I know it isn't everyone. It isn't me, and I like to think it probably isn't most of the people who read this blog. Now, for some reason my American readership is larger than my UK one so I wonder if the same worrying trend is growing there too. But here in England, Britain, the UK (take your pick) a collective negativity really seems to have taken hold.
I've talked in articles on here about the recession and austerity (you know how I feel about the coalition government) and I do think that being continually pitted against each other is a terrible thing. Having to fight individual corners to protect what little we have has taken its toll and sped up the process over the past 2 years. I've certainly commented on other blogs which have either reinforced this negativity, or mercifully railed against it (Miss Cisco).
As a relatively new mum I have been amazed at how we parents often judge each other. I'm assured that it has always been this way, but as an idealist I tend to expect the rosy until I'm rudely awakened. Should we gossip about each other and judge each others parental choices? Of course not, but even us idealists have our catty moments and I shamefully hold my hand up to it on occasion. Idealist, but not self-deluded saint.
But what really has shocked me of late is seeing how some mums and pregnant women have been treated by members of the medical profession. I have heard of seriously ill mums-to-be, hospitalised with the pregnancy condition I suffered with being labeled 'drama queens'. Of medical notes not being read and distressing histories having to be retold again and again. And no apologies, no empathy, no "I'm so sorry". Just arrogance and condescension with no softening of the harsh demeanour. Surely some of these same people are parents themselves?
So, how do you find yourself in what is supposed to be the ultimate caring profession, not giving a damn?
I myself have been treated appallingly at the hands of nurses and midwives tasked with keeping me and my unborn baby safe - perhaps if I hadn't been neglected and snapped at when asking for a doctor I would have received the second steroid injection as I was supposed to, and my daughter wouldn't have endless chest infections through weak lungs - something that may stay with her for life.
And I found that the attitudes of some on the NNU when they knew my husband and I were under an immense amount of stress were no better. Some, that is, others were brilliant and it would be unfair to tar all with the same mean brush.
But even on the cusp of 'graduation' after 11 weeks of NNU rollercoaster when I came to 'room-in' before finally taking her home, I met with the mean streak of one particular nurse. I had been told to go upstairs to the labour ward for a meal. A tired and worried breastfeeding mother, trying to do everything right - this is what I got:
"You want a meal? Well, WHO sent you?"
I had already explained the situation to her, that my daughter had been in SCBU for 11 weeks, that I was roomed in, breast feeding on demand, and had been sent to have some food. I answered that it was the neonatal nurses downstairs. I also knew that roomed-in mothers receiving meals was what always happened, having seen pretty much every other friend on the unit leave before us.
"Really? Well I'm not sure we have enough. I mean, nobody told us! I wish they wouldn't just assume. You'll have to wait until all the mums have had theirs and then we'll see if there's anything left for you".
Oh right, the mums who have just had their healthy term full-babies and will be getting to take them home in a few hours. Great! Do I not even qualify as a proper mum? I'm stuck at hospital as I have been been every day for the past 75 days, and I don't merit a meal? Of course, these thoughts didn't fully occur at the time and although I was inwardly seething, I did that stupidly British thing of apologising for causing bother and telling her not to worry about it. The Hugh Grant of the labour ward! I think there may have been a slight edge to my tone as I turned on my heel though (sorry, Hugh) as she seemed to realise how harsh she'd been. As I reached the door she was suddenly shouting after me that she was sure they'd be able to find me something, "perhaps a sandwich"
Well you know what? I bloody well hate sandwiches, and I wanted to tell her to stick her her begrudged offerings where the sun don't shine! But instead I told her that it was fine and I'd get my own. But others have suffered far worse than a mere denying of food. Yet the attitude behind each crass insensitivity is the same.
My experience was not out of the ordinary. Not from what I have read elsewhere and in the small online community of premature mums, of which I am a part. From the rolling of the eyes at the mum who keeps hitting that buzzer at the NICU locked doors, to the belittling of the mum struggling to establish breastfeeding. Unkindness that may sometimes simply be under-staffed and overworked nurses having a bad day. But it's like a drip-drip effect, seeping into society. Harsh words and careless neglect to the already stressed can have long term effects. I read a statistic that up to 70% of mums who give birth to premature babies develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have been there, and it is horrendous. Yet the internal eye-rolling often starts again. Now what? Your baby is safe. You should be thankful. Drama Queen... Family, friends, colleagues, doctors, nurses, fellow parents...
So again, I ask... where has the empathy gone? Politicians and employers, blah. But if it's disappearing from even the caring professions, then what does that say about where we are headed as a country? Having said that, the work I do with the Grace Research Fund reassures me that there are some absolutely wonderful medical practitioners out there and they care deeply. I hope they are still in the majority and that my fellow mums and I have been unlucky.
I would just really like to see a reversal in what I see as a cancer in our society - the growth of jaded cynicism and the inability to empathise with our neighbour. Is it too late? The idealist in me likes to think not.