Monday, September 28, 2015

a small light

Watching a show on TV tonight there was a small scene, less than a minute, that moved me to tears.  Not sure I can explain it so it makes sense.  A woman who has just learned she is pregnant, hours before, looks out into the night time an says, "a small light" and places her hands over her belly.   That feeling of disbelief and wonder and joy and fear.  The knowledge that you are carrying something precious and wanted and loved.

When I was pregnant, each time, I was so happy.  My babies were so wanted and loved even before I knew that they going to become viable little people.  They were my dream of love and attachment.

I lost two pregnancies.   One, the first, fairly far along.  It was surreal in a way.  Walking around empty after feeling so full of joy and promise.  Life went on as usual.  As it always does.  Then little things would trigger the feelings.  Buying baby clothes for a friend's baby who was due when your baby would have been born.  Seeing someone you had not seen in months and they smile and say "oh, you must have had the baby, what did you have?".     And you worry about making them feel bad for asking, and feeling awkward. And you smile and say, "no, I lost the baby". and walk away.

The second loss, my sixth pregnancy was much earlier.  Nobody knew except Nick and I.  It was so sudden, and over and done.  Another wanted baby lost.  It was sad, but not as real to me as the first.

All five of my children were wanted.  Planned , but not exactly scheduled if that makes sense.  Each time I was pregnant I was so grateful that I had the choice and that this was a wanted  pregnancy, anticipated with joy.  Well, most of the time.  When you are chasing toddlers with a huge belly it can make you pause and ask yourself "what have I gotten myself into".  But, still, all five of my children were so very much wanted.  That first kick is something that is never forgotten.  The flutters...


Changing the subject; I went to Sue's memorial service yesterday afternoon.  Sue had many friends and touched more lives than anyone will ever know.

The ministers talked about life and loss, and Sue.  Sue's sister spoke of growing up as Sue's sister.  Sibling memories are almost sacred.   The loss of a sibling creates a beak in your heart that never leaves.

Sue's son in law, Sean, read a poem that Sue's grandmother had written.

I knew Sue from our weekly women's group.  We have been meeting forever, it seems.   There are only 5 of us left.  Only 4 full time, as one has moved to assisted living.  We went to the front of the church and each spoke.  Except me.   I think I am the most talkative of the group, but I have laryngitis. So I didn't say anything.  We all loved and love Sue so much.  And she is gone.

After the women's group, other friends spoke.  There were people who knew her for over 40 years.  There were reminiscences of the church luaus and how Sue led the hula dancing.  Imagine that!  Several people spoke of the many, many volley ball games that Sue played in, even well into pregnancy when her center of gravity had shifted.

I thought of Sue's excitement bird watching, when we were Ocean City together [our women's group of 6 at that time.]  Sue would call out "a loon, did you see it?"!

In preparation for Sue's service, I have been pouring through Mary Oliver poems and Annie Dillard quotes.  I wanted to find something poetic and fitting to read.  And I didn't read anything at all.

That's alright too.

And now I get ready to go to bed and dream.  I used to say, when I was little, "now I lay me down to sleep".   The innocence lost is so precious to have had for however briefly.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Learned a new Word Today


(n.) a homesickness for a home to which
you cannot return, a home which maybe
never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the
grief for the lost places of your past


 Is that what I have been feeling most of my life?   As a little girl, returning to the US from Afghanistan, I talked about the place and none of the other children, in the early 1960s, believed that there was even a place with that name, much less that I had lived there.  All of my drawings had huge mountains in them.  The mountains I saw every day.   

I have lived in many places that I called home.  When I wake up, sometimes I wonder which place I am waking up in.  A dream of myself in these different places, me at different ages;  little and wanting my mother.  A mother myself and nursing a baby, which baby?  It depends, where are we? Where are the babies now.  All grown and gone.  Was all of that, that I lived real?   Amazing!

All of the transitions in life.  Are they each a home.  For a while you are a baby.  For a while a little kid.  A teen.  A wife, mother, mother, mother.  Then an aging wife with an aging husband.

Nothing new really.  We all go through it.  That's the ride and we all have a ticket.

My friend, Sue's memorial service is tomorrow.  Of course I will be there.  I was planning to speak, but have no voice- laryngitis.  So I will listen.  And no doubt cry.

I've been sick for almost a week with some sort of sore throat, wheezing, coughing thing.  Shortness of breath took me to the doctor yesterday where we discovered that  my oxygen levels were too low and I had some cloudiness in the lower lobe of my right lung.  Not quite pneumonia.  But a worry.

The two previous nights I had been afraid to go to sleep because I felt that I was going to stop breathing in my sleep.    I often say I am not afraid of death.  Well, maybe I am.  Or maybe I just feel like I am because I am not done yet.  I feel like I am still finding my way.

So who is "done".  Nobody I suppose.   Although, there comes a point when you really know it is coming.  Well, maybe.  Maybe for some people.  My mother knew she was dying.  She was sad when she asked me "am I going to die?", and I said "yes".   We both cried.  She said it wasn't fair.  I agreed.   But, when it happened, it was sad and sweet and lovely and unbelievable.  She said her goodbyes.   She whispered to her sister "I'm going to miss you".  She asked my sister "will you miss me?"

To quote ts elliot:

 “We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Is that hiraeth, or is it the opposite?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Too much to do in one lifetime

This is what we could see from our hotel room in Tromso, Norway.

                    Tromsø was so beautiful.  I could have stayed there for a month or more and not feel ready to leave.

                          There are so many places I have been and lived and visited.  I want to go back to them all. 

            I think that  they are not all still even there.  The apartment we lived in when we lived in Bangkok is gone.
               The saying  is "you can never go home".  
 That is so true.   But you can go visit!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The significance of dates and remembering

We all have events in our lives that splash across our memory out of nowhere.  Sometimes silly insignificant things.   Like remembering wearing saddle shoes and thick tights in the winter.  I couldn't tell you what dates I wore them, but I know that I did.  And with some reasoning, I could narrow it down to the season, and possibly even how old I was.   But why.  It is a small snippet of millions upon millions of snippets of time that are happening constantly.  Most go into us to either stay with us or just go- passing through. 

Scent can elicit memories.  Sights.  A child in a red winter coat.  The smell of pie in the oven.

But there is some point where the brain seems to shift gears.  Things take on importance and meaning.  My own children are always telling me stories of things I did.  Usually ways in which I was not the perfect mother.  But, wait, that's not how I recall at all.  No, I did not say that.  Did I?  Did the kids remember what they knew and expected me to say, thus creating a memory based on  memory, facts and wishful thinking.

And then there are the cultural, world changing facts that we hold on to forever.  

I remember clearly the day John F Kennedy was killed. I was nine years old. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald- on live TV.    My dad and I were both home sick and saw it all.  I am sure the significance was much different to each of my parents and each of my siblings.  It was a shared experience.  It was terrible.   We all cried.  We went downtown to watch the funeral cortege go by.  It was cold that November day.  It will be with me for as long as I have any memory at all.

I remember dates.  The dates of my children's birthdays.  My mother, father and brother, even though they are dead.   I know those dates.  I know my husband's birthrate.    We celebrate, we commemorate the day.  We have family rituals.  We are very predictable that way though if we do something different every now and then, it's alright.

Each time I learned I was pregnant, I was thrilled.  I remember that.  And the two pregnancies I lost too.  The first time holding, smelling, nursing.  I could not tell you the time of day, but it's all inside me.

Recently I read that with each pregnancy, fetal cells from the unborn baby travel into their mother's brain. 
So, there are "memories" and a sense of being that child's mother without even knowing it.

Today is September 11, 2015.  It is the 14th  anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Buildings in New York City, the Pentagon , and the thwarted attack on Washington by a fourth plane.    

We sat glued to the TV that day in 2001, not knowing what to do next.  Shops closed down.  Everyone wanted to be home.  With their families and friends.   To feel some comfort in a very uncomfortable frightening situation.  

Today is the anniversary of that attack, now known as 9-11.  On  MSNBS TV, this morning they were streaming the footage of that day on real time.  So, when the footage from  14 years ago said the time was 11:25, it actually was that time, here on the east coast.

There is a prayer/ poem read at military memorial services- at national events.   I heard it a lot in Australia.

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them

Lest We Forget

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A reminder of who we are as La Leche Leaders and as Lactation Consultations

Many LLL Leaders, and many more lactation consultants don't know how the profession of IBCLC came to be. JoAnne Scott was a LLL Leader and the person who worked to help create a profession of lactation "specialists"; consultants.

My friend and La Leche League co-Leader, Maureen Lopina knew her as a Leader and a friend. Maureen gained insights into the mother/ baby relationship and how breastfeeding is such an integral part of that relationship though the loving guidance and later friendship with JoAnne
I met JoAnne in 1981 when I was back in the US to have a baby. I was already a LLL Leader, and JoAnne was a LLL volunteer at Fairfax Hospital. Almost 9 years later, JoAnne was instrumental in helping me learn what I needed to do in order to be able to nurse my failure to thrive preemie, Chance, who was born in 1990.
As the 9th anniversary of JoAnne's death approaches, I want to be sure that we all know and appreciate her. I plan to share this with some of my fellow lactation consultants as well. It is important to know our roots and not forget them.

JoAnne Scott; Promoted Breast-Feeding Advisers

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006
JoAnne W. Scott, 62, an advocate of breast-feeding who helped advance the professional qualifications of lactation consultants around the world, died Sept. 18 of breast cancer at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She lived in Annandale.
Unheard of a generation ago, lactation consultants are now on the staffs of hospitals, maternity and pediatric centers and private medical practices in dozens of countries. Largely through the efforts of Mrs. Scott, the field has become a licensed profession with rigorous requirements for certification.
Mrs. Scott became a breast-feeding specialist through personal experience. She had long believed that breast-feeding conferred physical and psychological benefits to both mother and child, but when she encountered problems breast-feeding her children in the early 1970s, she had few places to turn for help.
She later learned of La Leche League, an international group of mothers who offer assistance with breast-feeding, and in 1975 she became a volunteer with the organization. By the late 1970s, trained lactation specialists in California were offering practical guidance to nursing mothers.
Once universally practiced, breast-feeding reached a low ebb in the United States in the 1950s and '60s, when fewer than 20 percent of new mothers nursed their babies. But as the practice became more widespread in the 1970s and '80s, hospitals and pediatricians found a growing need for specialists.
In an effort to develop consistent standards, Mrs. Scott became director of La Leche League's Lactation Consultant Department in 1982. She helped develop educational programs, professional regulations and certification tests as her specialty rapidly expanded in the United States and overseas.
In 1985, she became founding director of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, an independent examining body to certify specialists in breast-feeding. Consulting with doctors, nurses and mothers, Mrs. Scott recruited volunteers from around the world to help administer the testing program.
At the first certifying examinations in 1985 in Washington and Melbourne, Australia, 259 people took the test. Today, there are more than 16,000 certified lactation consultants in 69 countries. They must be newly certified every five years.
To get her licensing board established, Mrs. Scott worked for years with no compensation. She traveled throughout the world to develop networks of lactation specialists and to promote the idea of breast-feeding.
Today, more than 70 percent of U.S. mothers breast-feed their babies for at least part of their infancy, and rates in other Western countries are as high as 98 percent.
JoAnne Winney Scott was born in Wilmington, Del., and graduated from Hanover College in Indiana. In 1965, she received a master's degree in English from the University of Virginia.
Initially, she found her lack of medical training an impediment to gaining support from doctors and nurses. But she persevered, and medical professionals quickly learned that lactation consultants filled an unmet need.
As she became more established, Mrs. Scott wrote papers on breast-feeding and spoke at international conferences. But she also worked with volunteers and mothers individually, following the philosophy of "as comprehensive as possible -- as specific as needed."
"I have worked with very few people longer than I worked with JoAnne, and no one has come close to matching her ambassadorial skills and global diplomacy," said Leon Gross, a Charlotte doctor who is an authority on breast-feeding. "And literally, the entire world is a better place as a result."
Mrs. Scott was executive director of the lactation examiners board until her retirement last year. She continued to deliver speeches around the world until several months ago.
She was a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Competency Assurance from 1992 to 1997 and a commissioner of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies from 2001 to 2003.
According to her daughter, Mrs. Scott -- a member of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria -- saw her role as an extension of her deep religious beliefs.
"She truly felt like the Lord had called her to help mothers and babies in this way," said Cordia Hennaman of Richmond.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 40 years, Douglas Scott of Annandale; a son, Christopher Scott of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Transitions- always a mother


I am feeling emotional today.  Life is full of transitions, big and small.  Birth, death and everything in between.

My son, Austin, is moving out.  It is a day I have looked toward for a long time.  Yet, I am sad.  Worried.   He is an adult and I know it is time.  He is ready.   Nick and I are helping as much as we can while trying not to help “too much”.   But I will miss his presence in our home.   He is not the youngest, but he is the last one to move out.

You know, somewhere in the back if your mind, when they are born, that your children will some day be on their own, away from you.   You nurse and nurture.  You watch in awe as they learn things because of you and in spite of you and because of nature.   Smiling.   Rolling over.  Walking.  Such huge achievements.   Getting on the big yellow school bus for the first time, or the last.  All of these are milestones that take your breath away and make you sad and happy and proud and worried all at the same time.

When I was little, as with most of us, I just couldn’t wait to grow up.  I always wanted to be a mom and have babies.   At one point I thought I might want to have a dozen or so kids.  At another point, I was sure I would be a doctor, and that staying home would be a waste of time.  I would take the requisite (I thought) six weeks off with each child and then get back to more important things.

Then, I became a mother.  I embraced it with a passion.   I was giddy almost.  I felt like Wonder Woman!  I created a whole person.  (Yes, I know, I didn’t do it all by myself).

We, Nick and I were happy that I could stay home and raise our children.   So, we had them.  Five in all.   Before we had five, even after the fourth child, five sounded like a huge number.    And, I have to admit, more often than I like to admit, parenting so many overwhelmed me.  Each had their own likes and dislikes.  They all had to be in different places at the same time it seemed.  

I cannot honestly say I ever regretted having any of them.  But there were times when I wondered what it was I had expected and how that clashed with reality.

I yelled too much.   But I laughed too.  Once one of the kids asked me, “Mommy, why do you laugh so much?”  To which I replied, “because if I didn’t laugh, I might cry”.   

Loving so deeply is hard.  It is draining.  It is scary.   At first, there were times when I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t stand to have my baby/ child/ teen out of my sight.   I didn’t want to miss anything.  I didn’t want my children to be sad or scared or hurt.   But I wanted a moment of peace so I wouldn’t lose my mind.

And now, we have been through three of their marriages.  Two of them have ended.  And I hurt because I know that my [adult] child has been hurt. 

At first the relationship between a mother and her baby is the most intimate relationship possible.  You get to know every piece of the baby’s body and habits and they dig deep into your own being.   Even the scent of your own baby permeates your soul.

And then.  Poof.  They are gone.   Not really gone.  Oh god no.  But, out of our house and home and daily life.  They don’t need you any more.  Well, they do.  They need to know that you are still around.  But they have their very own, private struggles and successes and failures.   It is as if they never had parents at all, but just opened a door and walked through it as adults.

I have been there.  That adult child.   Sort of.   I wanted to move out when I “grew up”.   Instead, I got married.  So, even though I didn’t have my own place, I took on the responsibilities of an adult.   A fun loving, goofy adult, but an adult nonetheless.

I carried Austin in my body for the first part of his life.  I carried him in my arms.   Watched him learn to walk and talk and run and grow up.  I look and I see a man who towers over me and makes me feel small.  He is so strong and confident, and happy.

I am happy too.  That he is on the next step of his journey.

Now, Nick and I are on the start of our journey.  One without children running and screaming through the house leaving finger and foot prints everywhere.

We will sit in silence.  Watching TV.  Or reading.  And we will talk.  About the goofy stuff we always talk about.  Stuff that I am sure drives the kids crazy.

Twenty eight years ago, I was holding a four-month-old baby against my body.  Nuzzling, and nursing when he wanted.  I was so in love, and so proud of what an amazing person Austin was already developing into.  

Tonight, we left him at his door.  The door to his apartment building.  His new home.  On his own.   Of course I know he will be fine and do great.  But as I reached up to hug my “little boy” I almost had to stand on my tip toes.   He gave me a great hug.   I felt tears in my eyes.

And we said “goodbye” and drove away.

Freshly home from the hospital

All grown up and going off in his own direction!