My {secret} birth story



With Mother’s Day around the corner it seemed like as good a time as any to share my birth story. (Psst … Mother’s Day is next Sunday – don’t miss this chance to celebrate someone who matters to you, or your children … to my Dude friends … Mother’s Day means a lot to your moms and wives … for. real.)

This particular story about my beginning is one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. (Here’s the link again.)Reading that will give the background for the posts to follow.

My column is only 600 words long. Since I’ve been writing that story since I was 14 years old, there was a lot of my story I had to leave out. The rest I’m writing here in a series of posts to cover that part of my journey …  as a rough draft of sorts and I am thankful for all your comments, input and questions. Truly and totally grateful.

Q: So do your parents know about this project?
A: Not yet. They will as soon as they land overseas. And get email access. Surprise! And p.s. I asked them last time I saw them if it would be okay with them for me to start writing about this stuff. The condensed version of their answer: It’s your story. xo 

FAQ #1: Do you know your real mom?

FAQ #2: So do you know what you are?

FAQ #3: But they lied to you?!

FAQ#4: Do you ever want to find your real* mom? Note: If the questions are asked in this order then this question might say “biological” mom since we’ve already clarified who my “real” mom is!

Did I miss any? Let me know by commenting here or shooting me an email. You can click on the letter image on the upper left corner of your screen. Cute, right? I hope you like it because after downloading this adorable freebie from the awesome Cathe Holden it took me 75 minutes to figure out how to make it work. But now it does, so you know, email me!

Baby pic

If you like reading this stuff would you consider subscribing to my blog? I won't do anything crazy with your address. Promise. 

Bottle or breast? Yes.

I seem to have stumbled upon an unintentional platform ... calling out the haters. As I work on the draft for my next week's column I have to keep my tone in check so I don't come across as a hater myself. The subject? Breastfeeding.

Hello, hot button.

At first I considered suing the La Leche League for emotional damages but throughout the course of my research I have discovered how much of the problem is that we are doing this to each other. With the looks. With the comments. With the smugness. It's really enough already.

I'm not pretending I can change the world by putting the bare truth out there, by bearing witness to the raw and real. But I truly believe hearing our experiences echoed in another's gives us courage to tell the truth out loud more often. It's one thing to say you support a cause, and another thing to choose silence when your voice might make a difference.

"You really want to put yourself out there like that, Babe?" Matt asked protectively.

"I kinda feel like I have to. This is what I do. You should hear some of these stories!"

The condensed version of mine goes like this - nursing Sam went smoothly. I suspect he'd still be nursing today if he hadn't gotten distracted by all the other things he could be doing during that time. At 16 months I bawled my eyes out when I realized I was done before he was and I so badly wanted him to stop nursing "naturally." (I'm learning to hate that word, by the way). With a little prompting he eventually stopped pumping his fists in the grocery cart - the sign for more milk - and we moved on.

Jake ... smooth start. Somewhere along the line my supply ran low and I didn't know it because he's built like a tank. The crying in the middle of the night I attributed to a host of other things, teething, traveling and such.

It occurred to me this weekend that the screaming, getting worse by the night, could be hunger. Could I really have been starving him out in my insistence that if I could nurse, I should? How could I have just run out? So I pumped to check the amount he might be getting - just a gauge - I am aware that babies are more efficient than machines. But, along with not being issued a third arm when I became a mother there are no measuring marks on my body to clue me in as to how much he's getting.

It wasn't enough. Not even close to enough. No amountof blessed thistle, fenugreek, or Mother's Milk tea was going to fix what this little guy needed:  a full belly. Now.

In case there was any confusion - to communicate as clearly as possible that this was not working for him, Jake looked me in the eye and then bit me hard. And then he cried some more. We played that scenario out more times than I care to admit.

So I got formula. And he is happier than he's been in a long time. He slept five hours in a row last night - his longest stretch of sleep in two months.

What I wish I could tell you is that it was as easy as realizing what he needed and then going to Fred Meyer to buy the formula and moving on.

But it wasn't.

First of all, it was in the middle of the night when I realized what was happening. I felt guilty for a host of reasons and then Google happened. I found a lovely site where a woman dressed down a new mom for "not loving her baby enough to give her what God intended." I wanted to write on her comments that God didn't intend for bitches like her to have blogs but what do I know about what God intended? Clearly, this woman is an expert. What do I care what this one, random woman thinks?

Well, she represents many. And it's painful to have your love and desire to do your best by your child called into question.

Out of all the responses I've gotten so far, not one single person has said "I chose to formula feed my baby because I don't particularly care about her." Because that is stupid. And yet, so many people - so many - make mamas feel like crap for not breastfeeding. We happen to live in a particularly pro-nursing part of the country - Portland was rated fifth among the best cities for babies by Parents magazine, cited specifically for its positive nursing culture. Which is awesome. Really.

What is not so awesome is the failure to mention the culture of hostility around mothers who either can't--or chose not to--nurse and feed their babies by bottle instead of breast.  

I think a mother should be able to feed her baby wherever she, and the baby, are legally allowed to be. I think a mother should be allowed to feed her baby from the breast or the bottle without feeling judged or condemned. For the record, I am rabidly pro choice. And by that I mean - I respect your choice, even if it's not the same as mine.

Speaking of which - I'm still interested in hearing your stories: bottle or breast? If you've had experiences on any spectrum with this question, I hope you'll write. If it's too personal to post here, shoot me an email.

The Journal Project - Work in Progress

Most of you already know I'm kind of a nerd ... just more proud of it at 34 than I was in middle school. I started writing about The Journal Project on my writing site Nathalie's Notes. Click over if you're interested. As of late it seems like I'm doing more starting than completing but I can live with having a few works in progress since that seems to be the way of life anyway, right? For the record, I'd like my gravestone to read: Work in progress.

I decided to just begin after reading an article by my favorite author in April's Sunset. Time Lost and Foundby Anne Lamott.

What would you like to "find" more time for?

Writer Mama Anniversary Giveaway

Writer MamaWhile I only recently met Writer Mama Christina Katz in person at her Northwest Writer Series events, I adored her from the moment we connected through an amazing little process called synergy. You know how there's a little click in your heart when you meet someone genuine? I got that click with Christina. And that click, friends, is audible in her writing.

It took forever for "Writer Mama" to leave my "Now Reading" list because it was one of those rare books that I keep turning to, kind of like a Magic 8 ball. I'd flip it open to the message I needed to hear at that moment. You won't be shocked to hear I often opened to a reminder to eat my emotional Wheaties. You'll be amazed at how much is packed into this little book. FYI, you can read with one hand by the light of your cell phone.

Here's your chance to win this awesome writing guide especially, but not exclusively, for all the writer mamas in the house.

The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour Giveaway! Post #4

How Not To Get All Tangled Up About Your Book Concept

The funny thing about getting ready to write a nonfiction book, whether you are pitching a concept or working on a book proposal, is that it’s easy to get yourself all kinds of tangled up. And isn’t this the way with so many things that have to do with a writing career?

Going back to our day one blog tour topic, I always emphasize to writers that it’s so important to have mentors and teachers to advise you along the way until you eventually land an agent. In fact, at every stage, I’d suggest that you have a whole team of advisors. Don’t attempt to pitch a book without them.

Before we move on in my story, I’m want to take a little break here to emphasize another important point: a nonfiction book must respond to an existing need in the marketplace. If your book concept doesn’t do this, then there is no point investing the time and the energy in a book pitch or proposal.

Why? Because to a publisher, a book is a business proposition, a product that must sell to earn back the money invested in it. So, to publishers, a book’s viability is fairly black and white. An idea is either viable in the marketplace or it isn’t. If it is: then possible book deal. If it isn’t: then no book deal.

Keep some of this black and white thinking in mind before you gear up to pitch a book. Get good solid advice on how to make your idea a viable book concept or you could literally spend months, even years, on an idea that will never become a traditionally published book. This dilemma was the reason I started teaching book proposal development. To make sure that writers would have the thinking they’d need before they invested the hours into the proposal writing process.

If your idea is not viable, it doesn’t matter how many hours you spend on the proposal. It still won’t get past the industry gatekeepers. So make sure you have a viable idea first. Okay, end of soapbox. Back to the Writer Mama story in tomorrow’s blog post…

Today's Book Drawing: To enter to win a signed, numbered copy of Writer Mama, answer the following question in this blog's comments:

What parts of having a writing career cause you to feel all tangled up or confused? Don't hold back! Tell us how you really feel.

Thanks for participating! Only US residents, or folks with a US mailing address can participate in the drawing. Please only enter once per day.

Where will the drawing be tomorrow? Visit  to continue reading the rest of the Writer Mama story throughout March 2009!

Your thoughts?

I generally try to avoid making my friends pick sides in an argument. But I'm on deadline and need some third and fourth opinions since I vehemently disagree with Matt's.

So please give me your honest take on this debate Matt and I are having tonight. Don't worry, if you side with him I will not stay mad for long. Probably not even overnight.

I may have mentioned he's an English teacher. Which has its advantages, except when he seems to relish marking my drafts with corrections in red.

After reviewing my draft, Matt was appalled at my use of the second person. I think it works in the right situations.

"A journalist using second person? Isn't that like baseball players using steroids? No that's not a good metaphor because steroids make you more powerful and second person makes you weak!"

What do you think? Does second person have its place? Or, does that conversational tone belong only in casual conversations?

Disasters and details

My apologies for the slow down in posting. I am using all spare minutes to work on my web site. It's taking waaaaaaaaaaay longer than I'd expected but I suppose there is a lot to be said for doing it right. Though, I think I've been shooting for perfect and that's just crazy talk. I really am interested in knowing what drives people to check out a writer's web site and even more curious about what makes them keep coming back.

So one quick story before Sam is fully awake. Another kitchen fiasco. How is it that I was raised by a gourmet cook and wound up such a disaster in the kitchen?

Now that cooking dinner is officially on my plate, I get really anxious if I don't know what I'm making pretty early in the day as I'm not a "whip it together" kinda girl. At least not when it comes to cooking.

Yesterday, I was feeling confident I had a good and easy dinner planned. Until about four o'clock when I started making it and realized I'd skipped one small, but critical, detail. It was a slow cooker recipe.

I happened to be on the phone with my friend/neighbor Amy and mentioned there's been a small problem with my dinner plans.

What do you need? Anything I can bring over?

Not unless you have three to four hours lying around.

The good news, of course, is that I knew exactly what was for dinner tonight.



Walls and platforms

We have walls, and better yet, Sam and I are no longer remodeling refugees. Thank you to Mel and Amy for a fun few days and a safe place for Sam to play. It turns out he loves playing with strollers and grocery carts. Of course, he changes to application a bit. Matt says, "Of course he loves them. Four wheels, steering control, what's not to love?"

Today I'm doing some debris cleanup in hopes of getting some things moved back in place. Of course, painting is the next step so we can't move too much, but I think we can still make things a little more, uh, comfortable. Or at least a little less crowded in the kitchen.

As I'm mopping drywall dust, vacuuming and picking up stray nails (hello? small child in the house?!) I'm thinking, thinking about my writer platform and just can't seem to pull it all together into a neat and tidy package. I'll write more later about the lecture I got to attend Sunday on platform building by Christina Katz. Meanwhile, my brain is buzzing and I'm trying to tune out the static so I can hear what that still, small voice is saying.

I could use some feedback from those of you who read my writing. Sometimes other people see things you're too close to see yourself. What do you see as my writing niche? I'm curious if what you think matches what I think it is.

Off the cuff psych profiles

Matt doesn't read my blog but I told him I was hoping for comments on this and he says: Oh, I don't have to read your blog to have comments. What's the question and I'll give you comments. He surprised me with the following super-detailed pseudo psychological profiles on my characters.

  • Nicholas: He goes by Nicholas instead of Nick? Hmm. Kinda uptight, tall, thin, maybe balding a little bit, wire rimmed glasses, decent looking guy – kinda prissy, comes off a a little prissy but actually pretty down to earth. Sober, likes to laugh but doesn’t do it just at the drop of a hat. Professional but kind of hippy dippy, kinda granola. Matt has started saying "hippy dippy" more since he read my first couple drafts. It is funny to me to hear him unintentionally quoting one of my characters.

  • Vanessa – urban, very curly hair, pretty but maybe a little bit on the trashy side – like she wears a leather skirt when it’s maybe not appropriate. Probably pretty volatile. Acts sweet but she can turn on you. Probably not a professional, checkered past. Vanessa’s the girl who offends your mom when they first meet and you marry her anyway. And then you pay for it.  
  • Virginia – how old? 40s? Okay: A professional, probably has a couple kids either teenagers or out of the house, successful career she went back to – dresses professionally maybe more formally then the environment requires but not over the top. The least casual in the office probably. Doesn’t wear much makeup, not because she’s granola but because it’s not something she values. When she thinks of herself she doesn’t see her own face. Very friendly, almost flamboyant when she’s in a good mood but her relationships are either professional or casual and always fairly superficial.
  • Emma:16, blond, kind of an airhead, so light a blond that you almost question if it’s a platinum bleach, very happy and positive to the point where some people take it as unprofessional or too familiar maybe. She deals with nervousness or fear through laughing even at inappropriate moments, like her grandma’s funeral when she was six. And not just laughing but laughing uncontrollably at some random stimulus that strikes her funny.
  • Ginny -  Jenny, like a female donkey? Oh my gosh, honey. Well, Ginny is … wow what is Ginny? Ginny is an over achiever, would be called a workaholic except that a great deal of her overachieving is spent in her own garden or something … she’s most comfortable in denim button up shirts and overalls or pinstriped button up shirt … what she feels most herself in. Really energetic. One of those people who seems to have a ton of momentum already going when other people are just showing up for work, she happily stays until other people leave without ever drawing attention the fact that she’s staying and then goes home and does her thing with her goats and her garden.
  • Isabella – (Vanessa's daughter, right?) looks up to Vanessa and attempts to model herself after her but recognizes qualities she doesn’t like and doesn’t want to embrace. She’s really pretty but doesn’t think she’s as pretty as her mom because she doesn’t dress like her mom but she doesn’t like how it feels to dress like her mom so she always feels like she’s the ugly duckling or something. And because of that she works really hard to win approval from her mom.  Pretty smart and talented, she musical, and maybe even a really pretty voice. She’s kind of shy doesn’t make friends really easily maybe has some other family members that she’s really close to, she gives the impression of feeling out of place wherever she is, even by herself.


What would you clip?

I'm putting finishing touches on my Nathalie's Notes: Mom about town; Adventures with Baby Chi Chi column pitch and I'm just wondering if you can help me answer this:

What (if anything) is missing in your local paper that would be helpful to you in terms of identifying with your community and using it (the paper) as a helpful resource? What would make you take scissors to the paper and clip something for your fridge, purse or to mail to a friend?

For me, I enjoy reading the op-ed pieces and letters to connect with what other people around town are thinking/feeling. I also just like reading the local personality feature stories and the Greens & Beans column to get new ideas.