Remembering Catherine Young, 21 July 1952 – 11 September 2001

Today is a day to remember those who died on September 11, 2001.  I began to get the bulletins on my computer about the World Trade Towers in New York and ran to the T. V. to see what was going on.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and my first thought went to my own daughter who was sleeping safely in the next room to me.  She had been a theatre student in New York just a year before and I could imagine how worried I would have been if she had been in New York that day.  My thoughts are with all those who had loved ones who died or were injured on that terrible day.

There was a death that day that didn’t hit the headlines.  It was a quiet end to the too short life of a very special woman:  Catherine Young, founder and editor of Compleat Mother Magazine.  Catherine died of cancer at the age of 49.  This is a letter that I sent to her children on the day of her funeral. 

To Amanda, Rebecca and Zachary,

I know how much pain the three of you are in today and I want to tell you what I know about the death of one’s mother, from my own experience.  It just hurts like hell for months and the tears come at very unpredictable times and over things that you wouldn’t guess. The pain, fear and loneliness you feel today will get better in time.  Your Mom is close by right now and, if you listen, pay attention and ask her she will come to you in dreams, strange signs and through others still in the body.  This will not frighten you, it will give you comfort and make you less afraid of dying yourself.  The rawness of the pain will lessen in a few months and then you will think you see her across the street and realize that it’s some other woman about the same age and
same “style” of dress as your Mom and you will wonder if that woman’s family really knows how precious she is.  You’ll wish you could go to the family and tell them “Hold on tight to your Mom, sniff in her essence, saturate yourself with her smell, listen to her recite recipes to you and give you advice—you will hurt like hell when she’s gone and you don’t have it anymore.”  You will find that the three of you become closer and stronger as a unit of siblings and your Mom would want that.

You will be the ones that your friends turn to when their parents die and you will have a deep compassion for those who grieve.  When you have your own children, you will tell them what Catherine’s favourite flower was, your favourite dish she cooked, and the crazy times you had with her.  She would want that.

Your Mom was not meant to be just your Mother.  She became the mother of thousands of new mothers who she encouraged to breastfeed and to nurture their babies.  This probably cost you three a lot in terms of hot meals, stories and attention.  I want you to know that all of those women are available to give back to you now and your Mom would want that.  She gave us so much.  She truly understood the maxim “Mother the mother and she will mother the baby.”  Even though it cost a lot in terms of her own family, her life in service to other families was time well spent.
She was very powerful with her pen and, as we know, it was mightier than a sword.  The power she had was to make others more powerful around her.  She was a great storyteller and fearless in her authenticity.  I think, more than anything else, that was what I was awed by.  In each issue of the magazine, we got a true recounting of the intimate life of Catherine and her gang. Personally, I am so much more secretive and committed to my own “looking good” and Catherine set an example of openness and refreshing humanity.  She never seemed to have it “together”, never pretended to, and produced amazing results anyway.

I began attending births in 1981.  In May of l985, a baby died at a homebirth that my midwifery partner and I attended here in Vancouver. Your mom was approached to help us raise the $50,000 that we would need to defend ourselves against the physicians, state and public opinion. Catherine supported us all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada where we were acquitted in l991.  I will never forget that.  She understood bullying and oppression and had no patience with it.  She spoke up and went to bat for the underdog, the voiceless, and the downtrodden.  I feel like her magazine was started in l985, right at the time I needed her support so badly, because someone up above wanted me to have a guardian angel.  Her wingspan as an angel was coast to coast.

Those of us who love her and got to know her through her writing will miss her funny, caustic “take” on events. In one line of an editorial she would be railing on like a sailor on the dockside and in the next she would be waxing poetic about God.  She loved a good joke, pretty poetry, animals, raspberry leaves, men who danced, brave women, dripping breasts and country life.  Most of all she loved you three beautiful babies of hers madly.  You completed her life and she was so incredibly proud of all of you.  I remember when Amanda produced the video “Birth Joy and Raspberry Leaves” —what a proud producer of the producer she was.

Thank you, Amanda, for all the work you put into that.  Thank you, Rebecca, for taking on the magazine and thank you, Zachary, for being her email wizard.  Thank you a million times for being great kids for her.  You’ll understand someday that giving birth to you was her best accomplishment and what fueled everything else.

My deepest sympathy to your grandparents and your Dad–thank you to them for the gift of Catherine.

She would often talk to me, even before the cancer, about knowing that she was “on the right road home”.  I found that such a beautiful turn of phrase and I know she has reached home.  We are poorer for her death. There will never be another quite like her.  I am so glad I knew her and I miss her terribly.  My heart is with you today and if you need a Mom to talk to, I’ll do my best to stand in for her.  I love you.

Gloria Lemay, Vancouver, BC
Sept 13, 2001

Infact Canada has a history of Catherine’s life and accomplishments on their website.

Initiating breast feeding “Baby led and Mother sped”

I haven’t posted this video because I think it’s valuable. On the contrary, this is precisely the kind of thing that makes my blood boil. It’s another example of exporting North American insanity to other countries. Things to notice in this video:

1. the mother is in the “dead mother” position

2. there is no privacy for the mammatoto

3. who cares if the bureaucrats like it?

4. the baby is removed from the mother’s skin and dried thoroughly, WHY?

5. baby’s forehead is in a worried frown throughout this whole ordeal

6. what if the mother/baby dyad don’t want/need to breastfeed in the first 1/2 hour?

7. why do we need evidence-based falling in love?

8. Diane Wiessinger (one of my favourite lactation consultants) says that initial breastfeeding should be “baby led and mother sped” in humans. It is instinctive to bring the newborn to the heart (left breast) when the mother is upright and undirected.

From my experience with more than a thousand births, the recipe for successful breast feeding is to leave the cord intact, keep the room warm, dark and private, and keep talking to a minimum. Each mother and baby have a unique way of meeting and communicating with each other. Sniffing, licking, rearranging the damp curls, checking the genitals, recognizing family traits in the newborn, kissing, speaking endearments, shushing. . . . there are at least 70,000 unseen things going on in the first hour after birth. We will never be able to quantify and randomize these things. They have to do with the very heart of what it is to be human. We need to respect each mother and baby and keep them together so they can do that thing they do.

Pumping Breast Milk by Hand

Here are some links to videos about how to hand express milk from the breast.  Comments are by the lovely lactation consultants at Lactnet (email list).

Here are a couple to consider:

(maybe not the classic technique, but can’t argue with those spurts of milk!  Also shows a pump flange being used as a funnel into a bottle.)

a round-up:$20expression$20$20Final$204.09.pdf

Margaret Wills, IBCLC

Pamela, Rachel also mentions the animated graphics on Victoria Nesterova’s website- do you know this site?

She has other treasures on this great site. I find it transcends language barriers (though you can “translate” it online easily if not elegantly!).

Margaret and Susan – that’s brilliant!  Thanks so much.  I definitely liked the first link Margaret gave – the one described as “not the classic technique” but I completely agree – you can’t argue with those effective, strong spurts!  That’s what I’m used to seeing when mothers express by hand effectively.  Lovely!  Thanks!

The one showing the Marmet technique had me whispering, “cup the breast, cup the breast” but alas, the mom was instructed “not to”,

with predictably slow and ineffective results … 🙁   The best

hand-expressers I’ve seen use all the fingers below the areola to squeeze inwards, and the milk gushes out – and I see that the diagrammatic video you suggested, Susan, uses all the fingers.  Wonderful.

cup the breast, hand expression 

Home birth story (adoption)

The birth was at home.  The birthing woman had a history of postpartum hemmorhage so it was important that she nurse the baby to prevent excess bleeding.  The adopting mother “caught” the baby—that was lovely.  Then, to my surprise, the birthing mother invited the adopting woman to strip down and get into the water tub to be with the baby. Both women were naked together in the water tub with baby between them and the adopting Dad was looking on.  Once the birthing woman had had a couple of hours of “baby velcroed to skin” time (in and out of the tub), the adopting woman took the baby into the next room in her robe and privately put the baby to breast (sitting in a rocking chair). There was about a 6 hour period of both families being together and then the adopting parents took the little girl home.  The adopting woman had already had one adopted baby and had breastfed fully.  We had started with an SNS feeding system (those bottles that you hang around your neck with the tubing that goes to the nipple). 

By coincidence (or not), the woman who birthed in this scenario had supplied breast milk for the adopting couples’ first adopted child a few years earlier.  For various reasons, she relinquished her second baby for this adoption.  She pumped her breasts and the adopting father drove daily to pick up her breast milk for the new baby.  I think the birthing mother pumped for about a month and then the adopting mother was able to meet all the baby’s needs. 

This adoption was a “win/win” situation for everyone involved except for the biological grandmother who was very heartbroken about her only grand daughter going to another family.  When the adopting parents were told about this, they simply said “Oh, she can be the baby’s grandmother. . . she can come over for dinner every Sunday, if she wants.”  Problem solved. 

These kind of events make me so happy to be a human being. . . people can be very great.

Breastfeeding, Intact Penis, and Natural Immunity

These 3 subjects are very close to my heart.  I belong to separate email lists for the three subjects but it seems I’m not allowed to jointly post on all 3 because the different groups that speak up for children on one subject can’t agree on the other two. 
Good thing I have a “blog” because, here, no one can stop me from mixing up my issues. (smile)

Knowing that babies die from the use of breast milk substitutes, being circumcised and being vaccinated, I am very wary of these practices and do everything I can to educate others about the dangers.  Not only death but lifelong injury/illnesses can be traced back to all of these follies.  Many people who are against formula feeding and circumcision of infants, will defend in a very loud voice the mass vaccination of infants.  They truly believe that the pharmaceutical companies have improved the lives of millions.  I thought that, too, at one time.  I was married to a doctor who had been in charge of setting up vaccine programs for the provincial government in Quebec.  When I read a “Mothering Magazine” article in 1977 which discussed the dangers of vaccines, I was shocked.  I took the article to my husband thinking that he would be able to tell me scientifically why the article was incorrect.  He read it through and handed it back to me saying “This makes perfect sense, don’t ever have our daughter vaccinated again.”

I’ve been reading about and attending lectures on the dangers of vaccines for the past 30 years.  The more I know, the more vocal I am about keeping these poisons away from babies, children and adults.  In his book, “How to Have a Healthy Child Despite Your Doctor”, pediatrician Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn calls vaccines “A Medical Time Bomb”. 

That bomb that Dr. Mendelsohn warned us about in the early ‘80s is exploding all over the place today in immune system disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, MS, asthma, etc.  The increasing incidence of childhood autism related symptoms has been laid at the feet of the pharmaceutical companies.  All the lawsuits against the vaccine manufacturers by parents who can trace their child’s autism symptoms right to a before/after vaccine time are evidence of the dangers of injecting toxic substances straight into the bloodstream.

I wonder why those who don’t trust the way doctors have been in cahoots with formula manufacturers would trust those same doctors to have high ideals when it comes to vaccines and circumcision.  I wonder why those who advocate for baby boy’s to have the human right to choice on the integrity of their penis would react so vociferously to defending the right of parents to inject a child with vaccines that may lead to a life of misery and suffering with asthma, thrombocytopenia,  allergies, or worse.  What’s with women who protect their children from vaccines and formula but can’t bear to look upon natural male genitalia?  For me, this is a 3-pronged issue and I’ve come to the conclusion that all 3 come out of basic corporate greed.  Yes, folks, it’s money, pure and simple, that keep hurting babies.  There’s not one advocate of circumcision, formula or infant vaccine who would be interested in any of these things if it wasn’t for a profit.  Just look at all the advocates on the opposite side:  lactivists, intactivists and anti-vax folks—they don’t make money from their unceasing quest to educate others (if they do, none are getting rich, that’s for sure).  I’d love to see the day when all three of these violations against babies are ended.

Breastfed for 3 months

This is a post that used to be on the Birthlove site, owned by my friend, Leilah McCracken.  I forgot that Leilah had put up the old family photo (below) with a little story about my mom breastfeeding me.

“I am the daughter of a British war bride who met a handsome Canadian soldier in London during the war. My mom was the only woman in the local Canadian hospital who chose to breastfeed her babies- that is all she had ever seen in England, and she didn’t know if she could manage all the scientific preparation of formula!  This was in the late 1940’s, post W.W. II.

“Left to right [in photo below]: David, Marian, Gloria and Roy (hiding in the background). We were all breastfed for 3 months and weaned abruptly the day we turned 3 months. My mother remembered that in England they said the children should be nursed for 3 months so that’s the way she did it. It must have been brutal for her and for the babies to have that sudden weaning.

“My older brother, David, was a very hungry baby so she would breastfeed him and then give him a whole bottle of condensed canned milk as well to try to satisfy him every feeding. She went in the bedroom and closed the door to breastfeed– her children were not allowed to see her breast. She said that my older sister, Marian, and I were the easiest babies because we sucked our thumbs all the time. I sucked my thumb till I was about 8 years old.”  Gloria Lemay

We were a family of 6 kids.  These are the eldest 4.

We were a family of 6 kids. These are the eldest 4.

How did you learn to breastfeed?

One of the lactation consultants on the Lactnet list has asked the question: “How did you learn to breastfeed if your child is over 28 years old now?”  Many women have written their heartwarming stories about how we managed to become nursing mothers in the days before cell phones, internet and vhs players.

My daughter, Gen, was born at home in 1976.  I had no instruction on breast feeding prior to getting started with her.  I’m not sure if that is because there was no info available or if I was just so obsessed with how I was going to get her out of my vagina that I couldn’t think past that point.  I was pretty confident that I could breastfeed because my (British) mother had nursed all 6 of her children until we were 3 months old.

After the home birth, the baby got right onto the nipple and nursed enthusiastically as I gazed into her eyes (this is a hint of things to come because, if I was gazing into her eyes, it means I was breastfeeding in a bottle feeding position.  When a baby is latched on to the breast, he/she should be having a meaningful gaze into the mother’s armpit).  Within the first day, my poor nipples looked like hamburger.  The baby wanted to be on the breast all day long and it was excrutiating for me.  By the third day of this, I was asking my husband to go to the store and buy formula and bottles.  Lucky for me, he was very determined that his daughter would have the very best and she would be breastfed.  He urged me to continue and I did. . . eventually my nipples toughened and we were a breastfeeding couple for the next four years.  Right from the start, I knew that lying down and nursing were imperative for mental health.  I would often drift off to sleep with her in my embrace.  If we were on the couch, I’d wake up with the arm that held her completely stiff while the rest of my body had been fast asleep.  La Leche League meetings were available in my community but I didn’t know what they were like and thought it was like a church ladies auxilliary or something.  I remember calling a LLL leader when Gen was about 6 months old to get advice “My baby is 6 months old and she has never slept through the night?”  The leader said “Who ever told you she would?”  My reply “Everyone.”  Her reassurance that breastfed babies don’t sleep through the night and that is normal helped me to accept my daughter’s nocturnal nursing.


When Gen was 4 1/2 years old, I gave birth to Joanna.  Even though I had breastfed for 4 years and had been studying midwifery through that time, I still didn’t have a clue about good positioning at the breast.  I did know that breast feeding is the lazy woman’s way to raise a child, though.  When Joanna was about 18 months old, I attended a LaLeche League meeting where they did a presentation on positioning and I took my very large toddler home from that meeting to give it a try.  I put a couple of pillows on my lap, turned my (big) baby so that she was tummy to tummy with me, and latched her on.  Quelle difference! I could not believe how much better that felt.  I realized that there are some very good tips on breastfeeding that can make a real impact on comfort. 

Modern women are so fortunate to have all the resources available to make breastfeeding successful but, even when you have very little in the way of information, a determined mother and baby can do it.