2002 Email Newsletter
for the Winter Blahs
February 23, 2002
Note: This is Part one of two parts. We think you will find both parts fresh
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)
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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" --//
(MISCONCEPTIONS) TRUTH, LIES AND THE UNEXPECTED ON THE JOURNEY TO
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
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
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"
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
(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
Federation of the Blind, last fall.
My baby was unplanned, and before becoming pregnant, I was certain my
instincts, if I had any, were akin to those of a black widow spider. I read
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.
took her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for tests, despite the fact
her life was not in danger and nothing indicated there was anything else
I have big breasts, and didn't know how to get her latched on at first;
I had lots of milk and from the time my milk came in, Sam has never had a
of formula. I am convinced that me being blind convinced the hospital staff
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
intelligent! We didn't have the resources immediately at hand to check
claims and find out the tests they wanted to do were inconclusive at best.
daughter had to undergo sonograms, fasting, spinal tap for meningitis, and
When I nursed her, they would tell me to put her back in her isolette after
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
the hospital because of what we went through aftershe was born.
I'd like to write about the "challenge" of being blind, and
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
parent. I'm thrilled to say I've never had a nursing problem, though she had
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
be nursing a child at this age, still for nourishment as well as comfort.
has had four colds and one strep throat but nothing else.
My blindness wasn't supposed to be inheritable, but my daughter has the
same condition as I have. It is possible, in bright lights, that Sam can
some forms, but we won't know until she's old enough to tell us. Samantha
be two next month. Parenting is certainly the closest subject to my heart;
it is my heart.
by Shireen Fink
I had strong convictions about breastfeeding and believed I could, though
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
as he was still attached to an extremely short umbilical cord. He rooted
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
the milk jet out into the water, slowly disappearing into the tub. The warm
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
a hard, round breast. He would start to suck, I'd have a let down and milk
gush out of the other breast, sometimes spraying a distance of a meter or
Eldon would let go of my breast, leaving a second breast to freely flow,
down whatever was close by, usually Eldon's surprised face. Afraid to lose
precious milk that, through heredity, I would not have much of, I'd try to
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
woke from a general anesthetic and my friend tried to put Chloe to my breast
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
supervised minutes. When she was 18 hours old a nurse watched my first
at breastfeeding and promptly brought a nipple shields. The nurse checked
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
water, before bringing her to me again. I used the nipple shield as she
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
and from then on we struggled with poor weight gain, me nursing with the
and some formula. I took anti-depressants (since then I've been shocked to
how many c-section moms go on them.)
We were going back to the west coast to visit our family, where
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
sort of straddled her, and squirted some milk into her mouth. When she
on, I let her stay and assisted by pumping my breast. All day I never gave
the shield, but I would give in to her soother. She had two bouts of 10
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
relied heavily on the nipple shield. Chloe would only nurse without it when
were lying down. At this point I was very discreet, and humiliated by having
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
have parents who held her and loved her all the time. My sister went with me
nurse Chloe down for a nap. I warned her it might not work, but all that
had a huge effect on us. Chloe nursed lying down (not with me straddling
and my sister and I talked babies. I couldn't believe it worked; no nipple
And now Chloe is almost two, and I love it when people raise their eyebrows.
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
five months to get right.
Chloe's soother has been gone for over a year. There won't be one for the
baby cause she'll be nursing the minute she comes out.
Here's advice from someone who sent through nipple shield hell: Nursing
away is very important. Have a homebirth or get out of the hospital right
Have an experienced nursing mom around you as much as possible, before and
you give birth. Throw away all formula samples. We've lost the skill and
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
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
all through that pregnancy, with good vegan food, herbs and lots of
I napped every day, and did lots of positive imaging. Now with my fourth
in March, I feel like an old pro. I'm not anxious; it is just part of the
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
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
preparing perfectly for a safe and simple, natural birth."
Finally I was awakened at 3:15 a.m.. A contraction! A couple of minutes
another one, very strong. It was time. We quickly dressed, leaving Kevin
with her grandparents. Forty minutes later we were at the midwife's house,
was five centimetres dilated.
The contractions were strong and glorious, and I was ready to get into the
The water was ready-100 degrees, some salt added-it looked so inviting. So
and intense were the contractions, there was hardly time to get in the tub
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
warm, enveloping, comforting.
Very shortly I was in transition. I did not realize this, as it had been
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
into the warm water, unfolded.
I sat up and right away wanted to hold him, so we sat in the tub together as
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.
named him David Dylan, beloved.
//--Reader Letters --//
Oh, my goodness, this has been wanted and needed for years...I'm a stayhome
of four and my we are poor. Rich beyond our dreams with unconditional love
our babes though! I go to ICAN meetings , attend births with my midwife and
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
first few months of my pregnancy when my midwife shared a copy of this
magazine with me. I devoured each issue as it came and one of my favorite
was looking at the beautiful pictures of nursing mothers and beautiful
women. On August 10, 2001, my baby girl, Olivia, was born at home. My
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
anywhere I can, sharing sleep and every moment I can with this precious
boy. He was delivered by cesarean after a traumatic, failed induction and
medical "meddling." And still nursing, after all the bad advice,
formula in my 5 day hospital stay. If I could convince my husband, I would
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
~Julie Traynor, New Jersey
Cancel our subscription to your publication. I just don't find that it will
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
//-- 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
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
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
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.'
Please pass this newsletter on to your friends!
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Dear Mother Dear
of our newsletter
Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
-a new video compiled by Catherine and Amanda Young
of The Compleat Mother
for more information on the waterbirth video!
Click here to read:
The Farmer and the Obstetrician
here for the Home Sweet Homebirth (Video)