Sunday Mail Column for Sunday 20 June 2010: the one about the Mother Mafia
This time last week I was in Fiji. It was our first holiday in years. Actually, I lie. Last year we went away for three days but Brad took his study books, I got a stomach bug and then – just to mix things up a bit – we hung out at a medical centre after Ava clocked herself in the head with – oh yes – the tiled floor. Good times. So last week we headed to the type of South Pacific resort that offered everything we wanted in a holiday: a swim-up-bar and a Kids Club. And at the risk of sounding like I sit on the Fiji Tourist Board let me say it’s a dream holiday destination for families. The Fijian nannies make Mary Poppins look like Joan Crawford.
Anyway. When I wasn’t ordering mocktails by the pool, I was at the spa having pedicures absorbed in trashy magazines. And that’s where I found myself reading about Livinia Nixon and the birth of her son, Henry. And I found myself getting peeved. Not with Livinia. I love Livinia. Thought she was the best thing on that revamped Sale of the Century a few years back. No, I was upset with the fact Nixon felt she had to justify why she’d had her 10lb 3oz son Henry via emergency caesarean. The article described Nixon as being “shame-faced”.
Huh? Um, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that Livinia had an emergency caesar because if she hadn’t MOTHER AND BABY MAY HAVE DIED.
Livinia’s not alone. Thousands of women feel they must justify their childbirth (and post childbirth) decisions. We’re made to feel guilty for choosing an epidural. Or had a caesar. We have to apologetically explain why we’re bottle-feeding and not breastfeeding or – shock horror – combining the two. We’re made to feel like bad mothers because we feed our baby tinned custard instead of making our own (an issue I was berated over when Ava was eight months old). And don’t even get me started on the loaded daycare debate.
On behalf of new mothers and pregnant women everywhere, let me say two things:
- If you are able or choose to give birth naturally – that’s fantastic. Really. But it doesn’t make you a better person or a better mother. It just doesn’t.
- Every new mother knows that breastfeeding is best. We are told REPEATEDLY by EVERYBODY. If you can breastfeed and feel comfortable doing it – fabulous. It can be a wonderful experience. But – newsflash – there are a whole lot of reasons why women decide to bottle-feed their babies. And guess what? It’s none of your business why.
When you visit a new mother, how about asking how mother and baby are doing rather than quizzing her on her choices? Radical, I know. I’ve said before the best mother is a happy mother. So long as your baby is safe and loved (and isn’t smoking seventy cigarettes a day) – you’re doing a good job in my books.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.