I was ecstatic! I was going to host one of our main speakers at the State La Leche League conference, author Tine Thevenin.
Best known for her book “Family Bed”; Tine gave many a parent, especially the breastfeeding moms, “permission” in the form of well documented research, to sleep with their babies. I have always been grateful to be exposed to this concept early in my parenting. Our baby slept in our bed, happily nursing during the night. Everyone was well rested and content with the arrangement.
One of the most avant-garde concepts since the breastfeeding renaissance that started in the 1960’s, was the idea that it was OK and even advantageous, to have the infant sleep in the same bed as their parents. The subtitle to the book, “an age old concept in child rearing” spoke to the fact that most other cultures, outside the US, routinely had children sleeping with their parents.
My Dad and step-mom trekked from the humid Midwest to the desert. It was a multi-purpose trip. They’d yet to set eyes on our first child and my sister was being married that summer. They went from the “steamer pot, into the oven” since July in either part of the world was not pleasant. Successive visits were planned during the winter when golf clubs replaced the Osborne portable computer in their luggage.
They admired the lovely nursery I’d created. I had restored some of my own baby furniture. My parents had invested in sturdy maple hardwood pieces. The chest of drawers had survived not only three children’s use but had seen me through my single days before I was well off enough to purchase a bedroom set.
We had not advertised the fact that our nursery was only used at naptime to many folks outside my circle of La Leche League friends. I certainly didn’t greet my parents at the airport with the announcement that we used “Family Bed”. After a night or two my step- mom wryly commented “That is a great nursery you have set up there. Will the kid ever sleep in that bed?”
I had to admit that “No, to date he has not spent the night in there.” I launched into the Family Bed concept. I explained why my husband and I had opted for “more sleep through family bonding at nighttime.” She chuckled; “We were so poor, that we didn’t have a crib. All the babies slept with Mom when we were little.” Several of the siblings shared a bed most of their years at home. A single bed was a luxury that they didn’t experience until they’d left home.
As the Area Conference Coordinator for our state La Leche League organization, I had a full plate. I’d given birth to my middle son, in January of that same year. I had foresight to enlist lots of support from our local membership to get organized events moving along. La Leche League has a tenant “Family First”, which means we all took time out to tend to our families as needed and others pitched in to take up the slack.
Operating an a limited budget but determined to pull together a meaningful program for all of the attendees, our state La Leche League organization relied on assistance from local families to provide lodging for our guest speakers and attending members, from out of town. It was an honor and a much cherished memory, to have one of the Founding Mothers stay in one’s home.
This particular year, I was able to have Tine Thevenin as our special guest speaker at our Area Conference. My second child was only 4 months old. Swaddled in my “Rebozo style” cloth baby carrier, he was experiencing the life of the Mexican farmers’ children that inspired the wrap’s use. Not yet crawling, he was content to be snuggled on my chest. He was toted along to planning meetings, previewing the conference facility, napping in between nursing, without a care.
Our conference went well. We had over 200 attendees, not counting the nursing babies and toddlers that accompanied their moms. As the afternoon went on, Tine expressed the desire to return to our home for a nap. She was a bit jet lagged from her flight from Minnesota out to Phoenix. A nap would get her refreshed before speaking at the evening banquet that was the finale of our conference that year. I was still bustling around the facility and not ready to depart just yet. Being a Toyota owner herself, Tine was comfortable with driving my Tercel back to the house. Equipped with a map and good directions she set off. I would catch a ride later with another mother who lived close to my home.
The directions worked perfectly but as she made the last turn indicated on the directions and arrived on our street the house number was not noted on the paper. In the early 1980’s cell phones were a luxury item found in the limousines of the wealthy. The only optional equipment in my bare bones Tercel was the infant seat.
As a stranger she did not want to disturb neighbors or possibly raise alarm, to ask which home belonged to Kathy. Calm and resourceful she pondered the situation. Looking up she spotted the automatic garage door opener. Slowly she cruised down the street, depressing the button repeatedly. She was at last rewarded by the friendly gesture of a garage door swinging up to welcome her into our garage.
After hearing her story later that evening I apologized profusely for forgetting the most important piece of information on the directions. She burst into laughter saying it was just another adventure in her life. She then confessed that she’d had a very refreshing cold shower as her ingenuity with the garage opener had failed her in decoding one armed type shower control.
In spite of the minor challenges she appreciated our hospitality immensely. She truly disliked staying in hotels. She loved being able to get up and make a cup of tea, from my well stocked pantry. The porcelain tea cup transformed our home tea service to that of a luxury suite, in her estimation.
Thirty years later, I still treasure my personally autographed copy of Family Bed.by