Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Mother's Day
Sunday I slept late and woke up to find this lovely hand colored banner hanging in the kitchen. Swedegirl immediately showed me which letters she colored herself and told which ones her dad had done. Even the baby, just 14 months, was excited and walked me over and pointed up at it with a big grin, proud to show the surprise she knew was special for me.
Swedish mothers day is not until the end of the month, but this last Sunday was American Mother's Day. Last year, we did not do much for either one, and I ended up getting a little sad about it. So SwedeDaddy knew this year he was going to have to do something to acknowledge Mother's Day to keep me happy! SwedeGirl had a birthday party, so her dad took her and gave me the best present of all, a silent solo afternoon. I got to make a pot of real Starbucks coffee courtesy of the package my mother sent me recently, so I enjoyed that as her little gift to me. And I got to check in on the computer undisturbed and guilt free, and then clean without anyone making a mess in my wake.

So I got sometime alone on mother's day, and even got to go on a long walk by myself at my own brisk pace. On my walk I noticed a cool rocky hilltop spot with a fire pit, and thought it would be fun to surprise my family by taking them up there for a Mother's Day evening grill out. Swedegirl jumped up and down for joy first when she realized she was going to get to cook a hot dog on a stick over a fire, and again a second time when she realized I had packed marshmallows and prepared to make S'mores.

Take care of mom, let her have space, some time to think, some time to be, and she will always take care of you! If momma is happy....

I made this Mother's Day a day to enjoy and savor that I get to be a mom. So many of my older friends look back and say this was their favorite time, the time when their children were small . Looking around at the stick people and rainbow drawings, the mysterious arrangements of toys that are strewn around, and the bouquets of dandelions, and vitsippia, and dried lavander stuffed in vases that my girl proudly picked for me, and I can imagine what they mean. So I thought I would use my day as a chance to be a fun mom, and do a fun mom thing, make a camp fire in the neighborhood on a Sunday night.

As I cleaned I was thinking of a woman I never met, named Cyndy, from Miami Florida, most recently of Gothernberg, Sweden. She was participating in an online forum I am on, and I answered many of her questions about pregnancy and birth. She considered going back to Miami to have her baby, as she wanted her mother and sisters around her to share her joy after the birth. She was going to use a licensed midwife and have a birth center birth. I have only bits and pieces of her story, as it is with an online friend. I was waiting to hear from her, thinking perhaps someday we would meet. She went silent and I was looking out for word from her, wondering about this Floridan in Sweden about to give birth. Last Friday, one of her friends shared that she stayed in Sweden and gave birth in Gothenberg. On March 5th, began having some contractions, and after a long labor, her son was delivered by c-section on March 9th while she was under general anesthesia as the epidural anesthesia was not working. She died on the table. The day she died, I was lighting candles and singing happy birthday to my second child, celebrating her first birthday. Every March 9th, as I have a birthday party, there will be a family mourning the loss of this woman, on the day she gave birth to her first, and only child at age 30. Her son will never know her, and her family...well, they are in Florida, her son with his newly widowed father in Sweden.

I was pondering this news as I cleaned alone on my Mother's Day Sunday.... the irony that she had expressed the wish to return to the USA, to Miami even, to give birth. Sweden has some of the best outcomes for mothers and babies in the world, the USA, the worst as reported recently by Amnesty International in their report Deadly Delivery:Maternal Health in the USA. USA ranks behind 40 other countries in its outcomes for mothers in birth. The USA ranks behind Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lativia, Lithuania and more. Two women every day in birth in the USA, and and many more have life threatening complications that will impair them. Maternal mortality rates are bad and rising, they have increased from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006. In New York city, the rate of death is 83.6 deaths per 100,000. for black women. But Cyndy did not go back to Miami, the american town with the highest c-section rate in America. She gave birth in Gothenberg. And died, in birth.

There were many families grieving the loss of a mother in birth this Mother's Day. A close friend, whose birth I posted about in February, contracted an often fatal postpartum strep A infection, and four days after she gave birth was in a coma hanging onto life by a thread. Another woman in Texas, Katy Hayes, contracted the same infection five days before my friend, and was just moved now out of the ICU, and is now a quadruple amputee. My friend was lucky and has made a full recovery, but she will forever wear the scar of the experience of being in a coma for the first weeks of her baby's life, and we who love her are all forever changed by going to the place where we were not sure she would live through the night.

So this year, for Mother's Day, I was simply and profoundly grateful to be asked by my girl to hold her hand and walk at her pace as we made our way through the forest. I paid attention when she presented me with yet another bouquet of wild flowers. And at the fireside, I wondered why it is I hear my own mother's voice in my head when I say 'perfect golden brown' in regards to a marshmallow as I instruct my daughter on the fine art of toasting them. Is it because I remember my mothers voice and her instructions to me? How lucky I am to have known that voice, and to be able to be that voice for my girls.

The hike, the bouquet, the baby on my back
Building the Fire
So a toast, raise your marshmallow sticks!!!
To all the Moms
You are Irreplaceable
(for sound track scroll to 3:12 on this video, not savvy enough to make it just that clip for you)


Rose said...

Lovely lovely lovely.

I actually spent half my Mother's Day alone with my mom at the Goodwill, just like old times. It was really nice.

swedishouse said...

I have tears rolling down my face...As a mother and a former student midwife, Maternal death is one of the most devastating and saddest things ever...to come to terms with if ever...

How wonderful to Celebrate your Mother's Day grilled Korvs and Marshmallows, in the Swedish outdoors...I could't think of anything finer!

Happy American Mother's Day!
It looks like your doing a really excellent job.

kram Julie x

sapphire said...

It's rare that we are touched by such sadness of maternal death, we think of birth as a routine procedure, not wrought with complications.

Hope for that woman's family and the father, who will be alone in the world to take care of a helpless baby.

Have a wonderful Swedish Mother's Day since the American one passed. ;)