Monday, 24 March 2014


So maybe you noticed the latest meme going round, the #nomakeupselfie that was started to raise awareness of Cancer, got adopted by Cancer Research and ended up making millions for various cancer charities. Well more than one friend of mine took exception to the general concept, for various reasons, most of which I agreed with.

From the concept of the no-make-up thing:
"Honestly, this sort of shite makes me so angry. And there's always that little element of supposed humiliation, isn't there? Bra size, where do you like to plonk your hangbag ('I do it on the kitchen table, I do it on the passenger seat, ooer'), and now, what do you look like without make-up? Because of course, the very idea of a woman posting a photo of herself without make-up is 'brave' and also ever so slightly humiliating."

to the hatred of the nomination aspect... (whilst also hating the no make-up bit)
I hate the propagation of the idea that women are brave if they "expose" themselves with no make up on social media. Get a grip womankind! To be honest the only thing this silly viral FB equivalent of an odious chain letter has done is prove what I already thought I knew: majority of women wear far too much make up and look amazingly better with out it!
Raise money for cancer awareness a more thoughtful way folks..."

So I was nominated and took a photo with no make-up on because, well, I didn't want to be a total wet blanket and at the grand old age of 30 I have reached a stage where I truly don't care that there's a photo of me out there with no slap on.

Look, here it is. I don't think I look too bad really...

But then I caught a comment on one of my friend's FB pages with an idle throwaway hashtag #saveIMs and thought, hey, maybe this is jumping on the bandwagon, but how about a campaign that exposes something that I really do feel vulnerable about to raise awareness of something very close to my heart? And so began the plan.

I don't talk about this much online, because it's a difficult subject for me and I have many negative and conflicted feelings about it, but two years ago my son was born by Caesarian Section in an NHS hospital and I received abominable care. The C-sec was as a result of a cascade of intervention that I've spoken to various professionals about since and come to the conclusion was unnecessary and based upon hospital policy more than individual situation. I was bullied and guilt-tripped into taking the 'decisions' that led to the surgery and I still feel very angry about it.

Worse, though, was the laughable 'care' I received after the C-section. After my husband and mother were sent home (against my wishes). After I had been through 3 days of labour (and they don't call it that for nothing) and no sleep and the most traumatic experience of my life, being sliced from hip to hip whilst awake (having had a life-long fear of hospitals and medical implements), being treated like a piece of meat in a processing plant I was left alone in a cubicle with my tiny helpless baby in a plastic box out of my reach.

Just when I most needed caring for, companionship, peace, safety and a quiet place to lick my wounds I was shut in an overheated orange cubicle surrounded by other women, other babies crying, alarms going off and the most vicious, unhelpful, unpleasant midwives I hope I ever have the misfortune of meeting. My baby cried. I couldn't reach him so I rang for help, which eventually arrived and huffily asked me: "What?!"

I was 'encouraged' to get out of bed before I could go up to the maternity ward. No help of any sort was given to me, either in terms of a hoist, or a supporting arm.I was told to push up on my arms, but after labouring on hands and knees for three days, and having been (as previously mentioned) sliced from hip to hip, I didn't have the strength in arms or abdominal muscles to do it. I passed out from the pain, sobbed for my husband, begged for help and had hospital health & safety at work guidelines quoted at me.

If someone can tell me where else a patient recovering from major abdominal surgery would be left to fend for themselves to this degree, never mind look after a baby also, I would very much like to hear about it.
I won't go into the rest of my stay, needless to say I was heavily reliant on my husband, and, initially, even the other mothers on the ward, for basic care - water to drink, assistance with my baby, help to the toilet, supervision in the shower as I was so wobbly on my feet.

Two years, and a helluva lot of therapy later and I am mostly recovered. I still occasionally get anxiety attacks, especially when I thought I was pregnant, and low spells when I feel hideous guilt about my first year with my son and how much my PTSD from the hospital experience affected our relationship. The flash backs have thankfully stopped, as have the nightmares and crippling dark moods, but I fear pregnancy and birth in a way I didn't before.

And then I met Liz. Liz is a wonderful woman who works as an Independent Midwife. We talked many times about my experience and I had decided that, next time we had a baby, I would birth that baby at home under Liz's care. My husband and I were prepared to beg, borrow, scrimp together the £4,000 this would cost in order that we could both feel that our best interests were being served.

Liz refers to her mothers as 'clients' because ultimately she works for them. She listens to their concerns, gives them information but she lets them make the decisions. I finally felt like I might be able to enjoy being pregnant again, to look forward to giving birth, to being safe in my own home, with someone who knew me, knew what I wanted and whom I trusted. If she told me we'd have to go to the hospital then I would be content to go, knowing that that was truly what was needed.

And then I heard the news that the insurance scheme for independent midwives had failed. That from October they would be unable to practice legally due to EU jurisdictions. I'll be honest. I still don't fully understand the ins and outs of the legal aspects. All I know is that I had a choice and now I don't. So I'm choosing to do the only thing that puts me back in control again. I'm choosing not to have another baby, even though my husband and I would desperately love another one.

So I will post the me that I never show anybody. Not my face devoid of makeup, but my saggy, stretch-marked, scarred belly, the belly that grew and nurtured my beloved son. It's not pretty to look at and exposing it makes me feel vulnerable in a way that my bare face never could, but I'm prepared to do this if it gets a conversation going. Had you even heard of Independent Midwives before now? Did you know they were about to become illegal? Do you have any idea what we'll be losing if they go?

Please read here to learn more about Independent Midwives: Independent Midwives UK
Please go here to donate to the campaign: Donate to Independent Midwives UK

And please post a picture of your belly (post or pre baby/ies) to see if we can raise even a fraction of the awareness that the #nomakeupselfie has.
Tag it with #mummytummyselfie and join the, for want of a better word, revolution.
I grew a baby in there by myself, but I don't want to give birth by myself. #SaveIMs

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