Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Well Done, Eastenders

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Let me start by saying I know a lot of you are going to disagree.. but I think Eastenders has done very well tonight, and in general, on the Roxy and breastfeeding storyline.
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For those who don't watch soaps, or follow soap babies... Roxy is the 'blonde bombshell ditzy good time girl' with a good right hook in the current Eastenders.
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As the good time girl who likes peroxide, vodka jellies, and dangerous men... she fell pregnant and.. guess what! ... there could be two fathers! Oooh!
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Also, in classic soap portrayal, she has a Traumatic Incident late in pregnancy, and has a little preemie girl, Amy.
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Amy is locked in a plastic box at the hospital, with various wires poking out of her. Roxy, not one of Nature's Mothers, find herself sighing over the plastic box, and becoming quite concerned for the little itty bitty thing in it. A passing nurse, asks her if she planned on breastfeeding.. "Yuck No!" says Roxy's face... Roxy intended to formula feed, thank you very much.
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Nurse explains that it's good for the baby, and she can hand express... they are interrupted by a dramatic Is This The Real Father come to view plastic box moment.
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Time passes, Roxy is heard to complain, in passing, that her nipples are in shreds and bleeding, and having Amy in the plastic box at the hospital is very hard work. (But it does allow her to have lots of moody moments on the square, pondering the Fatherhood, or otherwise, of Sean, the duped Dad. Jack, the real Dad, hovers moodily.)
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Tonight, several months after Amy has been born, and freed from the plastic box and allowed home (to be kidnapped and threatened with death by fake Dad), Roxy takes her out and has a chat with a younger female character. (Unaware younger female character is her own niece.)
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And they chat about motherhood. And Roxy says she not a very good mother, being a ditzy blonde good time girl. And the example she uses, about her lack of mothering skills, is breastfeeding.
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Roxy hated breastfeeding. It hurt. A lot. You're supposed to like it, but she didn't. This proves she's not a good mother. When she told the midwife her nipples hurt, the midwife ignored her. When she told the middle-class Mums down the clinic it hurt, they looked at her like she was mad. When she brought the bottle out... they warded off the evil! (Roxy uses crossed fingers and dramatic emphasis.)
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They laugh and move on.
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Now, as I said, I think a lot of you are going to drum me out of the Secret Lactavist's Cabal*, for this... (or perhaps, as a soon to be ex GoddessMother of The Breastfeeding Mafia (TM), I'll soon be sleeping with the fishes...) but I think Eastenders have done a good job here. I think Roxy's experiences have been portrayed in a very low key, and very authentic way. And I think in context, it's good.
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Consider:
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The last baby born on the Square was breastfed successfully. Albeit it was under a net curtain.
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That mother's right to breastfeed her baby in the cafe (albeit under the aforementioned net curtain) was upheld in the story line.
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Roxy it the absolutely typical stereotype of a new mother who was never going to breastfeed: working class, young, fashion conscious wild child. One who had already self-selected to formula feed during pregnancy, as breastfeeding was alien to her.
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She expressed for her preemie. She tried to breastfeed. She persevered with expressing when her baby was in a plastic box, and she was in turmoil. She persevered with pain and cracked and bleeding nipples.
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She asked for help. She wasn't given any. She gave up.
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I don't see anything wrong with this sequence, in terms of a drama. In fact, I see a great deal right with it. I see the authentic experience of a lot of women, and I see it portrayed sensitively, and with some flair.
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Therefore, I see it as a positive step in an excellent step forward for this particular drama. I'm especially excited, by Roxy's awareness, and discussion, of the class issue in breastfeeding rates. It raises debates, and allows them to be aired. And it leaves open room for the next working class mother in the Square, to win through somehow. (Last Mum to breastfeed under the net curtain, was middle class, even if married to a working class bloke - she was very middle class. So I feel real work is being done here.)
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And I so hope that's what Eastenders does, as it carries on with its very subtle building up of real baby feeding issues, in it's very-not-suited-for-that-type-of-storyline-drama. (Babies and Mums have to separated a lot in soaps, so having one breastfed, is a real challenge! How could they be kidnapped and threatened with drowning/burning alive/being secretly brought up in Melbourne and called Sandra, if they were still breastfed!) Hopefully, as we progress, working class Mums on the Square, will breastfeed successfully, sans net curtain.
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And the authentic story here -that of trying, even when you didn't think you could or should, but having an experience of pain, and being not listened to, is taken on board. This happens to women every day - and that needs recognised, and dealt with.
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I look forward to another mother, in the Square, saying it hurts, and a friend dragging her to get help, and screaming and kicking and complaining 'down the clinic' that no one is listening to her friend when she says she's in pain.
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If you agree with me, that Roxy's experience of breastfeeding has been A Good Thing, portrayed as it has... tell the BBC. It's really important to praise when things go right. As well as suggest improvements on what could have happened to make it work.. of course!
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*Yeah, like me being a lactavist is a secret....

6 comments:

Ruth Moss said...

What?!

You're a lactavist?!

Since WHEN?!

(looks left, right, around, then does secret nipple tug handshake type thing)

Morgan said...

*whips it out in public*

"The moon is in the fifth quadrant."

Do you have my secret payments? The leccy bill is due...

Analisa said...

Well said, Morgan! (-Analisa, 3under3 on LJ)

*secret nipple tug handshake* HAH!

Morgan said...

Can we find a new secret handshake? My nipples are starting to hurt, and it's bloody cold around here at the moment!

Ailbhe said...

I can't do the secret handshake because I can't get the whip bit to go whip properly - it's more of a flop.

Laura said...

I miss EastEnders!!! Sounds like it was handled very well....course, wish they had also shown her persevering too!