Author: Amy Eileen Hamm

A Lady’s Duty to Submit—Then And Now

In 1956, my Grandma Claire gave birth to the first of her five children and soon after divorced the father, an Australian who turned out to be a drunk and besotted loser. Her father was so embarrassed by the divorce that he banned her from the family home. Claire refused to submit and shortly after being disowned, she moved west. Her second child was born to her (and my grandfather) in 1959, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. This time, she was not married at all. And the nuns in attendance were so disgusted to see an unwed mother that they refused to give her a pillow during labour. She never legally married my grandfather, an Irish-Catholic-altar-boy-turned-atheist, and once again put the shame behind her. She lived her life uncowed by the stigma and shame that divorced women faced in that time. As far as I know, she was never bitter. Instead, the misogynistic bigotry of the Catholic Church was a source of amusement, and she regularly mocked the church. I’ve seen photos of her waiting …

I’m a Nurse. But No, I Don’t Want to Be a Hero

If you’re a nurse in British Columbia, as I am, your employee identification probably sports a small golden triangle imposed over a black background. It’s the same symbol often seen on road signs marking disaster response routes. When presented, such identification can allow emergency personnel to traverse controlled routes during an official state of emergency, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Before 2020, I never thought much about this symbol, or what it represented. I felt cocooned in Canada, a safe country with a relatively advanced public health-care system. But now I feel like the small-town neighbour being interviewed by a reporter in the wake of a terrible crime: This is a safe place. Nothing like this is supposed to happen. There have been more than 300 COVID-19 deaths in Canada. That is fewer, per capita, than in the United States. But our prime minister has warned us to prepare for “worst outcomes.” Nurses in one Canadian province already have refused to test patients for the virus because their employer had rationed personal protective equipment …

I’m a Feminist Mother. But I Don’t Need a ‘Feminist Birth’

When my first was born—a bit early, just shy of 36 weeks—he couldn’t breathe. He let out a brief, warbled cry, then fell silent. He was taken from my grasp in seconds, before it felt like he had ever really been with me at all. He required resuscitation. I held him again, for a few seconds, when he was stable and wearing a continuous positive airway pressure mask. Then he was taken to another floor of the hospital. There were a lot of things for a mother to be upset about. My labour included medical interventions, including intravenous medications, that I had no say about. I was confined to bed to allow continuous fetal monitoring, making labour—which took place without analgesics—more painful. I didn’t see my son for over two hours after he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit. He never breastfed well in the months that followed, possibly because he was given a soother and feeding tube without my consultation or knowledge. “Mommy” blogs and other online fora are rife with similar …