Sunday, 29 August 2010

Being Female

Our baby is 11 weeks old! We have been to visit the grandparents AGAIN this weekend, a flying visit but they were insistent and I know it will be quite a while before we can see them again. The visit did incorporate Miri's first swim however. I armed myself with waterproof nappies and mentally prepared for Miranda to scream the place down. But she didn't! She was very well behaved; a little unsure at first but certainly happy to try and she kicked her legs about enthusiastically enough that we took her again the next day. Actually I think she just liked the excuse to rid herself of her clothes and nappy, she does love being naked!

As usual, she got admired wherever she went but fortunately no-one thought she was a boy this time - possibly because she was wearing the little purple dress I got her in Guatemala. I was ranting on Facebook the other day about this and sparked a bit of a debate. It annoys me that people assume that Miri is a boy, not because I have any objection to her being masculine in character if that is the way she turns out, but because I know that assumption is based solely on my refusal to dress her in pink, and preference for comfy, practical baby trousers. The lack of pink isn't even a feminist statement, I just can't stand the colour. But people see her wearing baby jeans or black t-shirts and ask "how old is he?" This winds me up no end.

I have even been advised to put a ribbon in her hair "just so you know". Now, which is more infuriating, the fact that ribbons in hair must denote gender, or the idea that babies MUST be seen to be one gender or the other? She is 11 weeks old! Surely we shouldn't be inflicting constructed social dichotomies on her just yet? I don't think of her as being feminine yet, or masculine for that matter. She's just my baby, and she's beautiful. And until she can choose her own clothes, she can wear what I think is cute, which is predominantly purple and black. Her gender isn't really part of her personality yet. Of course, her name gives it away, but really that is a social norm that it would be too cruel to break. A little girl going off to school named Donald or Keith or something will be teased even more than if she were called Ophelia or Esperanza or any of the other names I loved but we decided were to weird to inflict on her.

A comfy baby, with pink socks on "just so you know"!

I don't wear pink, and I rarely wear dresses, I do wear giant boots though and I am very tall, and yet few mistake me for a bloke. (I did however once convince people I was a very passable transvestite, just so I could use the men's loo in a oub and avoid the queue...but that is a different story!!). Pre-pregnancy, I didn't even feel very female, although I have never been sure exactly what that is supposed to feel like anyway. I did a project for a gender studies class years ago about transexualism and gender identities. One friend in an interview put her views very succinctly: "I am Me, my body is female. That's about it.". I almost subscribe to that view myself although I am dimly aware that it is never that simple.

At the moment, I am feeling more female than I ever have, and it's all to do with being Mum. Ooo and now I can hear my more feminist friends howling in the background.... Miri's Uncle Ol already accuses me of being anti-feminist, I am never quite sure where he gets that impression from. I am not anti-feminist; most of the time I am just apathetic to the whole issue because it's never been an issue in my life. Selfish, I know, but there we go. Now, though, it throws up a whole new set of dillemmas. I am suddenly feeling Female, because I am a mother and I am breastfeeding my child, which is something you have to be a woman to do and really understand. And I really, really love it. According to some branches of feminist argument though, it is breastfeeding and child-rearing that 'holds women back' and is used as a justification of female oppression. Instead, I should be striving at least for equality (read: getting Carl to share half of the Miri-minding - which I have no problem with if it wasn't for more pragmatic things like the fact Carl has a job and I don't)  - if not matriarchal dominance. And feeding her would obviously have to be done with formula milk and a bottle, thus 'empowering' mother to go back to work, of course....

Caca del toro!

This is another idea that annoys me intensely. I can't think of anything more empowering than being indispensible to your child, able to provide her with everything she needs, adapting as she grows, for free and on demand, particularly when men are incapable of doing the same! If that does not fit in to the routine of the (male-dominated) workplace, then it is the workplace that needs changing. Or better still, I'll just invent myself a job that I can take Miranda along to!
"If a multnational company developed a product that was a nutritionally balanced and delicious food, a wonder drug that both prevented and treated disease, cost nothing to produce and could be delivered in quantities controlled by consumers' needs, the annoucement of this find would send its shares rocketing to the top of the stock market. The scientists who developed the product would win prizes and the wealth of everyone involved would increase dramatically. Women have been producing such a miraculous substance, breastmilk, since the beginning of human existence, yet they form the least wealthy and least powerful half of humanity."
(from "The Politics of Breastfeeding" by Gabrielle Palmer.)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Family

Cute Little Things on the Line!
Miranda is 10 weeks old now! Unbelievable. She is now sleeping through the night, (almost!), has full control of her neck, has grown out of all her newborn clothes and best of all, she has started smiling, gurgling and giggling! She is soooo beautiful and I love it when she starts talking to me in Miri-speak. She is also capable of registering her disgust when necessary:
"We are not amused."
I haven't updated this blog for a while because everything has been completely hectic for the past few weeks. We dared to Go Out without her once; it was our eleventh anniversary and we left Miri in the capable hands of Auntie Jo and Uncle Graeme. I armed them with the Miranda Dictionary (see below) and they did a great job - and I resisted the urge to ring them every five minutes to check on her! Mum asked the other day if all my friends are going to be Honorary Aunts and Uncles. I still have Honourary Auntie Cathy - Mum's best friend, so I see no reason why not. Sadly Miranda will have no aunts or uncles on my side of the family, although Mum and one other friend with a good memory have commented on the fact that Miri, on occasion, looks a little bit like Uncle Rohan. Something about the gumpy grin, and her expression sometimes. I don't know if mine are genuine memories of how Rohan looked, or whether my imagination and wishful thinking are filling in the gaps... Despite my sad lack of siblings now though,  I have a lot of wonderful friends who I hope will be around to see her grow up. I've been Auntie Bel to little Ione since she was born so I'll return the favour!

At five weeks old, I had to take Miri to the photographers to get her passport photo done. Yep, even tiny babies are now expected to have their own passports, complete with straight-on-white-background-eyes-open-head-shot-photograph. It's hard enough getting the photo right in the first place, but I pity the customs people who have to tell the difference between month-old babies. Even more stupidly, she'll have this passport until she is five years old. She doesn't look the same a month later, let alone four years later....

Anyway, Miri has to have a passport so we can go to South Africa to show her off to her only real aunt, Carl's sister, and her paternal grandad in Johannesburg. Carl has a neice who also has two children and one more on the way - these are the nearest Miranda has to cousins. So even more reason to appoint friends as adopted family - my friends are people she will actually see regularly! Even so, I am really looking forward to Miri's first adventure abroad, seeing the in-laws again, and meeting my latest great-nephew!

Speaking of cousins though, my second cousin is most definitely Uncle Ol. He has a very very distant blood-relationship to Miri, but no matter how tentative the connection, he seems to absolutely adore her. It's really sweet, and this makes me smile a lot. I love my baby being admired! :) Ol came up last week under guise of helping me out with our Doctor Coffee stall - but really just to see Miranda, obviously. Miri is a fantastic advert for the business; so many people come up to see the cute baby and we waved coffee under their nose appropriately.
"I said I wanted a skinny three-shot caramelatte you fool!"
She is sitting on Granny's knee in that photo. The (grand-)parents came up for a few days last week as well, complaining that they hadn't seen Miranda in over a month! Could well be because they live 200 miles away.... Anyway, it was good to see them and of course they spoiled Miri rotten. It was difficult to prize her away from them; Dad must have taken hundreds of photos, Mum wouldn't let me push the pushchair at all the entire time they were up, and they even moaned when she was asleep! If it wasn't for the fact they couldn't feed her, I don't think we would have got her back at all, she would have been kidnapped and taken to the Welsh wilderness forever more.
Saltburn pier- one of the rare occasions I was allowed to hold my own daughter
 It does concern me that I am morphing in to my Mother, as the above photo demonstrates. Miranda's future will probably be decided pear-shaped! Having my parents around is reassuring in a strange way. Being Their Daughter makes me feel more like Me - I am used to that role. Being Miranda's Mummy is still a very new and unnerving concept. I've got to be All Growed Up, responsible, an Adult. I don't feel like it sometimes. It is all so scary still. I am so careful of Miranda, I just want to protect her from everything and I honestly couldn't bear it if anything hurt her! It's entirely irrational I know, but I just feel completely over-protective of her and at the same time, completely incapable and unprepared.

However, it is comforting that she seems to be such a happy little soul. The grins and the beginnings of little giggles make my heart melt. It is not just me and Carl now, we've gone from being a couple to being a family, and I think we're doing pretty well at it so far!
Our beautiful, happy little girl

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BabyBel

BabyBel
Nothing to do with the small pieces of Edam of the same name

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