“Mother” is NOT a dirty word !

The British Medical Association has recently issued some guidelines discouraging their own staff to call pregnant women “mothers” in order to not offend the transgender community.

We will demonstrate to express our opposition to that move in the strongest terms.
We see that move as a way to deny women the right to talk about their experience of birth and motherhood.

The word for adult human female is “woman”.
The word for adult human female who is pregnant is “mother”.
THESE ARE NOT DIRTY WORDS !

Only the female of the species can get pregnant and we will not pretend otherwise.
“People” do not get pregnant.
“Men” do not get pregnant.
Noticing and naming biological differences between the sexes is called science, these are biological facts.
Naming biological facts is not “exclusive”
Naming biological facts is not hate speech.
Naming biological facts is not bigotry.
Naming biological facts is not transphobia.
Yet we are all supposed to behave as if knowing and saying how babies are made is hate speech !

Recently women have been told they cannot use the word “woman” to describe themselves because it’s not inclusive enough.
Recently we have been told the words “vulva” “vagina” and even “pussy” are not to be used because “some women don’t have female genitals”.
The “inclusive” answer to the question “what is a woman ?” Is “anyone who identifies as a woman”.
The circular logic of this statement is clear for all to see :
One cannot identify with something we cannot define on the first place.

On the name of inclusivity we see yet another clear attempt to silence our experience as women as well as our oppression.

By erasing our rights to name our selves, our anatomy and our oppression we are effectively being silenced.
Women describing their experience of rape, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation or birth are called hateful bigots.

Motherhood happens to women because of our biology. Motherhood is a political issue that needs to be discussed in those terms :
In the UK each year, there are at least 70 000 women suffering from post natal depression.
54 000 women are being unlawfully dismissed from their jobs because they are pregnant.
Mothers of young children are one of the most discriminated against groups in the work place.
30% of all domestic violence starts in pregnancy.
Mothers are still the main carers for their children, adding to the housework they already perform on top of every other duties, including paid work.
Abortion rights are being threatened and eroded everywhere.

The consequence of the move from the British Medical Association is that women cannot regroup under the term “mother” to describe what is happening to them when they have children.
The move from the British Medical Association is clearly anti-women and this is why we oppose it.

We demand that the British Medical Association retract these guidelines which are both absurd and anti-women

We call on all women today to refuse to comply with that policy.
We call on all women to carry on using our language to describe our experiences.
We call on all women to come together and reclaim our existence from being erased.

Join us !

https://www.facebook.com/events/674005159446162

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A Herstory of Mental Health (or how women’s pain doesn’t matter)

I haven’t posted in a long while and as my mental health isn’t getting better I have been looking back at my personal history of depression and mental health issues and I hope to be able to finish and publish that post and that it won’t be relegated to my pile of articles I have started but not finished because I don’t have the mental capacity, the time to finish or because i have assessed that it is not good enough.

I am going a little bit personal here, more personal than I have in the past and i think it is going to be a descriptive post about my experience of mental health professionals.

Apologies in advance, it will probably be long.

 
WORK
I have been unwell in the past during one major breakdown that happened after a serious case of sexual harassment at work where my boss used pornography to sexually harass me. My employment in that company lasted five years during which I was so vulnerable I was not able to leave my work and my abusive boss – what I can see clearly now as a typical case of Stockholm Syndrome. It was my first serious job, I was 20 years old.  I clearly remember making the conscious decision to dissociate as he was abusing me:  “This is impossible, he cannot be doing this things, i am not there, this is not happening, this has never happened”.

After a few years of that, I started to develop violent somatic responses to the abuse I was subjected to. And in my early to mid twenties I was suffering from chronic back pain that left me unable to stand for very long, unable to sit at my desk, and unable to lie down in most positions. After years of suffering this physical pain, my body started to let me know in a different way I was unwell and something needed to be done. I started to have panic attacks in all sorts of places and mainly in closed transport systems. I lived in Paris then and was unable to take the underground, I had to stop and wait on the platform every couple of stops, breathe deeply, sit or lie down on a bench before I felt strong enough to continue my journey. It was absolutely terrifying, painful and debilitating experience. I was then starting my work day facing more abuse in that horrendous workplace.

When I mentioned it to the (male) GP I had at the time, the same male GP who had followed me for my sciatica problem and was prescribing me pain killers and anti inflammatory injections with no positive results for months, the guy looked at me, laughed and said: “Oh yeah ahahah, it happens to nervous people”. That’s it, chapter closed. It made me feel like an absolute piece of shit, having one’s pain and fear not acknowledged and not validated and then of course not treated made it even worse and it was another few weeks of terror and agony before I took the courage to mention it to my (female and wonderful) physio who was the one to acknowledge my pain and suggested I went to see a mental health professional. I chose a woman psychiatrist. She prescribed me immediate drugs to stop the panic attack symptoms (I was against drugs but took them very temporarily and stopped as soon as the panic attack stopped). I spoke to her weekly for one year and a half before I could recount the sexual harassment that happened. It took another six month before I was able to leave the abuser.

I left the country then, wanting to put as much distance between me and the horror. I also left the area of work I was working in and had been trained for. I was a graphic designer and on top of the direct sexual harassment, the work itself was an active and creative way for my boss to oppress me: In a men only team, who should he ask to Photoshop women’s sexualised bodies but me, the only female in the office. I never was able to work in graphic design again professionally. And since then, I never thought I was good enough to apply for any other creative job.
 

PREGNANCY
The main other episode of mental health I had was during pregnancy and birth. I started to cry daily in the first trimester of my pregnancy. I was painfully aware of the difficult professional and financial situation I was in at the time, and although I had been in (what I would have called) a stable relationship for more than ten years, the power balance changed and it was particularly visible in pregnancy where I found myself more socially and professionally vulnerable than I had ever been in the past.

And DH used that to his advantage (more on that on another post but in short he became emotionally abusive and controlling, had a fling with a work colleague when I was 6 months pregnant, became violent to a work colleague and subsequently lost his job when I was 8 months pregnant). If I look at the situation honestly, I have to say I was living in fear, when my midwife heard of it, she was visibly angry at him. I naturally took his side, like any other trapped women in a situation of violence would have done, Stockholm Syndrome once again. Nevertheless, even though the midwives I saw regularly were aware of my history of mental health my condition was never really noticed, I was finding difficult to talk when my history of reporting mental health difficulty had been dismissed in the past, I was not feeling entitled to any help, I denied to myself the fact that I was not well, I put a mask on. When I finally decided to seek out for help, I went through it via my GP who referred me to a CBT counsellor. The absurd conversations we were having are worth recording here:

Her: “so what’s happening, how are you feeling?

Me: “I am crying all the time, I feel oppressed, I feel I have nowhere to go, now that I am pregnant, I feel patriarchy is closing in on me and all I see is closed doors and no opportunities, I am very worried about my future.” 

Her: “You mentioned in the past you had a problem working consistently on your self employment? I think we should work on procrastination.” 

I tell her I am oppressed by patriarchy; she said I have a procrastination issue. For the first time in my life I discontinued the treatment. I carried on having a painful pregnancy. I was manipulated and emotionally abused at home by my husband and encountered violent behaviour from men several times, behaviours that were motivated by my pregnancy.

 
CHILD BIRTH
And then birth happened. I wrote before I was never able to write about birth, in fact I never actually talked about it and for at least the first year all I could do if any of my friends was mentioning their birth experience was to run to the toilet and cry. I will write later about what I can only describe as a terrorising and traumatising experience, an experience of utter loneliness and complete lack of control and power, an experience of facing pain and fear of death entirely alone, an experience of lack of love, lack of care, lack of support.

I came home after a few days of institutionalised health abuse and neglect. After an emergency C-section and massive blood loss they wanted me back home within 48 hours. After I passed out and lost more blood while attempting to have a shower, I had to beg them to keep me another day as I was utterly weak and physically and mentally unable to cope. A perinatal mental health professional visited me and after a five minute chat assessed I was fine.
 

EARLY MOTHERHOOD
I was taken back home by a couple of my friends who I felt guilty to ask to stay any longer. I stayed by myself most of that day, waiting hours for my loving husband to come home.
The first few month of my baby’s life, DH who had recently lost his father, decided it was a good time to travel to his home country (thing he had not done once in our time together) and planned to set up a business there. I am not ashamed to say I begged him to reconsider his decision. I totally opposed it. I was traumatised, depressed, sleep deprived and stressed out, completely isolated not coping with a newborn.

I spoke to my GP about the situation in the sixth week check up we are supposed to have. I saw a male GP I didn’t know. When I told him how I felt he proceeded to guilt trip me for not coping: apparently I was letting myself go or something like that. Then he said I needed to be more supportive towards my husband, no matter about my experience, no matter about not copying, no matter about being let down while being in charge of a newborn baby on my own with no support network and in a state of what I was starting to see as PND. No, my husband’s well-being was to be my priority. Of course! He then advised me to get myself on Mumsnet to find some activities in the local area so that I could have something to do with my day. “Pick yourself up woman!” What an utterly pathetic little patronising shite he was, I will never forget.

Two weeks later was the eighth week check. I was seen by yet another male GP. Those GP practices are so impersonal, I hate not having someone I can see regularly that I actually know and actually knows me. Anyway, that fucker was going mechanically through his check list.

Him: “So how are you feeling generally?”

Me: “Not well, I am not coping, my husband is about to leave for a an unknowm period of time, he says he’s got plans abroad, I am not doing well, I am alone.”

Him proceeding to the next question like I have actually said nothing at all: “Do you take any contraception.”

Me is total disbelief: “I don’t see why I would need it, I am alone.”

Voila. End of.

DH left a few days later. He left me in utter shock and disbelief, he left me at my weakest darkest hour even though I begged him not to. He went away and I honestly don’t know how I survived those hours, those days of total despair and abandonment. Three years later, it is 6am and I am crying writing this. The mental shock was huge. I couldn’t and still can’t understand why or how anyone could do what he did to me and a newborn baby. Cruel, heartless, unthinkable.

 

PND
My health visitor found me one morning in a state of total trauma when she did her home visit. I am so grateful she was there as she was the only one who saw how unwell I was and treated me like a human being. She spent a lot of time with me in these first few weeks and when the time the NHS gave me ran out, she referred me to the perinatal services at my local hospital.
 

THERAPY
I met a guy psychologist (against my best judgment – I was told he was fantastic, the best in the team and women loved him). I had one assessment with him. An hour in which I poured out my heart, I can’t see the point of going to mental health professionals to be guarded so I spoke about everything that came into my mind. You wouldn’t believe the stuff that came out of his mouth. He told me he would really benefit from having me as a patient because he had an interest in Feminism and would like to hear and learn from me. Yes, you read it right, no I am not kidding. How about you buy a fucking book and do some reading you fucking asshole! How unprofessional. I cannot understand why he thought it was an appropriate thing to think let alone to say to anyone he is supposed to care for. But that’s not all; when I mentioned to him about porn, how porn was used against me time and time again and how I had been groomed into watching it by male partners, his eyes light up and very keenly interested he asked “ooh, what kind of porn then?” And by very “keenly” I mean he was sexually aroused. He was a porn user and a predator.

In the utter state of confusion I was in, I still realised something was bloody wrong, I froze when i heard him speak. All alarm bells ringing in my mind. But i needed help so badly, it took me a week to make the decision to not be seen by him. A week! I hate to think how many women didn’t see him for what he is. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t read all these feminist books about porn and would have fallen for him myself.

I then saw a woman. Very nice she was but also profoundly inadequate. I am struck by two things she said during the few weeks I saw her. I was recounting my history of sexual abuse and recalled a couple of cases that happened to me. Her response was: “This happened to you twice? Really? Oh, you have been so unlucky!”  Talk about false consciousness. Where do you live, woman? This is the daily life of every woman in the planet. How anyone can be counselling women without any basic knowledge of female oppression and male violence is completely absurd.

A few weeks later I managed to get myself aware and strong enough to make THE only decision that made any sense, I decided to get myself out of this relationship. I made the decision with help from feminist friends of mine without whom I don’t think I would be here today. I made that decision to save myself, my sanity in the face of the abuse and neglect I faced from the man who was supposed to be there and not only wasn’t but was abusive himself. I made the decision, wrote a plan of action and started to act. That women counsellor totally freaked out and told me to reconsider my decision:

“Its a big decision, are you sure?”

Apparently she thought I couldn’t handle it. She suggested staying in an abusive relationship was safer. I had to be very strong and opinionated  to stand up against her and for myself. I had to say “this decision is made, it took me a long time to get there and it was not up for debate”.

Needless to say, I never trusted her.
 

SINGLE MUM
Several weeks later I moved out. I wish I was able to end that post here but unfortunately as I write more memories come to mind that have to be added to the story to give a full picture of the problem.

I had to register with a new GP and got assigned a new health visitor. To sum up, the health visitor dismissed my problems completely and although I was seeing her regularly it was always impossible for me to see her when I needed. On one particular occasion when I had been visibly distressed in public while i was suffering with incredible stress (thank you my local council for not paying my housing benefit for more than six months) and non-stop suicidal thoughts, I spoke to a wonderful woman at my local children’s centre. She said there was a special procedure they could put in place (I can’t recall the name of it now) to give my child some hours in the nursery so I could have time for myself to recover. The problem was, all the health professionals involved had to agree it would be necessary and helpful for me at that point. My health visitor replied negatively straight back without even consulting me at all. Fuck her, I decided I could do without her “help”.

 
And then my new GP, a very nice woman to whom I tried to explain the mental pain I was in, listened, believed me, acknowledge my pain… but the response once more was completely inappropriate. The only solution she offered me was to take medication. Long term medication. As stated before I have always been against medication, I was also breastfeeding and had no intention of stopping. I explained this, I explained there was nothing wrong with me, society was driving me insane and I didn’t see why I should take drugs strong enough to change the chemistry of my brain because I was oppressed. There were pages of side-effects to the drugs she was prescribing, for me and for my baby, and the oppression wouldn’t magically go away once I had popped the damn pill. She said there was “no way someone with your level of depression could get better without drugs”. She pushed the drugs onto me over and over again even tho I said “no” over and over again. She carried on for about a year. I stopped seeing her. I didn’t take the drugs.

After that, I saw a couple of women counsellors who were very good. The time I had there – especially the last one which I did alongside a self-run consciousness-raising group and a self-help program (The Artist’s Way – I recommend it) was particularly beneficial because it gave me time to think for myself and formulate issues and I had a lot of insights in those short few weeks. Then, the issue isn’t on the quality of care but on the quantity. Who can think 8 sessions is enough to get truly better? Who can think oh, 8 sessions didn’t work out so it wasn’t what she needed, let’s give her something else (CBT, drugs, group therapy, whatever). It is the continuity of care with healthcare professionals we trust that has to carry on if that relationship is successful. One cannot heal from a life time of patriarchal abuse in 8 weeks.

 

TRAUMA
Last week, I realised very painfully that depression is not what I am suffering from. Or maybe it was not the only thing i am suffering from. After lots of reading, months of introspection and intense work on myself, after speaking to friends with knowledge and experience on the subject who have been able both to listen and advise, I realise I have symptoms of trauma. No one in all the mental health “experts” I have seen has mentioned this was a possibility once.
How in a system like this am I going to get the help and mental health support I need to get better?

In light of the physical and economical violence women face, in the light of the discrimination women face in motherhood, the increased violence from their male partner when they get pregnant, the deplorable conditions in which women give birth, how many more women have been misdiagnosed with PND or not diagnosed at all when they are in trauma from their birthing experience and / or male violence?

I don’t have a lot of brain capacity left for thoughts and analyses. I see the capacities of my brain declining, my memory is getting worse, I suffer from lack to focus, scatter-brain, regular panic attacks, blank brain that’s unable to process information or read for any period of time, overwhelming dark feelings and guilt and emptiness and uselessness, dissociation, recurring episodes where I am unable to do anything at all apart from keeping me and my child alive.
I see now all my mental health issues where caused directly by male violence.
I wonder if it the case for every other women who are suffering right now, my guess is yes.
In patriarchy, “all women face physical or psychic death daily” said one of my friends, she is right.
I see how the male institution which is the health system has consistently let me down, not listened to me, denied my pain, tried to numb me and silence me, consistently treated me like a symptom, ignoring the human behind the pain, I can see how the health system has directly caused trauma during childbirth.

 

Women are not human in Patriarchy, our sufferings are constantly undermined, our pain doesn’t matter, we do not matter.
Today as I am deciding to make the political act of sharing that part of my life, and as I am about to press the ‘publish’ button, all I feel is an infinite sadness and a blinding rage.

I Hate Mother’s Day

Here we go again! Flowers ! Cards ! Chocolate ! Pink ! Pink ! Pink ! Yes it is Mother’s day!

Yet another commercial made-up holiday. This one is designed to make us spend money in order to demonstrate our love to our mothers. And we all have this ONE day to express our affection and gratitude ! Hurry !

It is always nice to receive a card, I suppose. In the early years of our children’s life, this card is bought by our dear hubbies from the local corner shop. And don’t they have a lot to be grateful for !

I’m not going to lie. I hate mother’s day. Not because there is no hubby in my life to buy me flowers and a card. I am a political lesbian. I have chosen not to have one of those around thank you very much.

No. I hate mother’s day because of the hypocrisy of the whole thing.

We all know motherhood is hard work, right?

Yet we are made to believe that flowers, card, chocolate, perfume and other useless items wrapped up in some tacky pink packaging are supposed to make up for 24/7 of unpaid and undervalued housework and endless childcare duties. Flowers erase the 1825 times we have changed nappies since last mother’s day; the sleepless nights; the toddler’s tantrums in the middle of the supermarket; the daily school run; the many baby illnesses; all those trips to the GP; the balanced meal cooked with love that baby is going to chuck on the floor; the hours spent in front of the sink washing the dishes. Day after day.

Mum has not been feeling too well since baby has arrived? It’s ok! Flowers make us forget our Post Natal Depression; better and cheaper than antidepressants! Flowers erase these long hours of loneliness and isolation; daily trips to the playground; hours gazing into space at baby-group; weeping uncontrollably in the street; the rage; the hopelessness; the guilt; the death-wishes.

Buy flowers and women will not notice how much society hates us as women, and as mothers. Hates us so much that they demand that we lose our pregnancy weight in just a few weeks.As if there is nothing more shameful than having given birth. Let’s get rid of the evidence as soon as possible.

Buy flowers and women magically forget about the discrimination we face at work; a promotion we didn’t get, it went to an incompetent guy; that time we got sacked for being pregnant; that time we didn’t get the job because we have a two year old at home so the recruiter decided we wouldn’t cope; those flexible working hours refused by your manager.  Just because.

Buy flowers and women will forget how poor we are and dependent on the men in our lives.

Buy her flowers and she may forget that the first and last time you agreed to “baby-sit” your own two year old for an hour was because she needed a trip to the dentist. Buy her flowers and she may not remember how you spend all your evenings at the pub, drinking your wage while she has to buy food for the family on the little savings she has left.

Buy flowers, gents, and your wife will forgive you for the emotional abuse you have been subjecting her to, the manipulation, the control. More flowers and she will forgive you for that time you threatened her. More flowers and she will say you are such a nice guy even though you’ve been beating her since she was pregnant.

Buy flowers and she will end up being grateful !

I hate Mothers Day because it is yet another world-wide patriarchal propaganda machine designed to bribe us into submission. Mother’s day successfully promotes compulsory motherhood, and emotionally blackmails women so that we keep on working for men for  free and in silence.

We all know motherhood is hard work.

But don’t we dare to dream of a world structured around our needs as women who have children? Don’t we dare to demand our rights to prevent discrimination against us? Don’t we dare to ask and get the support we actually need? Don’t we dare to demand free universal 24 hour childcare?

And don’t we dare to think that the man we live with, the one who claims to be in love with us, will take on that fight with us?

No.

Instead, you’ll have a bunch of flowers (if you are lucky) and a pink card.

Come on! Have one!

Childbirth and women’s reality – A Xmas post

Since the birth of my child, 2 and something years ago, one thing I have never managed to think about, let alone talk or write about, is the reality and trauma of childbirth. I am not planning to get into details now, I am still absolutely NOT ready to go there and frankly I don’t know if I ever will be. But I did find this quote today in an amazing book by Betty McLellan, “Overcoming Anxiety”. McLellan talks about how being silenced and being made to feel invisible is causing powerlessness and is a major cause of anxiety for women.

She explains how childbirth is another instance in which official (patriarchal) meaning can overshadow the reality of women’s experience. She talks about how childbirth for most women represents “excruciating pain and agony, loneliness and alienation”; feelings and sensations which are in total contradiction with the official patriarchal meaning, as we are told time and time again that childbirth is the most beautiful day of a woman’s life.

I can’t resist sharing this timely and perfect quote today.

 “The church’s role in covering up and denying women’s experience of childbirth is made evident with the telling of the story of the birth of Christ. Every year, the Christmas story is used as an opportunity to glorify motherhood and paint a picture of childbirth as a wonderful, almost ethereal experience. After a problem-free delivery in a fairy-tale setting, we are led to believe that Mary is thrilled by the singing of the angels and overjoyed at the visits by shepherd and wise men.

Told from the perspective of Mary herself, however, the story would probably be very different. She would talk about the pain, the discomfort, the smell of the stable, the lack of privacy, her concern about hygiene. She would express her annoyance at all those strangers visiting her when all she wanted was simply to be with her husband and baby. She would express her concerns about all that loud angelic singing when what she really wanted, in her exhausted state was to be left to sleep in peace while she could.”

As a woman in patriarchy, I have been living with depression, chronic anxiety and very low self esteem for many years. All of these symptoms became much worse since my experience of childbirth and since becoming a mother as I witnessed my life spin out of my control and I became for the first time totally powerlessness, both in the hospital labour ward and in my life ever since my baby was born.

I am having a sisterly thought today for Mary and for all the women who have been silenced and made invisible through motherhood. All those mothers who have lost the meaning of their lives and their sense of self while struggling in the nightmare of living in this patriarchal oppressive society and caring for another human being. All those mothers who have lost their lives in the hands of male dominated health system which puts profit above women’s lives.

Piero della Francesca's The Nativity  (This is what men think childbirth looks like)

Piero della Francesca’s The Nativity (This is what men think childbirth looks like)

A Bundle of Joy – Untold Tales of Motherhood and Oppression

A Bundle of Joy - Untold Tales of Motherhood and Oppression

A Bundle of Joy – Untold Tales of Motherhood and Oppression

 

I will be exhibiting a series of artwork about Motherhood and Oppression exposing the way society treats mothers. I combine stereotypical images of love, harmony and happiness with statistics showing the discrimination women with children face.

Women’s lives change considerably after pregnancy. It’s a time when many women report a variety of mental health issues and are at risk of domestic violence in the home, discrimination in the workplace, many mothers are thrown into poverty, particularly if there is no other adult in the household. Childcare is unaffordable and isn’t flexible enough to meet the demands of employers yet women are often blamed for being ‘scroungers’ and their unpaid work (childcare and domestic work) goes unrecognised by society.

The artwork shows the struggles women face and aims to demonstrate this is more than a series of similar personal stories and individual unique experiences: this is political.

The aim of the exhibition is to help women speak out about the difficulties they face when becoming mothers by showing how the reality of women’s experiences clashes with false messages of ‘perfection’ and domestic bliss. More important than the artwork on display is the conversation women need to have with one another. So bring your sister, your mother, your daughter, your girlfriend!

10th September – 24th September – Monday till Saturday 12-3pm

Holy Trinity Church – Tottenham Green – Philip Lane – Tottenham  N15 4GZ 

 More info here

 

A bundle of joy

I had a baby 20 months ago.
And my life stopped.

Being pregnant and becoming a mother was by far the most difficult thing that happened to me. Becoming a mother is the biggest oppression I have yet had to face as a woman.

That oppression is something I guess I knew but never truly consciously understood before I was a mother. I definitely felt motherhood would be difficult, I never wanted children before in fear that things would become so hard. Children freaked me out, motherhood freaked me out. And it was not something I ever looked into in detail, it was just too scary to acknowledge.

As I grew older I slowly changed my mind, convinced myself it would be ok, convinced myself I would manage, convinced myself my partner who I had shared 13 years of my life with would be a good father, would be trustworthy, would do his share. Convinced myself I wanted a child. Convinced myself I would regret it if I didn’t have one. Believed the myth. Didn’t trust my gut feeling.

Saying that things didn’t quite work out is an understatement.

 

All one ever hears of motherhood is at best incomplete at worst a totally male invented propaganda.

What I heard about it from friends and family ranges from “your life is about to change” to “it’s a bundle of joy”. Telling a pregnant woman “your life is about to change” is both a ridiculously obvious statement (duh! I know that!), but also a huge understatement. Nobody is prepared to tell you what it actually means. Your life is about to change? What is going to change? How? I don’t even want to comment on the “just bundle of joy” statement. Seriously, no matter how much you love your baby, having a child is NEVER “just a bundle of joy”.

 

What happens to the woman who just gave birth and who thinks having a baby is not quite a bundle of joy? What happens to the women who are not enjoying motherhood? What happens to the women who don’t manage, whose experience doesn’t live up to these myth?

What are women who already have children thinking when they repeat the “bundle of joy myth” and omit everything else? Why are they not saying more? Why are they not sharing their stories? Why didn’t anybody warn me? Why didn’t anybody tell me it could be so hard you can find it horrible? It could be so hard that you start thinking the only way you can find a release from this situation would be to disappear from the planet? Why didn’t anybody tell me it could be so hard 70 000 women suffer from postnatal depression each year? I used to ask myself these questions all the time.

I felt lied to and betrayed.

 

Women may have spoken about it before, but somehow the message never got to me. Patriarchy’s language is a powerful tool of propaganda; male speech is constructed as the reference, the objective point of view on everything. Women’s speech is subjective, gossip, not serious, not worth anyone’s attention.

Any women’s definition of anything almost always stays in the background, is trivialised, or is simply totally invisible. Even if it is about a definition of a purely women’s experience (like motherhood is), it is still male definition that will prevail.

“The society in which many of us have been reared has a legitimated meaning for motherhood which means feminine fulfilment, which represent something beautiful, that leaves women consumed and replete with joy.

I am not suggesting that motherhood does not or cannot have such a meaning, but that it is a partial meaning and it is false to portray this as the only meaning. For many women, motherhood may have been an entirely different experience. Such women may have generated alternative, even conflicting meanings (and names) in relation to motherhood but their meanings have been without authority or validity. Such meaning then, may not have been handed down, or if they were, would not have carried the same weight as the legitimated one.”

Dale Spender.

When we women speak about our experiences, our speech is never the mainstream; it is never accepted as the reality for women as a group. Instead it becomes an individual woman’s problem, she become the unlucky one with the bad experience, or the unfit one, she doesn’t live up to male’s definition, she is defective, she is wrong. That’s what makes it so hard for us to tell our truth. Because we know we will be neither believed nor listened to and we certainly won’t be taken seriously.

 

I am writing here to share my experience and tell my truth about motherhood. I am here to say that motherhood is not just a bundle of joy, not just going to change your life, not just hard work.

I am here to say motherhood is an impossible task in the patriarchy, one doomed to failure because it takes a village to raise a child but somehow we are expected to achieve this task on our own and unassisted.

Because motherhood doesn’t come naturally.

Because it needs to be learnt and no one is doing the teaching.

Because none of us has any idea what the hell is going on and what we are doing.

Because sleep deprivation is a torture technique and its effects include stress, depression and psychosis. And this is how women spend the first year of their baby’s lives.

Because most of the childcare and housework will be women’s responsibility no matter what other obligations we may have.

Because institutionalised sexism means women with young children are the most discriminated against group in the workplace.

Because you may just need your job when you are at your most vulnerable yet 30 000 women in the UK lose their jobs as a result of being pregnant each year.

Because no matter what happens to you and how destroyed your life is, all you can feel is an incommensurable feeling of guilt and the sense you are not good enough.

Because however supportive your partner may choose to be, it is your life that is shambled, not his.

Because childcare is an absolute rip off and having to work in order to pay someone else to do the job you are doing for free is totally insane.

Because motherhood is so often a place of loneliness, isolation and depression.

Because 30% of all domestic abuse starts in pregnancy.

Because if you ever manage to escape that violent man, you are very likely to be one of the 43% of single parents family who live in poverty.

Because patriarchy is turning an amazingly powerful loving experience into an event that leave you exhausted, depressed, disempowered, your self esteem shattered.

Because the whole structure of society makes sure that when women get pregnant, they walk straight into a trap.

 

I am here to say having a child in the patriarchy is not just changing your life, it stops it. It is not just hard work; it is a shock to the system. It is not just a bundle of joy, it is a nightmare.

 

I want to share my truth on motherhood because I know my experience or part of it, is shared by many mothers around the world, many mothers who never dare speaking up because they think they are the one with a problem, because they fear they would be judged, not listened to, labelled as bad mothers, inadequate, unnatural, not good enough, guilty, unloving, selfish, mad.

I want to share my experience because the women who do not have a baby need to know the reality, the thing we don’t tell them, the things that are never talked about. The things I would have liked to hear everywhere and louder.

I want to share my experience to liberate speech around motherhood. Together we need to burst the myth and the taboos, we need to speak up OUR truth about motherhood, generate our own meanings and fight hard for those meanings to be accessible for other women and other generations of women. We need to speak up until it stops being seen as women’s individual problem and becomes viewed as what it is: a political institution created by men to keep all women under control.