Posts Tagged ‘Activism’

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Most years, the Family Nurturing Centre in Mosman Park does something special to commemorate it. I did pregnancy yoga through both pregnancies at the Family Nurturing Centre and mother/baby yoga with Bug. Once Cub arrived, Bug was just old enough to wreak too much havoc in the centre so I didn’t really get to go to the mother/baby sessions with him. Anyway, I’m part of the community and usually go to the WBW events that they plan.

This year, they planned a train ride from Mosman Park to the city where we would convene for a friendly lunch. They called the media and the West Australian photographer planned to meet us at the city station. Despite the fact that Cub rarely feeds while we are out and about, I decided to go. When I got there, I was a little unsure as to whether I was in the mood for something so social. I did not know most of the people there and felt a little out of place. It got better, though, and soon I was enjoying myself. At the Mosman Park Train Station, Cub surprised me by asking for “moke.” So, ironically, the kid who tends not to feed in public anymore was the first to get on the boob wagon, so to speak, for the day. Of course, our picture got taken a gazillion times as everyone (but me, it seems) brought their camera. 🙂 Cub fed again on the train and more pictures were taken (namely, the one I used in this post). We got to the city and met the newspaper photographer who had us walk towards him while he laid on the floor to shoot from below. It was odd, he had us do it many times … I still don’t know if the picture made the paper.

While we were at the cafe for lunch, there was a television news camera and someone taking statements … I still don’t know if any of this made the news as I never watch television news and no one’s told me if they saw it. Apparently this whole thing was very timely as a legislation spelling out the rights of a woman to breastfeed in public is experiencing difficulties in government at the moment. Apparently the legislation is all but passed but the Liberals (Australia’s conservatives … they don’t seem to understand the meaning of the word “liberal”) are holding it up at the last minute.

Admittedly, I am not as passionate about all of this as I once was. Hell, I’m finding it difficult to be passionate about much these days but that is a different story. Now that Cub is nearly two, my breastfeeding journey is nearing it’s end. I don’t anticipate him feeding for much more than a year longer, give or take a bit. My parenting attentions are moving on to the next steps. My focus is expanding from being a full time carer of my small people to including a life outside the home and beyond breastfeeding and cloth nappies.

Having said that, though, attending this event reminded me *why* I attend these things and why I should continue to do so. When the photo at the top of this post was uploaded onto Facebook, I set it as my profile picture. I like the photo. I don’t look as horrible in it as I normally tend to in photos. Cub looks cute. It’s a nice photo … it just happens to include breastfeeding. The response I got for this photo is what really hit me. I had several people praising me for the very act of using it as my profile photo. I had forgotten how controversal a mere picture of a breastfeeding mother and child could be. Then a friend who I have not seen since before she had children (her twins are now 8 or 9) told me of the discrimination she endured as a breastfeeding mother in Alaska. She was sent to breastfeed the twins on the floor of the public toilet in Wal-Mart!

I am privileged. I have never experienced discrimination for breastfeeding my children in public. And I have done it a lot, all over Perth, on public transport and often feeding a toddler who looks “too old to breastfeed” by current uninformed mainstream attitudes. It’s stories like the one my friend told of her experience that make me do what I do. It’s why I have made it a point never to hide when my children want a breastfeed (except on the rare occasion that only a quiet room will help him focus on what he’s doing). Not that I am an exhibitionist and make a big deal of it. Quite the opposite. I simply do what I need to do for my children regardless of where we are. I try not to let the mainstream attitude get to me. I believe strongly that the more people see women breastfeeding their children, the less of an issue it will be. I won’t hide, I won’t stand for breastfeeding discrimination and I will continue to attend events like the one I did on Sunday.


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Taken at the first National Day of Action at Perth Parliament House, September 2009

Thursday, February 18th was yet another National Day of Action to save home birth in Australia. The current Labor government has been trying to pass legislation that would effectively make independent midwives and legal home birth things of the past. We’ve been fighting this legislation since last year and we will continue to fight it until women’s rights to bodily autonomy are saved. You can read more about the proposed legislation and our fight against it here.

The Perth rally was held outside the office of Melissa Parke, Federal MP for Fremantle and my local MP. Although Melissa Parke is a Labor MP, she seems to support our cause and is able to oppose the legislation from within the party ranks. The staff at her office were friendly and accommodating which was a welcome change from the other rallies I’ve attended. Melissa Parke herself was not there due to prior arrangements but she had a staff member read a statement to the gathering. Following is a transcript of Melissa Parke’s statement (retyped by me) and the emailed response I sent to her office today:

“I am sorry I cannot be here today to speak to you in person. I committed some months ago to speak at a function in Perth whose purpose is to present women role models and leaders in the community as part of an effort to encourage young women to be active and creative in their personal and professional lives.

I welcome this rally as statement of concern by those who rightly want to see the full range of birth choices maintained for women in Australia – including home birth.

After making representations on this issue, I am pleased that the proposed changes will allow private homebirth midwives to continue practising as a result of the 2-year indemnity insurance exemption, and I hope a long-term solution can be found during that period. In my view, the model in New Zealand is one that we should seek to replicate.

Of course, I recognise that the real concern people have in relation to the ‘Quality and Safety Framework’, which is a condition of the exemption, and that is currently the subject of a consultation process – and particularly the part of that framework that proposes some kind of collaborative input from a general practitioner of other health service provider.

I will be writing to the Minister for Health to clarify the detail in this area; and I will put my view, as the representative of the Fremantle community, that any collaborative or supervisory arrangements under consideration should not interfere with or override the primacy of the relationship between an expecting mother who chooses homebirth and a private, qualified, registered midwife.

Last September, in my speech in the House of Representatives, I said:

‘I want to say something on behalf of all those who have written to me and visited me – whether they be midwives, couples who have chosen homebirth, or maternal health practitioners who support independent midwives and the women they administer to. All these constituents of mine are committed and passionate people – they are people who care about health outcomes for themselves and for their families; they are people who have clear and substantial reasons for choosing homebirth; they are people who, in some cases, choose homebirth as a result of traumatic birthing experiences in hospitals; and they are people who care about choice as a matter of principle. I support all those people – my constituents in Fremantle.’ (House of Representatives, Monday, 14 September 2009)

I know that a significant number of women, even though they are in the minority, have chosen and continue to choose homebirth. I know they want that right of choice to remain. I know too that many women who do not themselves opt for homebirth nevertheless support the right of other women and their families to choose it.

Thank you for taking the time, and for making the effort, to lend your voice to this cause. You are doing so on behalf of women and their families now, and on behalf of women who will make their birth choices in the future.

I support choice for women in the matter of deciding the place and manner of giving birth and will do my best to advance this cause on your behalf.”  Melissa Parke MP Federal Member for Fremantle, Thursday 18 February 2010

And my subsequent follow up email:

“To Melissa Parke:

As a member of your electorate, I would like to thank you for your support of women’s birth choices and urge you to continue that support. I would also like to thank your staff for their friendly and accommodating attitudes at the rally outside your office for the National Day of Action on Thursday, 18th of February. I have been to several rallies in the fight to save home birth as a legal option for birthing women and I have never encountered as accommodating staff at the rally locations. It was very appreciated.

I am a mother who chose to birth both of my sons at home with independent registered midwives. I consider this to be the best choice I ever made and would do it again should I ever have another child. I felt supported, informed and in control of both my pregnancies and births. I had access to all the facts and made my own decisions on how to proceed with my midwives’ full support every step of the way. Every woman should feel as empowered as I did in my pregnancies. Every woman should have the right to choose what is correct for her based on facts and evidence, not spin and propaganda.

I realize that home birth is not for everyone and that those who choose it will probably always be in the minority. However, that does not negate it as a safe and valid option for all women. This proposed legislation not only affects those women who would choose home birth but also those who would not. By taking the option off the table for all women, Nicola Roxon is proposing to disempower all women. We are intelligent human beings capable of processing facts and making our own informed choice based on those facts. To put up legal barriers such that an option is completely removed from our list of choices or to give doctors the final say in what happens to a woman’s body and baby is to imply that women are not capable of making their own informed choices. It is to imply that women are somehow defective in their decision making process. This represents a major human rights violation.

Please continue to help us fight this legislation and not allow Labor to go down in history as the government that stripped women of their rights.


Kareena (surname)”

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