A blogging hiatus – but I’m back!

blogging resources

You may have noticed that I’ve not been here for a while. I ended up taking a little (big?) blogging hiatus after my last post about consent and the reactions to it.

People were sending me messages on Twitter after someone linked my post and mocked it.

Now there’s plenty that I don’t agree with on the internet, and I’ll be the first to say that a blanket policy of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” is pretty dangerous.

But really, what is the benefit of sending a bunch of trolls over to a mum who’s just doing her best? Everyone seemed to agree that I wasn’t doing anything harmful to my daughter, just that they found my actions laughable. (But I stand by what I said!)

People messaged me to say that my daughter was going to grow up weak and coddled. They said that my parenting was the problem with the world today, that I was a neglectful parent, that I shouldn’t be in sole charge of my child. Someone, rather bizarrely, said that she couldn’t take what I said seriously as I listed my rabbits in my Twitter bio before my human daughter.

My phone buzzed with cruel and unnecessary comments for about 48 hours.

I’m going to be honest. I was really upset by it. The “texting my husband at work and crying” sort of upset. So I thought it was time to take a little blogging hiatus.

It was less of a rational, conscious decision and more of a thing that just happened. I couldn’t face social media or writing.

And maybe I should be more thick skinned. Maybe I should learn to let these things roll off me.

But maybe other people should learn to think before they speak, as well. Is what you’re saying useful?

There is someone behind every keyboard.

I wasn’t saying anything harmful. Did it need 20 different people to repeatedly mock me?

I’m a first time mum. Like most first time mums these days, I’m pretty isolated. My husband is at work full time, I see my own mum quite often but not every day, I don’t have many local friends… The internet really is my social outlet. My daughter is amazing, and does say a few words, but she’s not yet much of a conversationalist.

So when I get social interaction from 20 people in a day and 19 of them are really negative, that’s pretty rough.

The bad comments just kept coming throughout the day and I felt almost intimidated. Some people seemed so angry at me, and it occurred to me that they might actually go ahead with making their dangerous allegations of neglect. I was scared. (My baby really is not neglected. Sometimes I am, but she’s not!)

I’m further out from the birth now, but this was a few months ago. My hormones were, I’m afraid, going a bit mad. My cycles were starting to come back (at least breastfeeding kept them away until she was about seven months!) and I was feeling easily as blue as in the very first couple of days.

I was really fragile, to be honest. I hate to play the “hormonal woman” card, but it’s true. Maybe, in retrospect, I should have spoken to a doctor about postnatal depression. It’s easy to be wise after the event.

So, yeah, I felt bad. I felt like something relatively non controversial had been turned into this awful storm. I just wanted to hide.

Back from my blogging hiatus

But I’m back. I missed writing. I missed the people! Blogging was an amazing outlet for me during pregnancy and my baby’s early days, and even though I struggle to find any extra time these days, I’d like to do a bit here and there again.

Have you ever had a similar experience? How did you get over it?

Consent, babies and nappies, oh my!

consent

You might have read the article that’s going round lately. You know, that one about babies and consent.

This is a nice, even-handed view of it, but many papers and websites aren’t quite being so nice. I’m finding a lot of the comments about it to be quite upsetting.

Maybe you saw it when someone shared it on Facebook, along with a witty comment like “PC gone mad, I’m glad all this crazy stuff wasn’t a thing when I had my children!” Or maybe it was the punchline on your local news, or you heard someone laughing about it in the shop.

Well, it’s not funny.

My daughter is six months old. And yes, I ask for her “consent” before doing anything to or with her. No “expert” told me to. I just do it because she’s a human being and she deserves that level of dignity.

Let’s make this clear.

How it does not look

“Baby, it’s time for a nappy change. Do you consent?”

“No, Mummy.”

“Okay then, we’ll leave you in your dirty nappy.”

“Thank you, Mummy. Now let us continue destroying society with our crazy liberal ways!”

How it actually looks

“Nappy change time! Want a nice clean nappy-noo?”

“Yaaaaabahhhh! Aieeeee! Flurg.”

“Okay then, let’s get this old nappy off. And iiiiin the nappy bin it goes! Now we’ll give you a little wipe. And now a nice clean nappy!”

“Maaaaaa. Yaaa.”

“All done! Here’s Sophie the Giraffe!”

I’ll let you work out which person is which!

I usually do the sign for “nappy” as well, which we’ve learned in our Sing and Sign class.

So that’s how our “consent” looks. Does anyone object to that?

I narrate and explain everything we do throughout the day. She gets to hear my thought process as I choose her outfit for the day, as I dress her, as I put her in the car seat… It goes on.

And it’s not just the things that pertain to her. I keep up a running commentary of unloading the dishwasher, hanging the washing on the line, the traffic we see on our walks, everything. She’ll probably learn to speak early just to tell me to be quiet!

Just to be clear on this: baby Yaya does not have the option of refusing a nappy change, but I want her to understand what’s happening.

Consent in the future

I might be unusual (I know some people think I am) in that I refuse to change her nappy in front of a group of people. She is a person and deserves dignity. I wouldn’t take my pants off in front of a large group of grandparents, uncles, etc., so why do people expect me to remove Yaya’s?

It all comes down to her bodily autonomy and dignity. People who are mocking the idea of consent, I assume, believe that their babies don’t have that or deserve it. (Let that sink in for a moment. Ouch.)

But at what point does it develop? Teenagers and adults, everyone agrees, can and should say no when they feel uncomfortable. But small children can be abused too, and have the right to speak up and understand when things are wrong.

I want Yaya to be able to refuse touch from anyone. It’s one reason that we’re learning signing. I want her to be able to communicate NO to hugs and kisses, even from family and friends.

(I’m not saying that I’d let her be rude about refusing a hug or a kiss. I don’t want her to run from Nice Safe Family Member, but if she doesn’t want to hug him, it’s fine for her just to say hi. There’s a middle ground.)

Because the moment you force a child to be touched and accept physical affection they don’t want, you’re teaching them a costly lesson. You’re teaching your child that sometimes, you have to be quiet and let someone touch you. That people who are older/in a position of power/your relatives (delete as appropriate) have the right to touch you. And there’s nothing you can say or do about it.

Is that really what you want?

 

Coping without Gingee Bunny

Gingee

Dear Gingee,

It’s now been a few weeks since you left us. It’s still hard to believe.

We’re doing okay, though. Thanks for asking. There’s been a few sessions of crying in the shower (me), standing outside at the grave (Daddy), searching all over the house (Ned), refusing to believe it (Barbara) and just being a bit confused (the baby).

The day after you died, it snowed. It took everything I had not to go out there and start digging. I couldn’t bear the thought of you being out there, all alone and cold. You, my boy who used to cuddle up with me under a blanket when Daddy was out in the evenings.

We had a cushion printed with your picture on it, and we’ve put it by the TV, where you always used to try and climb. It’s nice to see you in the living room all the time, because that’s where I spend most of my time with the baby.

Your baby sister is getting so active lately. You’d love her, Gingee. She rolls all over the place now – she reminds me of you, so much, when you wanted to get somewhere that we’d blocked off. You were so determined and so is she.

More than the other two, you really connected with her when she was tiny, and I’m so sorry you won’t be there to play with her now she’s more interactive.

You’ve loved her since the start – I remember when you used to sit on my lap and lift your ear against my belly. Did you know she was in there? Could you hear her?

Did you know you wouldn’t be here to see her grow up?

Ned is doing really well. His eye is healthy – I think Barbara is taking care of it for you. He binkies a bit now again. I think he wants to show me that he’s alright. Barbara’s eye needs some work, and Daddy has had to start doing a lot more for her. I didn’t realise how much you did, Gingee. You were their vet as well as their brother, weren’t you?

I make sure that I spend lots of time with them and talk about you to them.

I promise that I’ll spend lots of time outside in the garden with you this spring and summer. Daddy’s already been doing that, do you know?

It’s Easter today, and we’ve told the baby that you’re the Easter Bunny now. I think you’d like that – although I know in reality you’d just want to eat all the chocolate yourself! Remember how you ate some of my Easter egg last year when I was feeling ill?

I also remember the Easter before, when you and Ned had a little truce. It felt like an Easter miracle (a more minor one, obviously!).

I have lots of questions about what happened to you. Why did you suddenly choke like that? Why couldn’t you eat after that?

Did you have some sort of tumour or growth in your throat that we didn’t know about? Were you as sick as your brother all along? Is there anything we could have done?

But honestly, my Gingee, if you had been sick, I’m glad we didn’t know. I’m glad we didn’t have to make any decisions about whether to do any invasive treatment that would have made you more frail, because I know you. You would have hated being weak and in pain.

Better one crowded hour, Gingee. You had such a crowded hour. You did so much and were so happy.

I miss you, Gingee.

Love,

Your human mummy.

International Women’s Day 2018

international women's day

Happy international women’s day!

international women's day

Before the baby was born, I told everyone I didn’t mind whether we had a boy or a girl.

I lied.

I wanted a girl desperately.

Throughout the tough pregnancy, I thought to myself that if we had a girl, I could be happy being done. If we had a boy, I might have tried to put myself through it again to get a daughter.

The need to have a daughter was strange. I know I would have loved a son. We had a boy’s name chosen from really early in pregnancy, and I could almost picture my little Toby. He would have been wonderful, and I’d have loved him just as fiercely as I love my baby Yaya.

I have lots of male friends, I like lots of men (my husband and dad are two of my favourite people!), I’m closest to my little boy bunny… But I am so glad she is a girl.

I feel sort of uncomfortable admitting it. (I promise, it’s not to do with the clothes!)

Part of it is that I know girls. I went to a girls’ school. From the ages of 11-18, I didn’t interact with boys. They’re almost like an alien species to me. Meeting boys when I went to university was weird. I feel like I know a huge range of different women, with different interests and personalities, whereas I don’t have that range with men.

My daughter might want to take ballet classes or beg for a pony. She might join the army and wear exclusively male clothes. I know women who do all of those things.

Life is a bit easier for a masculine woman than a feminine man. If she wants to be a racing driver or a doctor or a linguist or a nursery school teacher, people won’t judge her. If she wants to wear skirts or Doc Martens, she can.

I’m not ultra feminine. Most days I don’t wear makeup. I have some kind of genetic inability to do anything good with my hair. I love Formula 1. My housekeeping skills are not great. But I also love ballet and nail polish and films with Sandra Bullock. I have close female friendships. I’m a nurturer.

At my school, we were taught that we could do anything. (We were also taught that we should do everything, which is a bit more problematic. That’s a thought for another day.) I am excited to pass this lesson on to my daughter.

There are so many options open to her.

Women are strong. I grew her inside me – how amazing is that? Being pregnant made me appreciate my lineage as a woman. I felt connected to all of the women that had gone before me. Whether or not she chooses to have children herself, that potential is there for her.

I’m looking forward to sharing stories of other strong women with her. Her name has been shared by empresses and saints. I hope she knows that I think she has a great future ahead of her.

Right now, at four months old, she has such a strong personality. I know she’s so young, but she’s so vocal and determined. While I’ve been writing this post, she’s used her head to rotate herself 180 degrees in her play gym!

I’m really excited to raise this little woman.

Gingee, 2015-2018

Gingee

I never thought I’d have to say this. We lost our beautiful Gingee Bunny yesterday.

He battled stasis a couple of weeks ago after choking on some food, but had been doing so well. He was fine and ate during the morning but passed away peacefully during the day.

He was the most beautiful, gentle, curious and clever bunny I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. In the two and a half years we knew him, he changed our lives indescribably.

He loved my husband with all his heart, but there was space for me, the baby and Ned and Barbara as well.

That he’s not going to be here any more doesn’t feel real, but we feel at peace. He lived a life full of love.

Gingee

If he had to go, at least he was warm and comfortable and surrounded by family. And in these last weeks, since he was ill, we’ve told him so much that we love him! He and my husband have been able to have some lovely cuddles, and as goodbyes go, we had a lovely one that lasted several weeks.

We know that our bunnies from when we were younger are probably interrogating him now about what life is like, and he’s probably got some wings to help him binky even higher than he could down here.

Last night, Barbara didn’t really want to be around him. Ned groomed him one last time, and we all said goodbye, then my husband buried him in one of his old shirts, underneath a baby tree that we planted a couple of years ago when Ned was sick.

This morning, Ned was sad and wanted to sniff all of Gingee’s old things – his brush, the spot on the stairs where he used to sit, his little doll. Barbara finally accepted it this morning. She was in Gingee’s favourite cardboard box when I went to give them their breakfast, and when I got her out, she looked frantically for him, before flicking her feet at me. She ate her breakfast, then went back into his box and made a low keening sound. Ned wanted to look in lots of rooms in the house to check he wasn’t there. They were littermates.

Gingee and Ned

Gingee was always the healthy one. We never thought he would go first.

He was the best bunny (well, one of three) and I will miss him forever.

Goodbye, my Gingee. Thank you for being you.