At once both familiar and foreign.
Where there is a lack,
There is at once longing.

I long for sleep.

Long for the intimate moment in which we become one,
Dancing a dance of star crossed lovers that drift away on moments of surreal nothingness
Partaking in the embrace of darkness and peaceful breathing,

But alas, I sit here.

Yearning to experience restful slumber.
Until that time in which I am afforded your favor,
I will wait.

I will sit patiently, though not quietly,
For noise generated by my busy restless thoughts continues to hum through my mind,
Like a back up generator.
Thoughts that speak of deadlines, stresses, new project, ideas and day old dishes.

Still, I will wait.

I will wait tiredly as I listen to the whispers of enchantment a silent house brings,
Wait patiently for the moment when you will arrive, to make your move,
For it is inevitable that you will come to visit sometime soon.

You an I have a rendezvous.

International Women's Day: My Mom

Today, March 8th 2012, is International Women's Day. I took this opportunity to write a bit about one of the most amazing women I know.

Doing art on the sidewalk in Montreal
My mom is far from perfect, but she's an incredible person. She never thought she'd have kids until she did at (almost) the last minute. She never got married because she didn't (doesn't) believe in it. She was 38 when she had me and 43 when she had my sister (pretty unusual 20 years ago!). When I was pregnant and planning a natural birth, she told me that her labour pains were so bad, "If I'd had a gun, I would have killed myself."

I had the natural birth anyway. She was there and it was beautiful.

I guess I took it to heart when she told me that she always liked it when someone said she couldn't do something, "Because it just makes me know that I'm really going to do it." She bought our home when she was a single woman in her early 30s for the astronomical price of $100K (for a house in Vancouver!). Everyone told her she was crazy. She put the down payment on her credit cards. It put me through college.

One time, when she and her friend were visiting Salt Spring Island, they biked to the top of a mountain only to see their ferry coming in. They raced down to the docks but they missed it and they had to sleep on the floor of a restaurant nearby. No big deal. I was enchanted by this story as a kid and whenever we walked by that restaurant I would picture her with long blonde hair, resting easily on the floorboards beside her bike.

"Less is more."

One time, she was invited to spend a weekend on a boat with another friend and some guys. Her friend liked one of them but she found them all crass and rude. She got them to drop her off somewhere she'd never been before to enjoy a weekend by herself.

My mom regularly walks out of movie theatres. "Well I've already wasted my money on it, why would I also waste my time?"

She has a great sense of humour but she can't tell a joke to save her life.

She has a special extendable pole she uses to push the button at traffic lights – from her car.

"Just do it, that's what I always say." 
"Um, no mom, that's what Nike always says." 
"Well, I say it too."

She never baked cookies with us, but she sure made a lot of banana bread and cabbage salad.

She always encouraged me to share my feelings with her, even when they were about her and they weren't very nice. I wish I had taken her up on this offer more often when I was younger and it really mattered.

My mom is an artist. She put her art on hold to raise my sister and I. Now she [sometimes] prioritizes it, when scrabble, tennis and tenants don't get in the way. She's always very busy.

My mom has ADHD and she isn't afraid to tell you all about it.

My mom is the least sentimental person I know. She doesn't believe in hope, regret, or missing people. Even her grandson. Also, she throws hand-made gifts from my sister and I in the trash.

She has taught me not to take things too personally.

And that, "when in doubt, throw out."

She let me attend my sister's birth when I was five years old. So I asked her to be present at the birth of my son. She was tasked with driving my husband and I to the birthing centre. It was the middle of the night in the middle of a Montreal winter. Baby was coming hard and fast. She forgot the car keys inside the house and had to go back four blocks to get them. I was eight centimeters dilated by the time we got to the birthing centre.

My mom is very, very smart. But she still needs someone to remind her not to lock her keys in the car.

And to rescue her when she does (hi Bruce!).

She gives great hugs. Also, massages.

She plays great tennis. Someone told her she had the best female backhand in the entire tennis club. She knows this is because she's in touch with her anger.

She let me quit public school when I was seven years old because I told her I hated it and it was making me depressed. I'm grateful she trusted me so much.

She taught me how to dress like a million bucks when you've got nothing to spend and how to meditate on the remedy for a broken toilet when you can't afford a plumber.

She always said, "If you're bored, you're boring." Also, "Being self-conscious is boring."

I am never bored.

Though sometimes I am self-conscious.

My mother loves to eat but she hates to cook.

I married an excellent chef.

One time I got really mad at her when she said, "Keep talking, I'm listening" and then turned around and walked away.

My mom always thinks outside the box. Sometimes, like the time she taught me French while driving across Canada in a third-hand camper van with a loose part that rattled like a jackhammer, this is inspriring. Sometimes it's frustrating, like the time I told her I don't really wear necklaces anymore and she asked if that was because I was "afraid someone would kill [me]. Because, you know, someone can choke you with a necklace." 

Always, it is interesting.

My mom does not tolerate fools, princesses, macho men or drug dealers gladly. But she will teach them how to meditate.

My mom and I

One day my mom sat me down to talk about finances. She said that she had a little bit of money put aside for my college education, but that she couldn't afford the education I was getting already. We agreed to prioritize my current schooling and that I would figure out paying for college when the time came. I was nine years old.

My mom was raised in 1950s Ontario suburbia. She says things like "hard of hearing" (partially deaf), "going with" (dating) and uses "suicide" as a normal verb ("he suicided"). She also told my sister and I not to give her the "hairy eye-ball" and that, when we were being sassy, we were "cruisin' for a bruisin.'"

My mom is gentle. The only person she (regularly) beats up is herself.

She makes friends faster than anyone. She likes Montreal because people talk to her. And somehow they never seem to switch to English.

She used to have these bright orange stickers that said THIS EXPLOITS AND DEGRADES WOMEN. When I was homeschooling she let me stick them up on egregious advertising.

These are some of the things on our windowsill when I was growing up:

 - A life-sized four foot-tall papier-mache camel bust.
 - A large river stone cut in two.
 - An over-shellacked heart-shaped box.
 - A rotation of forgotten, half-drunk coffee mugs.
 - A human femur.

Jock, artist, highly sensitive person with ADHD, sprite, fighter, survivor, writer, landlady, activist, biomedical expert, tennis player, competitive scrabble aficionado, world traveler, "retiree", workaholic, partner, grandmother, mother, woman.

Svea's Top Five Favourite Birth Videos

Film still from Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving (#2 on this list)

When we were rushing into the birthing room and I was trying not to start pushing before they'd examined me, the midwife quickly interjected to see if I wanted pictures taken because, hey, that baby was coming fast. I was like, NO WAY NO HOW WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT SOME HOT WATER ON MY ABDOMEN. I always thought it was a bit dehumanizing to be filmed while going through this intensely personal, physical process.

Now I kind of wish I had.

Every time I see a woman sharing her birth story or picture, I'm grateful. We're rebuilding our bank of positive birth memories, working through our collective fear about women's bodies. If there's a next time for me, you just might find it on YouTube...

Until then, here are my top 5 favourite natural birth videos. Enjoy!

1. Naitre Enchantée by Magali Dieux (2006). 
What I love about it: This is a beautiful film! When the baby is crowning, the camera stays at a respectful distance, only coming up close when mama has the baby in her arms. Also, their cat is mildly interested in the whole thing.

What I don't love about it: The husband(?)'s face is pixelated out. Like what, he was concerned people would be trying to identify him while his wife pushed a baby out of her vagina? Classic.

Greatly indebted to Choose Your Birth for finding and sharing this.

2. Window Water Baby Moving by Stan Brakhage (1959).

What I love about it: It's a classic. It was one of the first birth films ever made. The hospital wouldn't let Stan into the birthing room so at the last minute they transfered his wife's care to their home and had the baby there. It's been credited with allowing men access to birthing rooms. Fuck yes. Kodak confiscated the film for 'criminality' and they had to fight to get it back. From Wikipedia: "Critic Archer Winsten described the film as being 'so forthright, so full of primitive wonder and love, so far beyond civilization in its acceptance that it becomes an experience like few in the history of movies.'"

What I don't love about it: They hang the baby upside down at the end. There is no need to hang a baby upside down and/or slap their little bum. That was just something doctors used to do after heavily drugged ('twilight sleep') mothers gave birth to babies who seemed too sleepy to breathe (modern epidural is a cake-walk compared to the anesthesia they used to use).

Part One:

Part Two:

3. ISEA (2009): This is actually a series of birth videos from ISEA, the Instituto de Saúde Elpídio Almeida in Campina Grande, Brazil. A series of women give birth to healthy babies (one with a nuchal cord!) in peace, and with little intervention. Most are squatting and there is immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth. Delayed cord clamping, respectful caretakers, dim light... It's basically a natural birthing nerd's dream. To learn more about natural birth in Brazil, click here.

4. Natural Unmedicated Birth - with original sound by Moffett84 ("Jenny") (2011).

What I love about it: I always cry at the end of this one. I forced all my friends and family to watch it with me when I was pregnant. It's just incredible. I think it's the most 'realistic' for us North American mamas: it takes place in a clinical setting with lots of people around and lots of anguished cries/commands to breathe. I also like it because the mama was born the same year as I (1984). And at the end she says, "Is it really over?", which I think I did too. And her baby was the same weight as mine and also had lizard eyes ("Look at those eyes, so alert!"). While most YouTube birth videos have disabled comments, Moffett84 has elected to keep them up. About a year ago someone posted, "Don't you have any shame?"And she responded, "Nope, no shame about birth." Jenny, will you be my friend?

What I don't love about it: Jenny had a cervical tear, which is why she bleeds so much. Sounds painful.

5. Accidentally Unassisted Homebirth by oljos78 (2010).

What I love about it: The look of surprise on the mama's face. It's kind of how I felt after our labour, except that ours was 6 hours, not 6 minutes.

What I don't love about it: She gave birth alone, when that wasn't her intention.

Recipe: The Healthiest Birthday Cake on the Block

What do you feed your one year-old for his birthday?

There are some pretty amazing cakes out there. Like the cake my co-blogger Sarah located for her son's birthday : dino-themed, marzipan-covered, cute-as-a-button... But that was for a whole birthday party, complete with paper plates, streamers, a hundred delicious dishes, small healthy treats in the shape of penguins, friends, in-laws, and other kids.

OK so this isn't actually the cake Sarah made.
She didn't get her one year-old P confused with a nine year-old named Joey.
You wanna make a cake like this? You're that kind of mama? Well I'm not about to stop you.
First, leave this blog.
Second, go to:
Third, don't come back.

For Sweet Baby James' birthday, it was just us.
I'm not about to buy a dino cake for just us. Because that would be expensive.

Also, I forgot to order it ahead of time.

Enter, the New York Times recipe blog. I guess intellectuals need to eat after all.

The Molasses Cake is one of those fake foods. You know what I'm talking about – everyone tells you it tastes 'just like' the real one but actually it's healthy and doesn't contain anything worth trading into your friend's lunch-box. Like plain yogourt isn't whipped cream and bran flakes aren't exactly sugar cereal. In fact, there's a whole rainbow of deception in this adult-to-kids lie...

  • Zucchini bread = Chocolate cake. 
  • Frozen yogourt = Ice cream
  • Carrob anything = Chocolate anything
  • Frozen juice (you know that kind with the little red plastic tops that you put in the freezer yourself) = Popsicles
  • Kale chips = Potato chips
  • Small pieces of red onion = Special bacon bits
  • Tofu dogs = Hot dogs
  • McDonald's = A home renovation supply store
(many thanks to fb friends for sharing their memories – I know it was painful)

With regard to this last one, a friend of a friend of mine actually pulled it off. Whenever his kids asked about the yellow arches, he told them it was "Just, like, another Home Depot." Worked fine until the day his six year-old went off to a friend's birthday party. She came home and he asked her how it was.

"We went to McDonald's," she said. "And it was delicious."

She didn't speak to her dad for a week.

I think we should all take a lesson from this: while there are many things wrong with feeding your baby ice-cream cake from DQ, there's also something downright sneaky about serving crunchysproutkalehealthbread and calling it "cake".

"Don't eat it, it's iron-rich bread!"

So I added a blood orange and ginger compote filling.

And mascarpone-chai icing.

And it was delicious.


Molasses Bread: 

  • Dry:
    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • a dash of salt
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • Wet:
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup plain yogourt
    • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Prep:
    • Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle.
    • Grease a large casserole dish on the bottoms and sides.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients together in another.
  • Put the two together.
  • Pour mixture into the pan and bake until the fork-test comes out clean.

Blood Orange and Ginger Compote Filling

  • One blood orange
  • Assorted citrus you'd like to get rid of
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Dried ginger root
  • Wash the blood orange. Without peeling it, grate half its skin (zest). Use a cheese grater, it's easy.
  • Peel the orange and blend its flesh with whatever other citrus you have on hand (withered grapefruit, anyone?) until it's smoothie consistency.
  • Transfer to a small pot on the stove at medium. Bring to a low boil, stirring consistently.
  • Add the zest, ginger and sugar. 
  • Turn the temperature down and let it simmer until the water's boiled off and it looks like the kind of thing you'd like to find in the middle of a cake.

Chai-Mascarpone Icing (this shit is incredible)

  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 teabag chai tea/1 tablespoon looseleaf chai tea 
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream
  • Simmer the cream with a bag of chai tea in it, or some looseleaf. Let it steep and cool. Strain and remove chai tea bits.
  • With a wooden spoon, stir together the mascarpone and sugar, adding a bit at a time (it's easy to overpower the mascarpone taste with too much sugar, I know because I did it and then I had to run out to the yuppy market down the way and buy another container of mascarpone which, though overpriced like all things convenient, I can assure you, did not go to waste).
  • Add the cooled, flavoured cream. Mix it all together.
  • Let it chill in the fridge to reconsolidate.
Now you just get the "cake" out of the pan, cut it in two and put a layer of compote in between. Dollop the icing on top and let it artfully fall whichever way it wants. Presto! CAKE!

Sunday Brunch: Interview with a Storyteller

I met this Storyteller on Clarissa Pinkola Estès' facebook page. Estes is the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (WWRWTW to her adoring legions), a bestselling book that explores the use of traditional folk tales in empowering (mostly Western) women. It came out twenty years ago, and though it sometimes crosses the line into cultural appropriation (we can't very well avoid it if we're finding our strength in... the stories of another culture, can we?), it's a beautiful book that lives beyond its era. It goes further than most in acknowledging the mystery: the mystery of life, the mystery of humanity, the mystery of woman, body and – yes! – motherhood.

So I 'liked' Estès on facebook and occasionally I get her updates. One day she posted the story of Jiang Xiojuan, the 'Madonna of China', a policewoman who is nursing nine (!) orphaned/milk-deprived babies. A conversation about milk and nursing ensued, and one commentator in particular caught my attention. She wrote about her experience trying to donate breast milk (and being rejected) twenty years ago. Since that's a topic I'm interested in (remember my 'Une Vache à Lait, Let's All Donate Milk' post?), I contacted her to see if she would consent to be interviewed about her experiences. 

I'm so glad I did.

Colladay is a film-maker and 'professional student'.
She runs with the wolves.
First of all, this Storyteller (also known in real life as Kaitlan Colladay) has – you guessed it – an excellent way with narrative. Second, she's had four kids, the oldest and youngest being 22 years apart. She's seen both sides of the drastic changes in birth and childrearing that occurred in the West between the 1970s and the 1990s. As she puts it, "With my first child, I tried to get them NOT to give him formula and I couldn’t stop them. With the last one, I just wanted a bottle to tide her over and they refused. Who are these health care professionals anyway?"

Enjoy this week's Sunday Brunch, as we discuss reproductive autonomy, applause after birth, going to the bathroom with the door open, and stealing infant formula from the NICU. And remember, as Clarissa Pinkola Estès says, ''If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman, have faith. There is yet time."

¡Buen provecho!

 - Svea Boyda-Vikander


SB-V: If you could summarize your parenting philosophy into one word, phrase, or sentence, what would that be?

GS: Mothers are important and serve a much-needed value to our society and our future. Just love them.

SB-V: What do you wish you had known before you had your first child?

GS: That I didn’t have to be like my parents. That I could pick and choose which attitudes and behaviors I adopted when raising mine. That took a long time. My mother was a very caring, attentive mother but she was also a bit “emotionally absent” and had ideas about routine and fitting into the box – all of that was quite normal for the period of time she raised me and my sisters. By the time I had babies, obviously starting young, I had my own ideas of course but I found that I did a lot of things in those early days that were just a mimic of the patterns my parents did and really weren’t necessary. Would have helped if I had known that my parents weren’t going to help in any way whatsoever.

SB-V: What is the absolute worst advice anyone has given you, about parenting?

GS: You’ll love this, it came not just from my mother but also a team of child psychologists when I went to a “parenting group” once for a few weeks. It goes like this: If he’s been fed, cleaned and changed, put him to bed and let him cry himself to sleep. I look back on that and just can’t believe I ever did it. I would sit in the other room and cry while I let him “cry it out.” I should have listened to my instincts. Poor baby. Makes me want to cry even now when I remember it. What a stupid thing to tell someone about a baby. They cry for a reason and maybe the reason is that they just need a little more cuddling. We are the only animals on the planet (Western societies) that make it a social practice NOT to touch or hold our babies very much. Even elephants spend YEARS constantly touching and being close to their offspring.

SB-V: And the best advice?

GS: Do what feels right and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Love them for who THEY are. (That’s my advice.)

SB-V: What were your childbirth(s) like, and were you happy with the care you received?

GS: Oh, but mothers can talk about their birth experiences for hours!
  • Firstborn son: 3-4 weeks premature. At five weeks [before my due date], began labor and they stopped the labor with an alcohol drip. I’m serious. An alcohol drip. I’m lucky/he’s lucky he didn’t have FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). A week later, my water broke and at the hospital, my blood pressure shot up to 240/210. I found out years later I was lucky I wasn’t dead or had a stroke. He was 4 pounds 10 ounces and quite healthy, but the hospital policy at the time was to not release them until they were 5 pounds, so he stayed in hospital for two and a half weeks. This really damaged my ability to nurse because although I would bring them my breastmilk and go down every day to nurse him at least once, it just wasn’t enough. They were giving him formula or glucose water instead even though I’d instructed them not to and told them to use my milk.
    Also, this was 1974, and in that final push on the delivery table, I closed my eyes and the doctor grabbed a pair of forceps and yanked him out with them – wholly unnecessary. I didn’t know about it until some days later when I kept asking about the cuts on the side of his head that were getting worse and looking like they were infected. Some nurse said, “was he a forceps birth?” I said no because he was small enough, there really wasn’t a problem but she looked it up on his chart and confirmed that he had been. They had to put him on antibiotics because the cuts developed a staph infection. 
  • Second child. My blood pressure had begun to “creep up” and a routine exam showed I was dilated to 2 cm so my OB decided that I should go to the hospital “right away” and be induced. I was two weeks away from the due date. I didn’t know then that this was not all that unusual and I could have kept her in me for another two weeks and let her brain and lungs finish developing. But OBs are always in a such a hurry and I believed it was necessary because he said so. Then at the hospital, I wasn’t “progressing fast enough” for his taste, so he turned up the IV on the Pitocin because I was still only dilated to 2cm. I had a single contraction that made me feel like I was going to just die and I thought if I have seven more hours of this, I won’t make it. It was horrible. So I let the OB talk me into a spinal block which I didn’t want (first child was without drugs). So, he tries to give me the block and missed and hit a nerve and I screamed again and he asked what I was doing and I said pushing. He checked and I was now dilated to 10cm and she was crowning. Basically, that first contraction put me from 2cm to 10cm and through transition in one contraction. No wonder it hurt so bad. Everyone went nuts trying to get me in the delivery room on time. I delivered her in 3 contractions total and only 45 minutes from start to finish. And all his, “let’s induce” because it will minimize my blood pressure which was only 140/90 at the time, was for nothing because my BP shot up and I spent the next 36 hours in intensive care anyway. 
  • Third child. Did a lot of reading on theories of pre-eclampsia. Discovered it used to be a disease of the poor and then became a condition of the middle and upper classes and had everything to do with eating enough fats and not worrying about weight gain (poor can’t afford to eat right, upper/middle doctors tell clients to restrict weight gain) so I wouldn’t let my doctor tell me how much weight I’d gained. Spent a great deal of time telling him that no matter how much I begged, don’t give me drugs and don’t even try to do that spinal block thing! I started to go into labor on the 4th of July. Got all the way to the hospital and found out my OB was out of town for the weekend and freaked out. Suddenly my labor stopped. Scared me out of it I suppose. A week later, I lost the mucus plug, so he wanted to check me in and induce if I hadn’t started soon, which he did. That one was about 3 hours from start to finish and I lost a lot of blood but all was okay and he was term and a happy plump little boy. 
  • Fourth child. BP [blood pressure] issues again. Jerk Woman OB made a nasty comment when I told her I was tired all the time and she said that I was “a little old” to be having a baby (I was 39 at the time). Then we did a routine ultrasound in which she told me that there was no doubt that my baby was a Down’s Syndrome child. Higher level tests later and we discover she wasn’t and isn’t. I changed doctors and got a male OB who understood that pregnant women shouldn’t be working if they can help it because, after all, I’m pregnant. So he wrote a note to my firm and I got to take the last two months off from work with full pay. A week before she was born, my doc wanted me in the hospital full time. I spent a day there and said I’m going home because I only saw nurses about three times a day and not only was I bored stiff but I was also starving! At home a week later, I started labor around 10 p.m. and we rushed as fast as possible to the hospital. They wanted me to hang out while they “checked” until I told them it was my fourth child and I had a history of short labor. We got upstairs and the doctor showed up while the Pediatric Trauma Team gathered in the back of the room (since she was premature by three weeks). I had a birthing bed/table. A really nice environment to be in. I never dilated completely and she got stuck on the “cervical lip”or something. The doctor wanted to do an emergency C-Section but the pediatric nurse just sort of shoved him aside, waited for me to push again and just “held” me open with one hand and reached inside with the other until her head came out. My vaginal muscles have never recovered from that but the baby came out fine and never lost any oxygen. When she popped out, the doc’s hands slipped and she (the baby) screamed at him. The six members of the pediatric EMT team in the back all cheered and clapped. It was awesome having the applause! I can still hear it!
    This becomes important . . . She was fine, I was more or less fine but doc was worried about my BP possibly shooting up. (With pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, it can shoot up to a stroke anytime in the 24 hours after delivery). He put me on an IV drip of the same magnesium sulfate drug which made my arm hurt so bad that I told the nurses to take it out (It’s a very painful drug going in). They said they couldn’t take out the IV unless the doctor ordered it and he was asleep (it was about 3 a.m.). I told them to wake him up and they said they weren’t “authorized.” So I said wake him up or I’m taking it out myself and reached up to pull the IV out (it’s not rocket science). They scrambled, he finally came in, said I might die if he took it out and I signed some papers and they took it out.
  • Okay, this is the really important part and as I write this on the evening of the 29th of February 2012, I am thinking about the latest news regarding Douglas Kennedy, youngest son of Robert F. Kennedy, and the “scandal” when he tried to take his newborn baby out for some fresh air. There are two issues that came up with the last baby (born in 1996). The first was that, as is normal, my milk had not yet “come in” in those first hours. I naturally nursed my new girl so she could get the colostrum, but she was a truly hungry baby. She didn’t want to sleep, she wanted to eat. So I asked for some formula. The nurses wouldn’t give it to me. I’m not kidding. They said, “the chart says you’re nursing.” I said, “yeah, but there’s no milk yet and she’s hungry.” They replied that I should just “be patient” – okay, well patient in my case, I don’t know about others, is that it might take three days before my milk comes in. That’s not all that unusual and has been the case with me before and in the meantime, she’s awake and she’s hungry so could I please get some formula (my other kids weren’t interested in the first 2-3 days and slept most of the time – this one was just downright hungry). They absolutely refused to give it to me! I had to go into the nursery and steal it when they weren’t looking! Unbelievable. Then later on, she got a little restless, so I wanted to walk her up and down the hall. The nurses said I couldn’t. I wasn’t “allowed” to walk her/rock her in my arms. I had to push her in the little pushcart basinnette and I could only do that in my room! You weren’t “allowed” to walk your baby up and down the halls. I called my husband and told him to come get me and I checked out before 24 hours was up after she was born. 
  • The interesting part to me is that with a gap of just 22 years, in the first case with my first child, I tried to get them NOT to give him formula and I couldn’t stop them. With the last one, I just wanted a bottle to tide her over and they refused. Who are these health care professionals anyway? And I wasn’t allowed to carry her out of the hospital. I was wheeled out and some other nurse carried the baby. 

SB-V: Can you share with us some of your tricks and tips about staying sane as a new mother?

GS: I think the biggest tip is just don’t expect to get enough sleep or feel normal for the first two years and next to none in the first weeks and months. Remind yourself that it WILL get better and it WILL get easier (because it does!). It’s like that last contraction as they go through transition. When that one happens, that’s usually when you think you just can’t do it anymore (someone shoot me please!), but if you’ve been through it once, you remember that this is the one that signals that it’s almost over. So, if you know going into motherhood that you will not get sleep, you will not feel normal for a while, then it makes it easier to cope because you know that this IS normal. Can’t remember how many times I had to choose between shower, eating or sleeping. As a nursing mother, I generally had to eat like it or not or I wouldn’t have enough milk the next time, so showers just didn’t happen often. But I learned to take the baby in the bathroom with me and just let him/her roll on the floor if you need a shower or a bath. Usually the sound of the running water will soothe them anyway. My kids still make fun of me because I spent so many years going into the bathroom and leaving the door open that even today, sometimes I forget to close it! But the big thing is don’t “expect” anything. Do what you can and if you can’t then don’t. If you have other kids, even if they are little, let them help as much as possible. I still feel I made a mistake with my son when I wouldn’t let him “help” with the baby because he was only five. I could have. He wanted to but I was too busy “doing it all” and not being patient enough with him to let him be a part of it which in the end made him not only uninterested but I think it really increased his jealousy level higher than it should have been.

SB-V: What kind of sleeping arrangements did you have?

GS: First two kids had their own nursery and a crib although they did spend a lot of time in the bed with me because I was nursing so I’d just fall asleep with them in my arms (and, no, you are not going to suffocate them! Prop yourself up on a pillow, pillow under the arm and then nurse!). The third one slept with us until he was five or so. Had to actually lay down with him to get him to go to sleep and after that, no point in moving in because he’d wake up and cry until he got put back in the bed with us. The fourth had a crib initially but again, slept with me a lot because of the nursing. Then there were times when I was single and very broke that both of them shared the bed with me out of necessity. I don’t think it’s “damaged” them at all, in fact I think they have no doubt in their minds that I love them and that can only be a good thing.

SB-V: Can you talk a bit about your experiences breastfeeding?

GS: I breastfed all my children. But with three of them, I always had difficulty and it didn’t last long – three months tops. But then with the first two, I had some serious pre-eclampsia and premature birth plus they gave me Magnesium Sulfate shots which I learned in a class I was taking with Dr. C. Everett Koop that this could have interfered not only with my breastmilk supply but also could have caused some serious damage to the children. The third child was the only one born at term and I nursed him until he was nearly 9 months old. The only reason I stopped was because he got all eight of his front teeth in (four top, four bottom) all at once and he fell asleep and then clamped down so hard I had bruises and almost couldn’t nurse him after that. I tried to teach him not to bite (I may be a human bottle but I’m not a human teething ring!) and he wouldn’t get it, so I quit nursing. With the other older two children, I substituted the bottle for the breast when my milk supply gave out – as in I made it the same “ritual” and NEVER gave them the bottle without me holding it for them and then just went bottle to cup when they were old enough to sit up and hold it and they were eating babyfood by then. The bottle was gone immediately and they were both out of diapers by the time they were not quite two – even at night. I think that had a lot to do with it (no bottle) because I certainly wasn’t fanatical about toilet training or night time diaper issues.

With my last child, I had to go back to work when she was 10 weeks old. No choice. She was about 3 weeks premature and she had difficulty latching on so basically the milk she got was what started if it decided to – or not. Turns out that in later years, she really had some difficulty with her tongue and had articulation problems in the early days of speech. Then she also had a completely erratic sleep schedule. She’d sleep for two hours, wake up, nurse, sleep for three hours, wake up, nurse, then sleep for seven hours before she’d wake up again. When I noticed that this was interfering with my milk getting established, I tried waking her, but it just wasn’t happening. So, I’d try to pump at the 3rd or 4th hour just to keep the supply going and almost like she knew I was doing it, she’d wake up 5 minutes after I’d done that! It was really tough. Her schedule was what she wanted it to be. Even after I went back to work, I tried pumping – not much success – so I tried going home at “lunch time” but that didn’t always coincide with her wake schedule. By the time she was three and half months old, I gave up.

SB-V: What was your experience with having over-supply of milk? How do you wish people had responded to your offers to donate? 

GS: With the third child, he nursed every two hours around the clock for the first two months. When he eased up, he just went to every three hours. I had so much milk, easily an excess of 12-24 ounces in a 24 hour period. I called local hospitals. I called not so local hospitals. I called the La Leche League. I called everywhere and I got the same answer and that was that they weren’t interested. They might get sued. They had no way of guaranteeing that the milk was not contaminated. All I could think about was mothers of the seriously premature babies who weren’t getting breast milk because they can’t quite suckle yet and their mothers were never able to establish the milk supply. What a difference that might have made! But no one wanted it. I still don’t have an answer to that. It’s so cultural and specific to our western society.

SB-V: What mistakes did you make as the mother of small children?

GS: Really? That’s a question? Lots. You’ll have to read my book! But we can’t all be perfect and I did the best I could with what I had and what I could do always making sure to tell them and show them with affection that I love them.