I was reading the two guest blogs and they got me thinking about the differences between having a baby now and when our Mums and Grandmas had babies. You would think, really, that there wouldn’t be too many of them – after all, babies are still babies (they haven’t evolved in some Darwinian way to feed themselves or anything) and mothers are still mothers. The human race continues and women have babies every day – apparently there were 138 million births in 1980 and there have been around 134 million each year since. Just think how many nappies that is….
That brings me to the first difference. Nappies (diapers, that is. We Brits call them nappies, which make me laugh because in other parts of the English speaking world a nappy is a napkin. Believe me you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with one of my daughter’s nappies…..). Disposable nappy, how I love thee. Not because of your contents (although bizarrely I do get pleasure out of changing the smelly ones) but because you can be thrown away when used. Now, just before I had by baby I had this vague fantasy that I would be some kind of eco mother and use reusable ones. HA HA HA. Frankly I don’t know how my mother coped with the old terry ones. My poor Nana had 5 children – I can’t imagine the amount of disgustingness she had to go through with those bad boys. Earth, I am very sorry that I am clogging you up with my daughter’s skanky poo receptacles. I will try to save you in a different way.
Next difference – support. I mean human beings, not boulder holders/bras (although actually things have improved in that department too). I suppose my Mum had relatively little of this; she is an only child and lived miles away from her family when I came along, and my dear Grandma died when I was just 8 months old. She had her friends of course, but I think that most women of her age, and certainly most women of my Grandma’s age, lived fairly close to family and friends they had known for years. So if the darling little baby was screaming its head off Mum, Grandma or the next door neighbour (whose name and clothing size you inevitably knew in the 1980s) could relieve you, or at least cook you a nice stew. The world is more mobile now and it’s not always the case today, so there aren’t as many people to help out – though to be fair it’s easier to chat on the phone and computer than it used to be. So now we have various groups that we can join and this fantastic blog to help us stay in touch and get that vital support we all need.
We are also blessed with a far more developed health care system. When my parents were born expectant Mums only went to hospital when their baby was coming because there was something wrong. Everyone else was born at home – National hospitals were a really new thing. In fact my Dad remembers his brothers being born in the room next to him – now that would be some scary stuff for an 11 year old boy to listen to….. Now, whether you choose a home birth or not, and whether or not you think hospitals could be better, and whether or not your midwife is bonkers, our babies have a far greater chance of survival simply because of the decade they were born in.
Another thing which I am personally very thankful for is fertility treatment – that’s how we ended up with our little girl. It didn’t exist back then (mind you neither did contraception in any great way) so if you couldn’t have children you were stuffed. The world will certainly be thankful when she grows up to be some fantastic inventor of wonderfulness that saves the planet from all of the nappies that she filled that got sent to landfill.
I could go on and on and on about the differences but, when it comes down to it, I’m not really convinced that having a baby in the 2010s is actually all that better. Life was simpler and more straightforward then, and it seems that modernity and choice just give rise to complexity and confusion. Take childcare, for example. Mother who stays at home vs mother who goes to work – what’s best? Should Daddy stay at home instead? Should Mummy work part time? Get a job closer to home? Who looks after the baby when she is working – nanny, nursery, childminder, grandparents…. I understand from my Mum that when she was a little girl my Grandma expressed an interest in finding a job and Grandad had a really hard time understanding why- her job was looking after my mum and the house and although Grandad’s job wasn’t fantastically paid it was enough to keep them all in food and clothes and have a drink at the weekend. I can just imagine how the conversation would go now if I said “Husband, I want a job” and he said “Wife, no”. “WHAAAATTTTT? WHYYYYYYYY? I HAD YOUR BABY, I NEED SOME INDEPENDANCE, I DIDN’T MARRY YOU FOR THIS, I AM MORE THAN JUST A BABY MACHINE YOU *SSHOLE!!!” (I hasten to add that this isn’t an actual conversation). Stuff might even get smashed and there would definitely be an argument. Actually I don’t have a choice now – kind of ironic when you think that when I was born you would have to resign from the job I’m in if you got pregnant – though I still think I would work if I did have a choice.
Anyway enough of my ramblings. We don’t, of course, have a choice in all of this unless someone has invented a time machine. But I think that, for me, there are a lot of advantages to having a baby now as opposed to back then that’s only because we have learnt from people who have done it before us – so perhaps it’s worth reflecting on it a bit more before we have to learn the hard way…..
Let me know what you think about which era was best for having a baby in by voting in this poll….!