I want to be that mother who can stand up and say I am a strong confident mother and I know what is best for my children. We breastfeed and co sleep, We listen, We include, We eat chocolate and snot smoothies, we trampoline and grow frogs, we sling, we carry and we try and understand and work with our children without resorting to punishments, threats or coercion.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

We are all Habiba

My facebook has been inundated recently with news regarding a Morrocan woman and the separation from her 15month baby.  The full details of the whole situation are not known but one part is very clear:  because she did not complete part in a 'required' program in the shelter where she was taking refuge, her baby was taken away from her and she was asked to leave the shelter as she no longer had a dependency.  The 'required' program? She was to stop breastfeeding her daughter and take medication to dry up her milk. That is correct, she was separated from her daughter May 31, 2011 by the IMMF (Minor and Family Institute of Madrid - Instituto Madrileño del Menor y la Familia) for not completing a program of psychotherapy and 'maternal skills' because she refused to end her extended and on-demand breastfeeding relationship with her daughter Alma.

The report circulating on the maternal behaviour of Habiba with her daughter Alma is terrifying to say the least. It accurately describes in non complimentary terms the exact breastfeeding relationship I have had with my two girls, on demand and extended.  They receive milk from me as and when and ESPECIALLY when upset, since this is THE best method for calming almost EVERY situation.  The comments regarding food are clearly derisory of what most mothers AP or not, now simply do , baby led weaning. And the issue they have with Alma's 'sleep pattern' is laughable to me. Since bed sharing/co-sleeping is one of the main stays of AP parenting it is inconceivable to many of us that this could create such problems besides we all know what kids 'sleep patterns' are like never mind whether they co=sleep or not.

The greater issue here is an attack on natural attachment parenting and this is what scared and angered me the most.

I have found it hard to be too pushy because the facts of the case as I know them are very one sided.  I am all too aware that there are two sides to every story and I am not entirely clear on the full facts yet. (the wonderful world of internet).  The facts remain for me that this woman co-slept, so do I (a problem for IMMF) extended breastfed, so do I (a problem for IMMF) and baby-led weaned, so do I (a problem for IMMF). 

"She is not aware of the inadequacy of certain behaviors which can involve risk and neglect". What exactly are they talking about here.  This is a huge statement...with wildly differing view points as I have experienced. cutlery or chair anyone?

If this IS the policy of the IMMF then it shows a very unfavorable view of the IMMF and what does that subsequently mean for the Spanish Government and policies at large and don't even get me started on society as a whole!!!  This is in clear violation of Article 8 which guarantees the right to family life and for the integrity of the family.  A public authority cannot interfere with this and if Spanish law allows it, then it appears that in doing so, the Spanish Government is breaching ECHR

To this end, we decided to join the International protests at Spanish Consulates around the globe and protest on behalf of Habiba and her daughter Alma.  I had hoped others would be able to come, but as it was very last minute for us, I knew I would be on my own!!  If the press don't pick up on this and more probing occurs because of this, more may need to be done.

We set off for Edinburgh in very high spirits, having explained to the girls that we were going to tell as many people as we could about a mother who had her baby taken away from her because she wanted to breastfeed (keeping it simple and relative).  Even on the bus into town to get the train, I talked to a few mothers who seemed genuinely horrified. One even said 'this is exactly what we do' (I invited her to our Nature in Nurture group as an asdie!!)

People looked at us and wondered.  I wondered if they would go home and google Habiba.

Maia wore her 'We are all Habiba' placard round her neck all day

and Ellie handed out the leaflets and asked passers by if they had a computer and would they sign the competition (petition). She completely chose her outfit herself, I wonder if she saw the black white theme on the poster in the morning and that influenced her choice!! The Woolfson flair for clothes and design perhaps? She does like to be matching although I think that might be my influence!!

When we arrived Ellie rang the door bell before I could stop her, which worried me a bit, because I didn't want to be papped out before we had even begun!! A man appeared at the door and asked if we wanted to come in, I said yes but later, once we have given out some leaflets (and tired the girls out to keep them from totally ransacking the Spanish Consulate!!!). Several staff came in and out the building and seemed fine that we were there, they drew the line at posters taped to the wall though!!  A police van drove past but I don't think they even noticed as I was sitting down at that point calming Maia 

On the whole most people were interested.  I kept it short and simple, the people of Edinburgh were busy, it was lunch time, most had people to see, places to go, sandwiches to be eaten.  I was on my own.  I tried my very bestest to keep my grumbling and vitriolic remarks to myself about the ones who said no and walked by without even hearing.  

After an hour, the girls started getting edgy and were wanting to go inside the Consulate, so once all the leaflets were gone and they had opened back up for lunch, we went inside and spoke to the High Heejun himself, which was unexpected.  I had thought I was going to give my papers to his staff.  

He was a very dashing Spanish bloke who spoke in a fantastic accent and spoke very very fast and with Maia on my knee asking for green paperclips for her and red ones for Ellie, but she didn't know what they were called so it was a long conversation and Ellie lying under the table and saying she needed the toilet, it was incredibly difficult to have a conversation with him, as I am sure you will all know! I didn't even catch his name which is most annoying!

He started off by saying he wasn't fully aware of the situation but it was an interesting one for him because he was Morrocan,  and that the stories he had heard were different.  At one point he said that she was not performing her motherly duties and that it had nothing to do with breastfeeding.  I asked him if he read the maternal report that I had brought as this wasn't just about breastfeeding, he even started to tell me about some of his staff who breastfeed and his secretary who was sitting next to him!!!  He wouldn't be brought into a discussion of what constituted 'motherly duties'.  He said he was aware that the child was in poor condition but I was unable to ascertain whether this was before or after she had been removed from her mother, I think Ellie left the room at that point to go to the toilet and I was waiting for that shriek of 'muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum I want you to come'.  I basically said to him, it is important to know you are going to look into this matter and he assured me he would phone me or email me with more information.  He was very amicable and friendly and not at all aghast by my kids who in actual fact were knackered enough to be positively angelic for them!!!  Thinking about it now, Maia sat on my kneee pretty much the entire time and didn't ask for milk once...darn!! " letting her take it anywhere, no matter the time and context in which this happens (offices, corridors). "

We left in a positive note and since during the course of the conversation, I had promised Maia I would help her advocate for the paper clips we also left with the desired clips and the secretary gave the girls a fan each which Maia promptly broke on the way home.  She was most upset about that.

Meltdowns - one, but that's another story!
Losing the Plot - so very very tired and in pain by end of day but so very very tried not to
Breastfeeding - :-D 


  1. Good job, mom and daughters all!!

  2. Well done Miriam! Good for you 3 for doing it on your own.

  3. That's an amazing story. You are awesome.

  4. what do you get if you win?

  5. You ARE awesome Miri! I wish I was you sometimes! xxx

  6. you get a mother and baby back together!! what more of a prize could that be!!
    (i assume you were talking about Ellie's [com]petition!!)