Monday, March 15, 2010


I notice the UK is slowly becoming America. When I was a child there were no drive thru burger places. There was no 24 hour shopping in supermarkets the size of small towns. We went out 'guising' at Halloween, not 'trick-or-treating'. Our lanterns were made of Swede, not pumpkin. Our cars had accelerators, not gas pedals and we parked in car parks, not parking lots. The list is endless.
But as a word of warning before we hang our culture out to dry and accept their way of life, we should occasionally look up at what is different and better here in Europe and the UK. Take holidays, for example - I for one couldn't imagine having any quality family life on a US ration of holidays.
Worse still, today I was appalled to find out about their idea of maternity leave. When I was pregnant, I joined an online web club which mailed me a weekly pregnancy update. As a rough guide I was told the approximate size of the baby, its development, changes to expect in my own body. I didn't realize at the time these updates would continue after birth. It was a US site. Today's update shocked and upset me:
  • Your Baby Week 9

    Now is the time many mothers will go back to work. Leaving your baby will always be hard but there are ways to make the transition smoother.

    If you are breastfeeding your baby should be adjusted to taking the bottle when you are not around by this point. This will help the separation go smoother for both of you. Don't fret about taking a pump to work and pumping during your breaks. This is a good time to store up milk for the next day.

    Take the transition slow, introducing your baby to time away before the big day comes. Drop the baby off for a couple of hours at the day care, or child care provider's home where the baby will be staying. Spend time there with baby, letting the baby know that you are comfortable and trusting of the place, as it will then be less scary for your infant.

    Forgo the bottles on the weekend, and use that time for consistent nursing and to keep your milk supply going strong. This is also a good time to strengthen your bond with your baby after being away at work all week.

What crazy kind of society thinks 9 weeks is the point when many mothers should return to full-time employment? Apart from the physical demand on a woman who has only slept midnight to 3am, 4am-7am, (on a good night) this seems positively barbaric to me. I remember how I felt in 1997 when going back full-time was compulsory at week 29. I cried buckets, I held and hugged Marcel all weekend, I tried not to sleep at night so I could look at my baby, my breasts and heart ached for him. It wasn't until the UK brought in 52 weeks maternity leave in 2005 that I felt prepared to go back to work as a psychologically whole person. So today I have held and hugged Amaia and felt happy to live in a country where returning to full-time employment this morning is not a requirement. I have held her close and made her feel safe and when she's wanted milk I have been there for her to suckle on warmly, as I should be when she is so tiny and helpless.

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