sat on the edge of the bed and let the initial outburst melt into sullen silence. Stuart went to the car to look for it immediately and I couldn't even look up. I went to the kitchen and sat on the floor and I cried and I thought of it on the ground in the mud, the small silver plate with 22.12.11 on it shining up as someone trod it further down into the earth. I imagined it being pawned. I couldn't imagine finding it and I couldn't imagine searching. Stuart returned and he didn't have it as he said nothing when he came in and he came to me and was touched by how much it had meant. I told him it was horrible that the only way to truly show just how much someone means to you was to be hurt in such a repetitive way. I told of my carelessness. I hadn't learned my lesson. I would learn now. I told him never to buy me anything like that again. I told him I loved him and he told me not to blame myself and I cried a lot because that's what it's like being pregnant and emotional.

None of this actually means anything I suppose. No-one would judge love on such trivial and tangible measures. It's hard to prove love and when it's really intense it's hard to find any medium through which to display it. I don't even have a picture of the second bracelet. I don't want to forget the date. There is no end point to this discussion, only that it hurts when things like this happen. And that hurt stems not from your own loss but the symbolism existent in what happened, and how careless and stupid you can be with the things that matter most to you.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

women drivers

I'm forever writing posts on my tumblr about feminism and gender equality from the point of view of someone who is neither a feminist or equal in gender. I feel I'm always grasping at straws when it comes to formulating concise ideas about gender in society and always bringing slivers of interesting thought that make little impact on anything.

 For me, the fact that feminism exists means gender inequality is inherent. If there was no inequality then there would be no need for feminism. Interestingly though, there is no such thing as masculinism whilst this gender inequality exists. It's a simple case of history being written by the victor. It frustrates me and I know I could go into a lot of detail as to what is unfair about society as a woman but the point I am making is that this is not helpful. Sure, I get treated in an inferior way on certain occasions as I am female, but equally I get treated poorly more often because I look young, often by older people. Yet somehow older people treating youth like lesser people doesn't result in social movements and activists. This is probably because there is a sliding scale of age and it is less A versus B than male/female divides. The point is that the only way to stop there being social gender inequality is to stop making an issue out of gender, to think less of people being male or female and think more of people being people. I'm the first to admit that there are differences between men and women - physiologically - and that to treat everyone the same would cause problems specifically in relation to health care and other similar physical issues. However, shouldn't the point I make stand up in terms of a person being a person? Sure a woman can give birth and may need to be treated in a certain way whilst undergoing such events, but similarly a man may experience physical issues related to parts of his anatomy which a woman does not posses, and need treated in another specific way due to this. Conversely though a person may have diabetes and need specific treatment for this, and another person may have mobility issues, and need specific assistance in this.

There is one gender related issue that comes to mind whenever I think about gender and sexism specifically, and it is driving. I found the above image on pinterest and looked at the comments below it. Some took a positive spin, saying that the picture clearly depicted a lane for women only, as they are a better quality of driver, and the only ones allowed on a new piece of road. Another commented anecdotally that her husband had crashed his car recently, yet she never had, even though she was a woman driver. One person tried to apply a logical test to determine driving ability but failed to move this beyond the gender issue, stating: "Just no. Most women suck at driving. If you can't reverse it, you shouldn't be allowed to drive it forward". The comment that struck most of a chord with me though was the one said this:

 "part of me wants to be offended and the other part wants to laugh out loud"

 It struck a chord as it is often how I felt about this in the past. I am a competent driver. I say this as I have a natural ability for driving compromising not only an ability to learn and function by the rules of the road, but additionally a good attention span, depth and speed perception and ability to predict the reactions of other drivers on the road. I have driven a car around a race track and my father used to be a rally driver, I believe it to be a skill I have learned from him and also my mother, who is also a competent driver. My husband is also a good driver, but he used not to be. He used to be less confident and less aware of other drivers around him. The reason for this was that he had not driven much. When I learned to drive I was taking lessons and also taken out by both my parents to practice, firstly on private land and secondly on the road. This did not happen for my husband and he only had lessons. By the time I passed my test I'd probably put more miles under my belt than my husband did in the year after passing his. However, now we are both competent drivers. Interestingly I have crashed a car and he has not. Make what you will of that, but please if you want to criticise me for my crash, criticize me for not taking the cruise control off when it was raining. And compliment my husband's lack of a crash for not having been driving under those exact same circumstances.

Going back to the comment above the reason I feel so conflicted about it is for two reasons. Firstly I too want to be offended; if anyone was to criticise me for poor driving I would be outraged to think this was because I had a vagina. No, more likely it is because I was just not good at driving. Some people are, and some people are not. However on the flip side I also laugh at the picture. It is the defence mechanism of someone who knows that feminist arguments are pointless but are not quite sure why. They take themselves and put themselves in with the men, the good drivers. Women who deem themselves good at driving, laughing at the other women who are not. It's true though, isn't it? From the perspective of a competent driver whenever someone pulls out in front of you without thinking, or waits at the empty junction before realising they can turn, or reverses without looking, it is probably 90% of the time a woman. Of course this is not scientific but women do commit driving outrages that seem to be common to their gender. They seem not to think quickly enough, they don't look ahead to what will happen after the thing that is happening at that exact moment, they don't anticipate anything, they just let things unravel in front of their eyes. To other road users this is incredibly annoying. Sometimes like the person who posted that comment, I want to laugh out loud. More often or not I get irate and you will find the words "woman driver" being uttered in my car as I avoid scrapes with dozy road users.

Surely then, it is acceptable to deride women drivers and to get angry or laugh at them? Surely it is something inherent about the way women are made up physiologically, or mentally, that prohibits them from being as good as men at driving? Surely not. Consider this: a young girl is growing up. Both her mum and dad drive. Most of the people she sees driving are men. Her dad drives more often than her mum. Her grandad drives but her gran does not. Her Mum is not confident when driving. Many people around her comment about "women drivers". Even if her mum doesn't ever cause a car accident, comment is never made about her safe or effective driving. Her dad talks about cars and is passionate about them. He is knowledgeable. Her mum is not. Got the picture? Well, when this girl turns 17 and steps for the first time behind the driver's seat of a car, what do you think her expectations for her driving ability-to-be are? Doesn't look like a positive picture does it? Even if she is a good driver and already possesses the skills necessary to be competent, will that be able to override the 17 years of constant social pressure on her not to perform well? You can bet her brother gets into that car with the utmost confidence that he has the ability to do this, and all he needs now is to learn how. She's getting in knowing that she is destined to fail, even before she starts.

It would appear to be a little more clear why then that "women drivers" are so bad then. The only other inconsistency to follow up here is why are there a group of women who are good drivers, and who find it necessary to alienate themselves from the rest of women, ally with the men and say snort "women drivers" in that so familiar way? As someone who deems themselves separate from "women drivers" I believe this to be down to upbringing and character. If you know someone who is a good woman driver then I bet they will be one of two things, either A) someone brought up in a family where the daughter was encouraged to do anything a boy could do or B) someone who has a large amount of self confidence and the attitude that they can accomplish whatever they like, so long as they put the time and effort in. In many cases it will probably be a combination.

In the car with my father the other day we laughed and derided a driver who drove up to a completely clear roundabout in front of us and stopped dead. The driver waited for a moment and then continued. They could have looked 100 metres before the entrance of the roundabout and seen that it was clear, and driven straight through without coming to a standstill. My dad remarked, "got to be a woman driver". I concurred. I don't think my dad is perfect, in fact I am fairly sure he is sexist on many occasions. His saving grace though is that he never is to me. He knows he would get into far too much trouble for that. So as much as the onus is on men to stop being sexist about issues such as "women drivers", it is even more on women to stop letting any person's stupid stereotypical attitude mould them into something they don't need to be. There are many different people out there all with different skills and it is unacceptable to think that the skills for driving cannot be learned by a women. Women need to stop labelling themselves women and start labelling themselves as people before we can ever move past sexism and inequality based on gender. And then we can simply shout "idiot driver" as we are cut off by someone on the motorway, and continue down the road in a world where people are people and that is all.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Stress is so stupid. Even the word is stupid. I hate stress. Actually, wait the word isn't stupid it's a totally accurate transfer of a word used for something tangible to something that is so incredibly not tangible.

Sometimes you can't win. I've been trying really hard to be positive. I think a lot of people feel that all they do is moan and whine about things that aren't perfect and I really don't want to be someone who, when they are 60, you can tell is a moany bitch just by looking at the downward lines from the corners of her mouth. Despite this it hasn't worked out. We are hoping to move house, that is our flat is for sale and it has not sold. It has been on the market for a week short of 2 months. I know it was overly optimistic to expect a bid immediately but we were quite hopeful it wouldn't be too bad. Perhaps it still isn't. Whatever, I'm so fed up of hearing about what's usual for the market now. I don't care. All I want to be is irrationally impatient and foot-stampy over not selling yet. Because not selling yet means our house is still sparse and unhomey, to try and attract offers with a lack of furniture. What a stupid idea. And it has to be clean. All. The. Goddamned. Time. And I'm fed up of cleaning it. I'm fed up of sweeping up stray pieces of cat litter and hoovering for hours on end and doing the washing up every single day yet never having a clean kitchen. I'm fed up of thinking "oh, I'd like to do that but there's no point until we move". And I'm fed up of noticing time ticking away while money goes down the drain on storage and my due date gets closer and closer. All in all I hate the whole situation.

This is funny because up until 3am last night if you'd asked about the house I'd have been the picture of positivity, telling you that everything is on track and, while we've not got bids yet we have had viewings, and most loudly that I'm not worrying about it! I'm just letting what happens happen! Because I'm that kind of person! And if it's for us it won't go by us! Fuck that. Anyone who actually knows me will know that I'm not laid back. I am a control freak. And a realist. And if you want something - like a house that's for sale - and you can't afford it, it's not because that house "wasn't meant to be" its because sometimes life sucks and things don't work out.

About a week ago I noticed that I was grinding my teeth in my sleep again. I was waking up and flopping about at night and THINKING about things. My dreams were awful collaborations of everything I'd done that day in freakish montages. Yesterday I developed a horrible itchy rash on my sides. By the middle of the night it spread to my legs and arms and at 3am I woke up. I tried to get back to sleep but I turned over and again as my heart race started increasing and my mind was fuzzy and too clear all at once. And I was having a panic attack, because I was fooling myself. So I made revelations finally about how I've felt for the last few weeks and realised I had been fooling myself with my cheerful exterior. Only it was no longer a facade and the contradiction in what I was telling myself I felt and what I felt on the outside was what produced so much stress (tangible) that I broke.

Today I went on the bus to Edinburgh. I booked Megabus but the bus was a Citylink coach; a minor alteration which I found hard to bear due to some internal fragility. I built up strength throughout the day. My mood throughout was stripped back, down trodden and generally dull. But at least it was truthful. It was a day where all I did was travel and work and think. At least I wasn't filling the time so I didn't have to think. On the way home I looked at all the gardens on rows of identical houses, deciding which I liked and what I would do if they were my gardens. I imagined owning fields and where I would build in it. It only occurs to me now that this is a continuation of a theme. A vent from below blew hot air up and a circle from above blew cool air down. It smelled of clean clothes. Then it smelt like toilets. My cheeks ached and my eyes burned. I thought about Stuart and felt like crying, but not in a desperate way, only because the reflex was recently tapped and still well exercised. I looked down into the windows of cars we passed, watched drivers and where they put their hands when idling down the motorway. I got home and felt like I was home which was bittersweet and I kept trekking. I've been working all day, even to this point. I'm going to have a bath and try to find relaxation now. Try and ease the incessant itch of the skin on my sides and hope that I don't awake with a jaw melded shut by my own force. I'll be fine tomorrow, I know that. The evening is just a reproduction of past evenings events with a melancholy spin. The best that can be done is to accept it and find some comfort. This all sounds so sad but it's not really, it's just life and sometimes you have to be withdrawn to heal the cracks in yourself which you one day realise you have unwittingly self-inflicted. At least it feels real again.