Category Archives: Guest Posts

Emma’s Story of Postnatal Depression

Introducing a beautiful and deeply moving guest post from Emma Fahy Davis:

Eight years ago, with our daughter about to turn two, we decided it might be nice to have another baby. When I look back at that time, I can hardly believe how naive and innocent we were.

13 months later, just as we were beginning to investigate fertility assistance, we finally saw the two little lines we’d been hoping for and dared to hope that we’d soon be welcoming a new child to the family. That hope was crushed just a few weeks later when I began miscarrying our baby on New Year’s Eve.

Crushed and broken, I was desperate to be pregnant, desperate to have a baby in my arms, and worried that it wasn’t going to happen. Yet less than two months after the miscarriage, I once again found myself staring down at those two little lines.

Pink pregnancy test positive

I thought if I could just get through to 12 weeks, I’d be fine, I just had to hold on. Every ache, every cramp, every twinge had me wound up in knots and I was palpably terrified of miscarrying again. At six weeks, we saw our baby’s beating heart for the first time, and I exhaled just a little. At nine weeks, after a small amount of spotting, I went for another ultrasound. The rules of the game were about to change.

I lay there, waiting for the worst, expecting to be told I’d lost the baby, but in fact, I hadn’t lost a baby, I’d gained one – the scan showed two healthy babies. For the briefest of minutes, I was excited, but when a rather blunt and tactless obstetrician pointed out the increased risks associated with a twin pregnancy, the fear returned and though I didn’t know it then, that fear would invade my life, steal my precious first few hours, days, weeks, with my new babies, and cripple my life. My life separated into ‘the before’ and ‘the after’. The person I had been was gone.

The pregnancy was largely uneventful, we had a few minor scares but nothing overly dramatic, yet in my mind I refused to believe that we’d walk away from the whole thing with two live, healthy babies. I shut myself off emotionally – while I went through the motions of preparing a nursery for our baby girls, in my mind I was planning their funerals.

They were born on a Saturday night, three minutes apart after a perfect, textbook labour, and despite being 4 weeks early, required no special care. Sitting in the delivery unit watching my husband cradle our tiny daughters, I went into shock. I was completely numb. He was besotted, and I felt nothing. Not once had I allowed myself to believe that this would happen, and when it did, I had no idea how to respond.

The numbness persisted for weeks. The babies both had reflux and screamed for up to 20 hours a day, I couldn’t breastfeed them so spent hours attached to a machine pumping milk for them, and the whole time I felt as if I was watching someone else’s life pass by. It was literally like watching some other random family’s bad home movie collection. It’s hard to identify rock bottom as there were a lot of wicked lows, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the evening I ended up sitting on the driveway screaming at the top of my lungs because I simply didn’t know how else to vent my frustration, anger and anguish. They were 9 weeks old, tiny, helpless creatures. Why didn’t I love them? Why couldn’t I love them?

It wasn’t until the twins were 8 months old that I saw the first glimmer of hope that maybe I could bond with them after all, maybe it wasn’t too late. It was an ordinary afternoon, I was loading the dishwasher and the girls were sitting on the kitchen floor playing with a bowl of plastic blocks. As I watched them interacting, cheekily passing blocks backwards and forwards to each other, all of a sudden I realised that I was deeply and uncontrollably in love with them. In that moment, I knew I needed to get help.

I was eventually diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Through a combination of medication and therapy, I began to find a way to live in my own head, to forgive myself, and to accept that while my experiences frame the person I am, they don’t define me. Most importantly, I began the process of building a relationship with my babies.

It took 18 months of intensive attachment therapy with psychologists who specialise in infant mental health, but gradually piece-by-piece, my precious baby girls and I got to know each other, and to love each other. I learned to let go of the anger and guilt I felt around my inability to bond with them, and learnt that while I can’t erase the past, every day is a new opportunity to move forward in a more positive way.

I’ve since experienced the profoundly healing experience of carrying and birthing two more babies, I’ve learned to parent intuitively and not let the scars of the past weigh my family down. As I snuggle at night with whichever of my girls have crept into our bed to fill the space between my husband and I, I am content.

As the great poet Maya Angelou said, ‘we do what we know how to do, and when we know better, we do better.’

Now I know better.

Straight Up: Talking Genitals With Your Child

Welcome to my first guest post by Meryl White:

Dear Grown ups, it is a vagina

Your daughter has a vulva and a vagina. She should know these words.
Sounds simple, right? Yet a couple of weeks ago a Facebook photo supporting this sentiment generated a surprising amount of discussion and controversy. (Yes, I know that’s equivalent to the Jurassic period in Facebook time. In my defence, I have a mean case of the flu :P ). OK, so the photo shows a girl of about eight or nine holding up a placard saying Dear Grown-Ups, It’s Not a Pee-Pee or a Wee-Wee, It’s a VAGINA – Pass it On! Someone asked, “What’s the big deal with just calling them girl parts and boy parts or privates? I don’t get it, anybody want to explain?” Well, you don’t have to ask me twice. Here’s why I think it’s important that children know the anatomical names for their genitals.*

*As a side note, I’ve written this mostly with the presumption that your child is cis-gendered. Cis-gendered means that an individual identifies as the gender and sex they were assigned at birth[i]. Sometimes you teach your kid that girls have vulvas and then your child who has a vulva grows up to be a man instead. Or your child with a penis grows up to be a woman. So just be aware that the arguments connecting genitals and gender identity aren’t quite as simple as I’m making out. I’m also writing mostly about girl’s genitals, but this applies to boys too – more on that later.

Genitals QuoteAlright. Are you ready? Here we go.

First up, using vague euphemisms to describe body parts can create body shame – the idea that these parts are too dirty and taboo to even mention. This isn’t just a myth: women who’ve grown up using euphemistic terms for their genitals experience more shameabout their bodies and, of course, their genitals and reproductive health in particular[ii]. Children become aware of genital differences around fifteen to nineteen months of age[iii] – other researchers suggest even earlier. Irene Fast[iv]argues that children learn to think positively about their own gender by developing a positive view of genitalia and having knowledge of their own genitals. This seems like common sense: teaching your child that their genitals are normal, interesting and nothing shameful encourages him or her to develop a positive gender identity, which in turn promotes healthy body image. A review of child abuse research recommends “Teaching children the correct names for their genitals provides the necessary foundation for subsequent sexuality education and also helps children develop a positive body image.”[v]

Secondly, non-anatomical genital names don’t promote body knowledge. How else do girls learn they have a vulva with a vagina, clitoris and labia – and what the parts do – if not taught by their parents? A 2008 study found that while nearly 90% of English-speaking three, four and five year olds could correctly label body parts such as arm, leg, and eyes, only 11% of children could label a vulva and 16% could correctly label a penis[vi]. Boys are also far more likely than girls to know the correct names, even for female genitals.[vii]

Nor are the nicknames that replace proper names benign: they take away real naming power and instil negative ideas about genitalia. One study found that genital nicknames used for girls are more likely to be sexualised[viii] than terms used for boys. Another study found that girls’ genital nicknames were more often derogative[ix] and so vague that even the users of the nicknames weren’t sure exactly what they were referring to. So why do we bother? Given that for most of us, our genitals play a role in both our gender identity and sexuality, I would argue that being able to identify your genitals is a lot more important than being able identify your nostril or belly button.

Viva La Vulva!
Photo credit: WarmSleepy on Flickr

Third, teaching incorrect genital names doesn’t promote open dialogue between a child and parent. If a child isn’t receiving open, honest and accurate information from their parents they will find it elsewhere (for example: television[x]). And they will stop asking you. I want my daughter to be able to come to me with her questions about her body (and later, sex) and know that she’ll be able to get a frank answer in return. I want to have that dialogue with her long before magazines, media and friends tell her what her body should look like and do.

In fact – the earlier you start, the easier it is. Parents who wait to begin anatomical and sex education find it more difficult as there is no knowledge base on which to build slowly.[xi]And parents who wait until they think their children are considering becoming sexually active have often already missed the boat[xii]. In contrast, family education about sexuality increases your child’s knowledge and facilitates informed decision making[xiii].When parents talk to their adolescents about sexuality, adolescents are more likely to delay intercourse and if they have intercourse, to use contraception and have fewer sexual partners.[xiv] Researchers Rosenthal and Feldman[xv]concluded that “if parents start the communication process early in their child’s life, and include sex as one of many matters worthy of discussion, they can establish a pattern of reciprocal openness, closeness, values and beliefs before adolescents confront the twin tasks of integrating sexuality and dealing with issues of autonomy and independence.” I reckon that’s pretty spot on.

Finally, it’s a safety issue. I realise this isn’t a nice topic to think about, but please bear with me for a bit. Paedophiles use pet names for genitals, so if your child suddenly starts referring to her vulva as her “flower”, you can take that as a warning sign. For young children in particular it is important they are able to explain that abuse is happening and not be misunderstood or have any possibility of misinterpretation. Child sex crime researcher David Finkelhor argues that “Children may be able to prevent some or much sexual abuse. Even if difficult, children themselves would undoubtedly prefer to have the knowledge and skills to try. We give children skills for other challenging and unequal prevention situations such as stranger abduction….”[xvi] So, we need to be equally unembarrassed in giving our children the knowledge to circumvent potential abuse situations. Child sex abusers avoid children who know correct genital terminology, because they usually have more knowledge about body safety and inappropriate touch.[xvii] Other research has found child sex abusers avoid children who demonstrate genital terminology knowledge because they have a better ability to tell adults about abuse[xviii]. So teaching proper names helps keep your kids safe.

Genitals Diagam
Image credit: Female Friendlee

One more thing. Girls versus boys: Why is this stuff is especially important for girls? To start with, girls’ genitals just aren’t as visible as boys’. We have to have a good look with a mirror to see all of our genitals. Because we have less opportunity to see our genitals, we need frank and honest education about them even more. As adults, women’s bodies are subject to much more medical scrutiny than males: we have gynaecological appointments and pap smears. We get pregnant and experience maternity and perhaps labour interventions to varying degrees. Rodriguez and Schonfeld argue that

Lack of precision in terminology runs the risk of reducing all female genitals to the vagina, and this in turn perpetuates a narrow view of female bodies, the role of female body parts, and female pleasures…. Referring collectively to women’s genitals with a vague “down there” does not encourage women to understand their anatomy and its proper functioning state; as a consequence of not knowing, women may have difficulty identifying both normal features of their body and indicators of pathology and subsequently communicating with their health care providers.[xix]

If we want women to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health, that has got to start with our girls. Women’s bodies are also subject to more intense social scrutiny and sexualisation. Genitals aren’t exempt from that – genital modification trends run the gamut from waxing to cosmetic labia reductions. If women knew their genitals were totally normal, would they still have genital surgery? If everyone talked about vulvas and vaginas when necessary instead of using sexualised slang, would the sexual objectification of women be turned down just a notch? Contrast all this social and sexual pressure with the fact that girls are less likely than boys to even know the proper words for their genitals, and it’s no wonder body shame is so common among women. Because the social ideas about girls’ bodies and the stigma about their genitalia are so much stronger, we need to work that bit harder on promoting genital knowledge for girls.

Of course, it should be clear by now that I think that knowing the correct names for genitals is important for everyone. By using the correct names we’ll lay aside the negativity and shame that surrounds genitals, help keep our kids safe and improve everyone’s bodily knowledge. Viva la vulva!


[i] http://queerdictionary.tumblr.com/post/9264228131/cisgender-adj

[ii] Martin, K., Verduzco Baker, L., Torres, J., & Luke, K. (2011). Privates, pee-pees, and coochies: Gender and genital labeling for/with young children. Feminism & Psychology,21(3), 420-430.

[iii] Honig, A. (2000). Psychosexual-development in infants and young children. Young Children, 55(5), 70-77.

[iv] Fast, I. (1999). Aspects of core gender identity: Psychoanalytic dialogues. The International Journal of Relational Perspectives, 9(5), 633-661.

[v] Wurtele, S., & Kenny, M. (2010). Partnering with parents to prevent childhood sexual abuse. Child Abuse Review, 19(1) 130–152.

[vi] Wurtele, S., & Kenny, M. (2010). Partnering with parents to prevent childhood sexual abuse. Child Abuse Review, 19(1) 130–152.

[vii] http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=gap.002.0003a

[viii] Martin, K., Verduzco Baker, L., Torres, J., & Luke, K. (2011). Privates, pee-pees, and coochies: Gender and genital labeling for/with young children. Feminism & Psychology,21(3), 420-430.

[ix] Braun, V., & Kitzinger, C. (2001). “Snatch,” “Hole,” or “Honey‐pot”? Semantic categories and

the problem of nonspecificity in female genital slang. Journal of Sex Research, 38(2), 146-158.

[x] Kelley, P., Buckingham, D., & Davies, H. (1999). Talking dirty: Children, sexual knowledge and television. Childhood, 6(2), 221.

[xi] McGuire, C., C. Hogg, and R. Barker, eds. (1996). Health promotion and the family: Messages from four research studies. London: Health Education Authority.

[xii] Eisenberg, M., Sieving, R., Bearinger, L., Swain, C., & Resnick, M. (2006). Parents’ communication with adolescents about sexual behavior: A missed opportunity for prevention? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(6), 893-902.

[xiii] Walker, J. (2004). Parents and sex education – Looking beyond ‘the birds and the bees’. SexEducation 4: 239–54.

[xiv] Schuster, M. A., Corona, R., Elliott, M. N., Kanouse, D. E., Eastman, K. L., Zhou, A. J., & Klein, D. J. (2008). Evaluation of Talking Parents, Healthy Teens, a new worksite based parenting programme to promote parent-adolescent communication about sexual health: randomised controlled trial. BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition), 337(7664), 273-277.

[xv] Kesterton, D., & Coleman, L. (2010). Speakeasy: a UK-wide initiative raising parents’ confidence and ability to talk about sex and relationships with their children. Sex Education, 10(4), 437-448.

[xvi] http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV170.pdf

[xvii] Elliot, M., Browne, K. & Kilcoyne, J. ( 1995). Child sexual abuse prevention; What offenders tell us. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(5), 1995.

[xviii] Sprengelmeyer, M. E., & Vaughan, K. (2000, October 8). Stalking children. Denver Rocky Mountain News, pp. 5a, 41-45a.

[xix] Rodriguez, S. B., & Schonfeld, T. L. (2012). The Organ-That-Must-Not-Be-Named: Female Genitals and Generalized References. Hastings Center Report, 42(3), 19-21.

Stopping the Cycle of Smacking

I’m privileged to introduce you to a follow up post to a guest post from Mama O Naturale I had a few weeks ago:

Some time ago I wrote a blog entry about turning the tides. Of becoming a different parent to my own. Of stopping the cycle of physical discipline: smacking.

Hand smacking

The last 6 months have been a bumpy and unnerving journey. The last year in fact has been a tumultuous time for me.

A year ago I lost my brother suddenly in a vicious road accident, a month later I gave birth to my daughter, 5 months later I became a single mother and 6 months after that we’ve come full circle, just celebrating (if you can call it that) the one year anniversary of my brother death and we are but weeks away from my daughters first birthday. Though my intention not to smack was heartfelt and honest, I cannot say I was as successful as I might have liked to have been. The last 6 months of adjusting to life as a single mother have been difficult to say the least. There is no relief team who charge in the door at 6pm every evening to relieve you of your quarry, but instead you’re alone to deal with the witching hour and the ever increasing tension of the evening meal. There’s a toddler hanging off your leg, an infant screaming at your feet, pots boiling over, smoking frying pans and on the odd occasion, a fire in the kitchen. (Honestly, I’ve never set fire to anything I was cooking in my life. In the last 6 months I’ve had 2 oven fires and a frying pan/oil fire. Sheesh!!!) Not to mention the terrific twos of a certain little boy who has the will power of a buffalo in a stampede. There is much to contend with, and only one, often frazzled, person to deal with it all.

Needless to say, one gets tired, one’s fuse shortens and on the odd occasion one snaps. By my count, I recall 20 or so times that I have smacked in the last 6 months. I remember them all because they’re gut wrenching reminders that, in that moment in time, I failed. But, there has been progress. And in reminding myself of this, the guilt and shame dissipate.

Any blind man can see how hard it is to be a single parent, and considering all of the circumstances, I’ve done an alright job. In fact, I’ve done more than alright. I have a 2.5 year old little boy who is fun, loving and overflowing with empathy and a 1 year old little girl who seemingly has bottomless stores of patience and a sense of humour to boot. I’ll stand up now and blow my own trumpet because there really aren’t too many people out there who are going to blow it for me.

And out of the shadows, there is a glimmer of success. And as time passes that glimmer turns into a beaming light.

One month. ONE MONTH. Do you hear me?!!! I have gone one whole month without smacking. One month might not seem such a great thing to most people, but given the fact that it takes 3 weeks to form new habits, I think it’s fair to say I’m well on my way to a better life with my kids.

There was no magic recipe to concoct this success. No epiphany or turning point. It’s been months of determination. Of falling down and getting up again. Of refusing to give up and pushing on admitting my failings, and trying again.

That’s not to say I’m a perfect parent. I still yell sometimes and I’m not always as attentive as I probably should be; it’s hard to get time to myself these days and sometimes I just bury myself in Facebook for a moments peace. But I’m getting there and compared to how things were 6 months ago, I’m levels above where I was.

If you, like me, were a smacker, know that you can change. You can stop making excuses for your behaviour and defending it with immoral reasoning. It’s a head down, bum up (pun intended) task. An achievable task. I am walking proof of that.

May you create love filled memories in each and every day.

parent holding hands with child

“Hi, my name is Mama O Naturale, and I am a smacker”.

Guest Post by Mama O Naturale:

“Hi, my name is Mama O Naturale, and I am a smacker”.

New Years Eve 2011, I made the decision to put a stop to this traditional form of punishment after reading the following quote:

“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression. When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility. When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault. When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
~Haim G. Ginott

The reality of what I had been doing finally settled in when I read those few words. What they say to me is this; I was excusing my aggressive, hostile, assaults on my child by labeling it as discipline.

I see now that smacking is wrong and for a while after I figured it out, I felt pretty guilty about it all too. But, I am reminded daily, that I cannot change the past, I can only work to a better future.

More than six months down the track, I have improved myself though I am unable to say I am flawless.

So why was I so keen to whop my child at the first sign of disobedience? And worse still, why was I so willing to excuse it?

Without wanting to make excuses for myself or my behaviours, I think it’s important to talk about the impact of role modeling.

On the exit road out of Post Natal Depression I enlisted the services of a local counsellor to aide me in learning new skills to manage my own behaviour and emotions. To start with she created a genogram for me so I could see quite clearly where my behaviours had come from and why.

What a child sees, hears and experiences throughout their childhood is what they grow to know and learn to be the way things should be. Developmentalists call this a “working model”. Essentially, if a child grows up in a family where smacking is the norm, then inevitably smacking will become the norm for them when they become parents. It’s a “monkey see, monkey do” scenario. Parents play a major role in how their children turn out.

Needless to say, I was smacked as a child, often. And many times for no real reason (and by real I mean an offence that might actually warrant a smack). I was raised by a father who was raised by his grandparents in post war England and by a mother who suffered from such deep and wounding depressive and anxiety driven episodes that she was more like a meek 5 year old than the grown woman and mother that she was supposed to be. The way I was raised was based off of, not a 30 year old theory like most people, but off of a 50-60 year old theory. I was raised in a home where “children should be seen and not heard”; where your parents quite openly tell you that they “don’t like you, but we’ll always love you”; a home where he who had the loudest voice ruled; a home where words seemed so insufficient that a flick of the hand across bare legs or buttocks was the only answer. Most shockingly, this was always done in anger, usually multiple times, leaving welts and bruises across my bare skin.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents dearly. They, like any other parent, did the best they could with what they had. And what they had was crap role models combined with a society that believed that any deviation from the social norm was a crime punishable by exile and isolation. Fit in or get out.

So, the vicious cycle had continued for (at the very least) a third generation. And here I found myself lashing out in anger over disobedience with a swift hand across the nearest body part of my poor, unsuspecting son.

I cringe now to think what I did. The look of sheer terror on his face as he saw me wielding myself towards him with fury plastered all over my face. I remember seeing him flinch on occasions where I simply intended to reach past him for something near him. Those moments hurt me the most and I find myself wondering how it is that I have managed to still have a child so filled with love and affection. But it is best not to think on that and instead fill my heart with love and gratitude that I now have a chance to rectify this.

The research into the physical, cognitive and emotional damage caused by smacking is wide and varied. However, it wasn’t research that initiated my decision to put a stop to this prehistoric family tradition. Instead, for me, it was the memories from my own childhood.

I remember quite vividly, the feelings and emotions that charged through me as a youngster before, during and after a smacking. As a small child, I remember the fear and confusion. As I got older I remember quite clearly the anger and hatred that I felt towards my parents for the unnecessary infliction of pain and shame they cast upon me.

What made me decide that smacking had to stop for me was knowledge that I NEVER EVER wanted my child to feel those feelings towards me. EVER! I invite any parent who thinks smacking is ok to cast their mind back to their own experiences and perhaps consider rethinking their stance. And I mean REALLY look back. Don’t overshadow or down-play your actual experiences with your “I was smacked and I turned out fine” excuses. Really think back, and you will remember the truth of it.

Aside from my own experiences and opinions, The Natural Child Project  gives 10 good reasons not to hit/smack your child here.

After 25 years of thinking things should be done a certain way, and 2 years of actually carrying out those beliefs, I have found it a challenging journey to change the tides. I have had to learn new skills in self-control and arm myself with new tools and alternatives to what I had been doing.

Resources are not scarce; they are however, in my own experience, often rather vague to say the least. I guess because most of these articles are written by fellow natural parents, there is the collective idea that we shouldn’t be telling others how to parent their child. I found many articles to be wishy washy opinions when all I want is direction. That’s right. Iwant someone to tell me how to do this because God knows I have no idea.

So, out of the many articles I have read I have found this article and this article to be the most useful.

I concede, is and shall continue to be a long and bumpy ride, but hey, parenting was never meant to be easy, right?

May you create love filled memories in each and every day.

Who is Mama O Naturale?

“Mama O Naturale” is a handle I have chosen that resounds my own beliefs about a natural, holistic and gentle way of life. I choose to stay anonymous for the sake of myself, my children and my family because I accept that much of what I want to share is not “okay” with a lot of people but I still feel it is deeply important to share.

I am mother of two and I am currently studying towards a Diploma in Human Development with a vision to move forward into working with families to raise their children using gentle methods.

I was raised in an authoritarian household and after having my first child I decided that it was not a scene I wanted to repeat for my own children. And so began the long, and often bumpy, ride towards a gentler way of life.

When my son was 8 weeks old I stumbled across a local woman who was running mother/baby classes, teaching the philosophy of the late Dr Emmi Pikler. Through this valuable asset I have been able to take the journey towards gentle parenting with close support.

I am now into my third year of following the Pikler philosophy, and I have begun to adapt it to fit my own style, mixing it with a lot more attachment style parenting. I have also been lucky enough to complete the Circle of Security parenting training.

My hope is that, in sharing my own journey with you, you will see the lack of perfection, the reality and the lessons that we can all learn from each other if we would only stop judging for long enough to really take note.

Popular Posts

There is no custom code to display.