Entirely Unsurprising

Hey, guess what? Pregnant women are doing it wrong again! I’ve transcribed the interview between John Humphrys and Mike Kelly that forms part of this article, because I actually couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I would say “enjoy”, but, well… you probably won’t.

JH: Eating for two is dangerous. Women have been for generations – forever perhaps – that that’s what they should do when they’re pregnant, but National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says they shouldn’t. Professor Mike Kelly is the institute’s public heath director, good morning to you. Um, why not?

MK: Because if they do, they’re likely to put on more weight than they need to and um produce an obese, er, an obese pregnancy, and that’s very bad for them and very bad for their baby.

JH: But haven’t you got to eat a bit more if there’s another little person inside you munching away as well?

MK: In the third trimester, in the last three months of pregnancy, the woman should be eating about 200 calories a day extra, that amounts to about two pieces of toast and a milky drink, that’s all.

JH: I see. I have this image of pregnant women, who goodness knows have enough problems – some of them anyway, not all of course – but thinking, the one thing I *can* do is a little bit of comfort eating – is it really going to hurt them that much?

MK: Yes it is, the – um. Well, first off, around about 40% of women of childbearing age are already overweight or obese and presenting at our -

JH: [interrupting] – Are they 40% of -
MK: - That’s -
JH: [incredulously] – of women of childbearing age are *obese*?

MK: Overweight and obese.

JH: [skeptically] Mmm, yeah, there is a big difference, isn’t there.

MK: Overweight is a body mass index over 25, and obese over 30.

JH: But I mean, can we put it into very simple terms – if you look at somebody who is, as you say, overweight, do you say “oh my word, that’s a fat person”?

MK: Not necessarily.

JH: Right. So therefore aren’t we getting this a bit out of proportion?

MK: No, not at all. Because it’s um, a direct, um, line, if you like, a ratio, as with each pound that’s put on, the risks increase.

JH: [surprised] Really?

MK: Yes, indeed. And the risks that we need to get people to understand range from miscarriage, subsequently, pre-eclampsia, thromboembolism, gestational diabetes – and that’s very important because the diabetes often continues post-pregnancy, so the woman is becoming diabetic for life potentially. During delivery more pain relief is required, slower wound healing, potential miscarriage, foetal death. The risks are enormous. This is not a minor minor problem, this is a major difficulty. It also of course adds cost because if a woman has to have a caesarian as a consequence of having a larger baby, that’s an additional around about £2000 per delivery. [Emphasis mine, because… wow.]

JH: But I come back to this difference between being obese and overweight. I mean, *clearly*, if somebody is grotesquely overweight, then there are going to be – we can all see that, that’s blindingly obvious, but aren’t we in danger of *scaring* women into thinking “oh my god, I can’t have that extra piece of toast or bar of chocolate or something because I’m gonna put my baby or me at risk”?

MK: What we should be doing is explaining that the amount of extra calories that are required, they’re very small amount and they’re only in the last three months of pregnancy, and that’s why this business of eating for two has to be knocked on the head. What we need to do is make clear that a healthy diet – this is the diet that you or I needs to stay in reasonable shape based on starchy foods, avoiding sugary drinks, drinking plenty of water, avoiding fatty food, all that sort of thing, that’s a healthy diet and that’s what a pregnant woman should eat, that’s what a woman before she gets pregnant should eat and that’s what she should eat afterwards. It’s the standard advice on diet and nutrition that we’ve been giving for forty or thir- forty years or so. Nothing in that regard has changed. The myth about eating for two is one that needs to be knocked on the head, as is the idea that they need to do the same when they’re breasfeeding – they *don’t* – a small amount of extra calories during breastfeeding, the natural bodily processes will take care of it. We need to alert health professionals as much as anybody that this is a significant problem.

JH: Professor Kelly, thank you very much indeed.

I’m a skeptical soul, but I’m also running a temperature, so I’m not about to do any sums for you. Not even to prove how awesome I am. I have, however, found the guidance from NICE, which contained the statistics that Mike Kelly was quoting:

“At the start of pregnancy, 15.6% of women in England are obese (Heslehurst et al. 2010).”

“About half of women of childbearing age are either overweight (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m²) or obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m²) (The NHS Information Centre 2008).”

Personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that women who are “obese” have a higher risk of having a caesarian delivery in part because their doctors think they ought to have one because they’re “obese”. Not because they actually needed one.


In Which I Have A Fucked-Off Ramble

For a little while now, I’ve found my feminist focus shifting. After a while, I felt like I’d got a permanent sense of deja vu with the big blogs and their interminable blogwars and even more interminable US-centrism. So I stopped reading most of them. (I’m also quite sensitive to blog layouts, for some reason, and it’s no coincidence that the ones that I stopped reading first were the ones I found difficult to look at. Womanist Musings is a good example of this, as are Pam’s House Blend and Pandagon.)

To fill in the gap, I headed down under. Hoyden About Town is a long-term favourite of mine, although they too did some very strange things with their layout recently. Luckily for me, they give the option of reading HAT in the old, simple blog format, or I’d’ve had to stop reading them, too. Anyway, I also started following Blue Milk. And Spilt Milk. And so, despite not being a parent, I kind of got suckered into reading about feminist parenting. I love it. I think of it as gentle feminism, the kind that’s part of a nice chat about your day. I also would like to have kids one day – I don’t mind how. (My parents were seriously considering fostering before Mum unexpectedly got pregnant with my brother when I was 12. If pregnancy doesn’t happen for me, I’d do that. At least, I think I would.) So it’s nice to read about people who are just a bit ahead of me in life. And because I spent my teenage years in a house full of nappies and lego, and being woken up at 2am for a surprise bonus cuddle, I can already relate to a lot of it.

So, it’s been nice. Gentle. Easy reading, if you like. And I do like – that’s why I read them, and that’s why I write for Teaspoon of Sugar, the whole point of which is to be nice and gentle and easy.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the blogwars came to Blue Milk! Well, not quite – she’s steering clear of the threads of doom, and I don’t blame her one little bit. I thought I’d seen all of the blogwars, but this kids-in-public-spaces meltdown must have passed me by last time it rolled round.

It just seems ridiculous to me. Ridiculous and unnecessary. Arguing about whether kids should be in bars or watching late-night films is just daft (age ratings and the discretion of the management: it turns out we have them). I hate those kinds of discussions anyway. They seem no different to the arguments I’ve had with men about street harassment, who try to “win” by pulling ever more stupid arguments out their arses – you know, the “but what if a woman was walking down the road in nipple tassels and a tutu, *then* could I stare at her?” arguments. For the kids debate, you get “but what if a parent took their kid to a BDSM club, *then* could I say that kids don’t belong in public?”.

To the people who make those arguments, I say now: fuck you all.

Children are people too – and by that, I don’t mean that children are defective adults, just like I am not a defective white person, or straight person, or man. I mean that children are people, and therefore not animals, not dolls, not burdens. People. Some children can’t communicate verbally. Well, and nor can some adults. Some children display behaviours inappropriate to the situation they are in. So do some adults. Part of living in society is understanding that not everybody is just like you, and not everybody can behave the way you want them to. This is basic stuff.

But even more basic is this: I didn’t sign up to feminism to have other feminists police my moral standards, whether that’s to do with what kind of period control I use, or where I take my imaginary child. Well, ok, I didn’t sign up to feminism at all – there’s no membership card, no joining fee, no contract. Which is just as well, because right now I feel like asking for my money back. Reproductive rights are a feminist issue. Not just birth control, not just abortions, not even just parental leave issues, but also real children. The children that a lot of the feminists in the thread’o’doom don’t ever want to see, hear or interact with in any way. Thanks a lot, ladies. I’m really feeling that supportive sisterhood I’ve heard so much about.

In more hopeful news, I see that Tigtog from HAT and Chally from Zero At The Bone are now moderating the thread’o’doom, which might mean a bit less shit gets hurled. Even so, I think I’ll be sticking to the nice, quiet, parenting blogs for a while.


The Exquisite Irony Is Not Lost On Me

The problem with having a hotmail account is, simply put, MSN. Usually it makes me angry; today I just rolled my eyes so hard I fear I may have lost an eyeball.

Screenshot of MSN main site, which has a link entitled "why do women hate their bodies?" next to another link, "how to avoid gaining weight on holiday"

Description: Picture shows part of a screen shot of MSN’s uk website from Tuesday 27th July 2010. A picture of a racially ambiguous woman with brown eyes and straight brown hair fills most of the screen. She is shown from the shoulders up, wearing a white strappy top (I assume) and a white headband, using a hair straightener. To the right is a headline: “Look slimmer instantly” with the tagline “2o ways to look like you’ve lost weight – without diet or exercise“. Underneath are two links, in this order:

  • Why do women hate their bodies?
  • How to avoid gaining weight on holiday

Oh, MSN. You’re practically a bingo card all by yourself.

(Incidentally, I clicked on the link, so that you didn’t have to go looking for it, and it turns out that the dude who wrote the opinion piece – there go my eyes again! – has begun to see where the problem might lie, which kind of makes it worse:

Marketers tell men to be fit and strong. They tell women to be beautiful. And when the essence of beauty is an unhealthily skinny supermodel whose wrinkles have been airbrushed away, that’s an impossible ask.

So my advice – and I know it’s easy for me to say – is to ignore them.

Why, thank you, Captain Obvious. Now, moving on: why do smokers hate their lungs? 870 words later, I have concluded that smokers should just pack in the smoking! Because it’s just that simple!)


It Turns Out I Wasn’t Dreaming

A day or two ago, my alarm clock woke me up by broadcasting the dulcet tones of John Humphrys (he of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme fame) into my bedroom. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of.

However, as I lay there, probably more than half-asleep, I thought I heard some mention of a story about babies having a lower risk of death if they were born in normal office hours. This did not feel normal, and, since J claimed to know nothing about it when I asked him later that morning, I assumed I’d merely been dreaming.

Well, it turns out that I wasn’t.

“The analysis of more than one million births in Scotland over two decades found the risk of death for babies born out of hours, while small, was a third higher than for those born in the day… Those born between 0900 and 1700 on Monday to Friday were classified as being within normal working hours, all others as out-of-hours, the British Medical Journal reported.”

This is one of those times in which I simply don’t know what to do with the information I’ve been given.


Call Me Cynical, But…

I can’t help but think that the reason there’s a manhunt on for Raoul Moat is not because he’s attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, but because he killed a man and has threatened to kill police.

If he’d only threatened her – or even killed her –  do you really think anybody in the media would care? He’d be just another abusive misogynist (or, as we’re always told in these situations, “a nice guy really who nobody thought would ever do such a thing”), and she’d be just another expendable woman.


Shocking News: Tidying Not Fun

Oh, yes, indeed, I have a one-track mind. Did you know I went away for a week? This was delightful for many reasons – I got to see my family and friends, and I did a grand total of not much tidying at all.

Well, while I was away, J did some extra shifts. The day before I was due to get back, he had his first day off for 10 days. And (probably partly because I had pointed out that all hell would break loose if I came home to find that there was so much mess I couldn’t unpack) he spent a large portion of that day off cleaning.

That night, I called him to check in and see how his day had been. “Not great,” was the answer. He’d done everything he’d meant to do; the house was, if not spotless, then at least only acceptably grimy round the edges; he’d spent time playing his beloved computer games; he’d cooked a nice dinner for himself. “But I just feel… angry,” he told me. “I’m in the kitchen and it’s clean because I cleaned it and I should be pleased, but I’m not. I’m just grumpy, and I don’t know why.”

Now, I know that feeling. I know it well. That feeling of angry dissatisfaction after surveying all the work you’ve put into making the house nice, knowing that it’s only you that’s done anything? I think a lot of the people who read what I write would understand that feeling.

So. J has had his epiphany. He’s had one week of dealing with the kind of crap he and Flatmate pulled on me, and he’s been talking about making a cleaning rota ever since. Of course, he hasn’t actually made one yet. But you know what he has done? His share of the cleaning!


Better

Last time I posted, I was just about as dejected as I ever get. (This makes me feel extremely lucky, by the way, because the way I felt then – although grim – was nothing compared to the way I felt when my granddad died, and nothing at all compared to the way some people feel every single day.) But, you know, for somebody who’s not depressed or recently bereaved, I was pretty fucking sad. And angry, too. Don’t forget angry.

It turned out that what I’d decided to do, which boiled down to taking back my space in the flat, both literally and metaphorically, was exactly the right thing to do. I told J what I’m doing, and why, in a conversation in the pub that involved two big gin & tonics and a lot of arm-flailing. And I haven’t told Flatmate at all, because I can’t be arsed to deal with the conversation about self-esteem that will inevitably follow.

(Our house rules are a little unusual: [1] food is not a moral issue. [2] your actions do not reflect on your worth as a person. This means that nobody’s allowed to talk about foods being “good” or “bad”, because really, shut the fuck up. And while you can say “crap, I didn’t do the washing up. That wasn’t very good of me. Sorry.”, you can’t say “crap, I didn’t do the washing up. I am a terrible person.” Flatmate is basically ok with [1], but has difficulty with [2].)

I was full of unholy glee as I deliberately ignored the washing machine, J and Flatmate. It was incredibly relaxing to hear and see all of those things that would usually infuriate me being directed at people who weren’t me. And it helped, too, that I’d done a couple of days of paid work. That always makes me feel better, because at the moment I work in a warehouse full of cardboard boxes, which as we all know, are brilliant for taking out your frustration on.

What have I learned from this? Well, quite a lot, actually.

Firstly, I have to work this summer. If I don’t, bad things will happen. But I kind of knew that already.

Secondly, it turns out that the easiest way to get other people to modify their behaviour is to modify your own. Because, you know, I talked with both J and Flatmate on multiple occasions about the housework, my impending exams, and so on. But it’s easy to listen to requests that you change the way you’re behaving, and easier still to listen and then not change your annoying behaviours.

In my case, the behaviour that I modified was the way I was saying what I was saying. By asking, I was giving them the opportunity to ignore me. By telling them, I denied them that option. For instance, asking them to remember that I was studying for my exams and to be considerate of that – that’s easy to nod along to and then forget about. Telling them that because of my exams, I was studying on the desk, that I’d already had dinner and that they’d just have to work around me – that’s impossible to ignore. I was where I said I’d be, doing what I said I’d be doing, and completely ignoring them.

When I say it like this, it seems obvious. And there’s a big bit of me wondering why on earth I ever thought that just asking them to be nice would work. And an even bigger bit of me wondering how I ever managed to take over the clothes washing so comprehensively without any of us noticing. But then I start wandering into the kind of territory where I blame myself because the men I live with weren’t considerate of my stress, and didn’t think in any sensible way about how they could help with that. And that there, that’s not right.

So, I’m just not going to fret. I tried an approach that didn’t work; now I’ve found one that does. Hopefully it’ll start to become a habit for all of us, and then I won’t need to even think about it anymore. Well. I live in hope.


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