Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Of mothers' milk and women's voices.

Earlier this month, we blogged about a nitwit who was stopped by traffic cops while driving under the influence of stupidity.

This week, a well-researched article by Hanna Rosin challenged the notion that all mothers must breast-feed or else. It seems that hot-button topic keeps buzzing.

I dutifully breast-fed each of my first two children for the full year that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. I have experienced ... breast-feeding-induced “maternal nirvana.” This time around, nirvana did not describe my state of mind; I was launching a new Web site and I had two other children to care for, and a husband I would occasionally like to talk to. Being stuck at home breast-feeding as he walked out the door for work just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else.

In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework, the endless dusting and shopping and pushing the Hoover around—a vacuum cleaner being the obligatory prop for the “happy housewife heroine,” as Friedan sardonically called her. When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound.

Still, despite my stint as the postpartum playground crank, I could not bring myself to stop breast-feeding—too many years of Sears’s conditioning, too many playground spies. So I was left feeling trapped, like many women before me, in the middle-class mother’s prison of vague discontent: surly but too privileged for pity, breast-feeding with one hand while answering the cell phone with the other, and barking at my older kids to get their own organic, 100 percent juice—the modern, multitasking mother’s version of Friedan’s “problem that has no name.”

Rosin is a terrific writer. From the origins of the La Leche League, to the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves, from the insidious rigour of bossy pediatricians to the magical thinking that positions mothers' milk as "liquid vaccine" she unravels the complex discourse on breast-feeding with great skill and humour.

On the same subject, but a less fun read, the federal government released yesterday What Mother's Say: The Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey:
The MES population consisted of birth mothers 15 years of age and older who had a singleton live birth in Canada during a three-month period preceding the 2006 Canadian Census of Population and who lived with their infant at the time of data collection. Using the 2006 Canadian Census, a stratified random sample of 8,244 women estimated to be eligible was identified. Of these women, 6,421 (78%) completed a 45-minute interview at five to 14 months after the birth of their baby, conducted primarily by telephone.
Some of the highlights of this survey - pregnant Canadian women are on average subjected to 3 prenatal ultrasounds (the World Health Organization recommends ultrasound on indication only, or one at about 18 weeks), 26.3 per cent of women had caesarean births and many reported suffering birthing practices such as shaving, enemas and stirrups that are no longer supported by clinical evidence.
In January, a joint statement was released by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the Canadian Association of Midwives, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses of Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada that deplored the increasing use of caesarian deliveries and induction of labour before 41 weeks of gestation, in the case of low-risk pregnancies that did not require such aggressive medical interventions.


brebisnoire said...

Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are such individual and complex events in women's lives that it's very delicate to walk in and comment on other people choices and realities. However, I will do so (with caution) ;-).

[begin rant]
Hell's bells. I sometimes wonder if it's pure biological drive or various combinations of angst that makes women have more than 1 or 2 kids. They require years of labour and devotion, and are difficult to enjoy properly as individuals if you have more than 2. For a period of 10 years or so, give or take a few depending on health issues and spacing of pregnancies - you most certainly *are* stuck at home with them! The only way you aren't is if you have a small and specialised cadre of help at home doing the stuff you'd otherwise have to do. And you need that, even with daycare, because daycare takes care of the kids while you're working - there are still several more hours of work waiting for you when you get home.
It's not a walk in the park, people!
[rant over]

Pseudz said...

Those survey results are amazing. I wonder what pockets of flat-earth belief still exist in Canada.

As if I needed another one, this is another potent argument against for-profit medicine.

Could we have a sort of medical Ponzi scheme based on internal organs - - 'Invest a kidney now and we promise to give you a heart when you neeed one'

Topic drift - sorry.

Was there any reason to do three ultrasounds? Profit or "Oh look, honey!"?

Mandos said...

Y'all MUST have seen Repo: The Genetic Opera when it came to the Bytowne (for Ottawans)...

Premise: in a future world, strange diseases cause mass random organ failure. So people have turned to GeneCo, a mafia-like corporation, for cloned organ transplants---at great expense, for which they go deeply into debt. When they can't pay, GeneCo sends out its Repo men, who "repossess" the organs, without anaesthetic.

It's the only movie in the world that will ever star both Sarah Brightman *and* Paris Hilton (playing a debauched scandal-ridden heiress), and it's entirely sung (rock opera style) from top to bottom. It's also absurdly gory to the point of being comical.

Pseudz post reminded me of it.

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