Her Bad Mother

Friday, October 12, 2007

What I Don't Know Can Hurt Me

"Late Maternal Age," they call it. It's a fancy term for OLD MOM.

I was not late of maternal age when I had Wonderbaby. I was not entirely early of maternal age, but still - I didn't qualify as elderly. Somehow, between the time of her birth and my current pregnancy, I became old.

I don't mind being old. I much prefer the older me to the younger me, and I intend to go on liking myself even more as I continue along the long and winding road of time. But I'm still don't like the euphemism that is "Late Maternal Age." I don't like it because it's code, because it's troubling code. It doesn't refer to my maturity, or to the wisdom that time has conferred upon me as a mother - it refers to the long list of negative factors bearing upon the odds of success of this pregnancy.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, I have an increased risk of miscarriage. I have a markedly increased risk of carrying a child with fetal abnormalites. There is an increased risk of Spina Bifida and Down's Syndrome and Trisomy and all those other terrible disorders whose names we prefer not to speak. Because I am now over 35 years of age, the doctor puts pamphlets about Chorionic Villus Sampling and Amniocentesis into my hands and refers me to genetics counsellors.

Because I am now over 35 years of age, my doctor tells me that I must consider seriously tests that will tell me the odds of this being a "problemed" pregnancy. Tests that will give me information that might lead me to consider terminating the pregnancy.

Before I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, I underwent genetic testing and genetic counselling, because my nephew's disorder, the one that will kill him, is hereditary, passed along the female line of the family. I swore at the time that no matter what the tests revealed, I would proceed with starting a family.

When I was pregnant with Wonderbaby, my doctor offered to conduct amniocentesis, because I was already in my thirties, and because there was a history of genetic difficulties on both my husband's and my own side of the family. She said, because there is a risk of miscarriage, I only recommend this if the results would effect whether or not you would continue the pregnancy. I was going to continue the pregnancy no matter what, I told her. The results of an amnio test wouldn't change that.

She said the same thing to me this morning, although she added that, because of my age, the odds of miscarriage due to amnio are now precisely the same as the odds of the test results showing Down's Syndrome. It's a worthwhile risk, she said, if knowing the results of the test are important to you. What she meant: if a certain result would lead you to consider terminating the pregnancy.

I told her that I didn't know. I told her that I didn't know. I don't know. I just don't know.

That I don't know - that I don't have the conviction of the last pregnancy, that I don't have the faith of the last pregnancy, that I don't know what I'd do - is hurting me. It's hurting my heart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

No Shame

A confession: I was deeply, deeply ambivalent about breastfeeding before I had Wonderbaby. I knew that I was going to try to breastfeed, I knew that I was going to try my very best, to do whatever I could, to breastfeed - but I was also pretty certain that I wasn't going to like it. I was squeamish: would it feel weird? What if it hurt? How would I ever - ever - summon the nerve to do it in public?

I was pretty sure that I would never do it in public. I would just not leave the house for whatever number of months I would be breastfeeding. How could I bare my breast in public? People would look. People would point. People would think that it was gross.

I was freaked out. I don't think, now, that I was the only first-time mother to have been freaked out by breastfeeding, but at the time, I thought that I was. I was convinced of two facts: that everyone else in the world would look askance at my breastfeeding, and that I was the only new mother, in the history of time, to be aware and afraid of this.

I was fortunate - exceedingly fortunate - that I have a husband who wholeheartedly supported me in breastfeeding (I could not have perservered otherwise - breastfeeding was painful and difficult for me, and its challenges, when combined with PPD, had me on my knees for many a dark day.) His support kept me going, and his assurances that it was beautiful, wonderful, amazing -that the world should be gratefully amazed at the wonder that is breastfeeding mothers - gave me the courage to go out into the world and breastfeed without shame. That, I'm not afraid to say, may have saved my life. Certainly my sanity. I would have otherwise remained locked, alone, at home with my baby, in a struggle with my fear and my pain and my embarassment.

No woman should ever have to feel that way. No mother should ever feel trapped by breastfeeding; no mother should ever feel - ever be made to feel - that her efforts to nurture and nourish and love her child are in any measure indecent or shameful or wrong. No mother should ever be made to feel that she might be better off hiding behind closed doors. No mother should ever be put in a position where she's forced to consider giving it up, just so that she can leave the house, just so that she doesn't have to be embarassed. No baby should ever be denied breastmilk because her mother is fearful or ashamed. Never, ever.

This is what's at stake when people - be they Bill Maher or the Facebook honchos or random Internet trolls - insist that women need to cover up, or retreat to the toilets, or otherwise be discreet keep it hidden no-one wants to see that when nursing. Every voice that insists that there's something off-putting or discomfiting or shameful about nursing in public is another voice added to the chorus that's already in the heads of so many insecure, confused, scared new mothers. It's a voice that might very well put the nail in the coffin of a new mother's efforts to breastfeed. It's a voice that hurts.

This is why we've been pushing so hard to celebrate breastfeeding, as brazenly as possible. To quiet the voices that would shame us. To be louder than the voices that would put the superficial interests of those who are not vulnerable - those who find breasts titillating, or offensive - above the interests of the vulnerable - the children who need to be fed, the women who need to be supported in feeding them.

To use our voices – and our bodies – to celebrate something that is so, so far from shameful. Something that’s amazing. Something that is – when you think about it – a superpower. Something of which to be proud.

Today is the day of the Great Virtual Breast Fest over at the League Of Maternal Justice - join in and raise your voice (showing your boobs - optional).


My apologies for turning off comments for the last few days - I've been, on and off, extremely sick - still with the morning sickness that lasts for days - and I was just getting overwhelmed by the unread pages of my inbox. And, and - deepest apologies for being the Internet's worst blog citizen. It's hard to summon the will to make the rounds and socialize when your face is green and you have to keep running to the toilet. Am ANXIOUS to get back to you all. xo.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Give Thanks...

... for sweet babies and fat pumpkins and - because it's Canadian Thanksgiving - maple syrup and Leonard Cohen and universal health care.

And, also, for boobies. Today's a good day to go look at boobies. (And, to speak out against the stupid twits who have commented, at YouTube, that breastfeeding in public is like pissing or masturbating in public. Between these asshats and yesterday's twittage , it's shaping up to be a good week for abject stupidity.)