A beautiful mother of five children who looks like an Icelandic fairy. She speaks softly and gently and I can’t imagine her ever using a bad word. After listening to her whole story I came to the understanding that she has real Viking bones. She fell in love at 18, lived abroad, both in Italy and Boston, studied at Harvard University all while starting a family. As if that was not enough she also opened an organic shop in Reykjavik with products from Italy and Icelandic farms. Drinking tea with her and listening to all her stories and adventures made me want five children too. Our conversation went on for almost two hours and here are the pieces I want to share with you.
What made you move to Italy from Iceland?
My ex-husband and I moved there because he was writing and studying music. We moved to a little town called Campeggio close to Monghidoro between Bologna and Florence. I stayed home with my firstborn daughter but was always painting on the side. I had been a painter in Iceland where I was studying political science and history at the University of Iceland. We lived there for a beautiful year in this lovely little town surrounded by nature and amazing food.
Then you moved to Boston, what were you doing?
I attended evening and summer classes at Harvard so I could stay home with my daughter during the day.I have a graduate degree in Museum Studies and a Master of Liberal Arts with a concentration in the history of art and architecture. After residing and studying in Boston for three years we decided to move back to Italy where we both finished our papers. We moved to La Romola close to San Casciano in Val di Pesa and lived there for a year and a half. We absolutely adored the landscape and wine yards. By that time I was pregnant with my second child, a boy, who was born in Italy.
How was your experience delivering your son in Italy – a foreign hospital?
I had a great experience, they took very good care of me and followed up very well with my pregnancy. They also do more exams there than in Iceland. Every month we had all sorts of tests done. J
Did you have any complications during pregnancy?
Well, I always felt great during pregnancy, full of energy and very active but there is a whole story about my son, Halldor . My mother travelled to Italy so she could help us with him but he ended up being born two weeks and a half after his due date. Unfortunately, my mother’s return trip flight back to Iceland was the same morning that he actually was born, so we were alone in Italy at that point. It was just us and my older daughter who was in kindergarten class that morning. That day I felt contractions and we had to ask the doctor to give me a drip to induce labor so my son would be born in time for my husband to pick our daughter up from school.
When he was born his nervous system and eye focus were not very responsive. His whole development progress was a bit slower in comparison to my other children. He easily caught infections and colds. At age three he started having very bad headaches and I had become increasingly more worried about him. At that time I was 6 months pregnant with our third child.
One evening, for the first time, he experienced something called an absence seizure. It was super scary as I had no idea this condition existed. It was like he just froze, did not blink or make a sound and his lips turned blue. He had some liquid running down his nose until all of a sudden he started crying and then throwing up from the excruciating pain in his head. I have never been so terrified in my entire life. Then we started taking him to doctors that conducted many tests. To our relief the doctor explained that this could be an isolated incident but then it happened again a month later. He started medication but his condition developed into epilepsy even though he was taking a heavy amount of medication at that point.
I just wasn’t seeing the recovery in him that I was looking and hoping for so I started researching and looking for answers. Poor boy was so low on energy feeling bad and in pain all the time that he was having a hard time staying focused in school and making friends. He just seemed to not have any interest and energy. During my pregnancy with him, I was tested as being low in iron. When I think back today, I can see a connection between his health and my iron deficiency. I noticed that every time I gave him dinner or food containing iron, he ate a lot and fast. He seemed to be craving it more than my other children.
So while reading and trying to educate myself on the topic the thing that kept popping up, time after time, was how iron intake produces energy in our body. One night I had an AHA moment and it just all made sense. I started giving him a small amount of iron each day and soon noticed some improvements. I asked his doctor if we could maybe lower his medication to find out if there was a link between the two, but he said his blood was fine and we should leave it be.
I went in search of a second opinion. I found a female doctor, a mother of eight, and she also said there wasn’t a link as his blood tests seemed fine but she did agree on my suggestion since we had seen some improvements. We tried this for a few months and as time passed we slowly lowered the medication down to none. He was rid of the seizures! Now years later he is still seizure free and doing much better. Mothers are the ones who watch their children while they sleep and we know every breath they take. We have a natural maternal instinct and that is nature’s gift. In some cases we just are right 🙂
How did you take care of your self during pregnancy what did you to for your self? Any tips for our pregnant readers?
I tried my best to keep my days calm and peaceful. I love to take hot baths but then I learned that hot baths could be harmful so I always kept the water at body temperature. I absolutely love massages so a foot massage to me feels heavenly during pregnancy. I also always made sure to eat well, fresh and clean. For me, food and eating well has always been important. I tried to stay fit and lifted some light weights for my arms and legs and I still do this today. I also tried not to over think this whole process, not to plan my delivery too much and so on. I like to just go with the flow and let life take it’s turns. All my deliveries went well, thank God. My son only had complications in his early years but other than that we have been very blessed. I really believe in eating well during this time – both before and after pregnancy but also during breastfeeding.
You opened a store in Iceland, organic farmers market. How did that come about?
When we lived abroad we got used to buying our foods straight from the farm or store who brought the food straight from the farm. Like with fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. It is very different to do grocery shopping in Italy than in Iceland. Vegetables and fruit are so fresh and tasty there. Our number one medicine is food. Eating clean and well. Preparing home cooked meals for my family is what I always prefer.
Moving back home to Iceland we felt like we would love to open an Icelandic version with products straight from farms. We drove around Iceland and found farms that were interested in collaborating with us. This was soon after the economic collapse so we found an affordable space for our store and got baskets for vegetables and fruit. Fortunately, people liked the store very much and also enjoyed supporting Icelandic farms and eating locally. By the time we added some high-quality products from Italy such as olive oil, chocolate and so on it was a perfect mix.
A few years passed and unfortunately my ex husband developed a serious illness. We lost our store and as time went on the two of us decided that divorcing was the best option for our children. At that point it was healthier for both them and us.
The store is still running with new owners. Fru Lauga, I was working for them for a while but then felt I needed to move on and build a new phase in my life.
What is your favorite thing about being a mother?
Oh, I just love it!! I love all moments especially the sound of their little voices and the things they say. I always try to keep in mind that every moment is very temporary, sometimes I am tired and things are difficult but then I whisper to myself that each stage is temporary. Plus time flies so fast . My oldest is now 21 and although I gave her a lot I still wish I did more. I think every mother thinks like this so my advice is to enjoy as much as possible.
The least favorite thing?
Oh, it has always been difficult for me to say negative things. But of course, it can be hard and chaotic to be a mother. Sometimes I feel I just need some peace. Often when I go to the bathroom somehow I am never alone! Now I just close and lock the door and when they come knocking I just reply that it is occupied J In the evenings when they ask for water and this and that over and over again I sometimes just say, ” no, I have closed the kitchen for the evening. Self-service only now.” J
Rakel told me she is looking forward to the future and looking into a new adventure moving for a year or so to the countryside in Iceland. Spend time with nature and close to her children and new working opportunity. I look forward to hearing about it over our next tea date in Iceland. I would like to wish her and her children all the best and for all their dreams to come true. If you would like to follow her new adventure in Icelandic nature she will keep an Instagram page of her new journey @miomondo.skagafjordur.