Thursday, 29 September 2011

Advice to heed...and advice to ignore!

It’s incredible how some advice to pregnant women and new mothers changes with the wind whilst some remains constant for decades. I have here a copy of ‘Babylove: A Practical Guide to a Loving Pregnancy and Parenthood’ by Judy Wade and Val Hudson, published in 1977. (I was born in 1978, so I’ll let you guess whose shelf I plucked this from!).

Some of the advice and the observations remain extremely up to date. For example, on breastfeeding in public, Wade and Hudson write:

‘If anyone sees you breast feeding and objects it’s their attitude that’s wrong, not yours. It’s a pity that the sight of a naked breast in some newspapers and magazines is acceptably naughty but a breast feeding mother is obscene. We think the real obscenity is in the minds of the onlooker who turns a beautiful, natural act into something shameful.’ (p.168)

Bravo! How little times have changed, with women still having to justify and defend their right to breastfeed in public.

The book is focused upon the need for a couple (taken here to be a heterosexual couple, of course!) to keep their ‘romance’ (yuck!) alive throughout pregnancy and afterwards. Here Wade and Hudson had me literally weeping with laughter (thanks, Wade and Hudson!). For example, in the section entitled, ‘Tips for a Sexier Pregnancy’ (which comes with line drawings of sexual positions to try during pregnancy, including the curiously-titled ‘Ride-a-Cock-Horse’ – no, really), we also read:

‘Surprise him – by whispering something very private in a very public place. By dropping a pile of cushions on the floor (preferably in front of a glowing fireplace) as an irresistible invitation. Or make his favourite fantasy come true by going to bed wearing just a black velvet ribbon around your throat like Goya’s Maya nude – or just a pair of silky black stockings.’ (p.75).

Phoaarr! A black velvet ribbon, eh? Hot to trot. (Notice there’s no mention of the bloke bothering to fulfil his partner’s ‘favourite fantasy’…). Wade and Hudson even suggest ‘sensual music’ to play during all this ribbon-wearing and cushion-dropping. ‘You could try Donna Summer’s classic arouser Love to Love you Baby’ apparently. (Anyone else getting an image here of Alison Steadman as suburban housewife Beverley in the Mike Leigh film ‘Abigail’s Party’, wearing her black velvet chocker, dancing to aforesaid track? Uncanny!).

But the best advice the book has to offer concerns childbirth itself. Women are advised to make an effort with their appearance, such as by wearing false eyelashes during labour (it helps with the pain if you look sexy). This is in a chapter entitled ‘How to be Hip in Hospital’. In this chapter there is also the staggering advice to befriend the hospital staff in order to ensure better treatment. One way of doing this is to remember that ‘many nurses and doctors come from abroad. In the first stage of labour when contractions are light you could ask a few friendly questions about their homelands…’ (p.120).

I will end with what is, in my opinion, the most incredible paragraph in the whole bizarre book:

‘A nutty beauty we know decided that the most vital part of producing a baby was getting some superb needlework in her vagina when the doctor stitched her episiotomy after birth. Unfortunately it was 3am when her baby arrived and a woman doctor had to be called from a sound sleep to sew her up. Although our friend wasn’t feeling very chatty she switched on all the high-powered charm she could muster. The result was after a long, careful sewing job the doctor looked up and said: “I’m really proud of my work. I have repaired you so beautifully your husband will come back and thank me in a few week’s time.’ (p.120).

Wow. There are SO many things wrong with the above story that it’s difficult to know where to start! I’ll leave it to you to puzzle over instead.

Now excuse me whilst I go buy some false eyelashes and book myself into a charm school, all whilst trying not to strangulate myself with a black velvet ribbon…

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