This was the event I most looked forward to coming to, and it didn’t disappoint. Pip Adam was an incredibly good chair, and Dux an engaging and warm presence. After Pip’s introduction, which concluded with a quote that formed the crux of the book What I Didn’t Expect When I Was Expecting, ‘It’s not all good, it’s not all bad. It is what it is,’ Dux opened our eyes with a hilarious reading from the beginning of the chapter called ‘Down There’…all about our vaginas and what happens to them during childbirth. I figure she was clearing the room of anybody who wasn’t up for what she had them in for…
Her book, according to chair, Pip Adam, (which I now own to give to an expectant friend after a quick read) is a perfectly-pitched combination of anecdotal and research-based findings. She uses mums and experts, and some who are both, with equal confidence, to make her points. When asked about her methods, Dux mentioned chat groups online as a source, but attributed the willingness of women to talk to her personally about their experiences as a reason her book succeeded in its aim – to appraise women of the actuality of childbirth, and bust open the myth that if you do everything by the book, your child will emerge as perfect as you deserve. Your body doesn’t read the books, so it doesn’t know these rules.
Dux wrote the book (her second, after The Great Feminist Denial) because she was angry – about the way she was treated during pregnancy, about the platitutes she was fed by apparent experts, and by the way she was seen after birth – as constantly lacking somewhere. I can identify fully with this as a mum of two small children, like her I had such a disappointing experience with my first child that I was keen to try a different way the second time. Dux said that there is a sense with all the things women go through, of ‘trying to push ourselves back in, and be quiet about it.’
Problems with what is the norm for breastfeeding and post-partum recovery, and even the history of miscarriage were discussed. One thing I found fascinating was the division of mother from foetus that has happened thanks to the advances of technology. This has put the mother in conflict with the foetus in some important ways – all the rules to do with pregnancy being a symptom of this. These rules, Dux says, about drinking and eating good foods, are being hammered home to the wrong cultural group – middle-class white women, rather than those who may need it, or more importantly, need help to do it.
Motherhood in politics is less popular than feminism in politics, says Dux. While blogs on motherhood are often light and funny, they don’t often touch on things like the political rights of mothers. Meanwhile, feminists don’t tend to foray into the area of mother’s rights because they often come to their beliefs prior to having children. Meanwhile, mums are too busy to care.
One last thing that rang true for me – mothers don’t fit as equals into a working world. They also have a tendency to try and hide their kids away, to appear on a more equal footing. This is sad and needs to be addressed by both private and public organisations. I am lucky within my workplace, but I know a lot of women who are unhappy and unable to do anything about it for fear of losing their livelihood. Here is hoping change is on its way.
by Sarah Forster, Web Editor , Booksellers NZ