Book Review – The Night Diary

The Night Diary is about India’s partition in 1947 as told by 12-year-old Nisha through letters to her late mother. Nisha, half Muslim, half Hindu, is forced to take part in the largest mass migration in history as religious tensions rise between Hindus and Muslims when India gained its independence from British rule and Pakistan was born. Nisha, her father, her twin brother and her grandmother make the dangerous trek from what’s become Pakistan to what remains as India. On the run, they witness violence, experience dehydration and see their world torn apart as they know it. 

Book 41 was a gem of a Little Free Library find. Not only is the cover beautiful, but the story within is beautiful as well. I’ve noticed I tend to cling tightly to the books I hope my children will one day read – this is one of them.

Book 41:
The Night Diary
by Veera Hiranandani

Genre:
Historical Fiction, Diary fiction

Published:
March 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Night Diary is about India’s partition in 1947 as told by 12-year-old Nisha through letters to her late mother. Nisha, half Muslim, half Hindu, is forced to take part in the largest mass migration in history as religious tensions rise between Hindus and Muslims when India gained its independence from British rule and Pakistan was born. Nisha, her father, her twin brother and her grandmother make the dangerous trek from what’s become Pakistan to what remains as India. On the run, they witness violence, experience dehydration and see their world torn apart as they know it.

Favorite Quote(s):

“It feels scary to talk, because once the words are out, you can’t put them back in. But if you write words and they don’t come out the way you want them to, you can erase them and start over.” 

-Veera Hanandani, The Night Diary

“At night they take the papers to bed with them and hide them under their mattresses or have Rashid Uncle put them outside. Why don’t they want me to see what I already know now – that the world is broken.” 

-Veera Hanandani, The Night Diary

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
258

My Overall Rating:
4 – Similar to Wishtree, I would guess this book was written for the 10-12-year-old age range. I did not know that going in but, to be honest, I was grateful for a more innocent view of such a violent time. Told in letters to a family member like The Color Purple, the story is raw and the author did a great job of holding nothing back from a 12-year-old perspective. I’ll admit, I did not know the story of India’s partition previous to reading this book, and this was a great way to learn about it. My heart ached at some parts, and I could not put the book down (I literally read the entire thing in 24 hours). It reminded me of Small Country in that it gave great insight into Nisha’s life before it was torn apart and also The Girl Who Smiled Beads in that she tells the story of her fleeing.

All that goes to say, this book was basically a conglomeration of some really great reads from this past year. I will hold onto it for years to come in the hopes that my own children learn from it – ideally at an earlier age than I did!

Hail to the Victor?

We’d come leaps and bounds in nursing since Thanksgiving. I’d made the commitment to be done with the battle by the end of the year, whatever that looked like. And then I charged forward, trying any new thing to get Oaklee to nurse better. 

I can’t say which one thing it was that helped us turn a corner. In retrospect, my husband and I are shocked by the determination I had, and often attribute the progress to that. However, I’d been determined for almost 6 months – if that were all we needed, it seemed like things would have changed earlier.

12.11.17

“There will always be a part of me that’s incredibly anxious about my desire to nurse Oaklee potentially holding her back.”

We’d come leaps and bounds in nursing since Thanksgiving. I’d made the commitment to be done with the battle by the end of the year, whatever that looked like. And then I charged forward, trying any new thing to get Oaklee to nurse better.

I can’t say which one thing it was that helped us turn a corner. In retrospect, my husband and I are shocked by the determination I had, and often attribute the progress to that. However, I’d been determined for almost 6 months – if that were all we needed, it seemed like things would have changed earlier.

Since Thanksgiving, I’d trudged through the following attempts to take steps toward winning the breastfeeding battle:

1 – For several days, I fed Oaklee more frequently, allowing her to eat smaller amounts more often. We’d been so used to feeding her every three hours – the hospital “care time” approach – that the idea of feeding her sooner never really occurred to us. When taking bottles, Oaklee could take a full feed easily and last another three hours before needing to eat again. When nursing, she got tired faster and we’d try to finish up that feed with a bottle and get her to make it another three hours before feeding her again.

2 – I wore Oaklee. I wore Oaklee a lot. I bought a Qaqadu baby wrap (the off-brand of the more familiar Boba Baby Wrap) and kept Oaklee on me as much as possible – ideally skin-to-skin. Some mommies will nurse their child while wearing him/her, but I was simply wearing Oaklee to get her as comfortable as possible on my chest.

3 – I used a Haakaa breast pumpThis was huge for us. A large part of our problem in getting Oaklee to breastfeed was that Oaklee was small and my supply was fast and furious. She could comfortably nurse for approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds before being blasted with the letdown and essentially drowning in breastmilk. This didn’t exactly make her excited to latch on again and proceed.

The Haakaa was a win/win. Every time I nursed, I would wear it on one side while nursing Oaklee on the other. I would pull Oaklee off at 1 minute and 15 seconds, covering her side with a burp cloth until the letdown was past, while letting the Haakaa catch it on the other side. I would then re-latch Oaklee, who could handle the post-letdown flow much easier. By the time she needed to switch to the other side, the Haakaa had removed – and salvaged – the faster flowing breastmilk and Oaklee could nurse with ease. My 3-4oz caught in the Haakaa then went into my ever-growing freezer stash of breastmilk.

4 – I had Oaklee checked for a tongue/lip tie. In my desperation, I really hoped there was an easy answer like, “Oh wow, look at that lip tie! Just a quick snip and you’ll be nursing like a pro.” However, upon taking Oaklee to a pediatric dentist to be examined for any ties, the dentist confirmed a small tie – not one that would obviously warrant feeding issues. She left the decision – to snip or not to snip – up to me, and I decided my baby had been poked and prodded enough in her 23.5 weeks of life. So both fortunately and unfortunately for us, this was not the answer.

5 – I gave Oaklee enough time to grow. I hate that this is what it largely took. And I hate telling people the very thing people told me, “She’s just too small. Give it time.” If you’re not a pumping/breastfeeding new mom, I don’t think you should be allowed to say those words to a pumping/breastfeeding new mom. You have to be in the trenches. You have to have the credentials. Because any time someone told me Oaklee was just too small, I wanted to hiss at them, “Then what do you suggest I do in the mean time? Would you like to pump 10-15 minutes 8 times a day including in the middle of the night and then give your baby bottles on top of that and also do things like generally take care of your baby?”

But when it came down to it… Oaklee was just too small. I had to give it time. Up to this point, we’d been asking her to do things she was too young to do her entire life. “I know you weren’t planning on doing this for another 12.5 weeks, but just breathe, Oaklee. Use your lungs…”

6 – For four days, I nursed every feeding but four. My husband was out of town for work. During that time I threw caution to the wind and gave Oaklee one bottle per day, and nursed her every other feeding. She nursed anywhere from 5 to 17.5 minutes in those feedings and I prayed every time it was enough. “If she were hungry, she’d let me know,” I told myself, but deep down I questioned even that basic logic.

By December 11, it looked like maybe I could win the breastfeeding battle. I was still incredibly unconfident that I was doing the right thing. Was it selfish to put my daughter’s health on the line for the sake of simply eliminating the pump I hated? Was I being a poor mother at the expense of trying to be an excellent breastfeeder? I had 20 days to flip my lack of confidence to confidence. I knew I wanted Oaklee to have breastmilk. I didn’t know how much longer I could deal with the pump.

In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 10lb 8oz (12.1.17)
Adjusted age: 11 weeks, 2 days
Actual age: 23 weeks, 4 days
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 97
Appointments since home: 19

Book Review – A Ladder to the Sky

A Ladder to the Sky is about Maurice Swift, a young, attractive, want-to-be writer and how he climbs his way to the top, using people and their stories to reach his fame. A talent in writing, he lacks, but the talents of deceit and manipulation get him far into the writing career he so desired. Once chance encounter leads to a debut novel that sets his career into motion and changes his life forever. 

Book 40 was my November Book of the Month choice, and one I picked solely on the author. Though I’ve read nothing else of his, John Boyne has done well for himself, so I assumed this would be worth the read.

Book 40:
A Ladder to the Sky
by John Boyne

Genre:
Psychological Fiction, LGBT literature

Published:
August 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, A Ladder to the Sky is about Maurice Swift, a young, attractive, want-to-be writer and how he climbs his way to the top, using people and their stories to reach his fame. A talent in writing, he lacks, but the talents of deceit and manipulation get him far into the writing career he so desired. Once chance encounter leads to a debut novel that sets his career into motion and changes his life forever.

Favorite Quote(s):

“I think Maurice is whatever he needs to be, whenever he needs to be it. ” 

-John Boyne, A Ladder to the Sky

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Shortlisted: Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year
Shortlisted: Irish Book Awards RTE Listeners’ Choice Book of the Year

Pages:
362

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I can’t say I regret reading this book or that I was wrong about it being worth the read simply because it was written by a notable author, but this had and didn’t have things I didn’t/did need in order to consider it a great success. I really appreciated the writing style, the flow of the book and the overall plot, but there was definitely content I could have done without and various aspects of the conclusion seemed weak or rushed by the author. This would have been a 4 or 4.5 if I could have removed certain scenes and elaborated more on the conclusion. The plot and writing style were there. It was unique. It was fun. There were just a lot of questionable choices by the author spread throughout.

Book Review – Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society is about a group of boys at Welton Academy and the way their lives get significantly more interesting when their new English professor, Mr. Keating arrives. Mr. Keating challenges the boys to “suck the marrow out of life”, a concept their conservative, single-minded school has never taught before. The boys excitedly look to the challenge and begin to view their education, their relationships and their lives differently. 

Uncertain whether I’d seen the movie, I picked up book 39 at a Library Used Book Sale, read it quickly and watched the movie the night I finished the book. This one is unique in that the book is based on the movie rather than the usual – movie being based on book.

Book 39:
Dead Poets Society
by N.H. Kleinbaum, based on the motion picture written by Tom Schulman

Genre:
Fiction

Published:
1988

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Dead Poets Society is about a group of boys at Welton Academy and the way their lives get significantly more interesting when their new English professor, Mr. Keating arrives. Mr. Keating challenges the boys to “suck the marrow out of life”, a concept their conservative, single-minded school has never taught before. The boys excitedly look to the challenge and begin to view their education, their relationships and their lives differently.

Favorite Quote(s):

“‘Not a cynic, my boy,’ McAllister said knowingly. ‘A realist! Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams, and I’ll show you a happy man!’” 

-N.H. Kleinbaum, Dead Poets Society

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None found.

Pages:
166

My Overall Rating:
4 – I loved this story. It’s a timeless tale, full of little nuggets of inspiration. It quickly pulled me in and had me rooting for the Dead Poets Society. I was moved to tears twice and was surprised that such a short, little book could have that effect on me.

For the record, since I read/watched them so close together, I can say the book and movie are, at times, word-for-word. I was impressed, however, that the other could capture the scenery so well from the movie as, when watching the movie, it was largely what I’d imagined while reading the book. I really don’t think you can go wrong either reading the book or watching the movie.

Also, the price sticker on my copy of the book has the price in Yen. And I found a receipt in the book that is very clearly in Japanese. I wish I could go where this book has gone.

The Return to Neuro

When the nurse practitioner entered the room, she immediately began by telling us Oaklee’s growth wasn’t terrible. While she was still not on the growth charts, she had picked up a bit of speed, making an encouraging curve. She looked me in the eye as she questioned, “I’m guessing you chose not to do the formula, right?”

12.1.17

“We finally nurse enough during the day that I don’t also pump… While I want to say it’s a relief to be at this point, I have to admit that I’m still a nervous wreck about it. Is she getting enough to eat? Will I still produce enough if I don’t pump? It’s so stressful.”

56 days after Oaklee’s first Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician appointment, the one where a doctor told me I would never nurse a child, Oaklee and I returned to that office for a follow-up appointment. We were still attempting to make Oaklee an exclusively breastfed baby and had daddy in tow for backup.

The nurse took Oaklee’s measurements. She weighed 10lb, 8oz. That was 2lb, 9oz more than when she’d last seen them. Each time a nurse or doctor made me strip Oaklee down to a clean diaper to be weighed, I’d hold my breath, but this time I was especially anxious. I wanted to come in with a solid argument that we were doing the right thing, but I knew the numbers would tell the truth, and I wasn’t certain what numbers they would be looking for exactly.

When the nurse practitioner entered the room, she immediately began by telling us Oaklee’s growth “wasn’t terrible”. While she was still not on the growth charts, she had picked up a bit of speed, making an encouraging curve. She looked me in the eye as she questioned, “I’m guessing you chose not to do the formula, right?”

With practiced confidence I said, “Correct.”

She responded, “I think that’s going to be ok.”

Then the nurse practitioner baited another hook and went on to explain the special, higher caloric formula does have certain, additional nutrients preemies are often deficient of. We could check Oaklee for deficiencies with a simple blood test if we would consider supplementing with the formula pending low results.

I can see how this would sound crazy to some people, but I kept my foot down. Did I want to know if Oaklee was deficient? Of course. The nurse practitioner cast out a line, and I was thinking about nibbling, but I wasn’t going to budge on the formula and, therefore, not willing to subject Oaklee to another poke.

Even if my daughter was low in certain nutrients, I was not supplementing man-made formula for the milk God made in my body for my daughter.*

Oaklee was growing. She was developmentally right where they wanted her to be. Ideally, her continued growth would allow her to maintain that developmental track. With the progress she’d made so far, and the supply and passion I had to breastfeed, we officially denied an interventional option – finally.

Let Oaklee be Oaklee… the seeds of my newest mantra were being planted.

We left that neuro appointment on a much brighter note than the last one. Still uncertain we were making the right decision, we at least knew the nurse practitioner was ok with our decision.

On the 1st, Oaklee breastfed two feedings of seven – 15 minutes and 14 minutes – two almost full feeds.

We could do this.

In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 10lb 8oz (12.1.17)
Adjusted age: 9 weeks, 6 days
Actual age: 22 weeks, 1 day
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 87
Appointments since home: 15

*P.S. I have to make the note that I think formula is a very valid option in many, MANY cases. For the baby who won’t latch, for the mom who can’t produce enough milk, for the single mom, for the mom of twins, for the mom of the preemie who’s just not getting the whole breastfeeding thing, for the mom who’s struggling to take care of herself… formula is a blessing. Nothing is better for baby than for mom to be her best version of a mom, and often that means using formula.

I know I am blessed to have even fought the breastfeeding battle – to have been given the time to work through it, to have been given the supply to more than feed my child, to have been supported by my family and friends, to have been given a husband who will wash pump parts, give bottles and sit on the floor of the nursery in support, watching me cry as I try to unsuccessfully breastfeed our child – I have been incredibly blessed.

But the shame around using formula saddens me. You can be an excellent breastfeeder and a terrible mother.