February 2002 Email Newsletter

Diet for the Winter Blahs


February 23, 2002

Note: This is Part one of two parts. We think you will find both parts fresh and
enjoyable. Grab a beverage, use your printer, snuggle up and read on!


//-- Editorial by Rebecca Young-- //

//-- Book Review: "Misconceptions" --//

//-- Chapters from Breastfeeding Anyway and Birth Joy --//

- Being Blind (and a damn-good Mom)
- Hyperlactation
- Nipple Shield Hell
- She Came Gently
- Beloved From The Sea

//-- Reader Letters --//

//-- Humor -- //


//-- Editorial by Rebecca Young--//

7 days before Christmas and the grass at the farm is still green. Evidence of the only snowfall to date can be found in a few small piles behind the barn, but for the most part, one would be excused for thinking it was March around here. Yesterday the mail brought a package from Helen in Florida, six beautiful christmas ornaments personalized with Mom's name on them. We weren't planning on having a tree here, but now I have decided to put up a garland for the decorations.

Amanda, Zachary, my partner Jeremy and I will spend some time at the farm over the holidays, and we will go to Mom's parents for our traditional Polish Wigilia feast. It will be quiet, without the usual other guests we have had in previous years. At the same time, I am really looking forward to this celebration as a chance to re-affirm our family-ness. Since Mom died, the three kids and the grandparents have been together on Thanksgiving and for Amanda's birthday, almost monthly. I was so excited to talk to Zak the other night and hear him say he was looking forward to Christmas. Being happy together is a way to honour Mom's memory, and I know she will be with us as we repeat the traditions she presided over for most of my life. Many people have said that the three month mark is difficult, and I pray that this holiday season is bitter-sweet.

Has it been three months since September 11, since the last issue, since all of our lives were changed forever? It feels as if I looked away from the last magazine as it was being put to bed, and when I looked back at the paper in front of me it said Spring 2002.

This issue is my first, as Mom had finished most of Winter 2001 before going to the hospital. The compilation of an issue was not the daunting task I expected it to me, as women from around the world generously submitted their stories, illustrations, photos and letters. Rather it was the editing, what not to include this time round, that made me pause. Jody and I discussed Mom's unique
ability to know what her readers needed, and I humbly acknowledge I do not know enough about you to make such a judgment. So for the most part, space and a balanced content were my two measures for including work. Please, let us know what you think needs to be changed, what is lacking, and hopefully, what you like about this issue. You are my guides, so show me the path I should follow.

One editorial decision I made was to print only a few of the tributes we have received since the last issue. They can be found in Litters. This was a difficult call, because the sheer numbers would suggest the tributes are an important part of your grieving. However, my first and last thoughts were about what Mom would do, and I think she would use the space on these pages to share stories of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, and leave the tributes to the website and your hearts.

A friend told me that grieving is a selfish process. I think it is also
surprising. After Mom died, I received many letters with suggestions and comments about other women's grieving processes. My experience matches few of those. Perhaps that is because most of us have never experienced a day like September 11, 2001.

A few minutes before my mother died, two planes flew into the World Trade Centre. And as the Pentagon was being attacked, I was watching her take her last breath. When the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, I was making a list of her possessions at the hospital and trying to watch my sister out of the corner of my eye. By this time Jeremy had called from Bosnia, where he was stationed as a NATO soldier, to say that he may not be home for the funeral, because there was no air traffic planned to North America for the rest of the week. And I watched the footage on television over and over again, feeling only shock and amazement. All of my emotions were locked up, because I had a magazine to put to bed and a funeral to plan and a life two hours south of the farm to put on hold. So when I was talking to my best friend who knew people working in the towers, or the
woman I volunteer with whose aunt lives near the crash site in Pennsylvania, I had no empathy to share. I simply didn't know what to say or do because I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be emotionally affected by the attacks.

The following month was a series of painful explanations, to women calling the farm and to people who are trying to be supportive by asking, "so how are you doing?". The reality was that that my nights were filled with dreams of Mom and my days filled with the work she left for me to do, but I did not want to try and explain that to the first person who asked each day, let alone the sixth. And then people stopped asking, and we drifted into November. That was almost worse, because it felt like the world was too rapidly spinning away from the last time I held Mom's hand. I stopped crying, and started working more, and then started crying again when I realized November 11 had slipped by without my notice. Ironic, to forget the two month mark on Remembrance Day. That wasn't possible on October 11 and December 11, as the date was remembered internationally. The reasons may be different, but it all means the same to me: my mom is gone. That emptiness is like nothing else.

As I look ahead to the spring, I hope for the symbolic feeling of re-birth to grace my life. I'm going back to school in January, after a break this fall to deal with everything that needed me more urgently than my studies. But now that I have a routine with the magazine and the tea, I can fit a couple of classes into my schedule and I am excited about getting back to my life.

I hope you all had a celebration that gave you some happiness in December, the darkest month of the year. Even in times of struggle and despair, the healing properties of family and laughter are indisputable. I leave you with Mom's favourite poem, the Serenity Prayer.

The Serenity Prayer

by Reinhold Neibuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.


~ Rebecca Young, owner of The Compleat Mother Magazine


//-- Book Review: "Misconceptions" --//

by Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf's newest book, Misconceptions, is a testament to her own experiences and prejudices about childbirth.  Ms. Wolf shares her own culturally-learned fears about childbirth but fails to recognize that this is in response to 100 years of medical society propaganda.  Although she has access to research and studies documenting the safety of homebirth and non-medical midwifery, she paints birth outside an institution as dangerous.  She chose to give birth with obstetricians in high risk hospitals and had cesareans both times.  I think the book could have been more aptly titled, "(Misrepresentations)  My Pain Phobia and Justification for My Cesareans."
I heard about this book through discussions on the internet which praised it for setting the record straight about childbirth.  After looking at the book myself, however, I have come to an entirely different conclusion.  It is simply another book, written to justify the unwarranted use of medical intervention and sequelae, unnecessary cesareans, and excuse bad maternity care decisions. Instead of accurately depicting birthing choices in America, Ms. Wolf used this book as a vehicle to promote her own opinions and discredit traditional midwives, homebirth, full-time motherhood and ecological breastfeeding.
Ms. Wolf places great importance on the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting", as though this is some highly regarded research book or the childbirth Bible.  Sadly this book is written to promote the medical model of care and justify the many interventions foisted upon women who choose to have hospital births.  She carefully goes through the many routine hospital procedures and explains the many risks and few benefits of each, yet she apparently did not believe her own research. 
Those who have fought for years to eradicate the meaningless term "lay midwife" will immediately recognize Ms. Wolf's superficial understanding of birth attendants.  Her repeated use of this term is a clear indicator of her lack of research and knowledge of childbirth.  I half expected to see the terms "redskin" or "nigger" pop up during discussion about minority statistics.
She writes as a fact, "homebirth is now as safe as hospital birth." Now as safe?  It has always been at least as safe!  An entire book, The Five Standards by David Stewart, gives thousands of studies and statistics which conclude that homebirth is safer than hospital birth. 
I took great offense at her term, "Naturalists," (pages 182-186) to describe anyone who would dare to promote or give birth without high-technology.  She explains that this option "has been presented as so rigid .with such extreme requirements of courage and faith.  It was for that reason that my husband and I would not consider it as an option."  I wonder, what research led her to this conclusion?  Judging from many comments which salt her book, it would seem she is her own source of "factual" information.
Anyone who promoted birth without drugs is included in this Naturalist group and portrayed as romanticizing the birthing event.  Ina May Gaskin, however, is somehow exempt from this group and given the title, "The Patron Saint."  It is obvious that Ms. Wolf is in awe of Gaskin, yet wasn't converted by her to better educate herself and choose a less interventive childbirth.  It is also apparent that Ms. Wolf did not read the original Spiritual Midwifery book.  If she had, she would have learned that Ina May wasn't exactly "a self-taught, lay midwife" but that her earliest training had come from an obstetrician (who also provided medication and instruments) and a local physician who provided friendly back-up for years.  She also would have learned that the Farm clinic included a physician. 
It is curious that Ms. Wolf is intrigued by free-standing birth centers and offers them up as a perfect choice for women.  She is somehow under the impression that pain-relieving drugs are readily available for those who give birth at these centers, yet her depiction of Elizabeth Seton indicates a transport to the hospital for those who wish an epidural. How this is an improvement over one's own home is a mystery to me.  Perhaps it is her fascination with institutions? and her phobia about pain?
Complete Mother readers will find her descriptions of breastfeeding revolting: "become someone's addiction."  And quoting Sarah Hardy, "once nursing begins, bondage is a perfectly good description for the ensuing chain of events (and) lives on a mammary leash."  How sad she didn't bother to go to a Le Leche League meeting or meet someone who was content breastfeeding.  We can only guess that she probably was bottle fed, and lacking the nurturing of being breastfed herself, is
compensating by portraying breastfeeding in a dim light.
Her social programs which would improve the world basically abdicate parental responsibilities to the government.  She wants paid extended maternity leave, tax deductions and benefits to relatives who come to help the new mothers, on-site day care and nurseries, lots of hospital support programs, hospital statistics disclosure, parentless playgrounds monitored by "young people" so "an active, thoughtful mother, father. (won't be) uncomfortable at the playground." Basically she wants the government to act as nanny so she can get her work done. "Work" being something far more important than caring for her children herself.
Save yourself a few hours of frustration wading through this tripe.  Instead, make a pot of raspberry leaf tea, give the older kids a fun project to do, put your feet up and put baby to breast and read the books she ignored:  The Five Standards, Under the Apple Tree, The American Way of Birth, Being Born, Birth at Home, Your Baby, Your Way, Special Delivery, Labor Pains, Silent Knife, Malpractice: How Doctors Manipulate Women, Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities, Gentle Birth Choices and back-issues of TCM.  

Reviewed by Roberta Waters


Being Blind
(and a damn-good Mom)
by Christine Faltz, Merrick, New York

I was born blind, unexplained. My eye condition, congenital microopthalmia is known to be caused by exposure to toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes, TORCH infection, or HIV. I used to be able to distinguish colors and shadows, but no forms. I had a very supportive family and went to 'regular' school, but suffered physical and emotional abuse by students and administration. I have used a white can, and a guide dog; I have prosthesis over my eyeballs so it is impossible to tell I am blind.

I was an English undergraduate at Princeton, in my last year, when I met a wonderful man; we married three years ago. I graduated Hofstra School of Law, in '94 and was admitted to the bar this past March. I was elected president of the Long Island chapter of the Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, last fall.

My baby was unplanned, and before becoming pregnant, I was certain my maternal instincts, if I had any, were akin to those of a black widow spider. I read all I could beforehand and my birth plan explicitly asked for rooming in, no bottles, no pacifiers, and that she be given to me as soon as possible.

We were so shocked to learn she was blind, that we were thrown for a loop. They took her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for tests, despite the fact that her life was not in danger and nothing indicated there was anything else wrong.

I have big breasts, and didn't know how to get her latched on at first; luckily I had lots of milk and from the time my milk came in, Sam has never had a drop of formula. I am convinced that me being blind convinced the hospital staff it was better to keep the baby in the hospital longer. I was treated with condescension and rudeness; one of the neonatologists asked me if I was always intelligent! We didn't have the resources immediately at hand to check doctors' claims and find out the tests they wanted to do were inconclusive at best. My daughter had to undergo sonograms, fasting, spinal tap for meningitis, and IV antibiotics.

When I nursed her, they would tell me to put her back in her isolette after she fell asleep, otherwise she would "get used to being held while she slept." As if a mother has something more important to do than hold her newborn child.

Sam didn't come home until nine days after her birth; a totally unnecessary
endurance. I was at the hospital fifteen to eighteen hours every day and up pumping during the night. I have no intention of having subsequent children in the hospital because of what we went through aftershe was born.

I'd like to write about the "challenge" of being blind, and breastfeeding, but frankly, there is no challenge, except for feeling isolated. Except for a
cousin, and internet friends, no one else nurses a toddler or co-sleeps with
their babies. Even La Leche League people seem to be uncomfortable with a blind parent. I'm thrilled to say I've never had a nursing problem, though she had a nursing strike at 10 months, and didn't really start eating solids until 15 months. She's still a picky eater; years ago I would never have believed I would be nursing a child at this age, still for nourishment as well as comfort. Sam has had four colds and one strep throat but nothing else.

My blindness wasn't supposed to be inheritable, but my daughter has the exact same condition as I have. It is possible, in bright lights, that Sam can discern some forms, but we won't know until she's old enough to tell us. Samantha will be two next month. Parenting is certainly the closest subject to my heart; heck it is my heart.


by Shireen Fink

I had strong convictions about breastfeeding and believed I could, though both my mother and only sister were told by doctors that they didn't have enough milk. I gave birth to a beautiful boy at home, in the loving presence of my mother, husband and two midwives. It was the happiest moment of my life.

Immediately at birth, I put him to my breast. His lips just made it to my nipple as he was still attached to an extremely short umbilical cord. He rooted around and licked a bit. An hour passed before he actually started sucking.

My milk let down with a bang. My breasts became as hard as baseballs. I took baths, face down, and stroked the milk out of my breasts. I watched the white of the milk jet out into the water, slowly disappearing into the tub. The warm bath waters soothed my aching breasts and my whole being.

As I cradled tiny babe Eldon in my arm, I would attempt to "scissor" my breast with the index and middle fingers of the other arm while he tried to latch onto a hard, round breast. He would start to suck, I'd have a let down and milk would gush out of the other breast, sometimes spraying a distance of a meter or more. Eldon would let go of my breast, leaving a second breast to freely flow, hosing down whatever was close by, usually Eldon's surprised face. Afraid to lose that precious milk that, through heredity, I would not have much of, I'd try to get my little boy's mouth over Old Faithful's spray before it was all gone.


Nipple Shield Hell
by Deidre Rautenberg, New Westminster, British Columbia

Our horror started after and "it will never happen to me" cesarean section. I woke from a general anesthetic and my friend tried to put Chloe to my breast to nurse. She snuggled there but was too groggy from the drugs to do more.

Twelve hours later, after I begged to see my daughter, the nurses granted me two supervised minutes. When she was 18 hours old a nurse watched my first attempt at breastfeeding and promptly brought a nipple shields. The nurse checked every few minutes to see that I was using it. I felt that if I didn't comply, they would take my baby away.

Chloe was brought in with a soother. Another nurse gave her a bottle of sugar water, before bringing her to me again. I used the nipple shield as she cried without it and I was scared they would take her away for disturbing others.

By the fourth day I gave up the idea of breastfeeding without the nipple shield, and from then on we struggled with poor weight gain, me nursing with the shield and some formula. I took anti-depressants (since then I've been shocked to learn how many c-section moms go on them.)

We were going back to the west coast to visit our family, where breastfeeding was the norm. Two days before we left I had an energy surge to try nursing without the nipple shield. I lay beside her and offered her milk. She refused. I sort of straddled her, and squirted some milk into her mouth. When she latched on, I let her stay and assisted by pumping my breast. All day I never gave in to the shield, but I would give in to her soother. She had two bouts of 10 minutes painless good latching. I held in my excitement.

The night was long. We let her have the shield once for half the nurse, then took it away. The next day we had even better results. During the plane ride we relied heavily on the nipple shield. Chloe would only nurse without it when we were lying down. At this point I was very discreet, and humiliated by having to use it.

When we arrived home it was sunny. All our family was there to greet us and celebrate. Everyone told us how beautiful Chloe was and how fortunate she was to have parents who held her and loved her all the time. My sister went with me to nurse Chloe down for a nap. I warned her it might not work, but all that love had a huge effect on us. Chloe nursed lying down (not with me straddling her) and my sister and I talked babies. I couldn't believe it worked; no nipple shield needed.

And now Chloe is almost two, and I love it when people raise their eyebrows. I am pregnant and have been urged to stop nursing, but why would I give up our afternoon nurse that puts us both down for a nap?

Chloe has food allergies to many things; she was never meant for formula. No child ever is. I wonder how much more severe her allergies would be if she received no breastmilk. Neither of us are ready to give up nursing, that took five months to get right.

Chloe's soother has been gone for over a year. There won't be one for the new baby cause she'll be nursing the minute she comes out.

Here's advice from someone who sent through nipple shield hell: Nursing right away is very important. Have a homebirth or get out of the hospital right away. Have an experienced nursing mom around you as much as possible, before and after you give birth. Throw away all formula samples. We've lost the skill and need to learn it from those that still have it. Those that can teach it need to be patient and confident in our ability to nurse our children.


She Came Gently

My third baby's birth was a profound, amazing, home birth. I finally figured it out! She came gently, yet powerfully into my arms. I had such control and understanding of the process, that I really made it happen. I nurtured myself all through that pregnancy, with good vegan food, herbs and lots of supplements.

I napped every day, and did lots of positive imaging. Now with my fourth birth in March, I feel like an old pro. I'm not anxious; it is just part of the work of being what I love best: a mother.

I told the midwives I secretly wish to have this one by myself. I really do
respect and honour the art of midwifery, and don't disregard its value. I just want to feel the intense power of birthing alone. They say they don't have a problem with my doing it all, with them standing back, "just in case." It is very exciting to ponder. I think I will get the best of both worlds.

Diann Jeppson, West Valley City, Utah


From The Sea
by Helen Hill

Two weeks past my "due date" I still had not had a Braxton-Hicks and was not yet effacing. Yet the midwife said my cervix was ripe, and I could feel the baby very low down. I kept up my affirmation: "My body and my baby together are preparing perfectly for a safe and simple, natural birth."

Finally I was awakened at 3:15 a.m.. A contraction! A couple of minutes later, another one, very strong. It was time. We quickly dressed, leaving Kevin asleep with her grandparents. Forty minutes later we were at the midwife's house, and I was five centimetres dilated.

The contractions were strong and glorious, and I was ready to get into the tub. The water was ready-100 degrees, some salt added-it looked so inviting. So fast and intense were the contractions, there was hardly time to get in the tub in between them. Once there, I simply marveled at how good it felt. The water supported my body, with help from two floats, in a totally relaxed way. It was warm, enveloping, comforting.

Very shortly I was in transition. I did not realize this, as it had been such a
short time since I was at five centimetres. "Hey, I need to push!" There was no mistaking it now; what a primal feeling. And there was the baby's head, crowning, hair floating under the water. I pushed down and out, and out he came into the warm water, unfolded.

I sat up and right away wanted to hold him, so we sat in the tub together as he looked around at everyone, and took his first breath.

After we had nursed, cuddled, and slept a little, and while I ate a big
breakfast, Alan got back into the tub with him. He held the baby just by
supporting his head, and the baby floated there, so relaxed he fell asleep. We named him David Dylan, beloved.


//--Reader Letters --//

Oh, my goodness, this has been wanted and needed for years...I'm a stayhome mom of four and my we are poor. Rich beyond our dreams with unconditional love from our babes though! I go to ICAN meetings , attend births with my midwife and run into pregnant moms all the time. I'd like to also drop some off at our OB clinics, rree reproductive care clinics too!
~Melody Graham, La Crosse,

I am a new subscriber to the Compleat Mother. I started my subscription in the first few months of my pregnancy when my midwife shared a copy of this beautiful magazine with me. I devoured each issue as it came and one of my favorite parts was looking at the beautiful pictures of nursing mothers and beautiful pregnant women. On August 10, 2001, my baby girl, Olivia, was born at home. My midwife, husband and two old friends and I had an energizing, glowing time together bringing her into the world.

~ Ainsley Camps, Nova Scotia

What a joy it was to read my first "Mother" - it felt like coming "home." It is sometimes so difficult to be the "unusual" one of my community. However, I am standing tall and proud, continuing to breastfeed my 16 month old everywhere and anywhere I can, sharing sleep and every moment I can with this precious little boy. He was delivered by cesarean after a traumatic, failed induction and much medical "meddling." And still nursing, after all the bad advice, pacifiers and formula in my 5 day hospital stay. If I could convince my husband, I would have the next via homebirth in a second...I know what my body is built for, and I carry my heart and centre the truth, that I can birth another without interference. Thank you, Mother, for giving me the strength and whispering into my soul.

~Julie Traynor, New Jersey


Cancel our subscription to your publication. I just don't find that it will suit
my needs. Thank you.
Mary Anderson, Illinois
[email signature] "Friends will
come and go...but a good TV can last up to fifteen years!"


BABY MINE DIAPERS & APPAREL - Mom owned business offering
an excellent variety of quality cloth diapers and accessories. We also carry organic clothing, natural skin care, toys and products for mom! Visit us online at


//-- Humor -- //

Actual newspaper clippings:

-For sale: antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

-Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to takehome, too.

-We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.


Ham Sandwich (true story)

As ham sandwich crisp lettuce and plenty of expensive, light  brown, gourmet mustard.

The corners of my jaw aching in anticipation, I carried it to  the picnic table in our backyard, picked it up with both hands but was stopped by my wife suddenly at my side.

"Hold Johnny (our six-week-old son)  while I get my sandwich," she said.

I had him balanced between my left elbow and shoulder and was  reaching again for the ham sandwich when I noticed a streak of mustard on my fingers.

I love mustard.
 I had no napkin.
  I licked it off.

It was not mustard.

No man ever put a baby down faster.   It was the first and only time I have
sprinted with my tongue protruding.  With a washcloth in each hand I did
the sort of routine shoeshine boys do, only I did it on my tongue.

Later my wife said, "Now you know why they call that mustard 'Poupon.' "


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