On rolling

The Drop is not the most advanced of children, when it comes to physical skills.  She, of course, doesn’t know this, and thus doesn’t treat her new accomplishments with any bashfulness at all; oh, this old skill?  You’re sweet, but I’ve actually had it for ages. 

On the contrary, she throws herself at life and expects life to respond with enormous smooches.  Everything she learns is a joy to her, her face split wide with excited pride.  Look, look, I can roll from my back, see, onto my front!  And then back on my back, and then, get this, no, watch, I can roll back onto my belly again!  What do you mean you’re going to bed, it’s not bedtime, I haven’t finished showing you my rolling yet come baaaacccckkk.

It’s nights like these that make parenthood so hard to put into words.  Even the German language, expert in complex emotions, hasn’t yet come up with a term meaning the sensation of bursting pride at another’s achievements tempered by the realisation that said achievement is wholly unimpressive to the outside world and couple with a level of desperation at the prospect of yet another interrupted night and the near-impossibility of functioning competently at work on the following day.

Suggestions welcome.


An open letter to Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health

This is the letter I wrote to Minister Roxon today, with thanks to Hoyden About Town and Save Birth Choices for some of the text.

 To:  The Minister for Health

Hon. Nicola Roxon

Dear Minister,

I am a mother of one.  My daughter’s birth was low-risk, drug-free, and intensely rewarding.  I laboured without a doctor’s assistance save for the delivery, where a GP  caught the baby.  Like most women, I went to a hospital, and took up a state-funded room for three days although there was nothing I needed that couldn’t have been provided at home more cheaply and effectively. 

For my next child, assuming the pregnancy is low risk again, I want to give birth at home, in a more spacious, well appointed and comfortable space, where I am free to move around at will and choose my own level of privacy. 

My local hospital is tiny and ill-funded with no facility for high risk or preterm birth and no equipment over and above that which midwives possess.  I have a good relationship with a local midwife who provides homebirth services, I’m educated on alternative labour techniques and in excellent health, and there is no point taking up a room in a hospital which is genuinely needed elsewhere.  

Homebirth is my choice for my body, my baby and my birth.

As a maternity consumer, therefore, I greatly appreciate your recognition of the need for change, and applaud your initiative in taking action to review and reform maternity services in Australia.

I support the principle of effective collaboration between all maternity care providers, and the aspirational goal of the Government to provide “safe, high-quality and accessible care based on informed choice.”

And yet, the government is proposing  legislation which makes it illegal for privately practising midwives to attend homebirths.   This legislation goes against your own aspirational goal.

Of babies born at home in 2006, all were liveborn. In the same year, there were 2,091 stillbirths in Australia.  2,091 of those occurred in hospitals or birthing centres[1].  There is no evidence that homebirth is less safe than hospital births.

If you outlaw homebirth, there will be some women who cannot or will not access hospital services who instead choose to ‘free birth’; that is, deliver their baby with no medical professional in attendance. 

Women who find their labour progressing faster than expected and who cannot get to a hospital in time will be afraid to call a midwife to their home for fear of offending against the ‘incitement’ clause in this legislation.  Midwives will be afraid to come.

Women who intend to birth at home and who experience complications or fetal distress, whether attended by a midwife or not, will be afraid to transfer to hospital for fear of repercussion.

This is not providing safe care. 

Private midwives study a three year specialised degree course in order to gain qualifications.  In a private homebirth model, the midwife provides wellbeing care for the expectant mother throughout her pregnancy, as well as personalised antenatal care.  Pregnancy testing is offered just as it is by obstetricians.  Midwives carry and are trained in using an array of medical equipment which allow them to respond to emergencies as in a small maternity hospital.  Private midwives provide follow-up care to post-partum mothers.

The personalised one-on-one care provided by private midwives is unmatchable by the hospital system, and it would cost taxpayers billions of dollars to attempt it.

If this legislation is passed, there are private midwives with decades of experience in home births whose skills will be lost.  Meanwhile, women will be forced into an already overcrowded public system, whose hospitals do not have enough beds.  Or they will find themselves paying for private care, which carries a significant gap even for those with private health insurance, in a system which currently boasts an almost 50% caesarean section rate. 

Women who do require high intervention care will be competing for those resources with women who would prefer, but are prevented, from seeking a home birth.  Like me.

This is not providing high-quality care.

There will be other, rural, women who are forced to drive several hours to the nearest hospital, in labour, because a local midwife can no longer assist.  If they have no car, no partner or friend to do the driving, or no money for petrol, they will have no way of getting help with their delivery.

This is not providing accessible care.

Australia is a country which champions free choice, and most of its laws recognize that. 

We do not legislate to stop pregnant women from playing sport, or smoking, or eating  sushi, or skipping an antenatal appointment, or declining an ultrasound scan. We allow access to pregnancy termination and we do not coerce women into breastfeeding if they do not choose to give their body over for that purpose.

None of these decisions warrant child protection referrals, or court trials, or jail terms.  Either we trust women to make good choices or we recognize their right to make bad ones, but we champion their freedom to choose. By criminalizing home birth the government is turning its back on that principle.

Please don’t criminalise home birth.

[1] The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Perinatal Statistics Unit, Published December 2008.

In which I take up a challenge

A post on Larvatus Prodeo about yet another study on the Extremely Important topic of what men find attractive in women inspired me to comment that this particular research field was perhaps a wee bit overcrowded.  In a completely unexpected development, Some Guy took exception to my comment, which was apparently ill-researched and suffused with Feminazi outrage.  Okay, he didn’t actually use the F word but he might as well have done.

Anyway, he also said ‘I’m sure you could find studies which examined both genders, or women alone, Rainne, if you actually looked.’

I do like a challenge.

First, I googled ‘Studies ‘what women find attractive’.  The first link is to a 2007 study about what women find attractive.  Bonus quote from the researcher; ‘Most research is focused on what men find physically attractive in women and the career traits women find attractive in men,” Frederick said by telephone. “Much less research is devoted to what women find attractive.”‘

Second hit is a sexist joke.

Third hit is, in a glorious example of It’s All About The Men, an article about a study which examined what men think women find attractive.

Fourth hit is a comment referring to the sexist joke.  Fifth hit is a reprint of a 1974 article on what women find attractive, and bemoaning, I kid you not, the lack of research into what women find attractive.  Oh, and the next three hits are all ‘what men find attractive’.

Does anyone want to guess what happens if I google ‘what men find attractive’?

Joyce accuses Hanson-Young of parental cruelty

If you go to Barnaby Joyce’s webpage, you’ll see that he advertises himself as a father of four, who therefore understands the difficulties of Australian families, believes in the sanctity of life (of the unborn variety) and claims, startlingly, that foetuses ‘feel the sensation of love’.   Based on that last claim alone, one would be forgiven for thinking that Joyce has extraordinary empathetic abilities allowing him to be at one with the inner emotional lives of babies. 

You’ll also see a link to a press release referring to Senator Hanson-Young, whose two-year-old daughter Kora was expelled from the House during a surprise division to the mutual distress of mother and daughter. That release states “yesterday’s events smell of a stunt designed to garner maximum media exposure for a Senator who up until these events has done little else to contribute to the national interest…Perhaps Senator Hanson Young thinks we should just roll out a blanket and put the toys in the middle”.

Sure.  It’s Hanson-Young who’s using the media to raise her profile.  Let’s break down what Joyce is claiming.

Kora Hanson-Young wailed in distress as she was taken from her mother. Senator Hanson-Young was visibly distressed at not being able to comfort her. To characterise that as a stunt is to accuse Hanson-Young of something a bit more serious than just playing the media.

Joyce is claiming that Hanson-Young deliberately engineered a situation where her little girl was taken into a large room full of loud strangers, one of whom then shouted at her*, and where she was then taken away in tears without her mother being able to follow her or to comfort her.   Just before, by the way, a weekend where mother and daughter would be separated.

And remember, if Kora hadn’t been upset, there would have been no story. So for this to be a ‘stunt’, Senator Hanson-Young would have had to know that Kora would be reduced to tears. Joyce is claiming that Hanson-Young put her daughter into a scary situation that made her cry, on purpose, as a media stunt. To raise her own profile.

That’s an accusation that goes well beyond partisan jibing.

*With all due respect to the President, who presumably didn’t set out to frighten anyone, his tone of voice would be pretty terrifying to a toddler.

A perfect moment of communion

It is cold, and so we are nestled in close together. It is night, and so there is no way to tell which of us stirred first, waking the other. It is dark, and so it is hard to see much except for two huge liquid almond eyes staring into my own. It is quiet, and so her soft preverbal murmur of love is clear to motherhoned ears. It is still, and so her broadening smile and awakening limbs stir the sleep-heavy air.

It is also 4.30 in the morning. Go back to sleep, child.


There’s nothing like leaving a sick baby in the care of others while you go to work to make a mother feel guilty. In this case, she’s in the care of two of her grandmothers (Pre-billing: two grandmothers! At the same time! I know! It doesn’t get more exciting than that, right, baby?) who will, I have no doubt, spend the day competing as to who can make her smile the most. Usually she’d have a blast with this sort of set-up. Today, well, not so much. She feels yucky, and her head feels sort of funny and there’s this stuff inside which is all gloopy and she doesn’t know how to get it out and she feels yucky, did she say?, and she might be hungry but it’s hard to breathe properly when she’s eating so she’s not that hungry but she might be hungry she doesn’t know because she feels yucky, she FEELS YUCKY MUM and make it stop and also please cuddle her because she doesn’t want to play with anyone else today.

And I know, my baby, my sweet love, I know. But I’ve got to go to work.

As it turns out

Babies get sick. And when they get sick, it is very sad. I mean, obviously, what with all the sniffling and the teeny little wheezing noises and the not having the energy to rip handfuls of your hair out with quite the usual abandon.

But also, it’s quite handy, if they sleep in due to not feeling well, and it is the end of a week and you just want to get to lie in for a bit yourself. If you happen to be the parent who doesn’t have to get up before dawn and go to work regardless of baby waking habits. If you are that parent, and said baby also woke up at 4 am, for quite a long time actually, it is not quite so handy.

But on the other hand, being the getting up parent at least means that you are at work when the sick baby demonstrates its sickness by being sick all over itself. And you. And the floor. And the cat. Twice. So that’s a plus.

It doesn’t, however, render you immune from being rung up by that parent and having the colour, consistency and propulsive qualities of said vomit described to you at length. The word ‘ectoplasm’ may be used, as well as the phrase ‘lapping at my ankles’.

Which really makes you feel quite grateful for being at work in a nice clean office near establishments that sell delicious coffee and getting to wear clothes which are in no way covered in vomit.

Except, not really. I want to go home and look after my poor sick girl.