18 Aug 2013 Leave a comment
06 Jul 2013 2 Comments
23rd to 27th of June was apparently breastfeeding awareness week. This is the kind of information you become party to in the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. (which on my personal blog- I’m in!: http://eccentricseal.blogspot.co.uk) Some bloggers have used this as an opportunity to post about their own breastfeeding experiences- so I thought I’d have a go. A little late, but still….
Jimmy was born by cesarean section: a little scrap of life, just 4lb 2oz, whisked away from me before I could hold him. I was bouncing off the walls from morphine, and shaky from some really dramatic blood loss when I was asked for permission for the nurses to “just give him his first feed” of formula.
This I happily did, taking the “just” at face value. It wasn’t like that of course and Jimmy ended up spending a full 10 days on SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit).
He wasn’t even drinking formula in the end. He was so little that any kind of sustenance made his blood sugar jump about like a metronome in an earthquake. They fed him glucose through a drip in his arm. He was like a little humming bird.
Visiting your own baby in SCBU is awkward. It’s your child and you have the right to be there, of course. But you’re also hanging around someone else’s workplace. You are allowed to help care for him, but it feels a little like playing with dollies. Your presence is not exactly necessary.
On the other hand- being apart from your baby feels mildly but unmistakably wrong. The mildness decreasing with the amount of time spent away. For 10 days, I had the choice between sitting in a rather boring, overheated room feeling socially awkward; or sitting in the comfort of my own home feeling wrong.
On top of that the social services investigation was still on-going (the whole lengthy sage is detailed here http://eccentricseal.blogspot.co.uk for those that are interested) so I felt like my visits were being scrutinised. In retrospect they almost certainly were. I found myself doing things like unnecessarily bringing in little blankets from home, despite the perfectly adequate bedding he was already wrapped in- purely because bringing in blankets felt like something a loving mother might be expected to do.
So, Jimmy took glucose through his drip. Then he took milk through a tube in nose. Then finally milk by mouth. The milk by mouth bit was important because it was a condition of him being able to leave hospital.
There was a period where there was nothing medically wrong with him; he even known to be capable of sucking, because he’d been given a bottle for a night feed once. But he wasn’t allowed to come home because I’d said I wanted to breastfeed, and he hadn’t done that yet.
He wasn’t going to either- the way things were going. Jimmy’s feeds were scheduled for once every 4 hours. I was managing to make maybe 2 or 3 of them per day. I would hold him up to the breast and he would look up at me sweetly and… do nothing. He’d never been hungry in his life and I think sucking simply didn’t occur to him.
We would just sit there together until the nurses got bored of it and then Jimmy would have a feed through his tube and then I would put him down. I knew we were never going to get started with these few, regulated minutes of practice per day. But I was never going to get him home until we’d got started.
Now- I’m a person who’s cautious with her optimism. I like contingency plans. I like to scope out the worst option ahead of time and make my peace with it. So I’d already decided that if I couldn’t manage to breast feed, i wouldn’t let it bother me. In my opinion, people got altogether too invested in this kind of thing. They placed too much pressure on themselves and then allowed their own expectations to spoil their happiness. I wouldn’t be making the same mistake. If it worked out for me, fine. If not- I’d move on.
And this was not working out. It’s instinctual to want to be with your child. Everything in my being was telling me that he needed to be with me. Far, far more than he needed vitamins or immunity from diseases, or hormones or any of the other undoubted benefits of breast milk; he needed just to be with me.
And yet, and yet…
As I faced up to jettisoning the breastfeeding, I did worry. I wrung my hands over it. I even ended up phoning a very uninterested, childless friend for advice:
“You want to give your baby a bottle?” He asked nonplussed “What’s in the bottle? Is it Buckfast?”
Pro tip: Childless friends are great for perspective.
In the end, it didn’t come to that. My ceaseless lobbying for a place in Transitional Care finally won out.
Despite professional concerns that I would “Go mad with post puerperal psychosis” if I were placed there “too early,” I was finally given a private room where I could just hang out with my baby in peace and take 15 minutes fiddling about with the latch if we needed to. Which we frequently did.
We were there for a weekend and it turned out to be the most idyllic two days of my life. Jimmy fed like a trouper, and then slept happily. I read books and phoned friends and wrote discussion pieces on the acrimonious breakup of a far left group I was involved with at the time.
I had a huge sunny window and a comfy hospital bed and my baby sleeping beside me, smelling of sweetness and peace. I did not develop post puerperal psychosis. I was more deeply contented than I’ve ever been. Perhaps since I was a baby myself.
Jimmy is coming up to a year old now. He eats macaroni and bread crusts and cheese and chocolate cake. I’ve moved him onto formula during the day so I can return to work, but he still enjoys a good feed of breast milk first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
So my breastfeeding experience is a happy one and it all worked out.
But for me, breastfeeding was also, as I suspect it is for a lot of people; a quick and dirty lesson in compromise. In the necessity of doing, not the “best” thing for your child; but the best thing in the circumstances. The death of that exacting pressure we are encouraged to place on ourselves.
And for that, I am also grateful.
02 Apr 2013 5 Comments
I am sitting in the community centre on my estate, attending a meeting on the Bedroom Tax. 25 people have turned out. Not too bad for a weekday evening, but then these are worried people. A lot of them are looking at a 14% increase in on their rent. That’s £11, maybe £15 depending on the property. (1)
The bedroom only affects people on benefits. So everyone here is on the breadline anyway. There is no way anyone here has a spare £11 per week. This is food from their children’s mouths. Or from the electricity, which everyone pays by key meter and is off half the time already.
I’m here as a benefits advisor, in case any legal questions come up. The idea is that maybe I can answer them. And I can, but only to crush any residual hope that might be remaining.
There are very few loopholes in this one. From now on Housing Benefit will only cover one room for each couple, an extra room for any single adult and one room between every two kids. There’s a little bit of wiggle room for bereavement and a get out for foster parents, families of serving service people and (after a legal challenge by the Child Poverty Action Group) a recognition that severely disabled children may need a room to themselves. That’s it.
The bedroom tax is not completely new. Tenants in the private sector have had to deal with reductions in their housing benefit for “extra rooms” for a long time. But that only ever applied to new tenancies. People could plan ahead and avoid moving into houses that were too big under the rules. This is a massive cut to loads of peoples benefit, all in one go.
So, what to do if you find yourself with an “extra” bedroom?
You could try to transfer to a smaller place. Except there aren’t many. Council housing was built as family homes, for stable communities, back when governments cared about such things.
Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment? There’s a fund, but its small and thousands of others will be applying too. Move to private rented accommodation? In Glasgow the private sector is tiny and run by criminals, who; by the way, will be loving this.
Get a job to cover the shortfall? Yeah Right! 30% of Glasgow’s working age population are currently out of work (2) and most jobs available are casual or part time or both. Any money you did earn would be deducted from your benefits in any case. (3)
There’s only one possible conclusion, I can draw:
“The only answer to this is collective action”
It’s not lefty rhetoric, this time. There’s genuinely no other way through this. We have our backs against the wall.
I’ve recently read the Chartered Institute of Housing guidelines to Housing Associations and Local Authorities. (4) It’s interesting to pull back and see it from the landlord’s perspective.
Imagine for a minute that you the Chief Executive of a Council. (5)You have a whole load of housing at your disposal. You rent it out. Some tenants don’t have enough money to pay the rent. They claim housing Benefit and you recover the money from central government. You rely on this money to maintain the buildings and to provide services in your area.
So now central government has stopped paying the full cost of the rent and it’s effectively a cut to your council. Another cut. On top of the cuts you’ve had already.
And the government is telling you to make up the difference by taking money from the grocery budget of the very poorest people in the area?! It’s as crazy as it is vicious.
Look at it that way and it not just about immiserating benefits claimants. It’s also about destroying council housing and messing up council services.
So what to do? The CIH recommends “a programme of home visits for face to face conversations with tenants.”
Many people in my area have already experienced this. Some stranger, coming to their door and picking through their household budget, trying to find some little thing they could cut back on. Just try and imagine the humiliation of that for a minute?
But it blood out of a stone. The money isn’t there. So what to do instead? Evict 31% (6) of your tenants, and then process them all through the homeless persons unit?
No council or housing association can evict everyone who can’t or won’t pay and this is exactly why the bedroom tax can be defeated.
We go to the Anti- Bedroom Tax demo in town, me my husband and our baby boy. Someone’s brought along a piece of my own childhood. A banner reading “Paisley Anti Poll Tax Union” They must have kept it safe in a cupboard all these years. A timely reminder of what can be achieved if we all stick together.
We drive home from the demo and I’m thinking about the future as we pull into the estate. Some 930 households here are facing the bedroom tax. (7) Not me though. As a homeowner it’s not my problem.
Except; of course, that it is.
This is a lovely estate. The children play out in the street. At Halloween, we got through three boxes of mini cupcakes, with all the kids coming to our door. Nice polite kids in handmade costumes.
Some with their mothers, but most allowed out on their own. A world away from the intimidating atmosphere of my neighbourhood as a child.
I want my son to grow up here, amongst these people; to play out safely in the streets and to dress up and collect sweeties from the neighbours on Halloween.
I don’t want to see those same neighbours, harassed or evicted out of the neighbourhood. A stable community like this is one of the underappreciated benefits of a fair society. And its benefit for everyone; not just the poorest.
It couldn’t survive the forced migration that the bedroom tax is intended to impose. Its for this reason, more than any other that I oppose the bedroom tax.
I hope this article has given you some sense of why you should too.
(1) This is the figure for my estate. The national average is actually higher, £14 (from the National Housing Federation)
(3) Universal Credit (which replaces most other means tested benefits from October) actually has fairly generous income disregards. So after October raising the additional money might be more of an option for some people. Unfortunately Bedroom tax begins in April, allowing 6 months in which to accrue some really crippling rent arrears.
(5) Actually, in Glasgow, all council housing has been semi privatised and farmed out to housing associations. I’m just using a council as an example, to simplify the argument.
(7) Estimated based on national figures.
24 Oct 2012 3 Comments
Trigger Warning: This post discusses Sexual Assault
- Not having a policy.
- Ill defined Responsibilities
- Open/large meetings
- Not believing women who report a sexual assault
- Hearing “both sides”
- Letting everyone having their say
20 Aug 2012 Leave a comment
I’ve recently left work at the Citizens Advice Bureau to take maternity leave. My work is primarily in benefits advice and I am a huge benefits geek. It’s a combination of the intellectual exercise of manipulating regulations along with the pleasing sense of mastery over a system that appears all powerful and capricious when you are on the other end of it. I love it.
03 Apr 2012 1 Comment
It seems like this couple:
managed to get the internet up in arms after over their cultural appropriation of depression era poverty as their wedding theme.
This reminds me of something that happened when I was planning my own wedding.
Hampstead Heath is a beautiful big park in London, which I just adore. At the top of the park is Kenwood House, an old manor house which is now run as museum and restaurant.
Kenwood House is licensed to perform marriages and I loved the idea of having my wedding there. I could picture myself coming out of this big white building, family and friends around me and looking out over rolling parkland at all the families picnicking and the kids running around. I just thought it would be perfect.
Hiring a manor house does not come cheap but I was encouraged to see that they also do a reception package in the kitchen, which is a good sized room, and can be decorated in something called “shabby chic”: which seems to involve a lot of meadowy flowers in mismatched vintage milk jugs and oldie worldie style table cloths and doiles and so on.
Her own mother however (my grandmother), was “in service” from the age of 12 and clearly, the experience has cast a long enough shadow that the idea of celebrating anything “below stairs” still carries with it a sense of horror and shame. Even for the next generation. Even 70 years later. And yet this response had not, for a second occurred to me.