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On not being a mother

“Do you have any kids?” The question was barked at me one summer a few years ago. I was at a busy city intersection when I was trying to rush from one job to another and was blocked by a woman ostensibly handing out fast food coupons. It was a pretty insensitive and a loaded thing to ask a stranger. The streetlight couldn’t change fast enough.

“Well, I feel sorry for you,” she finally literally sneered at me.

Um, what?

From mothers vocalizing regret about having children, to articles scolding women and warning them that their life will be empty and lonely if they don’t embrace parenthood, there is a lot of focus on motherhood and those who opt out.

This past Mother’s Day a meme circulated with a message I found very touching, unexpected, and meaningful. Under cartoon bouquets of flowers there were captions describing different aspects of motherhood, and one bouquet was dedicated to women who have chosen not to be mothers.

I have never wanted children. Like at all. Not ever with absolute certainty. In my 30s I questioned this for the first time. It was the sudden loud and very real biological clock that started ticking when I met my niece Grace that caused the questioning to start.

I watched awed as she examined her tiny little feet and hands. I felt fulfilled and needed in a way I’ve never felt before when I gently patted her little back, helping her to burp.

I was suddenly putting myself through agony trying to get my life ready, trying to figure out if parenthood was something I truly wanted.

I was happy babysitting my niece. I’m happy being an aunt to my other nieces and nephews. Grace was born at a difficult time in my life and being happy about her birth didn’t have to translate into me being a mother.

People are well-meaning. They ask me to picture how sad my life will be in the future without children to visit me when I’m old.  They remind me it’s a life altering experience, and that  I’m missing out on so much, that I can’t even imagine what I’m giving up. They remind me gently that it’s not too late.

There is still time for me, technically, but the window is rapidly closing.

I don’t want to have to second guess a decision that I and my partner finally made together. If we ever change our minds in the future, there’s always adoption, or foster parenting.

Privately or publicly it seems women are expected to justify their decisions for not having children.

Am I doomed to be an incomplete person?  Am I selfish? Am I letting down the human race in some way?

I don’t think so.

Some people just know they want children. Maybe they’ve always known, but can’t explain why, and no one must expect them to. So likewise, no one must expect women who don’t want children to explain themselves either.

 

 

 

 

Making time for you: The value of ‘me time’ and the sanity saver that is girls’ night out

This past weekend my friends and I had a girls’ night. It wasn’t anything wild, just a fancy dinner out on the town, sans kids. Every time we do this (which is never often enough) we promise to make it a regular occurrence – once a month is the goal. Of course, that never comes to fruition.

After each girls’ night, I always feel rejuvenated; and I’m not the only one to notice my improved mood. My husband, kids, and probably even the pup notice as well. My friends say the same thing, and it’s really no surprise why-hanging out with friends, good conversation, a fancy meal that you don’t have to cook or clean up after, and getting to eat while the food is still hot – it’s a dream scenario when you’re a mom.

So, why don’t we make this a priority?

There are a myriad of reasons to not make or keep plans with friends: one of the kid’s is sick, there’s too much to do around the house, the family wants to go on an outing and you don’t know if you’ll be back in time.

Not to mention that it really is hard to get out. One of us may have to stay late at the office, another has a deadline to meet but can’t get it done until the kids are in bed. Some of our husbands do shift work, so coordinating schedules between the group or even just between two or three of us can seem like an insurmountable task.

Then you need to be “in the mood”. I’m exhausted at the end of the week and usually want nothing more than my pajamas, a movie and a glass of wine as my big Friday and Saturday night plans.

There is also the fact that most of us see each other regularly anyway because our kids happen to be friends, we live close by, and are frequently meeting up outside, going for brunch or having play-dates.

The difference is, that kind of socializing isn’t about us – or at least not just about us. In these scenarios we’re wrangling kids, playing referee or constantly being interrupted. It is not relaxing. No conversation is ever completed. And if you’re the one hosting, you can pretty much expect to be cleaning up and re-organizing all the toys for the rest of the week.

We are better people, mothers, wives, workers and friends when we nurture our own needs. This includes taking care of both our physical and mental well-being. Go for that run, get a pedicure, or indulge in a luxurious bubble bath and truly take time for you. Schedule “me time” into your calendar. By making this a priority, will increase your happiness and decrease your stress and give you a needed boost of energy to take on the challenges and demands of motherhood.

Moms – and women in general – have the tendency to put others before themselves. We will arrange play dates, play taxi driver to and from activities, help with homework, cook multiple meals to meet everyone’s tastes, but we won’t stop to carve out time for ourselves. That is a big problem.

This is why girls’ night is different. It is about us. We can talk, confide, commiserate, joke, and brag all we want. We get dressed up, we feel good, and the effects are long-lasting. If you’re a mom who hasn’t made her own friendships a priority, you surely know what I’m talking about.

Let’s try to do better; foster our own friendships, make socializing a part of our routine. As a mom, you need to have a social life outside of your kids’ activities, and one that doesn’t always involve the whole family. I know it clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed, confident and ready to take on any challenge that lays ahead.

 

‘The Vagina Coach’ on pre- and post-pregnancy

Kim Vopni is known as the “The Vagina Coach”, and is a passionate promoter of female pelvic health in pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.  Pregnancy is an especially important time to pay attention to the pelvic floor because it can make the pregnancy more comfortable, the birth easier and the return to full function more likely.
Vopni is especially passionate about helping women prepare for and recover from pregnancy and birth, while aiding in the process of getting back into shape after the fact. She is a certified personal trainer and a pre/post natal fitness consultant.
 The Vancouver resident understands the importance of pelvic health care and how it can improve and reclaim your fitness level. Vopni’s mission is to help pregnant women have an easier birth and get back into a fitness regimen.
While growing up, Vopni was afraid of birth and never thought she would have children.  “I saw a childbirth video in grade six sex ed. that scared me, and my mother told me about her birth experiences and the resulting challenges she had,” Vopni said. “In 2002, that all changed when I watched my sister-in-law give birth. My vision of what birth was all about changed and it empowered me. The following year, I was pregnant and my research led me to a pelvic floor biofeedback product that helps you prepare for birth.”
Your pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue that are interwoven within the pelvis. The product helps mimic the sensations your pelvic floor will face. An inflatable silicone balloon is inserted into the vagina and guided by a pressure gauge, the user can see when they contract and relax their pelvic floor and they can also familiarize themselves with stretch and what they need to do to yield to that discomfort. The user trains their pelvic floor to respond appropriately during birth
 
“I bought one and had an amazing experience! I decided more women needed to know about this so I became a distributor for that product. That was my introduction to the world of pelvic health and I have never looked back!”
In 2009, she created a workshop called Prepare to Push for pregnant women that was all about preparing for birth and preventing or minimizing the issues many women think are normal after having a baby. These include birth position practice, exercise, pelvic floor release work, restorative exercise to ease back pain, eliminate incontinence, and regain control of your bladder.
“It started as a workshop and is now individual consultations, an e-Course and a book! I use the fitness principle of specificity to prepare the body for birth by mimicking labour and delivery as closely as possible during training. The benefits are a stronger core for delivery, a mind-body connection to the pelvic floor so that women know how to let go of tension when it comes time to give birth, increased confidence and a better recovery.”
Vopni says that runners should make informed choices about their training once pregnant.
  “While running in pregnancy is safe for baby, it places additional strain on the core and pelvic floor,  I recommend scaling back in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and using the elliptical or better yet, get outside and walk up some hills or stairs.  It’s great cardio, low impact and the core and pelvic floor are better able to manage the loads.”
 As for returning to running postpartum, a pelvic floor physiotherapist should be the one to give you the ‘green light’ to go back.  Wait around four to six months postpartum, provided intentional and deliberate core retraining has taken place first.

For more information about her book Prepare To Push™ – What Your Pelvic Floor andAbdomen Want You to Know about Pregnancy and Birth and her program, go to www.preparetopush.com

‘It’s what ladies do’, New Zealand PM mic-drop

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday she was pregnant!

She made the announcement on live television while being grilled by reporters about her intention to remain in her position. One reporter even asked how she managed to set up a government while experiencing morning sickness. Ardern’s response? “It’s what ladies do.”

Insert mic-drop here.

Ardern’s husband will be acting as a stay at home dad after the birth of her first child. She went on to tell the press that women get pregnant while they are working all the time, and this is no different. Her off-the-shoulder behaviour towards this news is refreshing. The questions from the reporters — not so much?

A woman’s capability to do her job has nothing to do with whether or not she is pregnant, or a mother.  To ask the question makes that correlation. In a Facebook post, Ardern makes it clear she knows more questions about her pregnancy will be coming.

Instead of asking how she is going to run a government or country, why not simply just offer your congratulations!

 

Nova Scotia joins other provinces in Canada offering free abortion pill

The government of Nova Scotia joins the rest of Canada in offering free abortion pills to women who require it. They will also no longer require a doctor’s referral to book a surgical abortion at the Termination of Pregnancy Unit (TPU), Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. In the next few months, the Nova Scotia Health Authority will also be setting up a phone line so women can call and make appointments.

Nova Scotia was the only province to require a doctor’s referral for a surgical abortion.

Very slowly, provinces throughout Canada have pledge to publicly fund Mifegymiso, an abortion pill that will terminate pregnancy up to 49 days from the start of a woman’s last menstrual period. Mifegymiso is a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, and is considered an easy and safe alternative to surgery.

A prescription from a doctor will still be required to get Mifegymiso from the pharmacy. The doctor must do an ultrasound to determine if there are any health risks; however, those women will be given “same day and urgent care” access to an ultrasound, meaning they don’t have to wait a few weeks in order to perform the tests.

The drug itself can cost up to $350, making it a significant barrier for women. That’s why universal coverage of the Mifegymiso is such an important development — no longer should women have to wait until they are eight weeks pregnant to get a surgical abortion. They now have much more control over their reproductive rights.

“We’re supporting more choice for women when it comes to their reproductive health,” said Kelly Regan, Minister responsible for the Status of Women, said in a statement. “This will ensure all Nova Scotia women have access to this option.”

The government estimates the cost of covering Mifegymiso will be between $175,000 and $200,000 per year; although women will be encouraged to use private insurance coverage first.

Alberta announced their intention to cover Mifegymiso in July, with Ontario following suit in August.

The last barrier to women’s control over their reproductive rights is free access to birth control.

 

Australian politician breastfeeds newborn in Senate – and resigns

Back in May, Australian politician Larissa Waters breastfeed her newborn baby on the floor of the Senate — while she presented a motion to her colleagues!

Technically, politicians in Australia have been allowed to breastfeed in the Senate since 2003; however, no one has taken advantage of this rule, most likely due to the stigma associated with showing your breast in public. Just last year, at Waters’ urging, Parliament changed their rules to allow breastfeeding in their chamber. Parliament also altered laws that allowed mothers or fathers to enter the Senate to help take care of their children while their partners attended to their public duties.

Of course, after video of Waters presenting her motion while breastfeeding went viral (for good reason), there was plenty of criticism. Many people thought it wasn’t polite or respectful for Waters to be feeding her child while in Parliament. Someone actually compared the act to urinating in the Chambers!

Women’s Post won’t go into the different ridiculous and misogynist reasons these critics gave to try and dissuade Waters from breastfeeding while at work. Instead, our staff would like to commend this courageous politician for proving that women shouldn’t be discriminated against for simply having motherly responsibilities.

Waters, unfortunately, was forced to resign from her position earlier this week amid a discovery that she was actually a dual national. Apparently, Waters was born in Winnipeg to Australian parents and despite the fact that she has never lived in this country or applied for Canadian citizenship, she is still considered Canadian. Australia’s constitution says that a “citizen of a foreign power” cannot be voted a representative at Parliament, so she was forced to step back from her position.

Australia should lament. They are losing a great politician and champion of women’s rights.

While this is an absolute shame, I’m sure many Canadians are proud they can call this woman a sister. She is a role model for women who want to get into politics, but may share a fear surrounding the time commitment and the challenges of balancing motherhood and public service. It’s the little things like this that may persuade women to enter into politics.

Either way, let’s hope Waters’ actions encourage other female politicians to break the stigma and breastfeed on the floor of Parliament.

 

What do you think of Waters’ breastfeeding in the Senate chambers? Let us know in the comments below!