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Desperately seeking to understand . . .

. . .  but I just can’t. The last week has been a tough one for a lot of people. I am struggling to come to terms with both Brexit and Donald Trump. I can sense in my bones that things are going to get rough all round soon enough. However, my spirits were lifted by the women’s marches all around the world. Peaceful and respectful on the whole, families stood united in voicing their concern about the future.

This morning, when reading Facebook, I saw this post from my cousin. Now, I know that she is a Seychelloise born Republican and that we have opposing political views. That is absolutely fine. The world would be a very boring place if we all believed the same and thought the same way. The world is beautiful because of our diversity: views, skin, gender, sexuality, they all matter.

So, here’s the post, it’s a long one:

For the snowflakes .. I did not write it. I asked permission if I could borrow it. 

I am not a “disgrace to women” because I don’t support the women’s march. I do not feel I am a “second class citizen” because I am a woman. I do not feel my voice is “not heard” because I am a woman. I do not feel I am not provided opportunities in this life or in America because I am a woman. I do not feel that I “don’t have control of my body or choices” because I am a woman. I do not feel like I am ” not respected or undermined” because I am a woman. I am not a “victim” because you say I am.
I AM a woman.
I can make my own choices.
I can speak and be heard.
I can VOTE.
I can work if I want.
I can stay home if I want.
I control my body.
I can defend myself.
I can defend my family.
There is nothing stopping me to do anything in this world but MYSELF.
I do not blame my circumstances or problems on anything other than my own choices or even that sometimes in life, we don’t always get what we want. I take responsibility for myself.
I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend. I am not held back in life but only by the walls I choose to not go over which is a personal choice.
Quit blaming.
Take responsibility.
If you want to speak, do so. But do not expect for me, a woman, to take you seriously wearing a pink va-jay-jay hat on your head and screaming profanities and bashing men.
If you have beliefs, and speak to me in a kind matter, I will listen. But do not expect for me to change my beliefs to suit yours. Respect goes both ways.
If you want to impress me, especially in regards to women, then speak on the real injustices and tragedies that affect women in foreign countries that do not that the opportunity or means to have their voices heard.
Saudi Arabia, women can’t drive, no rights and must always be covered.
China and India, infantcide of baby girls.
Afghanistan, unequal education rights.
Democratic Republic of Congo, where rapes are brutal and women are left to die, or HIV infected and left to care for children alone.
Mali, where women can not escape the torture of genital mutilation.
Pakistan, in tribal areas where women are gang raped to pay for men’s crime.
Guatemala, the impoverished female underclass of Guatemala faces domestic violence, rape and the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa. An epidemic of gruesome unsolved murders has left hundreds of women dead, some of their bodies left with hate messages. Or the 7 year old girls being sold or married off to 60 year old men, Or the millions of women sold and bought into sex trafficking.
And that’s just a few examples.
So when women get together in AMERICA and whine they don’t have equal rights and march in their clean clothes, after eating a hearty breakfast, and it’s like a vacation away that they have paid for to get there…
This WOMAN does not support it.

I read this and my immediate reaction was to get angry. Then I stopped myself because an emotional reaction will do me no good in my effort to understand what she is trying to say.  So I stopped and thought about it.

The person who wrote this post may not be able to spell ‘infanticide’ but she raises some very valid points. There are far worse atrocities happening to women around the world. And she is ok. She feels that she has power of herself, her body and her life, which is great. All power to her. You know what, I also feel that I am in charge of my own destiny, that where I am now is a direct consequence of the decisions I have made in my life. I, too, take full responsibility for my life, the things that I do and the decisions that I have made. Here’s the rub. Some things are, inevitably, out of my control and my life is not just about me and what I can get out of it.

The thing is not everyone feels that way, or if they do, they are very scared that they may not be able to in the future. And the women’s marches took place all over the world, not just in America. They were marched by women, from all backgrounds, not just the middle classes, but they were for all the people who feel marginalised by this president. They were marched for the Muslim women who are too scared to wear their hajibs because of the way Donald Trump legitimised anti-Muslim sentiment. They were marched for the disabled kids whose education is being put into the hands of a woman who hasn’t even read the law that protects their educational rights and seems hell bent on creating an inequal education system. They were marched for the millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for their women’s healthcare. They were marched for the millions of people who are about to lose their healthcare altogether through the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They were marched for the millions of legal immigrants who no longer feel welcome in their own country. They were marched for the LGBTQIA community who are always targets.

We are talking about a president who was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and who then dismissed it as “locker room talk”. As if that should be acceptable in the locker room. As if that should be acceptable anywhere. So there is now a president in the White House, who young men look up to, who has said that it is okay to a) brag about being a sexual predator and b) men can say what they want between themselves and, therefore, fuel that kind of behaviour and not be held accountable. For crying out loud, he said he would have married his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter because she is so beautiful. (She is but I am pretty convinced that there is far more to her than looks.) We have a president who clearly objectifies women and that should scare you. It might not affect you directly, but that will affect your daughters and your granddaughters as they grow up and are having to deal with the aftermath of sanctioning that kind of behaviour.

I don’t hate Donald Trump. I don’t know the man and hate is a very negative, soul destroying sentiment. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t have time for hate. So I have based my opinion of him on what I have seen of his campaign, his tweets and his rhetoric. And I have been deeply offended on so many occasions. Here is a man who ran his campaign on division. He turned against the entire Muslim community, the Mexicans, he has admitted to sexually aggressive behaviour, he clearly objectifies women, he mocked a disabled reporter and has started repealing the Affordable Care Act. So millions of women don’t feel ok, they don’t feel in control of the bodies or their lives. If they lose their healthcare and Planned Parenthood, how can they?

Donald Trump is mercurial, to say the least. He is also deeply insecure. He spent his first speech denigrating the media and accusing them of lying regarding the attendance of his inauguration. He threw his toys out of the pram. Surely, SURELY, he had more important things to worry about then the size of the crowd. He had just become President of the United States! He claims to be a strong leader but that is just the behaviour of someone who is indescribably weak. He says one thing, behaves one way and then completely denies it in the face of hard, physical evidence. Where is his integrity, where are his beliefs? He has shown time and again that he is an egomaniac, if not a complete narcissist. If he is a narcissist, we should all be terrified. Narcissists have a complete lack of affective empathy. That means they can not emotionally relate to another human being. Period. Imagine that. Why should he care about poor people? He’s not poor. Why should he care about mental health? It doesn’t affect him. Why should he believe in climate change? That might damage his businesses.

Yes, I am a middle class American living in London, having just eaten my warm porridge and drunk my coffee. Yes, I have healthcare, thanks to the NHS. Yes, my life is good. So by the tone of my cousin’s post, I should keep my mouth shut. I won’t. Just because my life is blessed, does not mean that I can’t appreciate that others are not in my fortunate position and try to help them. It does not mean that I can’t voice my concern that so many are going to be worse off. There is a world beyond me and my bubble that I care about. Even if I myself would not have an abortion, I would fight for other women to have that right. I have been a member, in my time, of both Amnesty International and Greenpeace. I recently started a petition, with friends, to pressure the UK government into addressing the funding crisis in education, even though my child is about to leave the mainstream and won’t necessarily be affected.

These marches were not about slagging men off or being violent. They were marches against the fear that Donald Trump inflames. It was about inequality. The problem is that we don’t know what his policies are. There were none in his campaign bar, make America great again, build a wall, drain the swamp and ban all Muslims. We had to go by what his tone was, what he encouraged, what he deemed appropriate. None of it was good. None of it was kind.

It’s not about me. It’s about us. It’s about what kind of people do we want to be, what kind of future do we want for our children and who do we want to lead us there. Marching when we are not happy is exactly what we should be doing. It is an expression of democracy. It’s called freedom of speech. It is taking responsibility for our futures, our countries, our rights and using our voices to express just what we want, what we think, what we want to protect and what we want to change. It is speaking up for those who do not feel that they have a voice. It is asking to be heard. Without public protest, we would still be living in the Dark Ages.

As for the atrocities around the world, the only way to stop those is through international pressure from other countries, but you have to have a leader who is willing to look outward as well as inward to do that. And just because you are not suffering in those countries does not mean that you should accept when you feel marginalised in yours. That’s like saying my friends shouldn’t confide in me about their worries for their children just because their children are not as disabled as mine. That’s bullshit. If I had that attitude, it would display a complete lack of compassion on my part. Luckily, I don’t.

Finally, I don’t get the snowflake reference. Is it meant to be derogatory? If so, it’s a rather odd choice. Snowflakes are stunningly beautiful geometric designs, each completely unique. They are battered by winds and, yet, despite looking fragile, they remain unbroken. One can’t do much on their own but when they gather in their millions, they are devastatingly strong, killing anyone in their path when they move. It’s called an avalanche. And, although, you may think they are white, they are actually colourless. Snow itself is white simply because it is devoid of any colour. So if this post makes me a snowflake, thank you for the compliment.

 

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Wow! The courage . . .

I am not a regular Coronation Street viewer but I have seen articles regarding the storyline involving Michelle losing her baby later in pregnancy. Naturally, I have tended to avoid such storylines in other shows as it does bring back painful memories. However, on this occasion, I have followed it in the press in sheer amazement. Kym Marsh, the actress who plays Michelle, actually lived through this very horror in 2009 when she lost her son, Archie. Here she is, 7 years later, reenacting the same thing happening to her character.

Acting is putting yourself in the shoes of your character and living, not pretending, someone else’s life. When that life takes a dark turn, you live it. Otherwise, it’s just not an authentic performance. When your own life has put you through hell, where on earth do you find the strength to reenact your darkest days? Kym was involved in the storyline and was given choices along the way. There was a counsellor on set during the filming to make sure she could cope. She wanted to do it, to raise awareness of babyloss. Even with all of this, I can’t imagine what she went through to deliver this performance.

I watched it. I steeled myself for the memories it would bring back, but I watched it all the same. It was so real. And I remember feeling the same way she feels, although I didn’t scream as I’d had a few days to come to terms with losing him. I even remember the urge to lie down with Ziggy and just staring at him. At one point, I fell asleep from the exhaustion, only to wake up with a start and feel guilty for having wasted precious time.

I can only commend Coronation Street for working with SANDS in dealing with such a tragic storyline and highlighting what so many mothers go through each year. I have, in the past, had my loss of Ziggy belittled and somewhat dismissed by some, as if the loss of a baby in pregnancy is not of the same import as losing a baby at term or a living member of family. It’s not the same, it’s different, but that does not make it less. Nearly 12 years on and I still think of him every day. That will never change. There will always be a gap in our family that we live with. There will always be an ache to hold him. It’s just the way it was meant to be but it does not dissipate with time. Showing the experience as they did can only build awareness of what parents endure and the scale of the loss.

We’ve told Moo about her angel brother and she does talk about him. She wishes he was here so that they could share bunk beds. Just the other morning, she announced that there should be six of us, not five. There should be Daddy, Mummy, Ziggy, her, Nessie the cat and Sofia the hamster. I have explained to her that he was very sick, more complicated that her, and was never meant to live. Ziggy is part of our every day. Talking about him does not make my grief worse. If anything, it makes me ache just a little less because he is not forgotten.

So thank you, Kym Marsh, for your courage and self sacrifice. I am in awe of you. I don’t think I could have done that. Living through and with that grief once is enough for me. Thank you, Coronation Street, for your sensitivity and for being so true to the experience. Thank you for trying to break the taboo and starting a discussion of what it means to lose a baby.

Get the tissues. If you want to watch the scene, click here.

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Happy New Year, one and all.

I hope you have all had a lovely festive season and were fortunate enough not to have had a panic inducing weight gain like I had. These things happen and, armed with my new trusty Fitbit Charge HR 2 and a photo of the current state of my stomach, I shall be back to my svelte self within a month.

I wish that this could be a happy post but, alas, I am upset again. I recently started following The Mighty which I highly, highly recommend. It is such a wonderful site, dedicated to encouraging understanding and support on a range of issues to do with health. The tagline “We face disability, disease and mental illness together” just about sums it up. Even if you do not have to deal with these issues, reading the articles written by those touched by it can only help to breed understanding and inclusion. There are also great articles on how to help people in those situations as well as ones of gratitude to those who have unwittingly made a huge difference. I, myself, have learned so much.

This morning, on my Facebook page, there was an article that started with the line “I’m Only Having One Child Because of My Mental Illness – and That’s OK“. The title was enough to set me off. I read the article out of curiosity but I was already feeling my high horse riding into view and my legs were getting jumpy. Quite frankly, why is this woman feeling like she has to write this article? I’ll tell you why: because when you say you are only having one child, some people will try to convince you otherwise or give you a strange look like you are causing your child harm by making her or him a singleton. I should know. I’ve had that conversation with people. Short of saying “well, if you hit perfection the first time, there’s no need to try again”, I tried to be polite. Most people assume that the reason we didn’t have another child is because of Moo’s medical issues but if I really wanted a second child, that wouldn’t have stopped me.

I did look into egg donation and ended up having a conversation with someone who asked the one question that I don’t think gets asked enough: “do you want a second child the way you wanted a first?”. For me, the answer was no. I wanted another child because I couldn’t imagine what being an only child would be like. I couldn’t imagine a life without my sister or brother. I wanted my daughter to have that kind of relationship. As was pointed out to me, you can’t force a close bond between siblings and I know too many cases where siblings are not in touch because they just don’t get on or have nothing in common. Having another child as a playmate for the first is not a reason to bring a child into the world. Every child deserves to be desired the way I desired my first. I was utterly driven in my need for a baby. I would have walked over hot coals, I would have tried everything to have her or I would have adopted. I was desperate to be a mother and have a baby. Turns out that once I had her, I didn’t need or really want another.

I have a dear friend who went through hell to have her first child and then, subsequently, had a very similar hellish experience in her quest to have a second. I remember talking to her and asking her “why are you doing this? Why are you putting yourself through all this heartbreak and heartache?”. Her answer was “because I want a second baby the way I wanted the first. I am aching for one”. When she said that, I had two thoughts: 1) “well, then, I have your back.” and 2) “oh, thank God, I don’t feel like that!” Thankfully, she went onto have the cutest little boy and her family is complete.

The fact of the matter is that the size of one’s family is no one else’s business. Why do people think they have the right to condemn such an intimate decision? You know what, couples who decide not to have children are not going to regret it later. I bet they took making that decision very seriously. I admire people who decide not to have children. They know what they want in their life and kids are not it. At least, they aren’t bowing down to the pressure society seems to put on people and having unwanted, unhappy kids.

As for only children, it might shock people to know only children are not lonely children. It depends on the parenting. That deeply entrenched belief in society is based on research that took place at the end of the 19th century and has been disproven over and over again. Research has proven that only children do equally well in social situations and education, if not better. And one of the reasons is because they often have a stronger self esteem, which in today’s society is somewhat key to survival. If you don’t believe me, I highly recommend you read this book which gives a very balanced view of being and raising an only child: Parenting An Only Child. The author has spent over a decade studying only children and has raised one herself.

So the message here is the size of someone else’s family is none of our business and we should not condemn them for their decision of how many people to bring into the world. Being an only child is not torture. These children do not suffer as a result of no siblings. For a start, they have no sibling rivalry to contend with. Childless couples may or may not have had a choice as to whether they had children but their lives are not any less rich than those of us with kids.

And, yes, when I found out that a friend was going to have her fifth boy, I did think “oh my word! Has she lost her mind?!” but that was a reaction based on my experience of parenthood and how hard I find it. She, on the other hand, clearly relishes it and wants a big family. Good on her. Each to their own. And I swear that she’s one of the most beautiful pregnant people. This is her fifth! By rights, she should look like a big bloater with puffy ankles and the works, but no. She’s positively glowing with a nice tidy little bump. Post Christmas, I look more pregnant that she does and she’s due in March!