Might as well do the white line: Liam Gallagher, still caning it at 45

The former Oasis singer admitted in an interview that he still takes medications. Which may make it a bit tricky to caution his children off them, he says

The question we came to dread: Are you going for a second child?

Why, when hearing my spouse and I have one child, do people ask about our plans for a second? Do they ever consider how intrusive and insensitive that question can be, that we have had multiple miscarriages?

My wife was talking to a mate in the hallway at work a week or so ago.

” Our son loves Blue Planet, it’s so funny. You know, even the scary bits? He loved it. And he’s only four .”

She is boasting, a tiny bit, but it’s true. He is an newborn Cousteau. I dream of diving with him one day. And even if she is boasting, it is just casual office chat; the kind we all fill our days with.

Then, a colleague from marketing walks past. Let’s call her Sarah. She overhears. Sidles up. Butts in.

Drops the bomb, eyebrows raised.” So, are you guys thinking about No 2 ?”

My wife winces, composes herself. Delivers what we have come to call: The Answer.” No, we’re not, actually. We’ve decided , now, that our family is the right size. Thanks .”

Just polite enough to suffice. But curt enough to shut things down. With that little verbal shove in the smaller of her back, Sarah walks off, face reddening with every step. Good.

My wife texts me.

Heart pounding. Someone just asked .

Who? Anyone that are important, or simply a random?

A random.

Did you give them The Answer?

Yeah.

Amazing. You OK?

Kinda.

Small talk over the biggest topic. How can people be so insensitive and intrusive? Because it seems that as soon as anyone detects out you have one child, they want to know when you plan to reproduce again. But they don’t hold where their clumsy terms will land. Sometimes, they land square in your face like a well-timed punch.

The answer, that I want to whisper into Sarah’s ear on my wife’s behalf is:” Actually, we’re not thinking about No 2 right now. We spent the last two years mourning Nos 2, 3 and 4. They never stimulated it. Fancy a casual chat about that, here in the hallway ?”

Then I would continue. I would spell it all out for her.

” Not sure we’ll ever get over No 4, Sarah. Some things change you, basically. That was one of them. Now, do you want to talk about our worst miscarriage, or the best one? The worst one was just a amaze abortion without anaesthesia. It shattered my wife like a champagne glass dashed on a slate floor.

” How about the one that happened while she was at work, panicking in white linen trousers? Appearing back now, that was actually the best one. She had to take a week and a half off to hemorrhage, mind. Or how about when she knew another had started as I was getting on a flight, but she remained quiet because she wanted me to finish the job that I had been working on for months?

” Sarah, come back. I’ve only just started. Do you want to hear about the style even dear, beloved friends, even my immediate family, pall, stutter and briskly change the subject the second I mention miscarriage? It is such a genteel, sidesaddling euphemism. Oops- miscarried! You ensure, miscarriage is birth and death wrapped up in one little bundle of misery.

” A good friend’s spouse who suffered equally said her womb felt like a graveyard. Dwell on that for as long as you can bear it. Pregnancy, Sarah, is quantum, unstable and mystifying. It’s a delight and a terror. A hope that can be crushed any second. It’s yes and no simultaneously. Fancy a Jaffa Cake ?”

That is what I would say.

Anyone who has one child and has not had a second, or any couple without children, may be going through what we were. They may be stuck at the blackjack table, playing the worst game ever: stick or twisting? To be or not to be? Do we keep trying to give our child a sibling until the eggs and our sanity have all gone?

Until we got The Answer to The Question, I expended the last two years looking at kids with brothers or sisters and felt a gnawing, impermissible resentment. Because to commit to having another child when you already have one is to know the difficulties of the first few years- the sleeplessness, the expenditure, the nappies, the hard physical graft, the fret and the exhilaration- and to embrace it. You have to want it so badly. And then you get it. And then it is taken from you by force.

After two years of trying, we reach a decision: we accept that we will have no more. I took a while to get there, but my spouse supported me, steadfast as structural steel, until I did. She astounded me with her strength, resolve and clear-sightedness. She worked it all out, logically, rationally, and emotionally. Some pain remained, of course, but we build the decision, together.

Then the real headwork begins. You have now made society’s last pariah: the only child. Lonely, selfish, maladjusted. Selfish mothers who wanted to stop at one. Selfish child who can’t share. Poor kid, all alone. Tell me you have never had these thoughts and I will gaze straight-out in your eyes and call you the liar that you are, because I have had them, too. It is the culture.

Lauren Sandler’s book One and Only– which deconstructs the myths and presumptions about “singletons” as she more kindly calls them- is an empowering source of comfort and knowledge. Such children, it turns out, are often gifted, generous, great at building friends and compassionate. That describes our son to the letter.

Sandler reads my intellect, though:” As mothers who choose to stop at one, we have to get used to the nagging help feeling that we are choosing for our children something they can never undo. We’re deciding not to know two kids splashing in the bath, playing in the pile of raked leaves, whispering under cover of darkness, teasing each other at the dinner table, holding hands at our funerals ,” she writes.

Who will hold our son’s hand? But you can’t think like that. Such thinking does not serve you, or your child, or your marriage.

There is light among the shade of course, looking back. The red dots on the calendar that entailed we had to have sex that week, every night. The limping in to run after marathon sessions as if we were adolescents who had just fulfilled. The lies you tell friends when they ask you out – you can’t say:” Sorry, can’t come to that gig, mate. My spouse and I have to fuck each other every night this week .” Well, you can, but only to certain mates. I’m not quite sure how Sarah would deal with it.

The Question hurls you, every time. It is meant well, sometimes, of course. But in my experience, it is nearly always thoughtless. Rebecca Solnit’s essential new feminist text, The Mother of All Questions, interrogates the idea that females should have children at all. She talks about her desire to be” genuinely rabbinical” in the face of hostile, shut questions. Solnit says she has developed a gnomic reply that turns the spotlight back on the questioner. When people ask her if she is planning to have children, she answers, with politeness:” Why are you asking me that question ?” I’m not sure Sarah, and the wider culture, could quite manage that yet. We require our own answer.

A few weeks before Sarah stopped my spouse in her tracks, I received in the post a rend of a tune by Kieran Hebden, AKA Four Tet. A relentless hard disco loop with an incessant, maddening vocal refrain:” I’ve got to find the answer to the question .” I laugh at the coincidence and listen to it for days.

Then, with no fanfare, I get the answer, in one of the most softly bizarre experiences of my life. One Friday a few weeks back, I get over the miscarriages and was at last able to write this piece. I felt as if I had somehow exorcised myself, in a moment of intense calm, a lambent, silent epiphany. I simply lay on the floor in our front room in silence for 45 minutes and did absolutely nothing. I was dispassionate, detached, and my intellect expanded. In that space, I accepted that the past two years of struggle are over. Our household is the right size, the right shape, and we love it as it is. We have not accepted second-best. We have not tried and failed. We have the greatest son I can imagine, I realise, wordlessly. He is more than enough.

As I am lying stunned, karma chameleoned there on the floor, my son arrives back from nursery with his mum and enters the room mutely, lies down with me, places his head on my shoulder, and remains there in peace for 10 minutes. He has never done this in his life. It is as if he knows.

” Want a snuggle ?” he asks.

We decide to honour the moment, and our decision, with a flame. To destroy, without indignation, the things that do not serve us, or that have held us back. Unabashed, we get the garden incinerator out on the night of the winter solstice, prepare ceremonial food and drink, and get the flames licking the sky.

With smiles on our faces and love in our hearts, we burn it all down- the whole sorry lot of it: the resentment of other households, the anxiety over what people think of our selections, the dread, frustration and fury of this godforsaken pair of years. We burn it to ash, and we will fertilise our garden with it. We will grow from here. We giggle and hurl whisky and fishbones on the flames.

We have decided , now, that our household is the right size, thanks.

There’s the answer.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

Paddington 2 review Hugh Grant steals the show in sweet-natured and funny sequel

Grant is on top form as a cravat-wearing rogue who frames Paddington for steal in a follow-up that lives up to Michael Bonds evergreen original

This year’s Christmas treat has arrived early, and Paddington Bear has incidentally shown us that Blade Runner isn’t the only movie around capable of giving us an exciting and impressive sequel.

This is the follow-up to the first Paddington movie of 2014 and it’s a tremendously sweet-natured, charming, unassuming and above all funny cinema with a tale that merely rattles along, powered by a nonstop succession of Grade-A gags conjured up by screenwriters Paul King( who also directs ), Simon Farnaby and Jon Croker. Their screenplay perfectly catches the tone of the great master himself, Michael Bond, writer of the original volumes, who sadly died in June this year at persons under the age of 91, creative and productive to the end.

The film is pitched with insouciant ease and a lightness of touch at both children and adults without any self-conscious transformations in irony or tone: it’s humor with the citrus tang of top-quality thick-cut marmalade. There’s a sight-gag involving the spurious transgres of a valuable vase that I especially enjoyed. And although one could say its work on diversity is not complete, the movie has a fair bit of material- now more pertinent than ever- about the route a confident, happy nation greets immigrants. The day-glo primary coloured design dedicates the movie a storybook feel, at some places a little like Wes Anderson. The uproarious finale meanwhile has something of Mel Brooks.

It may be bad form to begin with any character other than the young ursine hero himself, but Hugh Grant entirely pinches this, with an outrageously scene-stealing turn as the appalling villain. He is an ageing, cravat-wearing actor named Phoenix Buchanan with a moderate career behind him, brooding about the working day get a one-man thesp spectacular in London’s West End but now reduced to doing Clement Freud-style dog food TV ads. The ironically named Phoenix has just moved into this elegant west London neighbourhood, which is more or less as it was when Hugh Grant was here for Richard Curtis’s Notting Hill in 1999: picturesque, and plainly has still not been the conserve of the super-rich. In fact the movie has lots of quaint English things, like St Paul’s Cathedral, steam trains, and even- astonishingly- more than one fully functioning red public payphone, which characters use instead of mobiles.( These olden-days touches will do no harm to Paddington 2′ s opportunities in foreign marketplaces .)

Meanwhile, the Brown family are tootling amiably along as ever. Ben Whishaw is excellent voicing Paddington himself: curious, puzzled, innocent, but with a clear sense of right and incorrect. Hugh Bonneville is the paterfamilias Mr Brown, disillusioned at not being promoted at work , now experiencing a midlife crisis and experimenting with yoga and moisturiser. Sally Hawkins is quietly excellent in the unpromising role of Mrs Brown, and the same runs for Julie Walters as the housekeeper Mrs Bird, a job description that announces, like nothing else, that Paddington originated in an Ealing Comedy age. Sanjeev Bhaskar is a forgetful neighbour and Richard Ayoade is an eccentric forensic scientist.

The unspeakable Phoenix steals a precious pop-up volume from Mr Gruber’s shop: a volume which contains coded clues to where a fabulous cache of gem may be found- and he frames Paddington for the crime. So poor Paddington goes to prison for something he didn’t do, but there find consolation in relationship with the prison’s hot-tempered cook, Knuckles, played by Brendan Gleeson. Together, they are to plan a daring escape and the show-stopping climax involves a daring dash to the west country from London’s eponymous railway station. It’s very silly, but very likeable, the various kinds of thing that appears easy, but really isn’t.

It’s another impressive jaunt for Paddington. I incidentally is considered that these novelists need to cracking on with creating a feature-length adaptation of Michael Bond’s other, more neglected meisterwerk, The Herbs, with Russell Crowe as Parsley and Maggie Smith as Lady Rosemary.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

Seen Rain Man? That doesnt mean you know my autistic son

There are no typical autistic people, despite the savant stereotypes. My son is just himself: hes me, with a coating of autism

I am so looking forward to my trip-up with my son next week. First up is Cern, in Switzerland, where my son gets an hour on the Large Hadron Collider all to himself. On Tuesday, it’s off to the National Portrait Gallery in London, where an exhibition of his crayon selfies is on demonstrate( royal attendance is rumoured ). Wednesday he’s being filmed for the BBC completing a Rubik’s Cube with one hand.

Thursday, he’s on at the National Theatre, where he’ll recite the works of Shakespeare from memory. Friday, we’re off to Vegas to win a fortune at blackjack. I’ve bought the matching suits and sunglasses and, get this, he gets to fly the plane home himself.

It is a whirlwind being the father of an autistic child– especially one as multitalented as mine. Some autistic children only have one special talent.

OK, so this isn’t true. I am the parent of an autistic child, and the first question I’m always asked when the subject of my son comes up is: ” Does he have a special talent ?”~ ATAGEND because everyone has read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and insured Rain Man, and presume all autistic children have special powers.

The
The charm of special powers … Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in Rain Man. Photo: Moviestore Collection/ Rex

My son doesn’t. He’s 16, is non-verbal and his life abilities are rudimentary. He’s on one part of the autistic spectrum. Rain Man sits somewhere else on a little bit made from celluloid.

I don’t expect the whole population to trawl through reams of data, instance analyzes and science newspapers on autism, but at least get to understand the basics. Let’s start with a simple question. Are all neurotypical people- those without a diagnosis of autism- the same? If your answer is yes, proceed directly to the nearest Borg recruiting office. If your answer is no, pat yourself on the back( although it doesn’t make you a genius ).

This is what it does to me- I can’t help it. I get facetious. When, for instance, we were calmly queueing to pay for some apples in Waitrose and my son decided to use them for baseball practice, pitching them wildly into the neighbouring McDonald’s, did anyone smile and think,” Oh, bless him, he’s autistic “? Or when we were wrestling on the floor as I tried to get him to stop attacking me, or when everyone’s food in a eatery is fair game- and I don’t merely entailed on our table- “were not receiving” applause , no One Show researchers begging me to bring him on for a demonstration or recreation of his baseball glories. And I’m not sure his naked trampolining is going to earn him an Olympic medal anytime soon.

Given that it’s simply bad form to tell a well-meaning stranger where to run, I have often resorted to being facetious. When my son was six, I took him to watch one of his older cousins paying football and two girls approached and began talking to him. Of course, they got properly cold-shouldered and inquired of me:” Why does he never say anything ?”

To which I replied:” He does, but only to very pretty daughters .”

But it’s not the way I’ve always dealt with it. As part of a dedicated team raising my son, explaining him to strangers has been exhausting.

So, most often over the last 16 years, I’ve been a model of polite solicitude. Like a strolling GP surgery pamphlet, I’ve divided my reactions into easily digested chunks, subheadings:” What is the Autistic Spectrum ?” and” About Diagnosis “. At other periods, I’ve countered pub banter with” No! Only because your boss is a rude, arrogant shit who won’t look you in the eye, doesn’t mean he’s autistic .” It sometimes feels like an endless battle.

This gets me so irritated because good info is out there in plain sight. On Twitter, on Facebook are millions of genuine first-hand experiences and real, of-the-moment findings. It is thus a 21 st-century species of ignorance, one that masquerades as inquisitiveness, to glean “knowledge” from media that is intended to entertain to form one’s opinion of autism. It is from the “well-drawn” character who fills us with wonder- whether it be standing next to Tom Cruise as he counts cards, or inducing us laugh with their complete lack of social understanding that “misunderstandings” can arise.

Plot devices and stereotypes are not real. You cannot reduce autism to genre conventions , because every person with an autism diagnosis is different. My son is me with a particularly tough veneer of autism: he’s a little bit lazy, determines most things hilarious and is given to bouts of self-injurious behaviour. But he’s not less than me- in any way. He’s not less.

And if you took the trouble to know him, you’d realise that in most routes he is more. That’s the kind of knowledge that everyone needs to have.

It hurts me to have to write this. I don’t like having to speak on his behalf, but he isn’t able to and I detest having to rely on supposition. It would be easier for me to state that he couldn’t care less. But I can’t say that because he can’t tell me. It hurts less when I can provide him with a blithe, devil-may-care attitude to other people’s opinions of him.

Am I overreacting and being chippy? My son’s also Jewish. Would it be OK if a stranger asked in polite conversation whether he was fond of fund? Or asked an equally ignorant is the issue of a Muslim father with regard to one of his children? Of course it would not.

The question,” Does he have a special talent ?” is not sinister in itself, but the ignorance behind it is, because it speaks of a world where just being human and getting by is not sufficient get noticed- a world where even the most vulnerable in national societies “re going to have to” aspire to Britain’s Got Talent to be seen of value.

Shtum by Jem Lester is published by Orion Paperbacks( PS8. 99 ). To buy a transcript for PS7. 64, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders merely. Telephone orders min. p& p of PS1. 99.

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These are my hardest moments as a mother. What are yours?

Cheeks burning while strangers judge your parenting abilities the child shrieking in the post office line we all have narratives of scarcely holding it together

A week ago, my five-year-old daughter depicted me a map.

It was early afternoon and I was in bed, fighting against a migraine and crossing my thumbs that my ridiculously expensive prescription drug would kick in soon. The migraine had begun early that morning and by the time I picked her up from kindergarten it was relentlessly hammering away at the right side of my skull; bringing with it the strong nausea and aversion to lighting, sound and reek it always does.

I lay down with a cold washcloth over my eyes, and my daughter busied herself with the intricate run of colouring, videotapeing and cutting newspaper into dozens of infinitesimally small pieces that are impossible to sweep up.

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I’d been in my room for perhaps half an hour when I heard the door swaying open and her footsteps pad over to the side of my bed. She tapped my shoulder and pulled the washcloth off my eyes.

” Mummy, I built you something ,” she said in an urgent whisper. I carried myself up to my elbows and took the paper she offered me, a strangely underwhelming thing made up of dotted lines and a few urgent scribbles.

” It’s a map ,” she explained.” It shows you what you need to do .”

Then, patiently, she pointed at one scribble and explained that this was me, in bed. She told me that I needed to get up and used her finger to trace the dotted line resulting from my bed to the second scribble- the stove, as it turns out.

” You need to attain me something to eat and then go here …”- her thumb traced the second dotted line all the way to its final destination-” to my room and read me narratives .”

All at once, this map became everything terrible and wonderful about being a parent.

It was the embodiment of a child’s singular, necessarily self-centered nature; concerned with having their own wants and needs met above all else. It was stark, embarrassing proof that my child felt she needed to draw me instructions for how to properly parent her- to remind me that she needed to eat lunch( of course she needed to eat lunch, how had I forgotten to prepare lunch ?) and wanted to have stories read to her instead of entertaining herself alone.

It was the frustrating result of the contradiction you get are applied to as a single mother, where no matter how much you love your life as two( or three or four) there are times when things just really would work better with another grownup around, somebody to picking her up from school and induce lunch and rub my back and persuade me to take a second pill if the first one hasn’t worked yet, for God’s sake.

I’ve been a single mother since just after my daughter’s second birthday, and this map isn’t the first failed parenting moment I wish could be erased from the registers of time.

There was the period of time when she was two and a half and she wouldn’t wear anything but a puppy attire and I just let her, because it was warm, and she was dressed, and who cares, really?

There was the time she fell down the steps of a stone terrace and sliced her teeth through her bottom lip while I stood just a few feet away, making sure a friend’s wobbly new-walking child didn’t fall.

There was the time that she wouldn’t stop talking during my little sister’s bridal and had to be removed from the ceremony by my brother, constructing the strangest-sounding monotonous groan as she was fireman-carried away under his arm.

For me, every single one of these moments comes down to me running out of something I desperately wish I had more of- period, patience, appreciation, awareness, premeditation, sleep. It’s hard being the only one to predict and remember and anticipate and discipline. Sometimes I would dedicate anything to be able to say to a partner,” Your turning” and check out.

Of course, parenting lows aren’t exclusively the outcomes of parenting solo, they’re the outcomes of parenting while working more than a full-time job, parenting while poor, parenting when your extended family lives a continent away rather than down the block.

Often, these low points are simply an expression of the results of parenting, period. This gig is hard, and it’s sometimes hard to talk about too because the cliches about motherhood are just as tired as we are.

We all have these moments. That’s the admission you pay to join the club of parenthood: the cheeks burning while strangers judge your parenting skills; the child shrieking in the post office line; you doing precisely the thing you judged other parents for in your pre-children life.

Share your story

We all have tales of scarcely holding our shit together( or losing it altogether) and I, for one, would love to hear yours. You can share your hardest moment as a mom through the secure form below( or here if you’re having trouble viewing it ). The Guardian will publish a selection of your narratives.

https://guardiannewsandmedia.formstack.com/forms/js.php/hardest_motherhood_moment
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The ‘masculine mystique’ why men can’t ditch the baggage of being a bloke

Far from espousing the school run, most men are still trapped by rigid cultural notions of being strong, dominant and successful. Is it leading to an epidemic of unhappiness similar to the one felt by Betty Friedans 50 s homemakers?

Back in the 90 s, it was all going to be so different. Not for our generation the lopsided approach of our parents, with their quaint postwar the idea of father-breadwinners and mother-homemakers. We would be equal; interchangeable. Our young lady would run companies, embassies, hospitals and schools, while our young men , no slouches themselves, would punctuate their careers with long, halcyon spells dandling newborns and teaching toddlers how to build tiny volcanoes out of vinegar and baking soda.

That equality would have formidable knock-on effects. The gender pay gap would constrict. Sexual harassment wouldn’t vanish, but decoupling professional power from gender would do a lot to erase it from the workplace.

A generation or so later, it is clear: this is the revolution that never happened, at the least not in the UK. The home-dad innovators among us who once flamed a trail , now look on aghast as successive waves of men scurry past and say:” Right. Back to run .”

What happened? Latest statistics for England demonstrate more than 80% of fathers still run full period, rising to virtually 85% for papas of very young children. This rate has hardly changed for 20 years. The ratio of part-timers has flatlined only above 6% throughout this decade( having risen through the 90 s and early 00 s ). Just 1.6% of men have given up run wholly to take care of the family home. New rights for fathers to share parental leave with moms have poor take-up rates.

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You can glimpse this paternity gap at 3.30 pm on weekday afternoons at school gates up and down the country. Far from being overrun with gaggles of enlightened humen in clothes covered with baby sick and badges saying ” World’s greatest dad”, the father quota is, in my own limited experience, disappointing. There are often more grandparents doing the pickup than dads.

At the same time, there is no deficit of surveys discovering legions of men saying they want to find more time for family life. So exactly what he stopping them?

In 1963, The Feminine Mystique, a seminal volume by Betty Friedan, helped launch the second wave of feminism by positing that American females faced” a problem that has no name “: they had basically become typecast as uber-feminine moms, home-makers, cake bakers and sexual slaves to their spouses. Forcing girls to live up to this idea of femininity left an entire generation depressed, frustrated or hooked on Valium.

The question is this: 50 years later, are humen facing their own” problem with no name”, a” masculine mystique” which imposes rigid culture notions of what it is to be male- superior, dominant, hierarchical, sexually assertive to the point of abuse- even though society is hollering out for manhood to be something very different?

Men who do change their working lives to accommodate their children generally say it can feel tough, lonely, incongruous, even emasculating. When, 15 years ago, I gave up run wholly for a year to do childcare, it took a while to get used to being the only daddy in the park; the strange human arguing with a difficult child outside the library on a damp Tuesday morning. People stared.

David
David Early and his son Jonah …’ There is a stigma when people see you doing a role that isn’t traditional .’

Little has changed. Father-of-two David Early, 31, from Glasgow, says he still feels in a minority when he is out and about with his toddlers.” When I’m with the children, and I have her in the sling and him in the buggy, I have people looking and thinking:’ What’s that guy doing with two children strapped to him ?'” says Early.” There is a stigma when people see you doing a role that isn’t traditional. It can impact on your professional life .”

For Early, it certainly did. When he asked for additional parental leave after his first child was bear, his directors for his data management task were not impressed. He eventually quit and detected work elsewhere to be able to balance his work and family in the way he wanted.

Paul Cudby, 36, was luckier. A business analyst for the National Grid in Leicestershire, he found his director more receptive, and worked out a highly flexible work pattern that leaves him free to do the afternoon school running before turning the laptop back on again in the evening.” There comes a few moments in every dad’s life when there’s a choice. You’ll find yourself missing something at home and the question is: what do you do about the emotional ache? Do you say:’ I’m just going to have to suck it up ,’ or do “theyre saying”:’ Something’s got to change ‘?

” I get plenty of little gibes about being a part-timer. They are well entailing, but I can understand how some people get offended. I think there possibly is a knock-on consequence on my career .”

And that’s just it- humen are finding out what girls have known for years: that parenting properly is necessarily upend your career. For many men, so thoroughly programmed to identify who they are with the work they do, this can seem like an existential threat.

Tormod
Tormod Sund …’ The traditional human … breadwinner … those various kinds of notions are rooted in the past. Photo: Mark Rice-Oxley for the Guardian

Tormod Sund, 42, is a parent, an anthropologist, a charity worker, a Norwegian and a Londoner- and has been the primary carer for his son for more than 10 years. He says he still feels like” a little bit of an oddity” in a society that still expects men to be alpha.

” The traditional man … breadwinner … those various kinds of ideas are rooted in the past, but you don’t get rid of them in one or two generations ,” Sund says.” Those notions are still quite strong socially .”

” When you satisfy new people, the first thing they ask is:’ What do you do ?’ I would say:’ I work from home .’ The notion of what is successful and normal if you’re a man is that you should have a career. It’s less acceptable for a man to say:’ I’m staying at home with the children .’ We work. Our identity is connected to that .”

The barriers are not just psychological. They are professional and fiscal as well. Jasmine Kelland, a human resource analyzes lecturer at Plymouth University, interviewed scores of fathers and managers, trying to find out more about the male reluctance to reduce hours. She found that of all the working permutations- part-time, full-time, humen, females- the part-time human was held in lowest consider on a range of metrics including proficiency, commitment and even ability.

” In the workplace, parents do not get as much supporting as mums ,” Kelland says.” When they say, for example, that they need time off because a child is unwell, organisations are less supportive. There are quite a lot of negative perceptions about fathers who want to work part-time .”

Dr Alpesh Maisuria has experienced this first-hand. The 37 -year-old London-based academic says that even in more “enlightened” parts of the economy, boss are not always understanding.” My value as a bloke in this country is to do with my productivity and output, much more than being a parent ,” he says.” I proposed to in many instances, even as an academic, the fact that I’m a parent might be a obstacle to my boss .”

The” part-time paternal penalty” is not just a British peculiarity. A 2013 US survey found that men who engaged in childcare risked a workplace backlash.” Men who lack complete focus on, and dedication to, their work and who do the low-status’ feminine’ run of childcare and housework are likely to be seen both as failed men and as bad workers ,” research reports found. At the other end of the scale, however, Sweden incentivises all parents to take at least three months paid paternity leave. The result has been a far more even-handed approach to” latte pappas “.

Dr
Dr Alpesh Maisuria …’ The fact that I’m a parent might be a hindrance to my boss .’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

” When I take him out to playgroups or cafes in the UK, I’m usually the only bloke in there ,” says Maisuria.” In Sweden, you’ll find a whole loading of these blokes alongside you .”

There are, of course, financial considerations: a great many households won’t be able to afford to sacrifice even part of a father’s wage. With the gender pay gap persisting, the default stance tends to be humen working full-time while women do the childcare and perhaps work part-time.

” Involved fatherhood is quite a middle-class idea ,” says Dr Helen Norman at Manchester University’s school of social sciences.” It’s only really accessible to middle-class men who can afford to change the performance of their duties; the fathers on lower incomes don’t have that[ option ].”

A support worker with a housing association in the West Midlands, Richard Watkins, 32, ran all the hours he could, until separation from his partner and problems with their children forced a rethink. Now, his six-year-old son lives with him and Watkins felt he had to cut back his hours to nurture his child.” We came very close to relying on food banks ,” he says.” The only route I can survive doing this on my budget is to have it[ all] mapped out for the next two years .”

Ultimately, he says, he will have to go back to work full-time. Which is a shame. The benefits of full-on fathering- the dad dividend if you like- are both obvious and subtle. There are no end of advocates agitating for progress, from Fathers Network Scotland and its” Dad Up” campaign to Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute.

Martin Doyle, 37, a Bristol-based communications manager for Lloyds bank , noticed that, after “hes been gone” part-time, there was a big a difference in the son that he and his husband had adopted.” It’s been massively beneficial- our son is a lot more determined and a lot more relaxed than he was ,” he says.” His confidence has grown, his self-belief has grown. I’ve been able to be there to support him .”

Engaged parents can also liberate females to resume careers- indeed females will never get close to true equality until humen bend over backwards to meet them halfway. And according to Norman, there can be a positive effect on relationships, too: in households where humen do sole childcare a few times a week in the early years, this will have” a positive effect on the relationship over period”, she says.

But could it be that the biggest recipient of all would be men themselves?

From his office overlooking the Royal Festival Hall terrace in London, Ted Hodgkinson is putting the finishing touch to a celebration that is all about the male predicament.

The Being a Human celebration, running from 24 -2 6 November, aims to get under the skin of the masculine identity, prod it around a little, see if it falls apart. The furore over sexual harassment will tinge some segments, particularly a session called ” Standing Up for Her Rights “.

But the event aims to be far broader than a single news story. Novelists, performers and musicians, including Robert Webb, Alan Hollinghurst and Simon Amstell, will explore the relentless levels of expectation heaped on men and assess whether this is responsible for statistics that indicate it is truly dismal these days to have a Y chromosome.

Suicide is a predominantly male tragedy( a human takes their own lives every minute somewhere in the world ). Ditto gambling, drug overdoses, rough sleeping or merely disappearing. Rape, murder, terrorism, war, people trafficking and domestic violence cases: all are predominantly masculine disgraces. Wherever you go in the world, men always make up more than 90% of jail populations. Flick through today’s newspaper and the opportunities are it will be full of all the bad things that humen are doing. Of course, recent weeks have been dominated by sexual harassment, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Mass shootings and sickening murders , not to mention terror attacks and the brutality of war.

Then there are our role model: misogynist presidents, groping politicians, narcissistic sports starrings, self-satisfied billionaires, airbrushed performers, heroic superheroes, alpha humen, all of them. Even the average shape of a man has changed in 20 years: firearms, pecs and necks wider than heads in some cases. There is no room for the winsome, the vulnerable, the uncertain.

I ask Hodgkinson if he guesses a” masculine mystique”- a cultural insistence on” strong, dominant, successful” kinds as the only valid show of manhood- is inducing us unhappy in the same style that the feminine mystique depressed women in the 50 s and 60 s.

” In one sense it seems as though men are holding all the cards ,” he says,” but the statistics prove otherwise: three out of four suicides are humen, 73% of adults who go missing are humen. They feel they have to walk out of their own lives for one reason or another. We have to look at what masculinity means to understand this. Often it equates demonstrating emotion with weakness. There is a bottling up of disgrace; not wanting to let people down .”

The good news is there is no shortfall of volumes, documentaries, artists working to challenge old patriarchal notions, from Professor Green’s acclaimed documentary about men and suicide to Grayson Perry’s 2016 volume The Descent of Man.( The downside: two-thirds of men say they don’t read much .)

” There is an awakening around these things. There is a shift there ,” says Hodgkinson.

Jonny Benjamin concurs. He became a mental health campaigner after contemplating his own suicide on Waterloo Bridge and being talked down by a stranger. He says he sees changes coming through in the new young generation.

Jonny
Jonny Benjamin …’ We need more sports superstars, more footballers to talk about their vulnerabilities .’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

” The good thing is that now it’s being questioned ,” he observes from his own work talking to young people about mental health.” There is work in schools challenging this whole kind of’ big-boys-don’t-cry’ position .”

Benjamin says it is notions of pride, disgrace and accolade that still do men such damage. Men need to know that it’s OK to show vulnerability, subjugate every now and then, lose, shout, express their emotional commotion. It’s not just women who suffer from comparing themselves to the perfection they see in the public space.

” We need more athletics superstars, more footballers to talk about their vulnerabilities ,” he says.” Just to say:’ I do struggle sometimes, I do get anxious. Life isn’t all money and autoes .'”

There are nascent campaigns calling for a more honest dialogue about the connection between maleness, depression and suicide, most notably the work done by the Campaign Against Living Miserably and the Movember foundation.

But will that ever build into a full-blown motion that reforms maleness from the inside and changes its relationship with the world? It’s hard to say. Thus far “masculinism” has shown itself principally in niche areas such as detention law or male victims of violence, or simply as strident misogynist voices pushing back at feminism.

And it’s hard to see how to make a movement when you are essentially still in control of much of society. As Sund says,” we are not a minority who the hell is oppressed in any shape or form, so it’s hard to find that moral space “.

The crisis of manhood, if it exists, is very different from that faced by women in the 50 s and 60 s. In some senses, it’s a mirror image. Women- some at least- were saying:” Some of us might want to work .” Men- some at least- are saying:” Some of us might want to work less .” Women were saying:” We want to be taken seriously in public life .” Men- some at least- are saying:” We want to be taken seriously in our private life .”

Both sexes are trying to live up to cultural projections rather than satisfy their own complex human needs. Man today may have greater selection than women did half a century ago, but that doesn’t make it easy.

Women had an oppression to rail against; the outcome was a broad awakening that would not be subdued. The “oppression” of men is far more subtle, even self-inflicted.

The awakening has barely begun.

Being a Human celebration runs from 24 -2 6 November at Southbank Centre. More info and tickets available here: southbankcentre.co.uk/ being-a-man

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at http://www.befrienders.org .

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Babies may be able to link certain words and concepts, research suggests

Study indicates babies as young as six months old may realise certain words are pertained and that interaction with adults boosts understanding

Babies as young as six months old may have an inkling that certain words and concepts are related to each other, say scientists in research that sheds new light on how infants learn.

The study also found that newborns who were more often exposed to adults talking to them about items in their proximity did better at identifying a picture of an object when the item was said out loud.

” What this is saying is that it is always a good notion to talk to your child and to show interest in whatever they are interested in, and it looks like the more you do that, the better- set very simply ,” said Dr Elika Bergelson of Duke University in North Carolina, who co-authored the paper.

In the first part of the study, 51 healthy six-month old newborns took part in an eye-tracking experiment in the laboratory. Sitting on the lap of a parent, who was unable to see the computer screen, each infant’s gaze was recorded as they were presented two images on a grey background, for example “car” and “juice”.

The parent, prompted through a decide of headphones, uttered a sentence containing one of the items. The squad then tracked how long the newborns looked at the item that the mother had mentioned.

The trial was carried out 32 periods, with half of the instances showing pairs of items related to each other, such as juice and milk, and half the time presenting unrelated items such as auto and juice.

The results, published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that the newborns appeared more at the image of the item that was mentioned by the mother when the other item on the screen was unrelated to it.

” The logic is, if newborns look more at an image after it gets named than they did before they heard anything, they know[ something about] what the word entails ,” said Bergelson.

“[ The findings indicate] babies know something about how words and concepts are’ related’ or’ go together ‘: if they had no notion that milk and juice had anything to do with one another, they would have performed similarly with the two types of displays ,” she added.

In the second part of the study, the team investigated whether the babies’ overall success at looking at the correct word was linked to their home surrounding, by recording the interactions between the newborns and those around them using video and, more extensively, audio recordings. These were then analysed by researchers for mentions of any objects or things, such as a spoonful or starrings, and it was noted whether the items were likely present in front of the newborn at the time.

The results from 41 newborns, of whom 40 had both audio and video data, reveal that the more babies were spoken to about objects that were present, the very best they did overall at looking at the correct term in the lab experiments.

” Even though they are six months olds- they are not doing much yet-[ they should be treated] as real communicative partners ,” said Bergelson.

Marilyn Vihman, prof of linguistics at the University of York who was not involved in the study, described the research as excellent and greeted the move to conduct research in the home environment. But she stressed that the study did not mean that six-month old babies “know” that words are linked.

” All the food words come in the same meal-time situation, all the clothing words and body-part terms come in the same nappy-changing and clothes-changing situation. All those words are going to be related to each other in the child’s experience and they haven’t sorted them out yet ,” she said.

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10 ways to help the parent of a child with autism

I have a child with classic autism, another with Aspergers and a third with learning difficulties. Having a friend to support you can be invaluable

My newborn didn’t call. Instead she peered, owl-like, at her new surrounding. Instantly, I fell in love. She was adorable, her face and shoulders were covered in down-like peach fuzz. Her blue eyes were almond shaped and her mouth was tiny. Over the next few days in hospital, while I recovered from a caesarean, various professionals came in and out. I well remember the third evening. I was forcing my tired eyes to read a novel that I had been enjoying before Daisy’s birth. Along came the junior registrar, hovering over my sleeping baby’s cot, his furrowed brow far easier to read than my book.” Is there something wrong ?” I asked eventually.

” This baby isn’t normal ,” he answered.” I think there is some kind of a syndrome .”

” Down’s syndrome ?” I asked. In those days, I only knew of one syndrome.

” Yes, or something similar. The muscle tone seems to be low, and the feet are too small. Ensure ?”

I felt as if I had been dropped into a dark pit. It was lonely in there. A thousand questions bubbled inside me, but the registrar had disappeared. I wanted to talk to my husband. Instead, I scooped up Daisy and examined my sleeping daughter. Whatever the future keep, I knew we were in it together.

Looking back, I realise that, even if the brutal news that Daisy was ” not normal” had been given while my husband was there to supporting me, the question that was closest to my heart could not have been answered by anyone.” What will life be like now ?”

Daisy’s official diagnosis, Kabuki syndrome, came via geneticists when she was 12 months old. Symptoms vary from person to person, but for Daisy it involved low muscle tone, joint hypermobility and severe learning disability. By the time we were given the full diagnosis, I was pregnant with my third child, who would complete our family.

From birth, Lenny clearly wasn’t disabled in the way that Daisy was. He was perceptibly muscular and very strong. Intensely interested in his environment, Lenny was almost too able for his own good. His one true love, Mother Nature, called him constantly; he outfoxed any security system that we put in place to stop him get outside. But despite his physical ingenuity, he didn’t talk. And he didn’t point at things that interested him or play with action figures. Instead, he would spin the wheels of plaything cars, staring at the talks as they whizzed around.

At three, Lenny was diagnosed with classic autism and I had to tell my eldest daughter, Rosie, then seven, that she had not one but two disabled siblings. Rosie was bright, academic and inquisitive; I had noticed that she was a bit different from her peers, but had put that down to her being an old spirit who liked adult company. But she was struggling socially at school and, at the age of nine, she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

There was a period of retreat while I processed the fact that all three children had challenges. Eventually, though, I braved the world. We attracted curious gazes everywhere we went: Lenny wanted merely to perch on adult shoulders or run off at dazzling velocity, Daisy required functional specialists pushchair, and Rosie garmented bizarrely and would often appear to be in her own imaginary world. I learned to transform strangers’ curiosity into an opportunity to share information and make friends. If their directness left me lost for words, I could rely on Rosie. She was funny, quick-witted and loved to chat:” Daisy doesn’t walk yet because she has Kabuki syndrome. It doesn’t matter though, because she is beautiful as an angel. And this is my brother Len-Lens- he has classic autism, which means he is brilliant at spinning .”

I have learned so much in my two decades of being a mother. My children have been my best teachers, especially Rosie, who can often offer insight into what her younger siblings are feeling but cannot say. I wish there had been a wise friend to supporting me in those early days.

So, if you know someone who has a child with autism, here are 10 routes you can help 😛 TAGEND

1. Encourage your friend to seek out whatever supporting is on offer from social and educational services. When parents and services work together in a mutually respectful way, everyone is a winner.

2. Support your friend to advocate for her child. Medical professionals and school staff often focus on what the child can’t do. As a mom, I need to feel positive about my children and want those involved in their care to see their strengths as well as challenges. Having a friend who knows my child come along to a difficult meeting to support me is invaluable.

3. Much advice can be gleaned from local parents’ groups, and it is a great convenience for a mother to satisfy others in the same barge. But if your friend is feeling overwhelmed entering the world of special requires, she may need you to accompanied her to initial meetings.

4. Strangers’ curiosity is often unwelcome. An inquisitive gaze or an ill-judged remark can be the last straw. Having you by her side to fend off unwanted interest, or offer calm explains will make all the difference.

5. Broken sleep is often a huge issue for children with autism. Their mothers’ physical, mental and emotional health can suffer from many sleepless nights. If you know her child well enough, offer to stay in the house occasionally and be the one to get up instead.

6. Occasional respite care can be a godsend, allowing your friend time to invest in her matrimony, spend time with her other children or simply recharge her batteries. But the thought of letting strangers to care for her child may fill her with guilt. She may need you to help investigate what local services can offer in the way of respite care.

7. As the child grows older, their differences may become more apparent. Behaviours such as rocking, flapping hands or ricochetting( often called stimming) may mark them out. Because it draws attention to their child, some parents find stimming acutely embarrassing and try to stop it. But stimming isn’t just some annoying habit; it often devotes a good show of how a person with autism is feeling. It can show their distress or their elation, it can be a convenience or confuse them from something intolerable.

8. Family functions, such as parties and long, celebratory dinners, can be tricky with an autistic child. Be on hand to help out. Pack a goody container filled with distractions. This does not required to expensive; spinners, balloons and stretchy dolls can be great diversions. A preprepared goody suitcase can be the difference between your friend being able to stay at the celebration or having to leave early with a distressed child.

9. A mom of an autistic child may say that she can’t come for an evening out, as it is simply too difficult for her to leave home. Maintain asking, maintain reminding her that she is a valued friend, and that her company is very much wanted.

10. I firmly believe that dealing with today’s problems is quite enough. Discourage your friend from trying to plan too far ahead. Energy spent are concerned about the future will drain her energy for today. Our young person with autism can astonish us, developing in ways that seemed impossible when they were children. Calm mothers, love and unconditional acceptance are vital ingredients for ensuring happy adult autists.

* How to Best Help an Autism Mum by Sharon King is published by Austin Macauley, PS8. 99.

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My family is great, but I feel as though I have no real friends | Dear Mariella

Mariella Frostrup responds to a lonely mom by admitting that, having relocated to Somerset, she is struggling with the same problem

The dilemma I am 38, blithely marriage with two children and have a task I enjoy. However I have found myself plagued by nervousnes about friendships and impressions of loneliness. Since having children I seem to have been on a roller-coaster of friendships. As our lives have evolved, people have drifted away. I now feel I am leave behind acquaintances( chiefly school mums) rather than actual friends.

I find WhatsApp groups stressful and can’t go on Facebook, as I feel jealous when I ensure events where I haven’t been included. Some of my pre-children friends remain, but busy lives and distance entail I merely consider them a couple of times a year. I’ve given up on phone calls, as people only seem to want to text! I merely don’t know how I can get out of this spiralling anxious mindset. Will it improve when my children are older, or without play dates will my social life dry up altogether?

Mariella answers So glad you wrote. Only the other day I was meditating this very topic, brought on by the fact that my phone hadn’t echo for five days. I fell prey to that most 21 st-century malaise, the realisation that despite my means of communicating having multiplied in unquantifiable routes, my connection to my fellow human beings feels downgraded. Whether it’s a natter with a friend or solving the conundrum of my council tax, having a person actually talk to me constitutes a rare treat.

It’s not that I don’t have friends, 57,000 of them on Twitter alone at the last count, new pals every day on Instagram( all resulting the enviable lives you mention) and heavens knows how many I could tempt on to my Facebook page if I could just find is high time to upload my vacation snaps for their delectation. Yet there I was, wandering” lonely as a cloud” and impression wholly unplugged from my species.

I haven’t yet regretted our decision to relocate to the Somerset coombes, but I wish I’d been better aware I was perpetrating metropolitan social suicide. After decades of social investment( organising girls’ weekends, family gatherings and dinners ), I had the help feeling that I now had only birdsong to keep me company. Is that the rustle of Kleenex I hear out there in cyberspace or only the echo of my own self-pity?

Reading your letter, there just seemed too many parallels not to indulge in a rant, but you’ll be interested to hear there’s a plus side for you. With no inspiration greater than self-interest, I’ve given this dilemma my very focused concentration. The answer regrettably lies not in blaming others or the advent of new technology, but in taking individual action against the arrayed forces-out of novelty and disconnection. You’ve heard it here first: I’m going to start phoning people again, and I think you might want to follow suit. Not just when there’s no alternative but as an actual choice, based on a selfish desire to hear the cadence of a friend’s speech and entertain the possibility of a conversation about something unanticipated.

There’s no question that parenthood and relocation, lifestyle changes and the passage of time take their toll on our relations. Bringing up children is a fairly time-consuming occupation in itself, and if you’re trying to combine it with a career then period savings have to be made in other areas, all too often at the cost of friendships. None of our relationships are fixed in perpetuity, so letting people run is as important a lesson to learn as keeping them close. Friends drift in and out of our realm, and our own wants vary depending on the direction of our lifelines – it’s important to keep the door ajar so that those we once cherished can wander back in.

You talk about being left behind, but you’re just travelling in a different direction. It’s all too easy to fall prey to the mythology of other people’s glorified lives, seeing your own as lesser, greyer and even underpopulated. But we’re all fighting in this fast-changing, upwardly clambering society, and feeling adrift is no excuse to allow yourself to be driven off course.

You mention being left with” mainly school mums”, but they’re not to be disparaged; you’ll find support and empathy, a helping hand and a ready ear for the most mundane of problems among the throng at the school gate, all of which are priceless during child-rearing years. Ultimately we don’t need to collect friends like trophies; instead we need to value the handful who enhance our lives and bring a smile to our faces. They’re the ones who are worth pursuing, forgiving and keeping tabs on.

Thank you for entrusting me with what may feel like your personal problem, but is actually a universal dilemma. You’ll merely be lonely when the kids move out if you lose sight of the people that truly matter. So don’t be bullied into meaningless communication, pick up that phone occasionally and allow your friendships to ebb and flow as you are carried along on life’s currents. For all of us, they ultimately converge in the same spot.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup @observer. co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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A very private grief: the parents breaking the stillbirth taboo

Stillbirths are 10 times more common than cot deaths, yet they are rarely spoken about. But a new project seeks to end the silence

Chris and his wife Danielle were delighted when she fell pregnant, and he recollects “getting to know” the baby in the womb.” I talked to him and played him music. I got stuff for him .” All seemed well and the couple had several scans until, at 25 weeks, Danielle became aware that the baby was not moving. When the couple ran for a scan, they learned there was no heartbeat. Danielle vividly recalls the shock and suffering of being told her baby had died, and that she must give birth to her stillborn son, Mason.

The staff cleaned up the newborn, dressed him in a tiny suit and took him to the mothers in a moses basket. They expended the whole of the working day with Mason until he was taken to have a postmortem done and then later moved to the funeral home. Danielle visited him every day.” He was just disintegrating in front of my eyes … But it didn’t make any difference to me. That was my little son, I didn’t care what he looked like .”

Danielle and Chris had not even heard about stillbirth- the UK definition is a newborn born with no signs of life at 24 or more weeks of gestation- when she became pregnant. They believed that once they had get past the vulnerable first three months, everything would be fine.

They are not alone, says Emma Beck, co-creator with Nicola Gibson of the audio archive Stillbirth Stories, which launches today. Stillbirth is still” shrouded in silence, even though it is about 10 times more common than cot death”, she says. Out of every 1,000 babies born in Britain, approximately 2.9 are stillborn. In 2015, nine babies were stillborn every day, placing Britain at 24 th on a listing of 49 high-income countries.

When Beck, whose daughter Mary was stillborn, did talk about her experience and heard those of other women, she realised how familiar and similar their emotions were, even when the stillbirths had been a long time ago.” The magnitude of the loss, the impressions of responsibility and guilt expressed by many mothers and the different ways mothers and parents express their grief struck me ,” she says.

This realisation led Beck, a television producer, and Gibson, who worked as a documentary producer and director for the BBC for 12 years, to generate Stillbirth Stories, which is funded by Wellcome, as a resource to help parents share the experiences of others who have had a stillborn child. Here, the women and fathers talk about getting pregnant, learning something was wrong and that they would lose their child. They describe giving birth and coping afterwards; the importance of caring supporting from clinicians and how significant it was to have a funeral ceremony. Their stories are intimate, profoundly moving and a hugely valuable insight into what stillbirth means. And they remove the taboo around the subject.

One couple who share their narrative via Stillbirth Stories are Sam and Martin, whose first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. They rapidly conceived again, but their son, Guy, was stillborn at 25 weeks and five days. The following year, they had a second miscarriage. Their interviews are heart-rending but is a possibility deep comforting for someone experiencing a similar situation. Sam tells of her nervousnes when she became pregnant the second day:” When I had the 12 -week scan, I was waiting for them to say,’ Oh no … there’s no heartbeat .’ But he was waving his little hands on the screen. Then we felt safe .” However, at the 20 -week scan, the couple were told that, although the organs were developing well, Guy was very small. At a scan three weeks later, it was discovered that liquid had been leaking and there was a poor blood flowing from the placenta. Guy would almost certainly not survive.

The government has set a target to cut these deaths by 50% by 2030. About half of all stillbirths result after 34 weeks, says Prof Alex Heazell, clinical director of Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre in St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester. He also resulted the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study, which recruited more than 1,000 women and looked at babies’ motion patterns and moms’ sleep habits, diet and smoking. Few girls realise that if they give up smoking before they are 16 weeks pregnant, the health risks of stillbirth becomes the same as for a mom who never smoked.

Heazell’s role also includes overseeing the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s Rainbow Clinic, which cares for women bereaved by stillbirth when they become pregnant again( there is evidence that they might be at higher danger of having a subsequent stillbirth ). He has watched the importance of being aware from the moment there are signs that something is not right. So far, out of the 500 births since the clinic was put in , none has been stillborn. Heazell says:” About half of stillbirths occur after 34 weeks, means that these are babies who, if we knew about them earlier, could be expected to survive. A prevalent faith in society is that these babies were’ not meant to be ‘, but that is certainly not true .”

Parents need to realise, he adds, how important it is that they get checked immediately if a newborn seems not to be moving, so that a heart tracing or ultrasound scan can be done.

At the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, vice-president Edward Morris describes the Every Baby Counts project, which looks at how different types of care can make better outcomes for babies who may die towards the end of pregnancy. Meanwhile, an analysis of 512 stillbirths based on hospitals in five US nations was published in March by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The analyze found that testing the placenta established cause in about two-thirds of stillbirths, and fetal autopsy helped in roughly 40% of cases. Genetic testing helped pinpoint a cause in 12% of cases.

While Stillbirth Stories recounts the experiences of couples, Gibson and Beck also thought it was important to hear how clinicians themselves cope with the emotional strain. As Morris says:” I challenge any obstetrician who diagnoses a newborn dead in utero not to feel emotion. If you didn’t find these things affecting, you would need to reflect on whether it was the right work for you. But there is a reward in successfully managing your feelings .”

Jane has been a midwife for 17 years, and, for the last 14, has worked as functional specialists bereavement midwife in an inner-London hospital.” I offer care as soon as we are aware that a newborn has passed away ,” she says. She talks mothers through what to expect about delivery, and what happens afterwards.” I am a phase of contact and an area of support. Some families require a lot, others don’t need so much. So I offer almost every family a different thing .”

The hardest portion, she says, is strolling into the room and not knowing what feelings to expect from a family.” I can be the ultimate professional in a room, and that doesn’t mean I don’t scream, but it’s not in an inappropriate sobbing way; it is kind of reflecting their grief rather than it being my own .” Afterwards, she says, she may sit in a chair and sob.” And that’s my personal various kinds of heartbreak coming for them .”

The support Jane herself needs to do the work comes from professionals and colleagues who are also friends:” We talk a lot about it. I share an office with people who exclaim as much as I do during our conversations. If I didn’t have that support at work, it would be very difficult .”

Eileen, a junior registrar at an inner-London hospital, recalls the distress she felt with a very distraught mother which has recently delivered:” The mom only maintained wants to know why this had happened. And I had to give the honest answer, that we didn’t know. It’s so hard because you have to try and not get upset. And if you say the incorrect thing in that moment, that can go on to shape how they view that whole event … which is petrifying .”

One of the hardest things can be asking mothers who, understandably may feel very upset at the idea, whether they are happy for their child to have a postmortem, the results of which would go towards research. Sam and Martin recall struggling with the idea, but wanting any information possible about what might have been wrong with Guy.” We simply kind of signed the form … I don’t remember it other than[ thinking] we need to have this done. It was a massive thing for Guy to do … for his future siblings, actually .”

Stillbirth Stories shows the different ways that households may mourn and suffer, but many are comforted by watching the stillborn child as part of their family. Rick and Sarah say, as one:” Although the death of Lily Rose has taken our dream of a child living with us, we have been helped to celebrate that we had her, that she exists somewhere and that, whatever happens, “weve been” mothers .”

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