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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

But you don't understand, I AM GOING TO HAVE A BABY!

The countdown has begun. Duckling #2 is due in 8 days. She is well engaged and ready to go, and my midwife estimates at least 8.5 lbs already (I sincerely hope I don't go too over my due date therefore, or she's going to be colossal).

It is hard to explain the feeling of being so close to a totally inevitable event but still so uncertain about when it's actually going to happen. I had forgotten the stress. Despite being gigantic, exhausted, uncomfortable and struck by regular electric cramps in my leg and back whenever I stand up, I am still nesting like crazy and want everything to be perfect and prepared, just in case. I plan to have a home birth, so it's not just a matter of having a bag packed, nursery ready and the car seat fixed - I need the pool inflated and a box full of towels and bin liners to hand, plus the hospital bag in case I do have to transfer in, and a rucksack for Duckling so he can go to Grandma's, and a torch, and a sieve (don't ask), and clean nighties, and food and coffee for the midwives, and, and.... Just in case. Just in case it's tomorrow. 

The problem is, nobody else seems to be aware that she could come tomorrow and that EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE READY. We have a half finished kitchen and extension downstairs, with no proper flooring, just concrete screed. I have to give birth in that room and there are still wires hanging out of the walls everywhere and a semi open soil stack causing an intermittent poo pong to fill the whole house. "The guys will come to finish off the electrics over the weekend," says my builder. "NO! EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE READY NOW" I scream internally as I smile sweetly and actually say "Oh, right, are you sure they can't come any sooner?...".

With more work to be done, Drake is very reluctant to inflate my birth pool as it will be a fairly significant obstacle for the electricians. I just want it up, with all the associated paraphernalia stacked neatly next to it, clean and sterile and accesible. "Well, if you do go into labour, I'll have time to inflate it and fill it I'm sure," he says "I'll need something to do." "NO! THERE MIGHT NOT BE TIME! EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE READY NOW!" I do actually shout at him. He doesn't get the polite treatment our builder does.

Even poor Duckling is getting the brunt of my irritation, as he is blissfully unaware of the urgency with which all needs to be prepared, and insists on unpacking every case I pack, unsorting every mess I tidy and interrupting every attempt to finish a task with a cry of "MUMMY, I need a snack / drink / poo / you to rescue this dinosaur from a tree with my fire engine because it's a MEMERGENCY!" Not as much of a Memergency as it will be if the brand new sofa isn't properly covered in plastic shower curtains Duckling. "PUT THE SHOWER CURTAIN BACK CHILD!".

Part of this panic is totally self-inflicted - my fault for insisting on a hippy dippy home birth in the midst of a major building project. But having fought so hard to actually have my midwife attend my birth at home (thank God she eventually managed to secure an honorary contract through the NHS), it seems a bit pathetic to now opt for a hospital delivery just because some of our skirting board is missing and there are no blinds on the bifolds yet. Actually that last one probably IS important if I ever want to be able to look our neighbours in the eye again. Nothing some brown paper and bluetack can't fix though I'm sure.

Deeply middle class circumstances aside, the desire to be as ready as possible to welcome your baby is surely universal. It's not just a crazy female hormonal drive. It's a recognition of the fundamental life change that is about to assault you, and the knowledge, perhaps even more stark for me this time having done this once before, of the pain and focus involved; and the total exhaustion and selfless abandonment of free time, autonomy and personal space that follows. Things need to be prepared - for the birth and beyond - while you still have higher brain function, two hands and half an ounce of sanity.

I should count myself lucky. Some women never get the opportunity to prepare. I often think the shock of suddenly having a baby days, weeks, or even months before you expected one must compound the trauma of prematurity more than many let on. Your baby isn't ready. But neither are you.

So yes, I am fortunate to have this time. It will be fine. We will be prepared. Maybe not ready for our second. I'm still not sure I'm ready for the first. But in a practical sense, we should be mostly there. And really, if I don't have time to corral all my random maternity pad purchases into one bathroom, or clear enough former garage junk from Ducklingette's "nursery" for a change mat to go on the floor, will it really matter? Probably not. I'll still try to tick those things off tomorrow though. You know, just in case...

Friday, 17 February 2017

The elastic band of Mum love

While I was walking home from the Childminder with Duckling yesterday, we passed a car stopped by the side of the road, outside the park. Just after we'd gone by, a Mum got out, removed a little boy of about four from his seat and set him on the pavement, then ordered his older brother out too. She was clearly furious, and the kids were visibly upset, though I couldn't tell what they'd done. She then got back in the car and shut the door. Duckling was fascinated and concerned in equal measure and tried to run back to see what all the fuss was about. I stopped him, not wanting to interfere in a family drama, but I too could not drag my eyes away. I felt for the Mum, clearly at the absolute end of her tether, but I was also worried about the kids. It was dark and cold and they were obviously distressed at the prospect of Mummy driving off. I couldnt be entirely sure she wouldn't either.

So we backed off, and watched from under the shadow of a tree for a bit. "Why they crying?" asked Duckling. I told him I didn't know but I suspected they were upset because their Mummy was very angry and she needed them to stand outside the car while she calmed down (and to teach them a lesson, I didn't add).

After a minute or so, the Mum made to drive off. The little one wailed, running after the car. I didn't know what to do. My motherly instincts made me want to run over, give them a hug and tell them it would be OK. Had she actually gone, there is no question I would have done - that prospect was why I was watching, just in case. But she stopped, clearly just wanting to scare them a bit. Then she drove another metre up the road. The kids looked terrified, and the little one sobbed some more, but they continued to stand where they had been put. "What's going on? Surely Mummy wouldn't leave us?", their body language said. "Is their Mummy going to go away?" Duckling asked. "I really hope not," I replied, "but we're waiting here just in case she does."

Thankfully she didn't. Eventually, after a good four or five minutes, she got out, put the kids back in the car with some stern words of remonstration (I couldn't hear what) and drove off. I breathed a sigh of relief and carried on home.

I don't know what the kids had done and I don't know how many times she'd asked them to stop doing it. I don't know what else was going on in their lives, if this was a one off incident, or a demonstration of a frequently used disciplinary technique. I do know there have been times when Duckling has driven me to that point of irrational rage where you just want to Teach Them a Lesson. Would I have done the same? Possibly. I am not a big fan of fear as a disciplinary technique, so I'd have to have been pushed pretty damn far, but I can't say it would never happen. I understood.

Yet I also felt their terror acutely. I would have been distraught if my Mum had ever done that to me as a kid. Duckling often gets upset if I go upstairs without him - he would be totally beside himself if I dumped him on the pavement and threatened to drive off.

Perhaps I should have judged her more harshly or intervened directly therefore, but the fact was, she didn't leave.  She stayed because she was their Mum. Parenting is incredibly hard sometimes, but one thing I've come to realise in my first three years of motherhood is, come what may, my elastic band of love always pulls me back from the brink. That's why I didnt intervene. I couldn't truly believe, even though I didn't know her, that a Mum could snap that band and leave her kids behind. Thankfully my faith was right on this occasion. I hope it always will be.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The NMC and their ban on Independent Midwives

I am due to give birth to Baby #2 in just over eight weeks' time. Until early January, I knew that birth would most likely - and hopefully - take place at home, in a pool, with an Independent Midwife (a self-employed midwife who works outside the NHS) I knew well and trusted.  My midwife has looked after me throughout this pregnancy, and cared for me during my previous pregnancy and birth too. In an ideal world, every pregnant woman should have the opportunity to receive such comprehensive and consistent care. I can highly recommend it - it's brilliant.

However, on a practical level, the NHS cannot offer this: shift work patterns, organisational complexity, lack of funding and lack of midwives mean that continuity of care for most is just a pipe dream. The vast majority of women muddle through the system just fine. Some have a great experience. For others it's just OK, but they get a healthy baby at the end of it, so they count themselves lucky. For others still, pregnancy and birth can be a waking nightmare that leaves them with PTSD or worse. It is a bit of a lottery.

The female body is designed to gestate and birth a baby. However, that doesn't mean that things can't go wrong - we're designed to defecate too, but that doesn't mean nobody ever gets constipated. That is why we have trained midwives, obstetricians, and paramedics to help us through (with birth, not constipation, obviously. Although my midwife did have some handy hints about piles).

The issue comes when your care provider doesn't do the right thing for you and / or your baby. At the minor end of the scale, they may fail to consult you, mistrust your instinct or belittle your intelligence. This is pretty common, and as women many of us will be depressingly familiar with this kind of treatment so we may not even notice. At the more serious end, they may intervene when no intervention is necessary, or fail to intervene when they really should have done. This can lead to terrible outcomes.

People make mistakes. I've made plenty in my line of work and my Independent Midwife has probably made a few too. She is human and I am not naive. It is therefore reassuring to me to know that, should she get it majorly wrong, she has indemnity insurance that will pay out in the event her mistake leads to a life-changing injury to my baby, or worse my own or my baby's death. However, did I choose to go with her because she has that insurance? No. I chose her because I felt it was less likely there would be a terrible outcome with her caring for me: continuity of care has been shown repeatedly to improve safety and reduce risk. My choice. When I had Duckling, Independent Midwives couldn't even get insurance. I still booked in full knowledge of this, because a good, calm birth with a skilled, informed practitioner who followed evidence and trusted me to understand my options and the risks involved felt like a pretty good deal. It was a choice I paid for yes, so a choice I could only make because I am privileged enough to be able to afford it. I recognise that. But still, my choice, and indeed my right.

My right has now been taken away. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has decreed that the level of indemnity cover offered by a plan specially set up by IMUK, the official membership association for Independent Midwives, is "not appropriate". Specifically, should a catastrophic claim arise tomorrow, they believe the insurance fund would not contain enough to pay out a full settlement immediately. Despite the fact claims usually take several years to process, by which point much more will have been paid in and the funds would be adequate. And it has been accredited as financially sound and Solvency II compliant, which is more than the NHS' own compensation scheme has been. And that the NMC's actions have been deemed unlawful as they themselves state that it is not their role to speculate what an appropriate level of insurance cover might be for non-NHS practitioners.

All 80+ Independent Midwives (IMs) around the country are covered by this insurance and they simply can't get any alternative cover - it took years of hard graft to get the current scheme working. Yet in full knowledge of this, with just three days' notice before Christmas, the NMC stepped in to ban IMs from offering care to their clients (or even being present) during labour and birth, unless they found cover elsewhere, apparently "in the public interest". I understand the basis of their concerns, but as I stated in my letter of complaint to them, I do not feel this is in my interests. My choice and my right have been taken away, and I now have no idea where my birth will be or who will attend it, which is more than a little stressful.

I have faith in the NHS. I think it's an incredible institution full of incredibly caring people. I genuinely believe they will do their best for me and I don't want to appear an elitist snob about having to have a baby the same way most other women in this country do. If I didn't have an informed IM as a sister, I'd no doubt have been NHS all the way with my first. Indeed, I am very glad and very lucky the NHS will be there (I hope) to support me now it looks like my chosen midwife can't. It will be OK in the end I'm sure.

But I'm certainly not as sure about that as I was before Christmas, when I could be reasonably confident that the woman who brought my son into the world (and stemmed my blood loss from a freak laceration, called an ambulance and nearly got arrested speeding after that ambulance on our way to the hospital) would be there to welcome my daughter. Plus I don't know how I am going to navigate my way back into a system I have been out of since my 8 week booking appointment. Nothing causes more of a spanner in the intricate workings of NHS bureaucracy than a set of patient notes in a non-standard format with uncharacteristically legible handwriting. I strongly suspect I'll spend far more time repeatedly explaining my entire back story to my assorted NHS friends than I will telling them about my contractions and how I REALLY can't take them anymore. And don't get me started on the battle I'm likely to have over internal examinations. I had no idea at any point in my last labour how dilated my cervix was because my midwife was experienced enough to know what stage I was at without poking about. I was just left to get on with it. Excruciating pain aside, it was great and I gave birth feeling entirely unstressed and unmeddled with.

The really worrying thing about this decision though is the impact it will have on women who didn't, like me, have a good birth experience the first time around (and it was good, even with the pain and the drama at the end.  I will get round to writing about it one day). Women who have been traumatised by the treatment they endured at their local hospital, who scraped together enough cash to pay for an IM, and now they have no alternative route for receiving care, would rather give birth at home alone than risk returning to a place full of awful memories and mistrust. Leaving these women stranded is not in their interests. Concern about possible long-term financial difficulties that would only arise were something very unlikely to happen does not excuse an action which puts women and their babies at very real and immediate short-term risk. The NMC's decision is not about women's safety or the competence of their midwives - their real remit as a regulator. It's about money. And it's sad that they have chosen to put the latter before the first two in the assumption that this is what matters the most. This could have been handled SO much more compassionately and sensibly.

So sort it out NMC.  By the time you do, it'll probably too late for me, but you owe it to the thousands of women who will need a choice in the future, and the dozens of caring, dedicated midwives out there who have bravely stepped outside the system to offer the level of support they feel women truly deserve.

___

To find out more about this issue, you can read the official IMUK and NMC press releases, plus a great post from Philosophy, etc.

You can also sign a petition to get the NMC to allow women their rights in labour.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Is it OK to say my child is "bright"?

Duckling is now nearly three. Thirty-four months if we're being precise. He will soon be starting nursery, and we have been given a questionnaire by staff asking us to "describe our child". I imagine this is to help them get a sense of who he is and what he can / can't do. I like this as an idea, but it's a hopelessly open ended question and has presented me with a bit of a dilemma. How exactly do I describe him in the three lines we've been given? 

There are some obvious words that spring to mind. He is, as many of my friends and family have pointed out, something of a 'character'. I think this is a polite way of saying he's a bit bonkers / melodramatic. But he is also quite contradiction. Enthusiastic yet cautious, bossy yet initially shy, very imaginative yet also frustratingly single minded (a.k.a. stubborn) at times. The main word that comes to mind though is "bright". And here is where I'm struggling, because using that word makes me a bit uncomfortable.

As an example, I was talking to my midwife the other day and she commented on how articulate and chatty Duckling was. I obviously felt proud she thought so, but also awkward, so I ended up saying "Yes, he's a bright little spark and he certainly knows how to communicate. Mind you, he still can't properly climb the steps up the slide at the swing park". Then I felt completely awful. Why on earth couldn't I just accept the compliment? Why did I have to temper it with an apparent criticism of my own child, and even worse, while he was in earshot?

It seems, whether about me or my family, I do not take praise well. Like most English people (particularly women), the thought of showing off, putting others down by elevating oneself (or one's children) or appearing big headed fills me with horror.  It probably doesn't help that my school days taught me that having brains and voluntarily putting yourself in the limelight earns you no respect, and makes all but your very best friends hate your guts (and I'm sure some of them got pissed off at me from time to time too - and probably still do).

Anyway, I digress. Before we had kids, Drake and I often used to roll our eyes at parents who made out their infant was a bonafide genius while said child sat in a corner picking their nose and staring into space. We did not want to be THOSE parents. Now we have a nose picker of our own, we understand parental pride a bit more. We give Duckling heaps of praise and take and share photos of his achievements like anyone else. Nonetheless, that fear of appearing blinkered and naive remains. We still make a point of laughing at each other when we go too overboard on the admiration, knowing full well that five minutes after any major accomplishment, Duckling will probably be ramming a spoon in his ear or, like yesterday, trying to construct a shelf out of two bits of wood and his youngest cousin's head (good thing Goslingino is a pretty chilled little chap).

It's not just a self-conscious modesty or a fear of people rolling their eyes (or worse, contradicting me) that makes me balk at the 'bright' word though. It's easy to say Duckling is enthusiastic (the word "wow" gets used about 20 times a day) or bossy ("NO Daddy, you not do that!") but intelligence is so much more subjective. What exactly makes you clever? Is it academic brilliance? Verbal dexterity? Fantastic problem solving abilities? A high IQ? Emotional intuition and empathy? EVERY decent parent thinks their child is brilliant because we love them and choose to focus mainly on their achievements and skills, rather than their failures and challenges. What we may class as 'bright' behaviour might be totally different from the type of acumen another child displays though. Plus our kids develop so rapidly that every new skill learned and milestone achieved really does seem like an Einstein level accomplishment. Even with handy online guides, I still find it really hard to objectively assess whether Duckling is genuinely "advanced for his age" or if I simply think he is because I subconsciously ignore all the dumb stuff he does that's actually totally typical of a child of two (or, ahem, younger). And I know, realistically, he does plenty of really dumb things.

Yet, as my midwife pointed out, verbally, he IS doing very well. He speaks in clear, complex sentences, has a great memory and can understand and explain all sorts of concepts very clearly. Today, as a random example, he had a conversation with me about a broken tape dispenser (bloody Xmas wrapping) that went:
"Mummy, why you put that in the bin?"
"Because it was broken Duckling."
"Oh. But you can fix it?"
"No, the little tape cutter snapped off."
"Oh, that a shame. I can fix it Mummy? With my glue or my screwdriver? Can you get it back Mummy?"
"No darling, thank you, but it's properly broken. I don't think glue or a screwdriver will help."
"I can fix it Mummy! I juuuuust need my screwdriver."
"No, Duckling you really can't."
"Oh. Humph. Maybe we buy a new one?"
"Good idea, let's do that."
It was not all that dissimilar from conversing with Drake to be honest - he always thinks he knows how to fix things better than I do too...

My chiropractor's son of two and a half on the other hand is still stuck at the ten word level Duckling was when he was 17 months or so (you have to discuss something when they're sat on your leg, cracking your spine...), while another friend's daughter speaks in whole, descriptive sentences and she isn't even two.

So how can you compare? Should you even try? I think the answer is probably not. As every Health Visitor will tell you, children develop at different rates and will prioritise some skills over others. Being very verbal at this age has little real bearing on future braininess, however you choose to define that. Except maybe in those truly gifted children who are talking by one, doing long division by two and playing Beethoven by three... He is definitely not one of those. Furthermore, I'm not sure it really even matters. In the grand scheme of things, I'd rather have a healthy and happy child than a Nobel prize winner any day of the week.

After a lot of unnecessary overthinking, in the end what I wrote on the form (amongst other things) was our honest opinion: "We feel Duckling is quite bright." Because we do. Because he probably is. For a two year old anyway. He still can't bloody climb steps though, bless him.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Dear Playdoh (Baby No. 2)

Dear Playdoh (for that is what your brother has decreed you shall be called),

While you are still nicely contained in utero, I thought I might take a moment to pen you a little note containing a few small requests. If you wouldn't mind considering them over the next four months, I would be very much obliged.

  1. Your due date is 30 March.  I will give you a knock and let you know when this comes around.  Your brother wasn't particularly keen on making an entrance on his due date.  Or in fact anywhere close.  Then when he did finally decide to venture out, he took four days about it.  Less faffing about would be infinitely more comfortable for us both.
  2. When you make your final descent, if you could try your best to properly rotate yourself, rather than just shooting out like a wailing torpedo, you will save me an awful lot of blood loss, an ambulance ride and a whole patchwork quilt of stitches.  Better for me, better for you and better for your Daddy, who I'm sure would rather avoid sitting in a hospital room for eight hours with only a stale muesli bar for sustenance (poor lamb) and a wife moaning about the fact he forgot to bring her any shoes...
  3. If you've unfortunately inherited your father's genes and have a tongue tie, could you spend the next few months stretching it a bit? It's not much fun for any of us having to have it snipped. Especially not twice.
  4. I accept that sometimes you will be hungry / cold / hot / wet / burpy / tired. I will do my best to rectify these situations wherever I can, but if you could avoid apoplectic melt downs outside of these scenarios, I really would appreciate it. Your older brother cried pretty much constantly when he wasn't clamped to one or other of his beloved boobies, which was really rather tiresome and made life quite difficult for the first six (twelve, eighteen...) months. I'd prefer not repeat the experience.
  5. I will from time to time need to put you down - in a bouncy chair, on a change mat, into your father's arms... If you could attempt to be OK with that (for at least five minutes, but longer would be amazing), it would really help me out.
  6. One poo a day is generally considered an acceptable number. Poosplosions two, three, four or more times a day is a little excessive.
  7. Hospital is not a fun place to be, even if they do have an awesome playroom and macaroni cheese for lunch every day. Avoidance of fingers in doors and pneumonia causing bacteria is advisable.
  8. The pushchair is not your sworn enemy. If you prefer a sling, that's totally fine, but at some point it would be brilliant if you could also deign to be pushed about in something with wheels. Preferably some time before you exceed the maximum baby carrier weight limit / my back gives out.
  9. If you could possibly try to sleep through the night some time before the age of two and a half, the whole family would be eternally grateful.
  10. I am all for a less prudish, uptight society, but I'm afraid bearing one's breasts in public is still generally frowned upon.  If you could try not to extract them in front of others every five minutes therefore, you will save me a lot of blushes and yourself a lot of ticking off.
Of course if you do decide fulfilling these polite requests is simply too much of a crimp on your right to individuality and self expression, I will understand. You could ignore all of them to be honest and I would still love you more than life itself I am sure. I also recognise you'll probably come with your own unique set of fun traits which could well trump anything your brother threw our way. If you're half as entertaining and lovely as him, it won't matter a jot. Though, you know, I would prefer to reach forty before I go totally grey...

I live in hope and look forward to meeting you soon,

Love,

Your Mummy xxx

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Asking "Why?"

"Mummy, why are your trousers wet?"
"Because you squirted water all over me while you were in the bath my precious little sugar plum."
"Why Mummy?"
"Well I think you got a bit excited and thought it would be funny."
"Why?"
"Err, because you're a giant pickle!"
"Why?"
"Sigh. I don't know, you tell me!"
"Why?"
"Ugh. Right, lets do your teeth."

So goes a standard toddler "why" conversation. It's enough to make you want to put your head under the bathwater and not come up for air. But right now, in both America and the UK, WHY is a vital question to ask. People who didn't vote for Trump are furious. People who didn't vote for Brexit are too. But above all, they are confused and uncomprehending. They do not understand WHY people voted as they did. They simply cannot see how it could be possible for anyone not to see the truth that they do, not to be repelled by the deeply negative, regressive values pushed by these campaigns. I know I can't, not really. Yet something must have turned people into Leavers and Trumpers.  What was it?

Plenty have, and will continue to make guesses. Some will be pretty spot on, others less so. In the USA there is now a sea of speculation to swim through. It was Hillary's robotic delivery, it was Bill's adultery, it was misogyny, it was pure racisim, it was the coal mines, it was the FBI, it was Russia... It was in truth probably all of these things and many more, with different issues being the vote winners for different demographics and different individuals within those demographics. Rather than left wing speculation however, liberal Americans need to hear the reasoning from Trump voters themselves.  However wincing and uncomfortable it may be, their voices have to be listened to because without this, as with Brexit, the other side just becomes a generalised characature, and not a set of real people with real lives and worries. And when you reduce people in this way, it becomes incredibly easy to ignore them, with the consequences we are seeing today.

More than just individual anecdotes, Americans will also need objective, broad studies of all voters. In the UK, the Lord Ashcroft poll for example went some way to providing this at a high level after the Brexit vote. While it served to confirm many common assumptions, it also showed there was diversity in opinions and voter profiles. Brexiteers had a generally more negative outlook on the current state of the UK (and life in general) and tended to be older, in lower social classes and less progressive in their beliefs. But not everyone was. Some 27% of leavers were under 24 and 43% were in the highest social grouping. People voted out primarily because they wanted decisions affecting their country to be made in Britain (49%) with immigration and border control concerns (33%) ranking second as the main reason. The assertion made by some trying to "excuse" Brexit - that it was not actually about xenophobia (overt or not) but the more palatable, fluffy promise to better fund the NHS - was shown to be a bit tenuous. It was a factor but only about 12% of people polled voted Leave primarily because of this.

Statistics aren't sexy, but gathered well and combined with more in depth, qualitative research, they can pinpoint the most common and deepest held reasons people voted the way they did. This matters because it is only by understanding why people do the things that they do that we can begin to come to terms with new realities, move on and make effective changes. Progressives in both the USA and UK need to look forward and plan how to address the fears and motivations of their populaces - from every walk of life - in a way that is based on realism, generosity and practicality rather than fear, negativity and untenable populist policies. This doesn't mean liking, condoning or even tolerating Trump, Brexit or whatever other right-wing nightmares are in the pipeline.  It does mean putting stereotypes aside and calming the anger to find effective, evidence-based ways of winning back the hearts and minds of people who clearly feel the establishment have left them behind. We must all be two year olds and ask "WHY?".

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Trump

What is on your mind?" the app I use to write blog posts asks me every time I open it up. Well, mainly Duckling and his two year old melt downs. But also Brexit. Still. And Trump.

It is hard to know what to say about a man so odious, though many have tried. Screaming carrot demon is one of my favourite monikers (thank you Samantha Bee). Absolute arsehole (or asshole if we're being authentically American) would be my less creative version.

What depresses me more than Trump's vile personality though, and the vile policies and rhetoric it gives rise to, is the ardent support he enjoys from such a large proportion of the US population. There is much I could write about populism, the post fact society where feelings matter more than truth and reason and the bitter divisions within the US in terms of race, income and political ideologies. Trump has exploited all of these to get to where he is, just as the Brexit campaign did in the UK, to such unfortunate effect.

But this is about Trump the man. Why is it that so many are unwilling to recognise Trump for what he is? An egomaniac. A narcissist. A sociopath. These are undoubtedly big words, which, to be blatantly condescending, are unlikely to be in most Trump supporters' everyday vocabulary. The traits that define them - lying, cheating, manipulation, self-agrandisment, thin skin, lashing out, overt sexism, obvious racism, viciousness, pomposity, basic disregard for human equality and human life - should be easy to recognise though, and should start alarm bells ringing in the minds of anyone who has even a vague ability to recognise right from wrong, even the most basic notion of what happened in Germany in the 1930s and even the slightest idea of characteristics that might be undesirable in a democratic, decent, respectable President.

Hilary Clinton is of course not exactly a perfect alternative. The charity and email server scandals were very unfortunate (if not nearly as scandalous as Trump makes out) . But in terms of 'wrongdoing' this article from the Slate sums it up nicely. Major misdemeanours by Clinton = 1. By Donald Trump = 230.

Where are society, the State, parents, schools, the media, all of us - in the US and beyond (for there are Trump backers here too) - going so wrong that so many people are immune Trump's malignancy, or, worse still, are actively embracing it? Are half the US population missing basic emotional intelligence and compassion? Are the women that plan to vote for him really so hating of minorities that they'd rather ignore their own rights and vote for a pussy grabber than a fellow woman? Are children no longer being raised to be kind and respect others? And if they are, at what point does the message switch to "just look out for yourself and people like you. Everyone else is can fuck off?" I can understand how a tough life (or frankly a comfortable, well-off life that you want to protect) can give rise to this kind of thinking. But as with the xenophobia driving Brexit, it doesn't make it excusable.

Everyone is entitled to their political beliefs, and in his own unique way Trump does represent many dearly held by Republicans in the US, however unpalatable they may be to us more liberal minded Europeans (though I can no longer vouch for the liberality of roughly half my country to be honest). But there is a difference between being conservative in your beliefs - which in America is strongly tied to the concept of FREEDOM let's not forget (albeit really only for white middle class males) and being a power-crazed lunatic who just spouts whatever nonsense he thinks will put him ahead in the polls. Many voters at this juncture probably believe that being in Trump's 'in group' (white people) they will be protected, represented, have their lives improved. That's why they're voting for him. They don't care about all the many people he hates, the women he's assaulted, all the people he has alienated and stamped on. He doesn't hate THEM. He makes mistakes and talks like one of them. He GETS them. Until the day he decides they or the social group to which they belong, for whatever reason, have offended him, and then their lives will be made as miserable as the many Mexicans and Muslims he plans to piss all over if he comes to power. Fascism 101.

If there wasn't a chance this will all end in nuclear armaggedon, the idea of Trump actually having to navigate the complexities of leading a world superpower would be utterly hilarious. It would make a far more engaging reality show than The Apprentice. But it isn't funny. Whichever way the election goes today, there will have to be some serious soul searching in the USA tomorrow, and beyond, where Americans ask themselves "How did we allow this man to get so far, how is it so many found him acceptable and how do we stop something like this from ever happening again?" Let's hope it doesn't take four years of a living Trump nightmare to drive the message home.