Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thorn in their side!

Brew of the day: Organic Peppermint Tea made from whole dried leaves and steeped in my late mother-in-law’s teapot! The aromatic difference between peppermint tea like this and the pre-packaged stuff in bags is almost incomparable. Delish!

This morning, my good intentions of getting up early to write Saturday Morning Cuppa, my weekly blog, were somewhat hampered by a string of comedic events …my womanly urges to be with my husband for a lazy Saturday morning in bed kept being interrupted. First, by the girls putting the cat in our bedroom to play pounce and scratch and to wake us up fully; then a call from a dear friend in New Zealand talking about matters close to my heart; and then the cat vomiting in the dining room. And then Bethany and Eliza opening our door to keep saying ‘goodbye’ before they went off looking for firewood!

It was the phone call which has prompted today’s blog. We’re both wombyn who feel it is part of our destiny to be a bit of a thorn in the side of convention. And it is an interesting thing, I find, that the further your thoughts are from the mainstream, the more painful your thorny habits can be!

I know I will always be a loose cannon in terms of speaking out against what people consider ‘normal’. Those who share similar views quite clearly find comfort there, whereas those for whom my thoughts are alien find my words abrasive to say the least. Abrasion is a funny thing. Sometimes it can clean away grime (the grime of mass consensus, for example) or it can just cause pain. The one thing that is becoming so clear to me, the older I get and the more of life I see, lies in the wise words of The Talmud: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

I saw this message so incredibly lucidly in the wake of the documentary on Extraordinary Breastfeeding. How incredible that people can have so many different reactions, and yet it is still the same set of events. Eg, some people find the scene of Dolores expressing breastmilk onto a teaspoon for her newly adopted daughter utterly repulsive, selfish and harmful. Many people, like myself, didn’t blink twice at it. It is something we would probably have done in the same circumstances. Some of the people who reacted negatively were, astonishingly, fellow breastfeeders. One can only hope that in time, the abrasion will wear away the thoughts that breastmilk shouldn’t be seen.

England went wobbling at the thought of a grown man having breastmilk to help his wife overcome a leaking milk supply. Again, many people have experienced the same situation. And yet, for the vast majority of people, it is ok for a man to suck on a woman’s breasts for sexual pleasure, but by gum, if he dares to help his wife get relief from engorgement, they considered it sick. Sick? Sorry, I’m lost on that one.

Many people were relieved that Sophie, the mother of two year old twins, abruptly weaned her babies. These same people felt it vital that Sophie’s husband was able to resume a sex life. As we saw from the glamour model on the Trisha Goddard Show, sexuality MUST come before nurturing our children. Well, it seems in the mainstream that that is the case. And yet many other mothers wrote to me deeply upset that the children were weaned like that.

Can you see? The people in the film haven’t changed. All the actions, in one sense, are neutral. It is our reaction, the lense through which we view life, that determines how we see life.

I made the ‘mistake’ of going onto a mainstream forum to see the views of mainstream Britain….a very scary world out there which considers itself ‘normal’. So glad I’m NOT part of it. One of the things that came up a few times was that people who’d seen me on Richard and Judy and discovered the girls were home-schooled and didn’t watch tv, were even more horrified by that, than by the fact they’d been breastfed so long! Seeing, in black and white, the mindset of so many narrow-minded and ignorant people who are happy to keep recycling their own prejudices, has made me so glad our children are NOT part of that world on a daily basis.

Despite all the ongoing education and media support of home education, people still assume it is socially crippling for children. I’ve marvelled at how often in the last couple of weeks Bethany and Eliza have said, more than once in a day, what a great day they were having. How often do school children say that? As for no tv, well, all I can say is that if you haven’t clicked on intuitively about its dangers and pitfalls, then read Set Free by Martin Large (Hawthorn Press). I have no aversion to kids watching a bit of tv, it is just that I firmly believe it needs to be strictly monitored rather than a plug -in -drug.


Recently, the US publisher of the Compleat Mother,, Jody McLaughlin, wrote an endorsement of The Mother in her editorial suggesting readers of her magazine might like to augment their maternal reading with TM. I was absolutely touched by her generosity of spirit. She has always been very supportive of my publishing venture and for this I’m so very grateful. I’ve long believed the world is big enough for everyone and their dreams and this makes her support even more invaluable for it would be very easy for the publisher of another natural parenting magazine to feel threatened. And yet, yesterday I was in a situation which would appear to be the complete opposite of what I’ve just said.

The editor of a magazine which touts itself as being a natural approach to parenting, contacted me yesterday to put an advert in The Mother. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with such a thing. However, in the past six months I’ve been inundated with people (men and women) complaining that the back page of that magazine has a full page advert for formula milk and the four babies in the photo are in disposable nappies ~ a complete contradiction of natural parenting. Apparently, in one issue, this advert ran while they had a large editorial on why to use cotton nappies!! It doesn't give any credit to the intelligence of their readers, in my honest opinion.

It just doesn’t strike me as being authentic when commercial greed turns people blind to their self-touted ethics. All publishers have to make money to stay in business. But at what price? I know I caused upset by my reply and no doubt my email will be winging its way around her circle of friends so they can all gasp at how ‘mean’ I am, but I will never compromise my principles, personally or professionally, to keep someone else happy or endorse their incongruency.

I can only hope that she has woken up today, perhaps a little brushed by abrasion, and has the courage to let go of that advert and re-honour the principles which she claims guide her magazine.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven

My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few,

my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned away,

diluted or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I will not give up, shut up, let up or slow down.

Author Unknown


Saturday, February 18, 2006

The TRASHY Trisha Goddard Show

Brew of the day!: Organic Hibiscus Tea...picked up from the Watermill, an organic, vegetarian tea room, one mile from here. I used to drink it in my childhood...delicious hot or cold.

What a strange week this has been! Oh boy. Steep learning curve. Most of you know that my family was involved in the filming of a documentary on full-term breastfeeding
The publicity around it was unlike anything Katie (the producer of the documentary) had ever experienced. For myself, it involved interviews with The Daily Mail (yuk and ouch); NOW magazine (not quite as painful, but not pleasant); Richard and Judy (they were absolutely lovely and I was treated like a princess from start to end before and after the show. How inspiring to meet people not affected by fame and money who still manage to be decent, fair and sincere)…and, of course, loads of other press covered it, in some cases just pinching the *fabricated* quotes from the Daily Mail. After an experience like that, you never quite read a newspaper the same way again ~ wondering if every line is total bullsh**.
Last week, the assistant producer of The Trisha Goddard Show, Grant, phoned me to ask about going on their show to talk about breastfeeding, specifically “extended breastfeeding”. (I’ve grown to really dislike that term as it implies those who allow their children to self-wean are doing something beyond what is natural.)
Now, not having a television makes me somewhat naïve when it comes to who is who and what is what in this country. All I knew about Trisha Goddard was that she used to present Play School on Australian Television. Play School is ‘good, educational’ tv for children (as much as children’s tv can be).

Nevertheless I asked a few friends about the show and if I should go on it. Cue: loud, hysterical reactions and the ringing of bright red bells!! “You mean THE Trisha? NO WAY!” “You’ve got to be joking!”

The comments got worse…the content being described as “I shagged my best friend’s gay goat…” I asked another trusted friend…whose friend coincidentally used to produce the show. “No, it is more like, ‘I breastfeed my grandmother’s hamster’” Ah well, nearer to the topic of choice then? J

OK…clearly I was going to say “no” when the assistant producer got back in touch with me. I gave him the above descriptions…to which he replied that it used to be like that but the production company, TownHouse TV, recently moved from ITV to Channel Five and their format is very different…that they’re broadening their topics and the show on breastfeeding is to be sensitively done. “Breastfeeding is an important issue,” Grant said, “we want to show it in a positive light.”
OK OK OK….I gain first prize for stupidity. I believed him. I asked him loads of questions, as any of my friends know, curiosity is my strongest ‘fault/quality’ with clear communication being compulsory on my life’s agenda.
I recommended three other mothers for the programme as they were keen to have a number of voices on stage with Trisha. I repeatedly asked Grant if they were having anyone on the programme anti-breastfeeding. He always said NO…He always said that they were in support of breastfeeding. After my Daily Mail experience, my radar should have been more switched on.
The Trisha Goddard Show, before and after, was a nightmare. The night before, as my family and I travelled down by train, Grant phoned to go through a series of questions - some related to the show, some not. Those that weren’t, included: Have you or anyone in your family ever contemplated suicide? (Sorry, it isn’t my place to speak for anyone else in my family) What is the worst loss you’ve ever experienced? (four miscarriages) What are the three worst experiences you’ve had in your life? (the year 2005) What do you want to change about yourself? (if there was something I wanted to change, I’d have done it)
He preceded these questions by saying that they had NOTHING to do with the show but was a way of Trisha getting to know a bit more about who we are as she wouldn’t have a chance to meet us before the show. Apparently she is on the board of MIND and other ‘psychological’ facilities. Very scary!
So I dutifully answer the questions as best I can…only to be told by Grant at the END that Trisha ‘may’ bring them up during the show! Is it me? Is there something wrong with me or does this reek of absolute dishonesty?

When we arrived at Teddington Studios (more like prison or a cattle coral!) we were stripped of three forms of ID until the end of the day. All our possessions were taken from us and we were kept with other people in a tiny room which had very minimal ventilation…no soap or towel for loo…and we had to ‘beg’ for lunch despite having been promised the day before that lunch would be ‘served’ at the studios.
Do these people not have any concept of what it is like to travel from the other end of the country with young children? I had assumed the girls would stay in the ‘room’ with the other children and their friends’ dads but no, ‘studio rules and regulations’ meant they had to go to the Studio Crèche. Major heart sink. The girls had never been in a crèche. For four hours those girls were stuck in there…TV blaring, babies plugged in to plastic (well, their mums had silicon in their boobs!!) floor covered in hideous, florescent plastic toys. Bethany, at almost ten, was beside herself. The room had no ventilation, no windows and was far too small for the number of children and adults in the room. Personally, I’d have thought it highly illegal and the space/number of children ratio needs looking into. A security guard had to accompany them to the loo. I felt I betrayed my children enormously. I expected they’d be there for an hour while we were filming, NOT four hours. After the filming, however, we weren’t ‘allowed’ to go to them as there were no *spare* security staff to take us down one floor! Un-bloody-believable.
Bethany said that one of the crèche workers kept asking her lots of personal questions and she felt uncomfortable.
Creche worker: Why were you breastfed?
Bethany: It is bad to take milk from calves because it was meant for the calf and not for humans. Breast milk tastes nice and it was my choice and my mum and dad’s choice for me to breast feed.
Creche Worker: Why were you taking milk from your mother?
Bethany: Because it was designed for me and my sister Eliza.

So, just before the show were another two major shocks to my system. One was that, after being told Holly, Tish, Paul and I would be on stage to talk about extended breastfeeding, we were informed that they’d *developed* the show and only Tish would be on stage. Holly and I were to be ‘planted’ in the audience and instead they were having two ‘glamour’ models who had never breastfed (NOT easy with plastic tits) to give their point of view…oh, and one glamour model who had breastfed (for 3 months). The three of them could barely construct a sentence between them let alone any resemblance of an intelligent argument.

To say I was rope-able was an understatement. Liz, the producer, grew to really hate me, me thinks! J I guess she is not used to people questioning her.
“I gave up two days of work to sit in the audience while you let women who know NOTHING about breastfeeding get to trash the topic? This is *development*? And why weren’t we kept informed?” Grant went red. “If this was a development, why weren’t we kept informed?” I demanded to know. He meekly said it happened so quickly. “Bullsh**. You can’t gather up three new people in the space of a couple of hours. They’d have known days before.”
The other thing I noticed was that his Producer Notes had a statement on top which read: I ENJOY BREASTFEEDING MY EIGHT YEAR OLD
“That statement better not be about me!” I hissed (wasn’t a happy chappy by this time). The Carlisle newspaper, the News and Star, had stuck me on the front cover of their Saturday edition with a similar heading…despite me saying she’d never breastfed at eight, AND declining an interview, stating that we couldn’t go shopping without people noticing us (pointing, whispering, breaking their rubber necks) and we really wanted as much local anonymity as is possible after being seen on TV by 3.9 million people! J

Grant said it wasn’t about me. Who is it then? He left the room without answering. When Liz, the producer came back I asked her. She said it was Tish. My jaw fell to the ground. I don’t remember ever being so gob-smacked in my life. I’ve known Tish for a few years. GIRLS TALK. They KNOW things about each other! They know all sorts of intimate details.
Holly’s jaw fell to the ground. Tish is Holly’s best friend. Our *shock* wasn’t because we didn’t know she breastfed her eight year old daughter Lexie, but because we KNEW that she didn’t! We knew with 100% certainty. We’d have bet our life on it. They’d kept Tish in a separate Cattle Coral to us and were totally stitching her up. We were certain that she knew nothing of what was about to happen. And we were right. There was nothing we could do to get word to her.
Liz kept saying (arrogantly, I might add) that she’d been producing shows for years. She knew what she was doing…and that this show was a different format, not confrontational (my arse!) and that she had experience in doing this.
Just before recording, contracts were waved in front of our faces….sign, sign, sign. One of those hideous, small-print full of legal jargon type forms…
Liz briefly said it meant they had rights to show the programme for the next seven years around the world. And that we couldn’t take part in another daytime tv show or news show on this topic for the next six months! Rather like handcuffs and a sock in the mouth for someone whose profession involves talking to the media on this topic. So I scrubbed out the media blanket fully before signing. They didn’t have the decency to give us copies of the contract.
She had me miked so I could ‘yell’ out from the audience. They knew all along they wanted me in a position which would be akin to having my hands tied.
The whole set up was immoral, unethical and completely lacked integrity,

For whatever reason, they have a certain agenda and they turn a blind eye to what it is like for participants in their shows when their expectations are not delivered. They are less than truthful (actually, deliberately lying) about what is happening or going to happen at any given time. There was NO interest in getting to any truth about the issue of breastfeeding. Intelligent discussion was NOT encouraged. Indeed, it was discouraged and avoided and the object would appear to have been to get a reaction from the studio audience by making it as sensational as possible! It is a disservice to the people taking part, to the studio audience and to the people watching at home - although not all those people might realise it, because they tend to enjoy having their prejudices reinforced rather than challenged. Trisha asked me about five questions at once and then walked off not even having the decency to let me answer any of them. Now, why would that be? Because she KNEW that I had all the answers…scientific, anthropological and psychological. She KNEW I had evidence and studies/research to back up everything I said. It would make a mockery of her whole show to have ANY intelligence and facts disseminated.

When one of the topless models got her chance to speak all she could say was how unnatural breastfeeding was. Clearly she hadn’t learnt about mammals in school. Breasts were purely for sex…and how disgusting to have a baby take milk from them.
Yes, truly a sensitive, educational show!!
I must say, Tish looked fantastic and far more glamorous, gorgeous and beautiful that the three ‘glamour’ models combined. That’s what natural living and passion does for a girl! You go, syster! I was so proud of you. You can find out more about Tish here: She also has an article in the upcoming Spring Issue (no. 17) of The Mother on how we can live and raise our children to live more natural, inspired lives.

One of my biggest disappointments was the resident ‘expert’ on the Trisha Show. To be honest, not having ever watched the show, I wasn’t sure if she was a doctor or psychologist. What I do know, is that she knew next to nothing on breastfeeding. She didn’t know about the content of breast-milk or how it develops the brain. She didn’t know that the biological need/expectation for full-term breastfeeding occurs regardless of the cultural norm and she certainly had no idea that humans are a continuous contact species! Her belief was that toddlers should be separated from their mums to make them strong and independent. Could someone lend her a William Sears or Stephen Biddulph book or the Continuum Concept as a matter of urgency!

After the show, when I questioned Liz as to how this woman can be considered an expert in breastfeeding, she replied that this woman counsels breastfeeding women. SCARY!!! Her own child was weaned at seven months. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age, as anything less increases the likelihood of illness. The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding well into and beyond the second year of life. So how does a woman who weaned a child at seven months of age, get to be an expert?
When Grant had gone on and on about it being a sensitive show about breastfeeding he said that there would be many mothers from the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers in the audience. LIE! I saw the hands go up before the show when they were asked who had breastfed. VERY FEW people in the audience had ever breastfed.

After the show, I asked Liz ‘where were all the ABM mothers?’ Her blank face said it all. I said it again, stating that Grant promised there would be ABM mums in the audience. Her reply was that if they wanted to be there they would have been.
There is no excuse for such dishonesty. I felt the whole ethos was about manipulation rather than ‘conflict resolution’.
What really concerns me is that I’m a very confident, self-assured person and this show has really helped me to nibble my finger nails right down. This is mostly as a result that I hate, more than anything, dishonesty and miscommunication of any description.
What happens for the hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who go onto this show who don’t have any semblance of self-esteem or confidence. What does it do to them? I’ll bet the resident Trisha counsellor isn’t giving them ongoing support!

So, I’ve done the trashy tabloid newspaper, trashy tabloid magazine, trashy tabloid TV…that’s it folks!! Lesson learnt. Tabloid = no integrity. This is territory I will never venture into again.

My comfort comes from the fact that I’m still being inundated with lovely cards and letters regarding the documentary and my article: . I know that I’ll never (in this lifetime) be able to inspire women like the ones on the show who find breastfeeding unnatural. That so many women who are breastfeeding children two years and over have written to say how delighted they are to know they can continue, has made doing the documentary and appearing on Richard and Judy, more than worthwhile.

See you next Saturday!