March 9, 2020

Well Known Facts

A title suggested by a friend who calls me up now and then to let me know what she’s learnt about me reading something or other online, on tv, or in the newspaper. This woman knows me better than most people and still loves me. She’s seen my grief in all its intensity, the stuff you never share with others. She still loves me. We’ve disagreed over stuff, we’ve worked together for a few years now, and I just adore her. So those moments of “Hey, guess what Well Known Fact I learnt about you today?!” are always interesting since she actually does know the low down on me. They’re also a tribute to the whispering, the defining, Othering and cultural production of the individual (woman) perceived as being outside the usual.

Like Lara Bingle, I’m (in)famous for not much at all really. Like an awful lot of people in 2020, I own and run (actually I do very little of this any more, a bunch of awesome women do it and I’m eternally grateful to them) a website with a forum. Nuthin special there. It’s actually a really small forum. Like a lot of people, I write a blog. Big deal. I’ve had babies and I write about having babies sometimes. Sometimes people who publish magazines ask me to write stuff for them for free and I do. Seriously, that’s as big as it gets. But when the media want something to write about, they get very creative. And when the bastions of a society want someone to get the hates on them in order to diffuse their point of view, the hates can be pretty big.

As I remarked in another entry the other day, there’s no point having an enemy if they’re not big enough to look like you have to really struggle to defeat them. So I have to be made out to be big and scary. Ooga booga. Sitting on my couch in my trackies (I’ve taken the dog for a run, I don’t wear trackies recreationally because I’m too vain) with the one eyed ear trimmed ancient cat warming my thigh, I feel pretty ordinary. The kids are with their dad, Crowded House is singing to me from my phone that I’m still plugged into from the run. Pretty bog standard single woman on a Saturday afternoon stuff. But were you to google, you’d find a world of information out there being presented as:

[insert fanfare]

Well Known Facts

I think all caesareans are:

Unnecessary. Nope, I don’t. I just agree with the World Health Organisation (obviously a bunch of craaaazy freebirth promoters) that a healthy population does not require the number of surgical births being conducted on Australian women. I think you’ll find there’s a fair amount in the press indicating that a lot of people think this in Australia. We differ on how to reduce the numbers but it’s a pretty standard view of maternity care nowadays. Believing the numbers to be too high, indicates a belief that some of those caesareans are unnecessary. What else could it mean? It obviously doesn’t mean denying them to those who need them. (Duh.)

Birthrape. Nope, I don’t. There is no Webster definition of birthrape but were there, it would look something like this: (noun) Interventions or actions employed in childbirth against the wishes of the mother, namely the administration of vaginal exams or other assaults on her person without her consent. Webster probably wouldn’t italicise but I did to indicate to you the basic premise that when you touch someone without consent it’s assault and sometimes some people who write about birth call it birthrape. I’ve also never said my own caesarean was a rape. (There’s another WKF you can read about on the interwebz that isn’t true.) Oh and I didn’t invent the term either and what a bummer is that? I’m pretty sure it’s American and I think it may have been Leilah McCracken who invented it but when I’ve asked around I haven’t been able to be sure. I am sure I didn’t. Because I didn’t.

Bad. I guess this could go with “unnecessary” but it’s slightly different. It’s often said of me that I think women and babies should die rather than be saved by caesareans. If you’ve ever said or thought this about me, I want you to ask yourself who on earth would ever think such a thing and why? I’ve been privileged enough to support a very courageous woman through the lead up to a booked surgery, on the day, and for a little while afterwards. Was it good that she had surgery? No, not at all. Was it necessary? Yes, it was. But that’s different. No one should ever be glad about surgeries because of the damage they do. They do so much damage to women and babies (and families and communities and ultimately to nations) that they should only be used when the alternative has truly become untenable and more dangerous to the lives of the motherbaby dyad and the woman wishes it. Like heart surgery. In this case, that was so. And it was a time when access to tertiary hospital facilities was a good thing for the life of this motherbaby dyad. Doesn’t make the surgery any easier for the family nor does it mean that the loss of a normal birth and postpartum period was easy. Women do what needs to be done to birth their babies whatever that is. This woman needed that surgery and I was honoured to be a small part of helping her manage that experience. *waves* I know you’ll be reading this. Love to you and thank you for letting me talk about it.

I hate men. Frankly this one makes me laugh so hard I could wee but that would be unattractive so I won’t. I run it by men I know, and love, and even some with whom I’ve shared Normal Adult Intimacies. They get a very puzzled look about it. And that’s all I’m saying because some things really are private.

I hate my son. Leading on from “I hate men”, yes, people really do say this about me. I love my son. Obviously. Duh. Who doesn’t love their children? His arrival on earth was remarkably traumatic, as a package. The resulting PTSD and suicidal feelings were really horrible. But like all women who experience trauma around birthing, you work on it. I’ve worked on it. The bond with my son has been irreparably altered by the manner of his birth and the way people treated me around it. I’m a mammal. Like other mammals, I need peace, quiet and respect when I’m birthing. I didn’t get that. I was raped, belittled, hurt, harmed and separated from my beloved child. I still cry about that separation. I love him desperately. Duh. I love him so much that I don’t want other babies going through what he did in terms of a violent birth, separation from his mother and then growing up with a mother unable to be fully present in his early life because she was so traumatised.

I run a cult. Ah this one always makes me laugh. It also, unlike most of this stuff, offends me quite a lot. People who run cults are abusing others and benefitting financially. They are emotionally, physically, psychologically, sexually and financially abusing others. For someone whose basic principles are things like let’s all love ourselves and each other more, think for yourself, question everything, it’s a long bow to draw. A journalist who doorstepped me the other day looked at my torn screen door out the front of my mouldering suburban house and the absence of a car out the front, and looked quite puzzled by the idea that I’m running a cult. Obviously I had the gold Rolls Royces out being serviced. I run an internet forum fer chrissakes. It’s no more a cult than Essential Baby, Mothering, BellyBelly or any of the other parenting forums out there. Seriously.

I’m not traumatised/distressed/grief stricken/your particular social prejudice about my stillbirth. Again, I ask you, who is this person who wouldn’t feel for the loss of a baby or child? I realise that the role of propaganda is to dehumanise but that’s a stretch. Was I suicidal after it? Surprisingly no, given the way I’ve been treated. Was I traumatised by her birth? No, why would I? It was a normal birth. I birthed a baby who had died inside me and that was very very awful, sad, terrible and all the other things you imagine it to be after she was born. The resulting shit storm of blame, unkindness, gossip, accusation and loss of privacy has been very painful in some ways and I imagine it colours what it is to lose a baby for me. Since the coroner and the police were involved from the day she was born, and since the world and his granny were talking about me, printing scurrilous nonsense, stalking my home, emailing me, joining my forums, phoning me etc etc trying to get my Reaction and my thoughts on homebirth and I had NO privacy at all except what was guarded for me by friends, I had no reason or desire to pop up and start talking to total strangers about the terrible grief of loss. Surely we can all take that for granted anyway? Knowing that there would be an inquiry because of who I am and regardless of the facts, I refrained from public comment for three long years except for occasional mentions in the last year or so because I knew that anything I said would be used in court. (It was.) I also have this foolish belief that one doesn’t comment on legal proceedings that are in motion. Sure, a coronial court is pretty low down on the food chain of courts but they still have some power and one should treat them with respect to the best of one’s ability. So I did. I talked to friends, my therapist, my forums and people I trusted. And that kind of makes sense to me. If your whole life was on public trial with people making up stuff about you, left, right and centre, and you’d had one of the most dreaded things of life happen to you, wouldn’t you try to find privacy and deal with it in your own way? Well, maybe you wouldn’t but that’s my response. I had no privacy so I chose to create privacy for myself to the best of my ability by refusing to share with a wider audience my grief, loss, pain, oh my god the pain. I’m still being told I’m doing it wrong but that’s ok. I know as a woman I will never do it right so I only do it for myself and not to please others.

I have attempted to hide my daughter’s death in an effort to make freebirth look safer. Well I’m doing a pretty shit job at that then, huh? I’m not sure that there’s anyone left in the world I’ll ever have to say, “I lost a child.” to because the press have done it for me. Masses of commentators, with no information at all, have banged on interminably about the Dangers of Freebirth, to the exclusion of all else. I think it’s safe to say that a. we’re all well informed on the Dangers of Freebirth and b. I haven’t hidden anything from anyone since everyone knows she died.

I’m Australia’s premier Freebirth Promoter. This one always bemuses me. The women on my forums are always bemused by it too. Very few of them are freebirthers. If someone can find me promoting freebirth, saying Women Should Freebirth, Freebirth is The Only Way, Freebirth is bigger than Jesus, or anything else resembling that, feel free to send it to me and I’ll give you twenty bucks. Have I written about freebirth? Yes. Have I been interviewed about it? Yes. Mostly because everyone else is too scared to be interviewed about it since they fear being labelled a Freebirth Promoter which happened so I guess they were right. I’ve also written about cats, architecture, breastfeeding (happy to be seen as a breastfeeding promoter, make free with that label, please!), Christmas, Mothers’ Day, compost, homeschooling, rest, feminism, and crikey in eight years, an awful lot. Freebirth is one thing I write about but actually not something I write a lot about except lately since I’m catching up on a lot of stuff I haven’t been able to say out loud for three years.

I’m opposed to all technology. Well, obviously, which is why you’re reading this on my blog and I’ve previously written it on my rather pretty red ten inch notebook while listening to music on my iWank phone. I have a big tv which I love and I can see the sound system and the pay tv box winking at me enticing me to watch all the stuff I recorded this week. Woot!

I think birth is more important than babies. Utter nonsense. Drivel. No woman spends most of a year out of her life growing a baby to be more invested in the way she gives birth than the safe, live, healthy earthside arrival of that baby. And no one but no one is more invested in the outcome of that birth than the mother. No one. Not no way, not no how, no one. Women go through pregnancy, then birth, then raising the baby through childhood. There is not one step in that whole process which is less important than the others. And that includes how the baby is born which is of great importance for how that baby and mother can relate, respond to one another, create a relationship into adulthood, breastfeed and for their future physical health as well. To suggest that women would approach birth in a cavalier manner is to undermine the very essence of what it is to mother. To suggest that women are capable of carrying babies without a care for how they are born in order that we may enjoy a particular kind of birth is to cast an aspersion so offensive and wrong as to be almost unimaginable. I value women and babies and contrary to the current obstetric culture’s propaganda, valuing the lives and health of women in birth is deeply important to our societies. Healthy babies need healthy mothers. To see birth as a race to rid the woman’s body of a baby with the aim of a live baby at the end, and no more, is to ignore the biological imperative of what it is to be human for birth is where love begins for each new person. When emergencies intervene and surgical births must be sought then it should be the duty of each person there to remember the humanity of that motherbaby dyad and do all they can to support them in it. But no one ever ever thinks that a baby’s safety should come second to that of anything in a birth just because they choose to birth outside of a hospital. Birth is more than a series of risks to be managed. It is the start of a new person and the beginning of a new journey in mothering, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. And that deserves a little consideration.

I think everyone should birth at home in some constellation or other regardless as to risk. Well to be honest, yes, I think most women and their babies would be better off birthing at home. I see women who’ve birthed in all manner of ways every day of my life and the happiest ones are the ones who have stunning memories of birthing in atmospheres of love and respect. This can happen in hospitals but it’s pretty hard. Eating in a restaurant can make for some awesome food but eating at home, food cooked by people who love us, and drink wine with us into the night while we laugh, cry and live our lives, is definitely bigger in the memory stakes even for foodies like me. But there’s no Should in all this. What I wish most for women is that our choices are our own, not curtailed by fear, lack of information, disinformation, other people or any of the other things that stand between most women and their lives. Risk is in the eye of the birthing woman and the rest of us have no business telling her what to do. Since women are the only ones who live with the outcomes of a birth up close and in technicolour, for the rest of our lives only we should be making the decisions around that birth. I don’t seek to tell or force women that they must birth at home in order to satisfy some need in me. I do seek to provide information and support which is utterly lacking in most of the world for a. birth without violence b. woman-centred birth and c. whatever women want to do when truly in possession of all the facts about birthing. Pretty simple, really.

We didn’t call an ambulance when my baby was born dead. Considering the recording of the 000 call is publicly available….

I’m mean to women who have caesareans. Yes, always. Totally. Oh you were serious? Does that mean I’m also mean to myself? See how confusing it is to be so weird?

I think less of women who birth in hospitals/have caesareans/pain relief/don’t give birth in paddocks under a full moon surrounded by naked body painted tribal warrior women. I think those of us who have technological birthing experiences are an indication of a society which has embraced technological birthing practices. I have concerns about how this is promoted and supported as the only way to birth but obviously I have no feelings or judgement around those of us who have this experience. Why would I?

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I think everyone must have a lotus birth because birthing must be Pure. I would really like a lotus transition were I fortunate enough to have another baby which at 43 and being single, is unlikely. I’ve never had a choice about the cords of my babies being cut in any of my three births. This saddens me. Birth is not a competition, there’s no standard to which we must all aspire in order to be judged Real Women. The notion of Real Women is such a false concept in itself. You call yourself a woman? Then you’re a real one.

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I think women should just do whatever the hell they want. Well, ok, you’ve found me out at last and this one is totally true. I really do think this. I wish women could do whatever the hell they want in a world where we were respected, lived free from violence of all kinds and were able to birth, breastfeed, live, work, refuse to have children at all, wear jeggings without a resulting loss of dignity, or anything else we want to do. And since that is at the very core of my socio-political belief system, I hope that next time you hear something utterly ludicrous being attributed to me that you’ll run it by that as a test and decide for yourself whether or not it’s true. Or you could not give a rat’s arse about me and go have another cocktail and a long draw on a cigarette which would be totally fine with me too. Preferable in fact.

NB: I don’t smoke, have never smoked and consider smoking a filthy and reprehensible habit. What others do in their free time however is none of my business. I prefer my cocktails without further carcinogenic material but really, it’s your call and I’m ok with that. Got it?

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