With Jamie and Jools Oliver advising us that their two elder daughters were there for the birth of the latest addition to the Oliver family, I wondered if that was acceptable. More importantly, I wondered who was I to judge.
When the four year old asked me recently if he could see my baby hole, I politely declined.
As far as I’m concerned theory is fine, however public showings and practical demonstrations of the..er..ins and outs of my vagina are not on my offspring-appropriate viewing list.
Perhaps that’s why, when I heard the Olivers had their two eldest daughters in the birthing room with them as they welcomed their fifth child into the world, I grimmaced a little.
I grimmaced more when I caught myself judging them.
Why did I react the way I did? Why was I shocked? Is it social conditioning? Or was one of us – my family or the Olivers – wrong in our decision about who should witness the arrival of the newest addition to the human race?
The Olivers know their families, their bodies, their way of living just like I know mine. I know what helped me give birth to my babies (don’t talk to me, don’t touch me, come near me with whale music and I’ll lamp you), and they know theirs.
Neither of us has a desire to intentionally traumatise our offspring. We all just do what feels right at the time, and normally that is right. It’s not a case of moral relativity, it’s a case of understanding the complexities of our interactions with our nearest and dearest and acting accordingly.
I started, as I challenged myself, to see my respect for the Olivers’ decision grow.
I realised one thing that undoubtedly shaped my initial ‘urgh’ reaction is my inherent pessimism. Despite relatively easy births and labours, the fear of something hideous going wrong would be the main block to my wanting older children there with me. Wouldn’t it be lovely to instead let optimism guide my decisions, or at least a balanced pragmatism?
Next, I realised I knew nothing at all about the circumstances leading to who was at the birth. I assume there was a choice, a conversation, a plan. Although given it’s childbirth, it’s not impossible that what actually happened was not meant to happen at all.
Neither did I know how the baby was born. Were the baby hole’s services required? Should I move on to pondering if Jools was too posh to push?
Finally I realised, here we are again, all claiming to wonder what is ‘best’ when it comes to parenting and filling a lot of papers and radio air space and blog posts (!) along the way.
Now, on reflection, I don’t feel like my decision or Jools Oliver’s decision on who accompanied us to the birth of our children was wrong. However, my initial reaction to a choice that was different to mine was.
It’s not how the Olivers chose to welcome their little boy into the world that is a problem.
It is that their little boy has been born into a world that thinks it has a right to judge his Mummy and Daddy, a Mummy and Daddy who no matter how famous, how wealthy, how in the public eye they are, just want the same as we all do: the best for their kids, however ‘best’ fits them.
PS If I could be so bold as to give you any advice at all now you have a new-born in the house, a book called Jamie’s 30 minutes meals saved my bacon more times than I care to imagine when the kids were tiny. Also, the odd takeaway when the baby is small is absolutely fine 😉