I discovered Zoe, Slow Mama's primary author, through a FB group I belong to. Another mama had posted a link to Zoe's very popular post called "Why I Let My Adopted Preschoolers Nurse." When I read the post, I was incredibly impressed with Zoe's heart-on-her-sleeve approach to a typically taboo topic. As if breastfeeding isn't weird enough (saith many), adoptive breastfeeding PRESCHOOLERS (GASP!) to a whole new level. Her post spoke to me in a way no other blogger had managed to do. In fact, I included her post in my own recent expressions on the topic of adoptive breastfeeding, which quickly became one of my top five most popular blog posts. I knew I had to interview this gutsy girl!
So, readers, meet Zoe Saint-Paul---and adoptive mama with zest, wisdom, and authenticity.
Zoe, Tell me a little about yourself: career, family, likes.
I am first and foremost a wife to my best friend, Brian, and a mother to two incredible little five year-old girls who were born in Ethiopia and adopted in the fall of 2012.
I've worked in many fields over the years, including the performance arts, communications, PR, event planning, and publishing, and I have a Masters degree in counseling. I'm currently a writer, blogger, and certified life coach and I do freelance consulting work for non-profits, start-ups, and media projects.
I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, the eldest of 10 children. I'm big into health and food, fascinated by travel and other cultures, and inspired by people who brave their fears and serve others. I love artisanal chocolate, dancing around my living room, reading narrative non-fiction, body products that smell like the forest -- and sleep.
I first discovered your blog through who a friend who shared a must-read blog post you had written called "Why I Let My Adopted Preschoolers Nurse." I was fascinated by your courage to share your experience with your readers. Tell me about why you decided to write that particular post.
I wrote it for two reasons: to encourage other adoptive moms who might face a similar situation; and to add my voice to the growing movement trying to normalize breastfeeding. I hesitated to write it since my story is so outside the box, but a friend -- a breastfeeding advocate and adoptive mom herself -- encouraged me to do it. I've also got a bit of rebel streak so that helped me put it out there! I was amazed by the response -- to date, tens of thousands of people have read that post. Most surprising, the majority of the comments have been positive and supportive.
I have found that once I brought up adoptive nursing with adoptive moms, many have said they had a feeling it would be good for their children, but most have never had the courage to do it. Why do you think there's such fear (shame, confusion, etc.) around adoptive comfort-nursing? And what can we do about it?
Well, most of us -- in North America, anyway -- still assume that breastfeeding is solely for nourishing infants who are biologically born to us. But breastfeeding is much more than that… it's a key way for mothers and children to attach, and children come into the world wired to associate their mother's breasts with nurture and comfort, and that includes adoptive mothers. I think as the public becomes more comfortable with breastfeeding in general -- and breastfeeding children beyond infancy -- adoptive nursing (whether for comfort, nutrition, or both) will be easier to do and accept. But getting there means many of us have to step out of our comfort zones, tell our stories, and correct misinformation and misconceptions.
You've adopted internationally and transracially. Tell me a little about your adoption journey. What parts of adoption have brought you the most joy, and what's brought you challenges?
My husband and I were always drawn to international adoption and when we started the process to adopt from Ethiopia, it was estimated to be a 12-18 month wait for a sibling group, with one trip to Ethiopia. Instead, our adoption journey took over three years and required two trips, which wasn't happy news for a fearful flyer like me. The constant surrender and letting go of expectations throughout the process was a huge challenge. And I absolutely hated all the paperwork.
Our greatest joy is the fruit of our efforts and waiting: our precious daughters. They're incredible human beings and suit us to a tee. We marvel at all they've been through and the incredible progress they've made adapting to their new life. Those first few months after they came home were tough. My husband had to go right back to work and I was on my own with two four year-olds who did not speak or understand English, were having tantrums, and wanted to be held constantly at the same time. I had no family close by and I was sick for about two months straight from all the stress and lack of sleep. We got through it one day at a time. My focus during this first year has been on attachment and bonding -- I knew it was key to everything else.
You talk about adoption on your blog, but you write about many other subjects (as do your other bloggers). Tell my readers what they can gain from reading Slow Mama? And define Slow Mama.
The name "Slow Mama" is a bit tongue in cheek -- an oxymoron, really. But it was inspired by the reasons I launched the blog: First, I wanted to write, and that included writing about my journey to motherhood -- which was happening at a snail's pace. I was so encouraged by reading other adoption blogs and hoped my words could offer the same to others.
Additionally, so many of my life coaching clients were complaining of the speed of their lives and expressing a desire for more meaning. I realized that many of the ideals of the Slow Food movement (with which I was involved) were relevant to a richer life in general: simplicity, quality, community, connection, beauty, craftsmanship, sustainability, traditions. So my blog addresses these themes directly, but many posts are just about my life as a parent, an adoptive mom, and an observer of life. I try to integrate it all together and make SlowMama a fun, informative, encouraging place to visit. My contributors add so much -- I love working with them. I know I'm not alone in my struggle to slow down and live a more grounded, connected life, and a "slow" mama is essentially any woman who's trying to live this way. (For the record, there are plenty of men who read SlowMama, too.)
Is a book in your future? If yes, what about?
Yes, I think so, but the jury is still out as to the topic. Maybe something about slow living, but I'm also interested in exploring issues related to race and adoptive parenting. Stay tuned!
Where else can my readers connect with you? (FB, Twitter, etc)?