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.

Looking back at the newborn days

newborn days

I can’t quite believe that my baby is no longer a newborn! She’s ten weeks old now, and although I’m not quite sure exactly when “newborn” ends, I think we’re probably just into “baby” territory now.

I have absolutely loved the newborn stage. I really didn’t expect to, but she’s just been so much fun. It probably helps that she’s generally a good sleeper, and that I have a lot of support from my husband and my parents.

Of course we have had some difficult times. But we’ve had far more lovely ones! I know I could never list all of my memories of these early days, but I’d like to get some down in writing. The time is going far too quickly, and I don’t want to forget everything!

Some of my favourite newborn memories

Newborn baby

Staring at her for the first time as she was lying in her hospital cot and I was still being worked on in the delivery room. I was too shaky to hold her, but just staring at her was rather lovely.

How she cried that whole first night in the hospital, until we swaddled her.

Her checks the next morning, where she cried so loudly that my mum, three rooms away, could hear her! I had to put her to the breast to calm her down.

Being left alone with her and having to put her jacket on in the hospital. I had no idea what to do.

Introducing her to the rabbits when we got home. They weren’t remotely interested at first, and we had to pick them up and wave them at her to get them to even look at her!

Ned the rabbit with the new baby

Those first nights home from the hospital. We took it in turns to take care of her, so that we could each get some sleep. I was terrified of being alone with her. The nights felt very long.

That very painful day when my milk first came in but she couldn’t latch yet.

How she howled when we had our final appointment with the midwife, at ten days old. And then silence the moment we put her back in the car!

We got cards and post for her every day for about a month.

 

How she used to “turtle” her limbs up in her sleepsuits, so that you’d go to touch the sleeve and find that both her arms were actually cuddled in against her chest.

Visits to the children’s centre to get her weighed.

How she didn’t even cry at her heel prick test. I don’t even think she woke up!

The time we went to register her at the doctors, and the receptionists insisted on cuddling her the whole time I filled in the forms.

Newborn in the snow

The first time she saw snow.

How her face was all funny and blotchy for a couple of weeks.

My husband’s paternity leave, which she largely slept through! We spent a lot of time holed up in the living room, baby in the carrycot or our arms, me reading and him playing Fallout.

Taking her into work at 13 days old. She slept through most of that too!

Having her hold a little sign asking a friend to be her godmother.

How she screamed through every bath and nappy change. Anything where we undressed her!

Taking her out on my own for the first time. I couldn’t get the pram to work, so I had to carry her nearly a mile through town. I was terrified the whole time!

Taking her round the garden centre with my mum. She slept the entire time, including through our meal and a nappy change!

The three of us sitting together in the living room during the day with the curtains closed, my husband and I passing her between us, and watching all four series of Line of Duty.

How she looked as a funny little hungry caterpillar in her swaddle.

Baby lulls us into a false sense of security before sleep deprivation!

There are a million more, I’m sure of it. I’ve only known her for ten weeks but we’ve had thousands of beautiful moments together already.

And there’s so, so much more to come! I’m so excited. I’m so grateful that I get to be her mum and raise her.

Baby’s first snow

baby's first snow

Baby is just over four weeks old now, and we’ve woken up today to find that the world is covered in snow!

We’re getting to the stage now where she’s starting to take an interest in the world around us. She loves the Christmas tree lights, for example. We have her nappy changing station set up just next to the tree, and she stares at it happily during changes. (With the occasional howl, obviously.)

So when I saw the amazing snowfall we’d had here, I thought we had to show it to the baby!

We wandered around the house from window to window, and she was absolutely in awe. She couldn’t take her eyes off this weird new white world she lived in!

The next step was going outside.

Fortunately, my aunt had recently bought her a snowsuit. We’d bought some before she was born, but we got them in 0-3 and 3-6 month sizes. However, my little baby is still (at over a month!) in “Tiny Baby” and “First Size” clothes. We’ve not even really graduated into newborn sizes. She weighs 7lb now, but I’m not sure where she puts it!

So we wrapped her in the lovely cosy snowsuit…

She was very confused by the whole process. “I’m in the house. I’ve never worn one of these big duvet things before. Why are we doing this?! Also, you know I don’t like hats.”

We decided not to go far – just into the back garden. I stood on the back step with her, while my husband made a little snow sculpture on the garden table.

Then we posed her with it. She’d gone to sleep by this point.

We staged a snowball fight photo…

And let her have the rest of her nap in a tiny baby igloo my husband made!

Okay, that last bit is a lie. We let her lie in it for approximately six seconds while we took the photo, then we picked her up and went inside to sit in front of the nice warm fire. Snow is great, but a bit too cold!

(As an end note, we didn’t even consider taking the rabbits out in it. Ned and Barbara both hate the outside and Gingee doesn’t like being cold. As they’re house rabbits, I also don’t think it’s a good idea to expose them to extremes of temperature that they’re not used to – it would probably stress them out far too much. On days like this, I’m very very glad that they are house rabbits. I know how much they love being cosy and comfortable and warm, and I can’t imagine how I’d feel, having three of my family members living out in the cold!)

How are you enjoying the snow?