Posted on August 4, 2014
0 people commented on this
It's week two of motherhood month... and we're delighted that spoken wordsmith Hollie McNish has written us a poem. You may remember her from another poem she wrote about breastfeeding, which took the internet by storm last year. Here, she talks about the recent scheme of paying mothers in deprived areas to breastfeed, as well evoking beautifully the frustration and awkwardness that comes with breastfeeding and new motherhood. (And don't forget to check out our #WISPchat on the topic of so-called 'breastfeeding bribes').
Google images of breastfeeding
Pick up magazines and parent books
And the mothers and the babies seem to have the one same photo shoot
Beautiful, angelic, blue veins photoshopped from boobs it seems
A house that looks like the stylist was from Country Living Magazine
A tidy room.
Expensive rocking chair.
White shirt, white vest top,
Long blonde hair
White cushions propped on bed or sofa
28 or maybe older
Mother smiles down lovingly
She’s pretty. Light skinned, generally
Alone and close with looks of glee.
Baby latched on properly.
It’s the best thing you can do.
For the baby and for you.
In calm lit rooms in clean white clothes
Skin on skin. Fed and soothed.
And I’m not saying that this can’t be true.
Or that I don’t think boobs are god
Or that I didn’t love those moments
I’m just tired of these shots
These photo shots, this photoshopped
Where no-one moves and no-one sobs
And I’m tired of never seeing that
Cos I can’t afford those rocking chairs and there’s no space in our flat.
And I longed for a feeding chair and not an aching back
And most days that I was feeding I did not look like that.
I looked like crap!
Where are the babies with cradle cap?
Where are the stains on the mother's clothes?
Where is the sick on their shoulder?
Why is she always happy she’s alone?
Where are the visitors or friends around?
Why does she never have to leave her house?
Where is the baby screaming out for more?
Why is no-one ever tired or sore?
As bloodshot red eyes stare to space
Cos she’s been up all night and up all day
As she tries to work out why her baby’s crying once again.
Where are the real things that we think about?
Staying inside, scared to go to town?
Worried baby will cry or be sick or shout out
When she’s out and about,
Worried where she might feed.
And there are never any photos of nipples that bleed.
Cracked swollen and sore
Mastitis and cramping
Babies trying to latch on but nothing is happening
Where are those moments when not everything’s happy?
Where are the moments of guilt, anger and panicking?
Are we not allowed to talk about those?
So when I hear the word ‘clothes’
Free clothes for free feeders!
I wonder the affect if would have on those bleeders,
Those mastitis mothers I know
Or the mother’s of pre-terms
Or those worried about breasts
Or the issues of feeding
Or the reaction of friends
Or not having support
Or the job they ought to go back to quite soon
Or the partner who says that those are his boobs
Or those who feel strange about breastfeeding too
Or the ones who have tried and don’t know what to do
Or that ones that don’t want to for so many reasons
I think we should talk about those.
But instead we give vouchers for clothes.
Instead we give vouchers for clothes.
£200 vouchers for clothes
“To make breastfeeding normal”
“To give incentive to those
who don’t want to feed and who need to be bribed”
“To tackle the breastfeeding social divide”
“To tackle the economic reasons”
But if the reason was cash, everyone would be breastfeeding
Cos it’s free.
And if you want to support parents, spend the money on supporting them
Or if you really want to bribe me,
I can think of better things to spend it on than clothes.
I’d suggest some
Free sleep vouchers
Hot cup of tea vouchers
Hold your baby and allow you five minutes to breathe vouchers
Put up your feet vouchers
Nipple leak vouchers
Hold the baby so I can go for a wee vouchers
Adult talk vouchers
When you’re bored vouchers
Cabbage leaves vouchers
Help me please vouchers!
Don’t tell me to leave the hospital without making sure I can feed vouchers.
Paternity or Grandparent leave vouchers
So someone can hold her and I can go sleep vouchers
Or scream vouchers
When someone harasses me in town when I feed vouchers
A locked room
Just to weep vouchers
I just want to sleep vouchers
But I could feed vouchers
And it was lovely
I could feed vouchers.
It was so cheap vouchers
Still hard and tiring and draining
for me vouchers
But I could feed
My nipples didn't bleed vouchers
My baby didn’t bite.
I had a partner and a mum to help me overcome the waking nights.
I had people there to take my baby so I could have a nap
I had no complications with a kid who couldn’t latch.
I found it hard but nothing bad
So give me my clothes vouchers
And bugger all my friends who did not do that
So give me my clothes vouchers
And bugger all the mums who do not do that
Just cos they apparently didn’t give a shit.
About their kid.
But would have done it fine and easy with a quick 200 quid
Especially those from Northern parts
Or those who bank account is not as big
But just a little question before I go and spend all of this...
Will you come and help me on the bus? into town with all the bags? take my baby for a walk so I can browse the shopping racks? And if my baby starts to cry and I have to feed her in the shops will you put your arm around my waist if someone stops and makes a fuss? Or help me find the feeding room that often smells of wee?
So give me my clothes vouchers now
And I’ll go and buy some clean white clothes
To replace the ones with sick stains on
Or milky nipple leaking holes
That yellow stain my feeding bras
And I’m sure there’s loads of research about why this plan might work.
But to me it’s just a farce.
I find it rude.
I find it classist.
I find it weird
I find it wrong
A patronising bribe that ignores a million different songs and a million different reasons from a million new found mums.
So give me my £200 quid
And I'll spend the cash on me
On the clean white shirts and vest tops
That I see in all those magazines.