Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today I was elected chair of the Swedish association for Homebirth, Föreningen Föda Hemma. I have been thinking a lot about what our association is supposed to do. We used to have a newsletter or magazine published four times per year, but can't support that anymore since we don't have enough people working on it. So we are focusing the energy on a new website where people can meet and find one another.
It became easier to see what we should do once we decided what we ought not put our energy into. I have mixed feelings about one of the issues I wanted to push. At first, I thought - if the Swedish government can pay for all expenses for a hospital birth, even a Ceasarean section (which costs a lot more money than a normal, uncomplicated birth), how is it that if you choose to pay a private midwife to come to your home, you have to pay her with your already taxed money? Well, that depends on where you live in Sweden. If you live in the Stockholm region, or in Uppsala, you can apply for coverage by tax money to pay for your midwives - if you can fulfill a number of criteria.
The problem with tax money paying for your care or anything, is that you lose a bit of control. For example, one of the criteria for getting the coverage is that you hire two midwives, another that you live within a certain number of miles from a hospital, should a transfer become necessary. You also must not be expecting your first child.
Perhaps the criteria is good, perhaps it is flawed. The other side of the issue is that families who can't afford to pay their own midwives (in other parts of the country) might either birth unassisted because they really don't want to be a patient at a hospital, or be forced to go to the hospital, and perhaps be scared and have an unpleasant experience. Don't get me wrong, some people choose to birth unassisted because that is their firm belief it will be best for them. I admire the courage and strength these families must have. I appreciated having a midwife present at our daughter's birth, and I think I would like to have one at subsequent births if I am blessed with more children.
It was such a wonderful experience to give birth to Esther at home. I feel that I could own the process. I was so happy to be at home. I was so happy to not have strangers looking at me and my baby immediately. I was happy to go into the kitchen and get my own food afterwards. It was such a private, sacred time, I didn't want to share it with hospital staff. If people are not giving birth at home just because they don't think you can do it, I want to encourage them.

I think it is a good thing that people don't have to pay for maternity care in Sweden. I also think we have gotten so used to so many things being covered, that it is easy to think - I ought to get this covered - when in fact it is better to forego some other things and pay for it yourself to be able to keep control over it. Tell me your thoughts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The importance of close relations

I often hear people talking about how important it is that we make sure people are employed and that the GDP needs to increase. Always we measure in money whether our society is gaining value.
But it ought not to be a goal in itself. Because people's happiness is built on the quality of their close relationships, our society must be built on people taking care of one another within the family, delegating to societal institutions only if that isn't working out. For our close relations to be positive, time is needed, from the start to bond and through the entire life.

It is time that we recognize the importance of both mother and father in the child's life. It is time that children can take care of their aging parents, and that it is valued by our society. In Sweden, we are so used to the institutions taking care of individuals, that we forget that we can do it ourselves, and that we actually might prefer to do that.

Let employers get used to the idea that fathers should stay with the mother and baby the first few weeks to bond, just like the mother does with her new baby. Let people who measure the degree of welfare of a country take into account the many hours of unpaid childcare that parents provide for their own children. Encourage parents to support one another to have good relationships to their kids and to each other. Of all the things a parent might do, he or she will probably make many mistakes, but if we value the relationship higher than any other thing, we will see each other, we will apologize when we fail, and we will grow as human beings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


When my first daughter was a small baby I heard from everywhere that you can start giving babies solid food from four months age. But the paediatrician said we could wait until six months. The dietician was concerned when Christina at six months was almost uninterested in food still. At seven months, she liked picking up grains of rice from the low table and eating them.

I have since read the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for six months. So I thought, this time I will be good and wait until Esther is six months to give her solid food. I kept saying when the subject came up, "The first thing she will eat is what she grabs out of my hand that I am eating and puts in her own mouth." And yes, it happened, about a week ago, she grabbed my bread with margarine on it and put it in her mouth. She kept getting angry when I was eating without giving her a taste of it. So I changed my mind. I decided it was time to consider giving her some food too (even though she isn't quite five months yet).

There are so many things that experts say about what to give as first foods for your child. In the USA, people say "definitely rice cereal". In Sweden, people say "mashed potatoes." There is so much caution to exercise on one or the other aspect of solid foods. However, I have also read about some families relaxing about the whole enterprise, giving the child a little of whatever the family is eating. Today I had to relent. Esther was simply demanding she try some of my pasta and sauce. But it is spicy! I defended my former position. She can't have that! But she would not accept anything except letting her have a taste. So I gave her a grain of my sauce and she was content.

My conclusion is that the only expert I need is Esther for knowing what she needs. She has a strong will already, a temperament that will not let me ignore her needs. I seriously doubt that any other expert can tell me what is best for her.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


This is something I was completely unprepared for when I became a mother. You'd think, after growing up and going to college and having friends, and being married, that communication was something pretty basic to living life as a human. What I've noticed is that people really do want to communicate. Everybody. Little children, babies, perhaps especially these little people.

I have read a bit about elimination communication. I am not going to report on that here and now, you can do your own searches if you're interested. I believe in it.

What I want to share is that kids have a temperament, they have wants and needs from the start, which I believe I ought to respect.

Naturally, I am the more experienced and hopefully more responsible person among me and my two young children, so I have to make my best estimates and choices regarding us as a whole. I have noticed, though, that my kids have their own ideas, and I believe that respecting these ideas is vital to their happiness and growth.

There is simply more to life than eating and eliminating and sleeping. Yes, there is playing and interacting and discovering, and even Esther, at four months, wants to play. Tonight we had some "unexplained" fussiness, and when Daniel started playing with her, she was content. I am so happy that Christina is there, they really feed off of each other and enjoy playing around. Sometimes I am concerned that the little one will get injured from the loving jostling and bumping her sister inflicts on her, but usually my fear is met with big smiles and giggles from the baby.

Some months ago I read the book "Ditt kompetenta barn" which means "Your competent child" by the Danish family therapist Jesper Juul. What I primarily got from the book was how important it is that we continue to communicate honestly (meaning, this is the basic way to communicate that all young children know how to do, but we often forget it as we grow up). I want... I like... etc. It is so common that we tell kids "You can't do that!" "You're not allowed to do that!" when perhaps a more honest message would be "I don't want you to do that!" "I don't like it when you do that!"

The first messages discount the agency the child has to decide whether to be obedient or not. One of the most important things pertaining to our happiness is simply the possibility of doing wrong, but choosing not to. This lesson is one I cherish. I could do so many bad things, but I don't want to. I don't believe my kids want to do bad things or make me angry, not really. It appears that way sometimes, but I have a feeling that it is only because of an immature ability to express the real needs they have.

Because of the link between choosing what we do and our measure of happiness, I believe that helping my children recognize when they are making choices, and helping them continue to make choices is one of the really important parts of parenting. At the same time, it appears that learning to communicate all those things I have been taking for granted has helped me grow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Pacifier?

We have now had little Esther a little over 3 months, and I am just surprised at the questions I get. Does she take a pacifier? people ask me, again and again.

I will give the extended answer here. - No. I don't think she needs it, and if she wants to suck, let her nurse. I prefer that.

I have been reflecting on why I feel so passionately about breastfeeding. Because I do. When I have time alone, I sit and read blogs about it, I think about what I can do to support it in my community, and what my community needs, etc.

Let me make this clear though - if a woman doesn't want to breastfeed, let that be her deal. If she wants to though, and she doesn't have the support to do it, I want to be there and help if I can.

For many women, breastfeeding is empowering. "I can give my baby everything she needs", that's my power as the mother. Still, many experience trouble and various difficulties with nursing - well, having a baby comes with a bit of trouble, it would seem, and a lot has to do with feeding him or her.

With a little bit of knowledge - one of them this simple bit: yes, there are usually some difficulties, BUT you can get through them. Perhaps my most useful advice that I received prior to my first daughter's birth was: "Count on it taking up to 6 weeks to get into nursing." After those 6 weeks, well, actually we got into it sooner the first time, but the second time, I realized that I wasn't going to give up just because we had some troubles.

I had read that pacifiers are used *statistically* to space out breastfeeding moments. Well, I simply wasn't interested in doing that. I also decided never to time when she nursed last so I could keep track of how often or how long she nursed. Instead, I decided to watch her behavior, to see that she was alert and content. This choice has been one of the most stress-relieving ones I have made as a parent. I appreciate the counsel from a friend: Do what is easiest. Do what makes your life the easiest. Not keeping track of when or how long my baby nurses makes my life a lot easier. It has made me more alert to her actual bodylanguage, I am trying to understand what it is that she wants, and I think I am getting better at it day by day.

One of my mantras as a parent this time is: I would rather my child tells me to put her down than ask me to pick her up. In other words: I will hold her until she doesn't want me to hold her. I don't want to leave her hungering for closeness when I am the one she wants it from.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Adventures in the shop

I took Christina out for an extended Christmas shopping trip today. I think her patience with me was running a bit low after we had visited two stores and we had gotten and eaten a meatball sandwich together, and I was struggling to find gifts for a couple of people for way too long at the third store. She was playing with some baskets that were exhibited, and put her feet in them. I said, "don't put your shoes in them", so she accordingly took off her shoes and then put her feet in them. After that, I continued looking at some bedding, and a few minutes later I looked back at her, and to my surprise, she had not only taken off her socks, but also her pants. I went up to her and said, "You have to wear your pants, that's just the way it is." I continued to try to coax her into putting them back on, but my attempts were answered with angry looks on her face as she pushed me away. I heard laughter from people seeing my predicament, well, I admit, it was pretty funny, but I was tired of trying to convince her to do something she didn't want to do.

I thought, I'll call Daniel, see if he can tell her on the phone that she has to wear her pants. Well, while we were talking, Christina took off her shirt as well, now down to her diaper, running around in the store, barefoot and everything. Daniel advised me to force her to get dressed, which I did, changing her on the floor, holding down shoulders and resisting her violent screaming and getting her clothes back on. After that, I set her in her stroller and we actually managed to find a present at the same store, albeit on the other floor, and also pay a visit to the mall, before we went to the grocery store and got bananas to eat on the way home on the bus, among other things. Wow, what an adventure for a mom and a child.

When we come across these seemingly violent signs of contrariness, I try to remember that these things are exactly what this age is about - trying to see where the limits are, and calling on responsible adults to lay it out for them. It is not that she hates me or tries to control me, she is asking me to show her where the limit is. Of course, she is becoming more able verbally, and tells me "äta mat" when she is hungry, which is very helpful... I think it is a transition time from being completely dependent on parents for everything to being a fully able citizen, watching out for her own needs and wants, understanding the rules of our society. These thoughts help me not to feel guilty for forcing her to wear clothes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The kitchen helper

So, today I wanted to clean the kitchen. Recently Christina has mastered (or so I thought) the art of putting away all the silverware (excepting the sharp knives), so I gave her the task of putting away the clean silverware while I started on the dirty dishes. Well she did quite well at first, putting away all of the odd utensils that go in our catch-all drawer for utensils, and then she put away all of her silverware that goes in the plastic silverware drawer under the regular silverware drawer. The regular silverware drawer has a child-lock on it to prevent children from playing with the silverware, yes it does. Well I opened it so she could access it since I wanted to give her the chance to fulfill the task. I didn't think much of it, and a few minutes later I noticed she had not put the silverware in the drawer where it goes, but in a spare wastebasket that she likes to put all sorts of things in! I told her, "Christina, the silverware doesn't go in the wastebasket, it goes in the drawer. Please put them there." Then I continued washing dishes. A few minutes later I looked at her again, and this time, there was more silverware in the wastebasket, and, yes, the drawer was empty. At first I scolded her, but then, when realizing she wasn't going to cooperate this time, I took the silverware holder out of the drawer and washed it, thanking her for her insight that the holder needed to be washed, and of course I couldn't wash it when it was full of silverware!
*This inspired me to continue the cleaning, wiping the cupboards around the handles, and later today I scrubbed the rust off my cast iron pot (it took about half an hour of intense scrubbing, no kidding! my advice: don't let your cast iron pot rust; season it, and then season it again. it's not supposed to rust then, ever).