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Caroline Farrow: This baby should never have been torn from her mother’s breast

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In March yet another study was released confirming the link between IQ and breastfeeding. According to research, the longer a baby is breastfed, the more likely it is to be intelligent, stay in school and earn a higher salary. The advantages of breastfeeding are innumerable; it has proven health and psychological benefits for mother and child alike. It’s estimated that if more UK mothers could be supported to either commence breastfeeding or continue it for longer, the NHS could save as much as £40 million a year.

Go to any maternity unit or children’s centre in the country and you’ll see posters extolling the virtues of breastfeeding and exhorting mothers to give it a go. Speak to any doctor, midwife or health professional and the consensus is the same. Breast is best.

Unless of course, you happen to be caught up in the middle of a tangled surrogacy arrangement whereupon WHO guidelines no longer apply. Should two men wish to parent a baby, breast milk or maternal bonding becomes irrelevant and even as was deemed by Ms Alison Russell in a judgement in the High Court, ‘harmful’.

In a case which ought to have every single self-identifying feminist screaming to the heavens for justice, a woman has had her one-year-old baby daughter removed from her and handed into the custody of two men, on the grounds that she was causing her harm, not only by horror of horrors, breastfeeding, but also committing the cardinal sins of sometimes co-sleeping with her infant and carrying her about in a sling, at the advanced age of 15 months.

What appears to have happened in this case is that the woman had conceived her own biological child using the sperm of her gay friend with whom she was not in a sexual relationship and at some point along the way, changed her mind over the arrangement and decided that she wanted to keep her baby. The finding of the judge that she never had any intention of giving up her child is irrelevant, as is the mother’s behaviour towards the gay couple, no matter how reprehensible we may find her actions.

What we have here, and that’s accepting the judge’s version of events, is a woman who was so desperate to keep her own child, that she told some unpleasant lies in an attempt to influence other people on social media. As the judgement makes clear, it was not even the woman herself who posted an inappropriate tweet pertaining to the court case, but one of her friends. As far as the mother herself goes, though she would appear to be something of a character, there is nothing to suggest that she was putting her child at any sort of risk, quite the opposite, and if indeed she did make some untrue allegations, this was not done on social media and importantly, it was because she was so desperate to keep her own child. A mother telling lies in order to do what she passionately believes is in the best interests of her own daughter is hardly crime of century; however misguided, it’s what mothers have been doing for generations and certainly not grounds to have the child taken away.

Social policy and NICE clinical guidelines dictate that even substance-addicted pregnant women and mothers need to be given a chance to look after, care for and bond with their babies, albeit with supervision, in order that where possible mothers can be persuaded to turn their lives around, recognising that the best outcome for the baby is to remain with their mother where possible. Even though addicts are unable to breastfeed their baby, it is still accepted that the maternal bond with one’s child should not be broken; a child ought not to be removed from their mother unless they are at immediate risk of serious harm and neglect.

Writing in the Federalist, Rivka Edelman posits that LGBT demands for children are misogynistic in nature, pandering to various tropes of unfit mothers. She notes, that all gay families are created by, or because of, someone else’s family being destabilised. Even when surrogacy goes smoothly, there is still a child separated from a biological parent, a birth mother, or both and in some cases there are older siblings, such as the surrogate’s existing children who are left traumatised and confused.

This case epitomises the commodification of children inherent in surrogacy. Note the Judge’s language that the mother sought to ‘keep the child for herself’. How very selfish of her! A look at the judgement also sees some very disturbing misogynistic language surrounding the mother, whose articulate and passionate disposition have led to her being dismissed as a victim by the judge. Using the sexist stereotype that in order to be a victim a woman must be passive and mute, the judge noted negatively that the woman was able to clearly speak up for herself and participate in the proceedings. The breastfeeding,well that was obviously all about control and manipulation, not borne out of any sense of love! Even if one is cynical enough to believe this, it’s still worth remembering that respected child psychologist Penelope Leach suggests that in the case of marital break-ups, children under 4 ought not to spend nights away from their main carer.

I’ve breastfed all five of my children, and as any mother will tell you, it is not always easy. There are times when you grit your teeth and get through it, knowing that you are doing what is best for your child. It is as far removed from selfish as you can get. My son is currently eight weeks and in common with the others, there is no way that he would be able to spend the night or even a few hours away from me. Breastfeeding is not used as a way of controlling the contact that others might have with him, sometimes I’d kill for a few hours of peace, but it satisfies his innate need for me, the same need that all babies have for their mothers.

Like countless other breastfeeding mothers, I co-sleep (following all the guidelines) because it is the only way to get him to settle in the middle of the night. Babies aren’t actually designed to sleep apart from their mothers. And childless Judge Russell obviously has no idea about the difficulties of expressing milk, attacking the mother for taking long breaks to do so and also casting doubt on her because not having been able to express previously, to let the baby spend time withtheir father, once the baby was weaned onto solid food, the mother found herself able to express. It’s not rocket science as to why she then had surplus supply, but Ms Russell decided otherwise. And though the judge cast doubt on her decision to continue feeding for as long as the baby wanted, again medical evidence is on the mother’s side here.

Then in another part of the judgement, the mother was criticised for wearing a sling to carry her 15 month old daughter, who may not even be walking yet, in case this prevents the child from becoming independent. Even thoughcarrying babies in slings, like breastfeeding, has proven benefits, not only for babies, but for toddlers too. Putting babies in plastic carriers and gadgets is, like formula milk, a modern phenomenon, with adultconvenience prioritised above infant preference and natural instinct.

Then following the criticism for the breastfeeding, the bed-sharing and the baby carrying, we really get to the heart of the matter from the judge. The mother wants to commit the ultimate atrocity and not actually go out towork. In summing up, the judge criticises the mother for breastfeeding, co-sleeping, wearing a sling and keeping her 15 month old baby close to her, claiming that this stifles the child, is of little benefit and puts her mother’s needs for closeness first, because as any fool knows, a 15 month old baby doesn’t really want or need her mum’s exclusive love and attention. The judge explicitly criticised the mother for not being ‘outward-looking enough’. We can’t have an ‘over-involved’ to use her words, emotional mother with no plans to return to work looking after her young child, can we?

So despite the judge noting that being taken from her mother is, ‘bound to affect her, likely to upset and distress’ the baby, she has in any event decided that as the baby was conceived with the intention of being brought up by the two men, that’s precisely where she needs to go and what should constitute her family. Hence the child has been removed from her mother.

This is the identical misguided and paternalistic attitude which saw thousands of babies removed from their loving mothers in institutions such as the Magdalen laundries, who saw women as too morally deficient to be able to mother their own children. An attitude which caused untold amounts of grief and harm and which has roundly and rightfully been condemned. Just as young girls were berated for attempting to feed and bond with their babies who never belonged to them, so too has a woman in 2015 Britain been condemned for feeding and loving her own child too much, which it has been decided, was never hers to love in the first place, but always belonged to two men.

The only reason that the woman’s parenting decisions have been deemed harmful is because they relied solely on female biology and interfered with the baby’s ability to be passed about and shared between adults like a pet puppy.

This case exemplifies how women and children will be sacrificed at the altar of LGBT parenting. The little girl at the centre of this is likely to have experienced unimaginable fear, trauma and no doubt attachment disorder and lifelong emotional problems as a result of being forcibly wrenched from hermother’s care to suit the demands of two men.

It’s rare that I write such a long piece, but then again, it’s rare that a story evokes such white hot incandescent rage at such a tragic injustice. This is where feminism should radically part company with their LGBT bedfellows. Forget the body-image narcissism, no woman should be contractually obliged to give up their child or have the State remove it on account of her behaviour as biological mother.

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Caroline Farrow
Caroline Farrow
Columnist for the Catholic Universe

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