Settling in Canada

The hotel on Charles street was an older building and I don’t remember the name of it. I think it doesn’t exist anymore. We were housed in an apartment. It was a big one bedroom apartment. We had one big room that had a sofa and coffee table and two chairs, a double bed and night tables, a table with 4 chairs, a colour TV. A bedroom with two twin beds and a dresser. A kitchen with all the necessary utensils for cooking. A four piece bathroom. The furniture was old and the TV was not working but we had everything we needed. We moved one of the twin beds into the living room, close to the double bed, for Krisztina to sleep on. She never slept alone in a room, we all slept in one room all her life and she was afraid of sleeping alone. The apartment was on the second floor and the elevator that took us there had music playing all the time. That was something new to us. As were the big cars we saw on our way to the hotel. In Europe the cars were smaller, we didn’t have the big Oldsmobile, and Cadillacs and Chryslers.

It was night when we arrived to the hotel and we had a very long and exhausting day. While Krisztina and I were getting ready for bed, Arpad went out to see whether he can find a store open to buy milk and bread. He came back amazed at what he had seen. On Young Street, people were strolling by the hundreds and many little stores were open, where they sold everything we needed. That was something new to us too. Toronto at night was amazing.

The next day we took the subway to Wellesley St. where the Manpower Office, (Service Canada, now) was located. A councillor was assigned to us who instructed us about what we needed to do. We received a cheque, I don’t remember the amount, but it was for groceries, transportation fares and other miscellaneous expenses. We were told to look for an apartment to rent, from September 1st and we will receive money for the first and last month’s rent and for furniture and a monthly allowance that will cover the cost of living. We will be eligible for English classes, ESL, for six months and subsidized all day, daycare for Krisztina while we were at school. We were told to go to the Welcome House where we can have our Romanian birth certificates and other documents we brought with us (hidden in our suitcase), translated and notarized for free.

It was all good news and we were happy. Arpad and I wanted to celebrate our arriving to Canada, with a glass of champagne. We went to a grocery store looking for the spirits section but we could not find it. We went around the aisles a couple of times with no avail. Finally, Arpad asked one sales clerk: “alcohol, whiskey, wine?” Not here, at the liquor store, he said.

Liquor store? What is that? He told us the address of the liquor store that wasn’t very far.

We never heard of alcohol not being sold in the grocery stores. We found the liquor store and bought our champagne.

In the three weeks we stayed at the hotel we experienced what living in a metropolis like Toronto was like. We liked the busy streets and the big squares where people could meet and talk and listen to music. We liked the parks with shady trees and benches and squirrels running everywhere. We liked the diversity and we felt welcomed and at home there. The term “People City” was often used to describe it and it was very fitting. We loved it and we liked everything except the mice in the apartment, but we solved that problem too. We set up a mouse trap on the coffee table we moved close to the bed. Using a deep baking pan from the kitchen that we leaned against a little match box car Krisztina had received from friends, who visited us at the hotel. We put a chocolate square under the baking pan and tied a string on the little toy car. At night when I heard noise on the coffee table, I pulled the string and the toy car rolled out from under the baking pan, trapping the mouse under it. Arpad picked up the coffee table, pan and mouse under it and took it downstairs and went out the back door and let the mouse go outside. There was a big fat cat living at the hotel, but was not interested in catching mice. We did this a couple of times during our stay there.

We contacted Arpad’s family’s friends, Ocsi (Joe), Cuci (Elisabet) and their 14 year old son, Attila. They visited us at the hotel and took us to their house and showed us around. On weekends we went on trips with them. One weekend to Algonquin Park, quite far, more then 250kms from Toronto. One weekend to Niagara Falls. During the week, Cuci drove us around to look for apartments for rent. After looking at quite a few, we decided on an one bedroom apartment in Downsview, at Keele and Sheppard. It was a nice apartment in a four-story building that had an outdoor pool and underground garage (all new to us). It was near a ravine with large green space and walking trails. We decided on one bedroom to save money and Krisztina was used to sleeping in our bedroom. The rent was $285 per month. Cuci drove us to furniture stores on Queen St. where we bought the minimum necessary items to furnish the apartment. She took us to Honest Ed’s, where we bought linen and kitchenware. We also bought a used colour TV from one of the Queen St. stores. On September 1st we moved into our new home. We were happy and grateful for all the help we received to accomplish that.

Arpad and I enrolled into the ESL program at Humber College. While we were at school, Krisztina attended daycare. It was an all-day daycare where she ate lunch and napped in the afternoon. It was hard for her at the beginning because of the language barrier. Also the food was different and she didn’t like it. She cried and was unhappy. It was all new for her and she was not used to being separated from us. The teachers were very understanding and tried to help her. One of the ladies who worked in the kitchen was European. She was asked to talk to Krisztina and try to find out what she needed. Although she did not speak Hungarian, she could communicate with Krisztina and gave her extra attention and that made her fell better.

The next six months we were very busy getting accustomed with our new country, learning the language and learning about the day-to-day living. We were eager to learn as much as we could to be able to start looking for employment and establish the life we were dreaming of for so long.

Living in Toronto and Loving it

We lived at 41 Brookwell Dr. in Toronto from September 1, 1981 until March 1, 1983.

Those were the days, as a Mary Hopkin song from 1968, would say. We experienced living in Canada, away from the strict rules of communism and we felt free and empowered.

We embraced every new challenge with confidence and excitement. We enjoyed going to school and learning not just the language but the Canadian way of living. We were amazed how quickly our telephone was hooked up. In Romania people needed special permits and waited years until the phone line was introduced into their homes. We were happy to find out about thrift stores and goodwill stores where we could buy things we needed at low prices. In Romania we didn’t have that. Only state-owned stores and fixed prices. Thrift stores provided us our wardrobe inexpensively and we were glad nobody around us cared about fashion. Running shoes, sweat pants and t-shirts were worn everywhere. We left the European fashion sense behind us and blended in happily. We bought a used Plymouth Furry at a government auction Arpad found out about. It was cheap but reliable. In a couple of days, after doing the necessary tests and paper work he was able to drive it. Amazing! We needed to take drivers test to obtain Canadian drivers licenses but for the time being the Romanian one was good. Just a few months in Canada and we had everything we needed: a nice apartment, furnished and comfortable, a colour TV (in Romania they had only black and white TVs at the time) a car to drive around, enough money to buy clothes from thrift stores and food from food terminals. We loved looking for bargains and buying cheap. We became bargain hunters and proud of it.

After we finished school we found work too. At first Arpad cleaned offices at night and I cleaned private houses during the day. I started with two per week but after a while through word of mouth other people from the Hungarian/Jewish community called me to clean their houses.

On May 31, on Krisztina’s 5th birthday, I started working at Baycrest Geriatric Hospital and Centre for Geriatric Care, as cleaning staff. It was an on-call job but sometimes I worked full-time for weeks. Arpad was hired as assembly line worker at the Ford Automobile Plant in Oakville. The hourly wages at Ford were more than twice the minimum wage in Ontario at the time.

When we finished school in April 1982, the daycare subsidy for Krisztina’s daycare stopped and she did not go to daycare anymore. I think she was happy about that. Over the summer she was at home and when I worked during the day, Arpad was looking after her and at night while he worked I was with her. When he started working at Ford he worked in three shifts, one week, mornings, one week afternoons and one week nights. Most of the times it worked out quite well and one of us was at home when the other worked. A couple of times I happened to work until 4:00 in the afternoon and Arpad had to start at 2:00 his afternoon shift. We had no babysitter and Krisztina stayed home alone from the time he left for work in Oakville until the time I came home from Baycrest. In Romania that would have been perfectly normal but in Canada was not OK. Our friend Cuci helped us by talking with her on the phone until I arrived home. They carried out long conversations about various subjects I was told.

On days when we did not work and on weekends we took day trips to nearby lakes and conservation areas. We enjoyed driving to parks on nice summer days and barbequeing and eating our dinners outdoors.

In the fall we registered Krisztina to start Senior Kindergarten at Sheppard Public School where she attended half day classes five days a week. During the summer she befriended a little girl her age, Lisa, who lived in the same building with us. They walked to school together and her grandma walked with them on the days I worked. After school they walked home together to Lisa’s apartment and Lisa’s grandma babysat them. Krisztina stayed with them until I got home from work. We paid a babysitting fee by the hour. Back home we had her grandma and grandpa (my parents) even the neighbour who we could rely on all the time to watch her. We loved our new life but by being so far away from family we lacked the support they could have given us and Krisztina missed out on love and hugs they could have given her.

By the fall we had grown accustomed with the Canadian way of living and we liked it.

I was very happy that my little family and I had our own apartment and comfortable living conditions. The jobs we had generated sufficient income for our needs.

I was content where we were and I imagined ourselves living there for a long time.

A letter from Arpad’s brother, Öcsi (Stefan), changed everything. In that letter he informed us that he and his family decided to emigrate from Romania and apply for immigrant visa to Canada. Life was becoming unbearable in Romania and because we were in Canada he had a chance to be accepted. The only catch was that we had to sign sponsorship papers and take responsibility for them for 10 years. That meant that we had to support them financially when they arrived and be able to meet their needs of food, shelter, clothing and make sure that they won’t need social assistance. Along with Arpad’s brother and his family: his wife Nusi (Anna), his ten year old daughter, Eva and his eight year old son Csaba, Arpad’s and Öcsi’s mother, Sara (Sári Mama) also applied for an immigrant visa. We had to sign sponsorship papers for her also but for 20 years.

We started looking for homes that would accommodate the three of us plus three more adults and two children. After viewing bigger apartments and houses for lease we realized that we can buy an older house with money borrowed from a bank. Arpad saw the real estate section of a Hamilton newspaper at work. There were houses for sale in Hamilton at much lower prices than Toronto.

Hamilton was 60km west of Toronto and the Ford Plant in Oakville, where Arpad worked, was half way between Toronto and Hamilton. We found an older two story house on MacNab St North for $26,000. Because we were first time buyers we received a $3,000 grant from the government. We bought 251 MacNab St North for 23,000 dollars. We paid $3000 deposit and took a mortgage for the rest from the Bank of Montreal. Back then interest rates were 12% so our monthly payments were roughly $300. Almost the same as we paid for the one bedroom apartment in Toronto. We moved to Hamilton on the first day of March in 1983.

I was very sad we had to leave our cozy apartment and our life in Toronto. I had to quit my job at Baycrest, we had to take Krisztina out of Sheppard school. Arpad’s commute to work, to Ford in Oakville, from Hamilton, was the same distance as it was from Toronto, so that was OK.

I didn’t like Hamilton at all, it didn’t have the vibrancy and diversity of Toronto, plus we had to start all over again in a strange town. We filled out the sponsorship papers and started immigration proceedings for the family at Canada Immigration Centre. We had a couple of interviews were we had to show proof that we will be able to support them financially until they can live on their own. It was a lengthily process and by the time their application was accepted and they were able to leave Romania, it was December 1984. In the meantime we got used to living in Hamilton, although I still missed Toronto-living, Krisztina attended grade one at Centennial School, Arpad was working long hours, overtime at Ford Assembly Plant in Oakville and our family of three, grew into a family of four. On September 2, 1984, we welcomed our second little girl, Julia.

Full House in Hamilton

The house we bought in Hamilton was an old brick house in need of some decorating but livable and close to downtown. Incredibly, it was perfect for our needs. It had many rooms, a garage and a back yard. The school was close and the market was at a walking distance inside a shopping mall called Jackson Square. The Hamilton Central Library was located there too. I walked there many times with Krisztina, where she liked spending time in the children’s section.

We occupied the first floor of the house. Being used to living in one room and then an one bedroom apartment, we didn’t need more space. There was a big kitchen, a TV room we used as living room, a living room where we set up our bedroom and the adjacent dining room was Krisztina’s bedroom. There was a four piece bathroom and another room that opened from a hallway from the kitchen that gave it some privacy. We reserved that room for Sári Mama, Árpád’s mother. The upstairs was waiting for Öcsi and his family. There was a kitchen there, two bedrooms and a bathroom. In the basement there was the laundry room, space for the children to play, another bathroom and a cold cellar. We were ready for the family to come.

Arpad worked double shifts for months and we saved enough money to pay off the mortgage on the house in one year. Krisztina made friends at school and befriended a neighbour girl her age. Her name was Patty and her family was Romanian. We got along well with the grandparents. We spoke Romanian with them except for Krisztina who being very young when we left Romania did not learn the language. She played with Patty often at our house or at Patty’s house where her grandmother watched them.

An orange tabby cat decided to move in with us. We didn’t know where he came from but he visited us often and came in the house sat on the couch and left. Until one day he didn’t leave. We named him Micus (kitty in Hungarian).

We accomplished a lot in just two years: bought a house and paid off the loan from the bank, bought two reliable cars, Árpád had a good paying job. Krisztina became fluent in English and her work at school was at the same level as her Canadian-born peers. Canada really was the land of opportunity for us to start a new life and establish roots. We were happy to bring into this world a child who had the privilege of being born a Canadian citizen. Our little girl, Julia, was born on September 2nd, 1984, one day before Árpád’s birthday. He was hoping for her to be born on his birthday but she needed a day on her own. She was a beautiful, healthy little girl and brought joy into our lives. We were happy to have a little baby and Krisztina was a loving big sister. We became a family of four, plus the cat. That was until the beginning of December, when Öcsi and his family and Sári Mama arrived. We had a full house from then on. It was a welcome change after being without family support for so long.

It was fun showing them the Canadian ways. Krisztina had two playmates in the house and a loving grandma and an aunt and an uncle. Árpád had long talks into the night with his brother.

I had help in the kitchen from Nusi and Sári Mama, and Baby Julia enjoyed all the attention she was getting. The basement became the children’s playground where they had races and dance contests. We registered Eva and Csaba to Centennial school where they attended regular school and were taught English. Öcsi found work quite fast in a machine shop even though he didn’t speak English. He had the necessary skills and that was enough.

We had Christmas together and then Easter. Big family dinners in our kitchen. At night we stayed up late and the children too.

When at school the teacher in Krisztina’s class asked the children if they go to bed by 8:00 pm, Krisztina came up with the idea of going to bed at 8:00 pm and getting up soon after. That way she was not lying when she told the teacher that went to bed by 8:00. The teacher didn’t know that she didn’t stay in bed but got up and played some more.

Our house was filled with laughter and noise. Too much noise sometimes.

In the summer especially, the children would run in and out all the time. Up to the second floor and down to the first where we lived and down to the basement. Julia’s afternoon naps were disturbed. We missed our privacy. It was time for a change.

Öcsi was working for a few months now and had a weekly paycheque, Nusi attended English classes at the community centre and the children were attending school . They liked living on MacNab Street North and being within walking distance from all the amenities. Because of this we decided to help Öcsi get a loan from the bank to buy our house for his family and we started looking for another house that we could buy and move in.

We found a free hold townhouse that we liked in the east end of Hamilton and we bought it.

Öcsi borrowed money from the bank and bought our house on MacNab street. We used that money and a loan from the bank to buy the townhouse on 349 Cochrane Rd.

Moving to the new house was a welcome change for us, except for Krisztina who had to change schools again. She finished grades one and two at Centennial School. We moved during the summer. In September she started grade three at Viscount Montgomery School.

It was a better area where we moved than the one we lived before. At Centennial School they had many children who came from problem families, nevertheless, changing schools and making new friends was not easy for her.

Moving from North-West to East and then up the Mountain and the birth of Vicki

Our new home was planned in a way that divided the space on three levels that was conveniently suitable for us. The first level was raised above the garage and had a hallway, a two-piece bathroom, a kitchen and dining area, a sunken living room that opened to a deck in the backyard, through a sliding door. On the second floor there were three bedrooms and a four piece bathroom. Sári Mama occupied one of the bedrooms, Arpad and I the master bedroom that was big enough to fit in Julia’s crib. The third bedroom was Krisztina’s. Finally she had her own bedroom with her own door. There was a big family room in the basement that we didn’t use often because the rest of the house was sufficient for us.

With Sári Mama living with us and helping with the girls, I found a job at a factory where telephone jacks were mounted on cables. I worked every day from 3:30PM to 12AM. It was not a hard job and I had the mornings free. This was the place where “Vicki” was born.

My legal name that appears on all my documents is Viorica, the Romanian translation of my name Ibolya. When I started working at that factory (I don’t remember the name of it) my coworkers had a hard time remembering my name, Viorica, and one of them shortened it to Vicki. I liked it too and from that time on it became my name.

While working there, I signed up for a Dental Assistant course at Career Canada College. It was home study mostly but I had to attend a three hour class two evenings a week.

That interfered with the job I had at the factory because I worked nights. I asked them at the factory to allow me to work days on those days but I was refused. I had to make a choice, what was more important? Working nights at the factory or pursuing an education that will result in a better job later. I chose the latter.

We lived on Cochrane Rd for a year and then we moved again. We sold the townhouse and bought a two story house on the West Mountain, It was a new house that had four bedrooms, a big kitchen, a main floor family room and a living room dining room combination. Had a double garage and an in-ground pool. Krisztina had to change schools again but having our own swimming pool eased the transition.

How We Became Mormons.

 1986, we moved to our new home on the mountain.  I finished dental assisting school and found a job in a dental office in Toronto, Arpad was working at Ford Motor Company in Oakville, Krisztina made new friends and liked having them over in our swimming pool. Sari Mama moved with us and looked after Julia when I worked. Julia liked spending time with her grandma but missed me and cried often.

We felt proud and content that we accomplished our dream : we made a living in Canada, we had good jobs, bought a nice house and our family had all the material things we needed.

What we were lacking was spiritual identity. We did not attend any church. We baptized Julia as an infant in the Hungarian Presbyterian Church in Hamilton but we did not attend any Sunday services.

Arpad and I felt that it was by divine guidance that we succeeded to escape from Romania and  attained the freedom and life we were living in Canada. .

In the past in Communism we did not practice religion. I grew up not believing in any supreme being,

I had a grandma, my mother’s mom, who was very religious and prayed every day but I was convinced that it  was just a habit of an old woman who was naive and superstitious.

When I met Arpad, I was very surprised to hear that he believed in God and he prayed and read the Bible. How could this good looking, cool. young man believe  in God? Only old women like my grandma did. But he believed and was not embarrassed and did not hide it.  Over the years the idea of a God became believable and  I started to pray for our escape from Romania. Our prayers were answered and we escaped. In Traiskirchen I was given a bible by a religious group. My first bible! I started reading it. For years I was content reading the bible, one chapter a day. I found the messages of the New Testament comforting.

We attended services at different churches but did not find the fulfillment we were looking for.

We tried non denominational  assemblies, we even went to the Hamilton, Salvation Army Chapel were the members were very welcoming but we found the Corps Band  that provided the music for the service very loud.

One day a TV add captured Arpad’s attention. It presented a book, the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ. It was something  he never heard before. He was interested to find out more about it so he called the telephone number on the screen to ask for a copy of that book.

On the other end of the line, a pleasant voice took his personal information and told him that  two elders from the Mormon Church will deliver the book.

We never heard of the Mormon Church before. Our only reference to the word Mormon was the  Miss America contestant,  Sharlene Wells, who in 1985 won the crown. We watched the contest on TV and at one point she mentioned that she was a Mormon.  I remember looking in the World Atlas for Mormon Country  (Google was not invented yet) and not finding it.

A couple of days later, two  young men dressed in  dark pants and white shirts wearing ties, rang our door bell . Arpad answered the door and was surprised to hear that they were the elders we were waiting for to deliver the  Book of Mormon. We were expecting to old men, not knowing other meanings for the word elder, other that older.

They were very friendly young men and with the book they wanted to deliver a message about the only true church on earth, The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints.
We were interested to find out what they had to say and invited them back. We enjoyed their company and they liked coming to our house. We found out about their church and their beliefs .

Through the 6 discussions , as they called them, we learned about the restoration of the gospel and the plan of salvation. It was all new to us but we were more interested to hear about what these two young men told us about themselves. We found out they were 19 years old and they left their homes  to go on mission to teach the Gospel and to spread the teachings of their church. Elder Everet was from England and Elder Badger from Utah. We were surprised to find out that the length of the mission was two years and they volunteered to do this without any financial retribution and they were required to pay for their own expenses while on mission.

They came regularly to our house for months and we enjoyed their company. They had lively discussions with Arpad , they liked my cooking, they were friendly with Krisztina and her friends and playful with Julia. They invited us to attend one of the Sunday meetings at the Hamilton 2nd Ward of the LDS Church. We went and met many of the members. Families with many children of all ages that occupied whole rows of benches.

It was a very different set up from what we’ve seen before. No paid priest or minister to hold a sermon. It really was set up as a meeting: the leaders of the ward called bishopric, made up of three man were presiding  and preselected members offered prayers. After sacrament consisting or bread and water was passed around by young men, the bishop invited the members to bear their testimonies. One by one different members, prompted by the spirit, walked up to the pulpit and bore their testimonies  about their feelings about the church, the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ.

I found it strange and overwhelming. I thought I needed time to feel more at ease.

The members who greeted us were very friendly and invited us to many church activities geared to families, or man only, or women only, or young women/men only. It was a new experience to participate  and to belong to a community with strong family values.

Months have passed and the elders continued their visits. Elder Badger was transferred to another ward in another town. Elder Jensen came in his place as companion to Elder Everet.

In June, Arpad known as Tom by this time, decided it was time to be baptized.

Baptism by immersion is the baptism practiced by  the LDS church and that is the true form of baptism taught by the Bible. That was the main reason Arpad wanted baptism, not necessarily to join the church. He felt strongly about baptism by immersion. He was the first one to be baptized in June. Then Krisztina, in August. I was surprised by her decision and had a feeling that her new friends at the church pressured her. I told her to think about it but she said that she was ready to be baptized. It was very touching to watch how Tom immersed her in the water in the baptismal fount and baptized her in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. I was not ready yet. Even though I attended church services and all the activities, I didn’t feel the need for baptism. Then I started feeling like an outsider and I felt that the right thing would be joining my family. I found out about Temple marriage of young church members attended by their families. But parents who were not members of the church were not allowed to enter the Temple. 

I imagined the future marriages of my daughters that I will not be able to witness if I was not an LDS member. In October I entered the baptismal fount and was baptized by my husband Tom.

For the next couple of years we became very involved in the Mormon Church and all the activities of the church and the Mormon way of living. From a family who did not attend church, we became a family whose life revolved around the church. We tried to become the perfect Mormon family by doing everything we were taught  to do.  We attended meetings, accepted callings, had family home evenings every Monday night, had family prayers, observed the Sabbath day by not watching TV or swim in the swimming pool, did not consume alcohol or coffee and did not smoke. When Julia reached the age of accountability ( eight years old) she was baptized by her father as well. By being worthy members Arpad  and I received our Temple recommends that allowed us to take part in sacred ordinances at the temple. Our family was sealed for time and eternity. Isabella was born into the covenant because she was born after our family received the sealing. There is no infant baptism in the Mormon church because children are born innocent. Only when they are eight years old, they reach the age of accountability when they can be baptized.

As the years passed, our fire started to die down and  after seven years of being faithful members we left the church. It didn’t happen all at once but gradually we became inactive. I think our daughters were happy about that. We returned for a short time when Isabella reached the year of accountability and she was baptized as well.  We still believe in baptism by immersion but the Mormon Doctrines were to hard to live up to and we started to question many of them. We lost our testimony of the church, plus we missed our morning coffees .

The Arrival of Krisztina

The Arrival of Krisztina
It was 1977 and we were young. Arpad and I got married in 1973 and lived in one of the two rooms in my parents house. That arrangement was normal at the time in Romania where married children and parents and sometimes grandparents lived under one roof.
Living with my parents had its advantages and disadvantages. Not having to worry about month to month upkeep of the house was an advantage but being treated like children and expected to do all kind of work in the garden was not to our liking.
When we had free time we wanted to relax , go on trips and party like all young people did. We didn’t feel ready to start a family. In five years I had three abortions . That was the only type of birth control at the time in Romania and even that was in secret through connections and for a lot of money. My mom knew a nurse who worked with a doctor, who came to our house and did the procedure while I was lying on the dining room table.
I didn’t feel any remorse at the time about it because it was something normal and that’s what pregnant women did in those days with unwanted pregnancies.
When towards the end of 1976 I became pregnant again my first thought was to have another abortion. I could not imagine myself giving birth and being mother to a child.
Still something inside me urged me to keep this baby. I think we were ready for a child but feared the unknown. Arpad and I started preparing emotionally to become parents but not until I felt movement inside me that I really felt the connection with my baby. My BABY! A little human was growing inside me and with every movement this baby became more real. I would wait with my hands on my stomach for the baby to move. I felt so much joy every time it did. It became my favourite pastime to wait for the movement. I still felt unprepared to become a mother. I was reading the Hungarian translation of Dr.Spock ‘s book The Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care. It became my constant companion. It’s message to mothers was that “you know more than you think you do” and I really needed to hear that. I never experienced morning sickness and I can say I had an easy pregnancy.
June 15 was the projected due date. At the beginning of May I experienced back pains and I thought they were birthing pains. They turned out to be kidney pains. My body retained water and my hands and feet became swollen. I was put on a strict no salt diet and I hated that but tried to comply.
On May 31, a sharp back pain awakened me early in the morning. I tried to make it go away by tying a warm scarf around my waist . I thought my kidney pain came back and hoped that the warm scarf will make it better. But it didn’t. My mother already left for work so Arpad went to our next door neighbour for help. She came over and looked at me and having given birth twice, she knew right away what was happening. You are in labour, she said, your baby dropped and you need to go to the hospital. I noticed that my stomach was much lower than before.
That can’t be. I was not due to give birth until the middle of June. As we were debating weather to call a taxi to take us to the hospital, I felt something warm running down my legs. My water broke.
I don’t remember too much of the taxi ride and the admitting to the hospital but soon I found myself in a big room in the hospital on a bed beside the wall. In the middle of the room there was a delivery table ready for the next birth. The day went by and in between contractions I slept. A nurse shaved my pubic hair and I was given an enema conform regulations at that time. The day passed and nothing happened just the pain that was coming and going. Luckily there were no other births all day and I could lay in that room quietly.
Seven at night came and my contractions were very close together and the pain seemed unbearable.
I was moved on the delivery table and the doctor came. I was told to push and push and push, harder and harder. It seemed that nothing was accomplished by pushing until it felt like something slipped out of me and relief came. My baby was born and I forgot all the pain I felt before.
A girl. I was told and I got to look at her before the nurse took her away to clean her and wrap her .
I did not know before if it is a girl or a boy. Some woman told me just looking at the shape of my stomach (round all around not pointy) that it’s a girl and I was hoping for a girl. She was a beautiful baby and a full head of dark hair. Her skin was not red and blotchy at all as I was expecting, but nice and looked almost tanned.
She was taken away to the nursery and I was taken to a ward with 6 beds after I was stitched up. The doctor had to make an incision ,a surgical cut to the perineum with scissors , to make the baby’s birth easier and prevent severe tears that can be difficult to repair. It was around nine at night when I was taken to the room that I shared with 5 other mothers. I was exhausted and fell asleep and slept until morning when the babies were brought for nursing. My baby was not there.
There was a two tier metallic cart that was pushed around with four babies on each level.
The babies were swaddled in white blankets with their hands wrapped tightly inside the blanket.
The other mothers referred to them jokingly as “sămăluțe”- little cabbage rolls in Romanian. Each mother was handed their baby to nurse and when finished the baby was taken back on the cart to the nursery.
I asked why my baby was not brought and the nurse said it was too early to bring her because she was born just last night. I asked if I can see her and she told me to go to the nursery window and I can look at her through the window. It was difficult for me to get out of bed and walk because of the stitches but I made my way to the nursery. The nursery was down the hall and had a very large window. Through the window I could see many bassinets with babies inside, most of them crying.
I recognized my baby because of her hair. I was surprised to see that most of the babies were bald .
My baby had dark hair and she was crying. I was not allowed to go into the nursery and was told to go back to my room and rest, The baby will be given a bottle and will fall asleep. I was upset but could not do anything. Those were the regulations at that time: babies were kept in the nursery the whole time until they were released from the hospital. Mothers stayed at least seven days under supervision in the maternity ward after giving birth. The babies were brought only for nursing and they were taken back to the nursery after. No visitors were allowed to the maternity ward so the fathers did not see their newborn children until their release from the hospital.
Arpad found out that he had a little girl from the doorman who had a list with the babies born on that day. We had no phones to communicate and I did not talk to him until a couple of days after our baby was born, when I was able to go downstairs to the waiting room .
I was very happy to tell him about our beautiful little girl and he couldn’t wait for us to go home so he can see her and hold her.
When my baby was finally brought to me the next day, I was so happy to finally be able to hold her and touch her and look at her. I tried to nurse her but my breasts were swollen and she could not latch on. She cried and I cried until the nurse came and took her back to the nursery. She said that she will feed her from the bottle and I should express my milk and collect it. From then on all my time between feedings was occupied with pumping out the milk in order to have milk for my baby and for the engorgement to cease.
Finally the day came when we could leave the hospital. Seven days have past and the baby started to regain the weight she lost after birth. She weighed 3050 Grams at birth and went down to 2800 grams. That was normal I was told. When she started regaining the weight and I was almost healed, we were released. In the meantime Arpad registered our baby’s birth and obtained her birth certificate. When he came to see me at the hospital we decided to name her Krisztina. A name that could not be changed by translation. In Romania it was very common to translate Hungarian names to Romanian. My Hungarian name, Ibolya was translated to Romanian, Viorica, on my birth certificate. Arpad insisted on the Hungarian spelling and he succeeded. Our baby had a name:
Krisztina, not Cristina as it would have been spelled in Romanian.
Before we left the hospital I asked one of the nurses to pierce Krisztina’s ears so we can put in the little golden earrings we had for her. So the nurse pierced her ears with a sewing needle and threaded through a thread to keep the hole open. That was the way it was done.
We went home with this little baby and were very unprepared and felt inadequate. At the hospital all I heard was that I should enjoy the time spent there because my baby was looked after and once released it was all up to me to do everything. There was no bonding encouraged at the hospital, on the contrary, it seemed that everything was done to keep mothers and babies separated.
We had a crib set up in our room where we layed her down . Tried to keep a feeding schedule of nursing her every 3-4 hours . I still had to use a pump to express the milk but she was getting stronger and nursing better. We had this little wonder in our room and my parents and neighbours were curious to see her. The day went by and night came. Nursed my baby at 10 o’clock and hoped to get a good night sleep, at least until 5 o’clock in the morning ,the way it was in the hospital.
Not so! At midnight she woke up crying. At 2 o’clock again, at 4 again. I was told to nurse her only at four hours interval. Let her cry awhile and she will stop. Not so! She cried and cried. Didn’t know what to do. This went on many nights and my Mon tried to help. She told me to give her chamomile tea in a bottle, burp her, rock her. My Dad was upset because he was trying to sleep in the room next to us. We walked with her in the stroller around the yard. That helped sometimes.
Went to the doctor thinking there was something wrong with her. The doctor said that she seemed fine and maybe she has colic. We noticed that in the car she would stop crying so many nights we just drove around with her to calm her down. I read that maybe a pacifier would help but my Mom was against it, saying that it is not good for the child and she never gave me one.
We tried everything why not try a pacifier? We gave one to her and as soon as we gave it to her she stopped crying. I wish we would have done that sooner.
As time went by I became more relaxed and more confident about my abilities as a mother.
I got to know my baby’s habits and I kept Dr. Spock’s book at hand all the time. Every time I was unsure of something I would read it and find comfort and answers in it. Phrases like: ” you know more than you think you do” or ” Don’t be afraid to trust your own common sense”, or Don’t worry about trying to do a perfect job. There is no perfect job. There is no one way of raising your children.” or “Trust your child he/she knows what he/she needs.” or “Routines are nice but babies don’t need strict regimen.” My favourite was :””parents are people too”. And :
“Every time you pick your baby up–even if you do it a little awkwardly at first — every time you change her, bathe her, feed her, smile at her, she’s getting the feeling that she belongs to you and that you belong to her. Nobody else in the world, no matter how skillful, can give that to her.”
I strayed on maternity leave for one year and it was a period of getting to know my baby.
I enjoyed discovering every new movement my baby made. I enjoyed just sitting and holding her on my lap and watching her little hands move and the faces she made. Nursing her and watching her fall asleep was our quiet time. It was a period of learning for both of us.
For her, was to learn how to sit up, stand up, take her first steps, say her first word, which was “Tata”, learn how to eat solid food and learn to use the potty among other things.
For me, to learn how to put her needs before mine , to be patient and calm in desperate situations and how to become a parent.



When Krisztina started school full time, Arpad and I missed having a child around the house. We
said jokingly at first, that we missed having a baby. The more we said it the more we realized that we really wanted to bring another baby into the world. A child who will be born in Canada . 1984, Krisztina, Arpad and I took the oath of Canadian citizenship after Arpad and I passed the citizenship test. Julia who was on her way to be born had the privilege of being born a Canadian citizen. On September 2, at twenty minutes after four in the morning she arrived. Exactly on the day we calculated she will be born. Which is amazing because only 3-5% of babies are born on their estimated due date, with around 40% of babies being born in the two weeks before their estimated due date and another 40% in the two weeks after.
After the stroke of midnight on September 2nd , she made herself noticed. Very timid at first, just a weak contraction and pause, then some time later another one, stronger this time, until they became quite frequent. At one in the morning, Arpad drove me to the hospital and by the time we filled out all the required forms for admission the contractions were coming very close one after the other. I was placed in a room all by myself . Arpad had to go home because little Krisztina was left all alone at home., sleeping. A nurse was checking the progression of the birth from time to time until once she said that she will call the obstetrician because we were very close. I have to mention here that it was on Sunday morning and Labour Day weekend which was a holiday, still is in Canada. Holiday long weekend when almost everybody is away to enjoy the last long weekend of the summer. My obstetrician was away and the one on call who took his place was called in. I don’t remember the pain anymore. What I remember is that the radio was playing The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. Listening to it between contractions gave me the strenght to go on until the final push when my little girl arrived. The clock read 4:23 in the morning. She was a perfect little girl , 10 on the APGAR scale which evaluates the newborn on : Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration by checking the baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response, and colour. She weight 7 Lb. and 5 ounces or 3300 grs.
After cleaning her and wrapping her in a blanket to keep her warm, the nurse put my little baby on my chest so I can hold her and see her and bond with her.
She was a beautiful baby, perfect skin, no red blotches, full head of dark hair and beautiful blue eyes and long eye lashes. She was very alert and she was moving her very delicate, princess like hands in slow motion, as though she was offering her hand for a hand kiss. In the meantime, the doctor called Arpad on the phone to tell him the good news. He drove back to the hospital. Luckily we lived just a few blocks away so it didn’t take him long to arrive.
He could see and hold his newborn daughter before she was taken to the nursery. He was hoping for a boy, never the less he was overjoyed at the sight of our beautiful, healthy little girl.
The ultrasound I had at around midterm of my pregnancy did not show the gender of the baby so all through my pregnancy we were thinking of a boy. We chose the name Robert for our soon to be born child. When our baby girl arrived we did not have a name chosen for her.
Later that day, Arpad came back to the hospital with Krisztina this time and together we decided to name her Julia. We wanted a name that cannot be translated and it was the same in Hungarian and English. We agreed that it was a fitting name for our little princess.
Three days after the birth Baby Julia and I were discharged from the hospital.
We set up her crib in the living room which served as our bedroom. She slept there with us in the room and I was nursing her anytime she seemed distressed. She did not have a sleep schedule and we picked her up when she cried. I was reading Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” book for guidance. I found it very comforting because he encouraged parents to see their children as individuals and not follow set rules.” Parents are people too” was his motto. Julia didn’t cry a lot and she found comfort in holding her pillow case while sucking her thumb.
The first 3 months past fast and at the beginning of December, Arpad’s brother Öcsi with his wife, Nusi and two children arrived to Hamilton, along with Arpad’s and Öcsi’s mother, Sara.
They emigrated from Romania and we sponsored them to be able to come to Canada. They came to live with us. Our life changed after that. They were some good changes and some not so good. We had a live in loving grandmother who spent a lot of time with Julia and the children. That was good. We lost the peace and quiet in the house , that was not so good.
When we moved to another place on Cochrane Rd. in August 1995, Sari Mama moved with us.
I started dental assisting school so when I had to go to school, Julia had her as a babysitter.
She spent a lot of time with Sari Mama but she missed me every time I left home. Sari Mama told her stories about Elefant Bettyke, a made up character by Sari Mama, a little elephant baby who coincidentally behaved and did things exactly like Julia. They sang Hungarian songs about Mókuska, the little squirrel who climbed trees and fell off and about Kiváncsi Kis Kacsa, the duckling who was very curious and got in trouble because of her curiousity.
As she grew older, she became even more attached to me. Sari Mama was there all the time but she wanted me. After I finished the dental assisting school, I found a job as a dental assistant in a Toronto dental office. It was a part time job but the days I worked I was away all day. At six o’clock in the morning I was trying to sneak out of the house very quietly so Julia won’t notice.
Many times she would wake up and run to the top of the stairs crying. Don’t go, don’t go she would cry. It broke my heart to leave her crying in grandmas arms. During the day she forgot about me but from time to time she would start crying and asking about me. At night she was glued to the window watching the cars go by and hoping the next one will bring me. I worked there from March until October in 1986. Eventually I decided to quit working there because the commute to and from Toronto and the eight to ten hours of work were draining my energy. I arrived home exhausted and unable to be the loving mother Julia needed after a long day of missing me. Krisztina was older but she needed me too . I decided to be a full time mother and wife and I don’t regret that decision.
In the meantime we bought a new house and moved to 125 Bonaventure DR. We needed the money but we managed to pay the bills with Arpad’s salary from Ford Motor Company.
Julia really enjoyed going to Mc Donald’s to eat hamburgers and fries. I have to mention here that she was very peculiar about the food she ate.
I can count on my fingers, the things she liked: Lucky Charms cereal, milk, pancakes, bread, chicken soup, breaded meat, onions, apples, McDonald’s hamburgers and fries and chocolate chip cookies( only Chips Ahoy). Ok, she liked Caramilk chocolate bars too, but only from Cadbury but is that considered food?
We were regulars at the Harvard Square Mc Donald’s where she ate her burger and fries and played at their enclosed play land. She enjoyed the company of other children her age and she engaged in games with them. The only problem was that she did not speak English. She only spoke Hungarian the language we spoke in our home. She only knew a few English words, mostly from TV shows she and Krisztina were watching. She knew expressions like: Facts of life and Don’t be Ridiculous from the shows Krisztina was watching( Facts of Life and Perfect Strangers) and she used those when she tried to interact with other children.
It was time to find a preschool for her so she can play with her peers and learn English before starting Kindergarten. We found a Coop Preschool that was called Peter Pan Coop Preschool.
It was perfect for her because it was only two hours, twice a week and it necessitated parents involvement. I could be there with her most of the time.
She enjoyed the company of other children and she learned English at the preschool,
She started taking swimming lessons at Mac Nab Recreation Centre because the new house we bought had a swimming pool in the back yard and we felt it was safer if she learnt how to swim.
When school started in the fall of 1989 she was ready for kindergarten. She enjoyed learning and was a good listener at school. I started babysitting a little girl Julia’s age along with her baby brother. Her name was Nicole and she attended kindergarten with Julia at Seneca School.
After school they played together at our house until Nicole’s mom arrived from work to take her home. This way Julia had a playmate for a while. They liked to play dress up and Julia wanted to be Sleeping Beauty all the time. When Nicole said it was her turn to be Sleeping Beauty, Julia said she can be sleeping but not beauty. Julia loved to dress as a princess even for Halloween.
When other children chose the scariest costumes, she chose to dress as a beautiful princess.
She liked to watch The Elephant Show on TV. A Canadian preschool television program that featured a singing trio Sharon, Lois and Bram and Elephant (a person dressed in an elephant costume). She would not miss one show. When we were away from home we had to hurry back so she can watch it. She liked Lois especially and she wanted to be called Lois.
She was very receptive and smart even at an early age. When she started something she saw it through to the end. She liked assembling jigsaw puzzles and did not stop until she produced a complete picture out of the many ( in the hundreds) oddly shaped interlocking pieces.
She was mostly a happy child except for the times when it was windy. Wind was her greatest enemy and we went to great lengths to find places where she could not see or hear the wind blowing. The basement was her hideaway and listening to her Walkman through earphones was her refuge.


n 1991, we were a busy Mormon family of four with two beautiful daughters, Krisztina 14 years old teenager and Julia, 7 years old, when we started talking about having another child. And again we joked about missing having a baby in the house and the more we said it the more real the idea became. I think joining the Mormon church and meeting families with numerous children was a factor too. I became pregnant in August of 1991. My parents just came for a six month visit from Romania and I was happy to have my mother with me during the first months of the pregnancy.
It was an easy pregnancy, as were the other two before. I felt good, no morning sickness at all.
Because I kept a journal ( part of the Mormon teaching was to keep a daily journal) I have a detailed timeline of this pregnancy.
When we decided to have another baby I went to see my gynecologist and had the IUD that I had inserted for birth control after Julia was born, removed. That was on March 5th, 1991.
In August I missed my period and I hoped that I was pregnant. I went to the doctor on September 19. The tests confirmed the pregnancy. I was overjoyed and could not wait to tell the girls and the family. The same night, after dinner, Arpad and I told the good news to Krisztina and Julia and my parents . They were all excited and the next day both Krisztina and Julia told the news to their friends and teachers at school. We were all happy and full of anticipation. On October 22, I saw the doctor for the prenatal care visit and with the help of a fetal Doppler I could hear for the first time my baby’s heartbeat. It was strong and within the normal range 147 beats per minute. Arpad was present too and he could hear it too. It was the most beautiful sound and it was a reassurance of the life that was forming inside me and made the baby more real. I started thinking of names for our new baby. David Samuel sounded good for a boy and Marie Anna for a girl. On December 1 I felt the baby moving for the first time. It was such a wonderful feeling to sense the first movement and I was full of anticipation for the next and the next movement. As with the first too pregnancies, resting my hands on my stomach and waiting for my baby to kick ,became my favourite past time . It was a joyful time of bonding with my developing baby.
On January 10, I had a dreamlike experience that felt very real. At six in the morning, I was awaken from sleep by a voice calling me: Mom. It was a girls voice and I immediately arouse from bed and went to Julia’s room to see why she was calling. She was asleep. I checked Krisztina’s room and she was sleeping as well. They were both sleeping and yet the voice I heard was very real and I heard it very close to me. At that moment I knew that the spirit of my unborn daughter visited me and made herself known to me. From that moment on, I knew without any doubt that the baby I was carrying was a girl. The February 14, ultrasound validated my conviction. The sound waves that were converted to images of my baby, on the monitor made her visible to us. The doctor checked the development and growth of the baby and also revealed us what I already knew. A baby girl .
The name Isabella came to my mind and it was decided that her name is Isabella.
My parents had to leave and return to Romania at the beginning of February. Only then I realized how much help my Mom was during the months she lived with us.
The month of March has passed and April came and the pregnancy was getting harder. I gained a lot of weight partly because of water retention. My shoes did not fit, I had difficulty sitting, bending even sleeping. On April 22 when I went for my weekly prenatal check up, I was sent to the hospital by my family doctor. The water retention was not a good sign and my blood pressure was high .
I was close to giving birth and it was dangerous to wait longer, he said . After the appointment I went home and from there Arpad took me to the hospital. I was placed in a birthing room and to my surprise I was attached to all kind of machines. I was given intravenously a hormone to induce the birth and other machines were monitoring my heart beat, the baby’s heart beat and the intensity of the contractions. It all started at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The nurse who was assigned to help me was very kind and patient. Arpad was there with me and it was harder on him, I think, to watch me suffer. As the hormone drops dripped into my veins, the contractions were becoming very strong. The nurse predicted that I will be ready to give birth by 10 o’clock. She offered to give me the epidural anaesthesia, but I declined saying that I gave birth twice and did not need anaesthesia. At around 8 pm I asked for an epidural anaesthesia. After it was administered in my spine I could not feel the pain of contractions anymore. 10 o’clock passed but there was no sign of her coming.
She finally arrived at 24 minutes after midnight. She was a perfect little girl and when I saw her and held her in my arms, I forgot about all the pain of giving birth. Arpad was present and witnessed the miracle of birth. Our Isabella arrived on April 23. She missed being born on Earth Day by 24 minutes and I was grateful for that. If she had been born on Earth day , I would have been using cloth diapers for her and not disposable ones. I promised Krisztina , who was an environmentalist from her teens, when I went in to give birth that I will not contribute to the landfill by using disposable diapers, if the baby was born on Earth Day.
She was weight and assessed, 1 minute after birth and 5 minutes after birth. She scored 9-10 on the AGPAR test. Her heart rate and respiratory rate were good, her colour was good and so was her muscle tone. When the nurse finished the assessment, she placed my baby on my chest for the first skin to skin contact. It was an amazing feeling to hold and touch and look at the tiny human who I carried for 9 months inside me. Feelings of gratitude and awe came over me as I held her close to me. She was a perfect little baby with big blue eyes that were very alert and seemed like she was looking at me with curiosity.
Recovering after giving birth took longer this time. My 40 years old body was slower to regain it’s shape but my baby was healthy and perfect and that made me happy. I wanted to start nursing her as soon as possible but her mouth was very small and could not latch on .
After two days we were discharged from the hospital and we took home our little baby Isabella. After weeks of trying we persevered and perfected the nursing which we continued for years to come. Our family has grown and I felt that my mission of carrying a child and giving birth was completed .