I have a real treat for you this week.
Chloe (AKA The Vintage Notebook) is one of my closest friends. Over the course of 15 years I have been on numerous holidays with her; and no matter how much long the period of time I am in her company for she never, ever becomes any less interesting. In fact, chloe fascinates me more with every conversation we have.
In Chloe's every day life she combines film work with archaeological research, specialising in death and burial. Chloe writes about history, London and dark vintage style, and is a (self confessed) thirteen year old goth at heart - only now with more expensive make up. If that sounds a touch dark to you, then you should also know that Chloe is a Dolly Parton fanatic, who is about to embark on a three week drive along the West Coast from Portland to San Francisco "just because", and has an admirable appreciation for doughnuts.
Over to the lovely lady herself... x
Chloe is available for freelance research or article writing, and you can read more about her here.
I have a fear of childbirth. I don’t just mean in a ‘yes, well none of us particularly like it dear’ way, but a deep rooted pathological fear of being pregnant and then delivering a child. I remember discovering the fundamentals of childbirth from the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Junior. Until that point I hadn’t really thought about how babies got outside of the body, apart for some vague notions that it might have something to do with the belly button. Suddenly it was like a big glaringly awful light came on – YOU EXPECT ME TO DO WHAT NOW?!!!
I don’t know if my fear of childbirth is a symptom or cause of my not wishing to have children. Of course it is a factor, but not the only one. I don’t much relish the idea of raising another human for the next two decades. I enjoy being alone and having no commitments. I like to wander my city for hours and spend my money on irrelevancies, like fancy pastries that I can eat whilst watching Poirot on a giant sofa.
I recently saw a Facebook post from a friend of a friend’s brother’s cousin’s auntie’s sheepdog that said something in the order of ‘I (the father) am happy to announce the arrival of (insert baby name here) who arrived at 8pm on (whatever date) weighing (insert appropriate weight for new born here). I am proud to say that (insert mothers name) went through the whole 36 hour labour with no drugs at all and only needed a little gas towards the end’.
I had to read the post serval times just to check I had got the grasp of the situation. So wait a hot minute buddy – your partner, the woman you love and adore has just spent 9 months harbouring and developing your child in her body, she has dealt with a tidal wave or mental, emotional, hormonal and physical changes. She has seen her body do things she never thought possible and possibly never wants to see again and has just spent 36 hours in unbearable agony pushing your child from herself and you take this very moment, the moment of you announcing the joyful and ultimately safe delivery of your first born to give her props for not taking drugs. What the actual you self-righteous (insert appropriate word here). So if she had opted for drugs your partner wouldn’t be as worthy of praise, she wouldn’t have suffered enough in your eyes? Holy cow.
Back in ye old days before antibiotics and advances in pain relief, one in four women died in childbirth – haven’t we as a gender suffered enough in this particular arena until, oh I don’t know, the end of frickin’ time? Take the drugs, don’t take the drugs, I don’t care – but for gawds sake don’t give women a Blue Peter badge of worthiness for choosing either option. They are already worthy.
And this really brings me to my main point – women throughout history and they strength they have shown. I am an archaeologist by training and beyond the colossal temples and treasure troves of jewels that glamorise my field, it is the stories of the everyday people who fascinate me most – specifically the women. Women are often whitewashed from history for numerous cultural and practical reason; access to literacy, positions of power within organised governments or religious groups, and the list goes on.
There are some exceptions to the rule however, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Elizabeth I – however their uniqueness underlines that there is a rule to be accepted from.
However unsung women maybe throughout much of Western history, our existence here is testament to their strength. I have read countless sources describing the conditions women have lived in over time – particularly Edwin Chadwick’s The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population (1842). Within the survey are countless women, brave, tough and tired who raise their children in terrible conditions whilst doing whatever back breaking and monotonous work they can find. Thankfully today in Britain these environments are largely (and I say largely with the knowledge that they are not entirely) outdated. However for other women across the world it is not merely an outmoded trope of Victorian life to have no access to contraception, decent pre and post-natal care and the ability to live a healthy, happy and above all safe life.
Several years ago I researched my own family history. I was curious about my mysterious great grandmother Daisy. I knew nothing about her except that she gave me my dark eyes and lived in the East End of London. I tracked her down through various census records until I came to the one for 1911 that stopped me in my tracks. Well, I was sitting at the time, but I definitely took a sharp inhale of breath.
Here I found Daisy French, 17 years old and living in Bow with her older siblings, George 20, Mary 19 and her younger brother and sister, Dolly 12 and little William 2. Five siblings in all were listed as well as their occupations. Daisy was a cigar stripper, George was an engine fitter for the railways, Mary a labeller in a paint factory. Dolly and William were obviously still too young to work.
All of this was interesting, but what really amazed me was that the head of the household was listed as their mother, Sarah Anne Linstead, aged 45. My great, great grandmother. Married (presumably to William’s father as he too shared the Linstead name of his mother) but with no sign of her husband on the census. At the bottom of the page two other residents, a 21 year old man named Frederick Mc Kenlay a warehouseman and boarder at the residence. Above him Mary Ann Leader, 88 years old and Sarah Anne’s mother.
So here in this one document I found my great grandmother, her mother and her mother before her, all living together in a small house in Bow. I was struck by how strong Sarah Ann must have been, not only did she raise five children alone, she worked as a tooth brush drawer in a factory, cared for her elderly mother and rented a room to a lodger to make ends meet.
If, like me, you found Chloe's guest post enthralling do make sure you pop over to her blog. Be warned, you may want to grab a flask of tea first, whenever I visit it I totally lose track of time.
Thank you again Chloe, and thank you everyone for reading the latest guest blog on what being strong means to you.
BuBakes is committed to reducing the stigma attached to Mental Health, and personally donates 25p for every order received to MIND. This is kindly matched by two generous supporters, meaning a £1 donation is made per order. If you would like to find out more about MIND, or make a donation you can do so here.