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THE BOND BETWEEN MOTHERS AND THEIR DAUGHTERS
Every mother has the breath-taking privilege of sharing with God in the creation of a new life. She helps bring into existence a soul that will endure for all eternity.
What's the Word?
Children reinvent your world for you.
There has to be a perfect title to use for my baby girl, a designation that will express what she means to me. I've tried nicknames, like "Cherub" or "Angel"—they're adorable monikers, but they're just not quite right. And then there's "Sunshine" because she does light up my days. This little one holds my heart in her hands, but I freely extend it to her because her love undoes me. She has captured me just by needing me so much.
There's another nickname I use, but my older girls wonder about it: "Baby Doll." I remember wrapping my beloved dolls in blankets and cooing to them when I was a child. Now the bundle in the blanket moves and coos back. No, "Baby Doll" doesn't quite fit. Then there's "Treasure Bear." She is one of my treasures. She is full of treasure. I adore her, my little five-month-old. Yet, she's not a bear, so I keep searching.
The usual terms of endearment are not quite specific enough—"Sweetie" or "Honey." Not quite.
She is a cutie-pie. She makes me laugh with joy, and I smile until my face hurts just trying to entertain her. She carries the future and reminds me of my childhood. She slobbers on everything and will soak the sleeves of her outfits from sucking on them. But that doesn't lend itself to a name.
I've varied her given name, which is fun, and those titles do stick, but they're not quite right. There must be a word to fully express everything she is—sweet, adorable, lovable and lovely, endearing, strong (oh, how she can communicate her dissatisfaction when necessary!), and gentle. She will take my face in her hands and bring her open mouth close to me. I know she's thinking, "If only I can get Mommy's whole face in my mouth, I will truly experience her!"
That's what I need, a title to sum up the experience of her. I love to enter her room in the morning, walk to her crib, and speak softly to her. I love how she calms at the sound of my voice. I love unwrapping the blankets that soothed her overnight, then scooping her up for a snuggle. How delightful to bathe her, dress her, sing to her, and rock her. How satisfying to feed her and know that as she grows I'm doing the right things. I love her response to my ministrations. She's just begun raising her hands to me. Oh, such rapturous joy! Sure, I knew I was one of her favorite people before now (such a delicious feeling), but suddenly she has the capacity to demonstrate it with more than a cry—with outstretched arms. Yea!
So what is the perfect term to express who she is to me? What her value is to me, and my love for her? There is a word. It's ideal. Yet, it's common, as natural as mothers and their baby girls. It's precious. It's a word that will never sound as dull as it did before my baby girl came along but will always shine with new glorious meaning. A word that teaches me my value even as I assign it to my little girl. It expresses a value that won't fade when she's as old as I am, my own mother's little girl. A special word with hidden meanings. What is it? WHAT IS THAT WORD? ... Delight? ... Joy? ... Sunshine? ... Not quite, not quite, not quite.... AHHHHH.... Now I know.... Daughter. That's the word I've been hunting for.
Annette M. Irby
Sooner or later we all quote our mothers.
I never yearned for a baby like some women do. Oh, I thought I'd have children eventually, but there were lots of other things in life that I wanted to experience first—achievements that seemed bigger and more important than someone simply calling me "Mom."
My own mother stayed at home with my sister and me until divorce drove her to find employment. She worked at the telephone company for the next twenty-five years. Mom's job always seemed dull to me. Consequently, we had a recurring conversation throughout my growing-up years.
"Mom, when you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?" I often asked, hoping I could discover what she really wanted to do for a career.
Each time, Mom hesitated before she answered. "All I ever wanted was to have children," she'd say with a smile and a faraway look in her eyes. "I just wanted to become a mother."
Try as I might, I never got a more satisfying answer out of her.
"But didn't you want an exciting career?" I chided. "Maybe being a nurse or owning your own business?"
"I only wanted to become a mother," she whispered, like she was sharing a precious secret.
As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, I failed to understand her desire. A record number of women were entering the workforce. But all my mom aspired to do was to bear children! There had to be more.
Instead of settling down after high school like Mom, I looked to hip, female role models who encouraged teenage girls, like me, to get careers and find themselves. Success was measured by a framed diploma on the wall and a professional position in the workplace. Marriage and children were for my mother's generation. There was a world of opportunity to explore. So that's what I did.
My theory was that anyone could become a mom, but not just anyone could travel to exotic destinations or have an adventuresome vocation. So, when I was twenty years old, I planned my career path and made a list of "things I want to do before I die."
Motherhood didn't make the cut.
I traveled the world, seeing sites in exotic locales like Europe, Australia, and Egypt. I worked in glamorous positions as a television news reporter, radio talk show host, and syndicated newspaper columnist.
Yes, my life might have been thrilling, but after becoming a first-time mom at forty-one, I discovered that my theory of motherhood being an ordinary experience was wrong. Nothing compares to the overwhelming love I feel for my daughter. Instead of occupying a desk chair to work after hours, I nestle in the rocking chair, coaxing two-month-old Micah to sleep.
Necklaces that can be pulled by tiny fingers, or earrings that might scratch her face remain in the jewelry box. Tailored suits that need dry cleaning have been replaced by wash-and-wear clothing that won't show stains when the baby drools or a diaper leaks. Spit-up is an everyday occurrence. But I consider it my badge of honor.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I went to college and discovered my heart's desire in a professional career. But along the way, I wish I'd known that my mother's preferred profession of child rearing had merit, too.
Being a mom is the best position I've ever held. Watching my daughter grow and develop is more educational than any training seminar I've attended. Seeing her smile when I look into her face is more rewarding than any business partnership I've created. Introducing Micah to new toys and seeing her enthusiasm rivals hiking in the outback or exploring the pyramids of Giza. With a baby, every day is a trip into the unknown world of discovery and delight.
And it is more challenging than any college class I ever attended. The nasal aspirator had remained a mystery to me until one evening when Micah had an excessive amount of fluid in her nose. In order for her to breathe, I had no choice but to learn how to work the bulbous device and eradicate the buildup. It took about twenty minutes of concentrated effort on both our parts, but I finally achieved success.
About that time, my husband, Michael, came in from work.
"Honey," I hollered. "You've got to see this."
He walked into the nursery.
"I finally cleared the baby's nose!" I said, proudly displaying a tissue.
Michael did not share my elation.
At that moment, I knew I had officially moved from being a woman with a baby to being a mother.
Today I'm here to break the conspiracy of silence. The role of a mother is not to be belittled but rather exalted. Being a mom is an exciting career every bit as fulfilling as any other work in the world. Motherhood is the chance to assist God in creating another human being. What could be more important than that?
These days when someone asks me about my greatest achievement, I smile and get a faraway look in my eyes. Then I share the secret: "It's being a mother."
My mom was right all along!
Stephanie Welcher Thompson
Through the Fog
Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.
One glance to the left confirmed what I already knew. The speedometer's needle was well beyond the last mark. Interstate lights blurred as our V-6 Oldsmobile sped north toward the Eighty-sixth Street exit. A slight shimmy rocked the car as my husband, Al, steered past what appeared to be a huge eighteen-wheeler truck.
Seeing him hunched over the steering wheel struggling to see through the balmy October fog, I realized my intense Lamaze breathing was fogging up the inside of the car, too. Suddenly when pounded with another urge to push the baby, I swallowed a yell. Our childbirth classes had not covered waking up to dagger-like contractions two weeks early.
No longer could I sit comfortably. Stretching backward, I raised myself off our car's plush navy seat. Arms trembling to support myself, I could not help but think that something was terribly wrong with our second child, who was plunging quickly into our world. Two years earlier our son's birth was complicated by a tangled umbilical cord.
As we slowed slightly to exit the bypass, the urgent need to push intensified. Sweat rolled down my nose. Gritting my teeth, I swallowed the salty flow. By now I was crying. I could feel my baby coming. Fortunately, now we were within minutes of the women's hospital.
Because it was almost 2:00 AM, my husband wisely decided to run the three stoplights leading to the hospital. Soon we had parked in the curved canopy close to the front door. Al helped me slide out of the car and gently guided my shaking body to the front automated door.
An observant receptionist summoned an orderly who rolled a wheelchair toward me. At that point, my hysteria and pain merged.
"Don't make me sit! I'm having a baby right now!" I sobbed.
Through my fog, I saw a freckle-faced nurse trot out from behind two white doors. After her quick pelvic exam with me still standing bent over in front of the receptionist, she intercepted my panic and began paging our doctor, whom we had telephoned just twenty-five minutes and twenty-three miles ago.
Immediately the small preliminary exam room behind the receptionist became crowded with an assortment of trays and scrub-gowned nurses. "We don't have much time, do we?" the groggy, unknown doctor confirmed. Later the auburn-haired nurse told us that she had awakened him from the nearby doctors' lounge. He did not even have time to put in his contact lenses.
Slowly he guided out what I was sure was a stillborn child because there was silence, no wailing like our son's first look at life. But then I felt the pulsing cord as someone laid him on my stomach. I was certain that this one was another boy, since all of my husband's older siblings had boys.
"A nice pink baby girl," a voice out of nowhere announced.
"Is she okay? Is she okay? How's her head? I want the Apgar score," I demanded. My mind could still see an umbilical cord strangling her.
"She's fine, really. You have nothing to worry about, Mrs. Long. Her Apgar rating is a nine, which is very good. Her cone-shaped head will reshape normally. She's a beautiful, healthy baby."
Al squeezed my hand and grinned.
"Now I can see," the stand-in Dr. King mentioned, now wearing his contacts. Al and I looked at each other, concerned but then focused on our chubby little girl being washed in her Plexiglas bassinet.
"You'd better camp out at our doorstep if you ever have another baby, Mrs. Long," the orderly teased as he scooted me onto a wheeled cart.
"You're determined to push me somewhere tonight, aren't you?" I said referring to our earlier wheelchair encounter. "By the way, where are we going?"
"To the delivery room, of course. You're going to pay for it so you might as well see it."
As the white doors closed behind us, our first nurse pushed the clear bassinet that held our daughter, who was quietly examining her toes. The orderly pushed me and the IV, while Al walked by my side. Then we saw our doctor. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"You know us. We couldn't wait. We had a baby," Al said to the kind, aging doctor who, in thirty years of practice, had never missed an on-call birth.
A few minutes later in the small but cozy mauve delivery and recovery room, Al and I took turns holding our seven-pound, slightly jaundiced daughter. With her chubby cheeks, orange coloring, and Columbus Day birth, her nickname soon became Pumpkin.
We wanted to telephone our family, friends, and neighbors but thought we should at least wait until dawn. For the first time since our high-speed trip, we thought about our two-year-old son, who was still semi-asleep when we left him at our neighbor's house.
Over twenty-two years have passed since our daughter's dramatic entry into this world. Our Pumpkin is now a senior in college, living ninety minutes from home. Valerie Adele is still the only granddaughter on both sides of our family. And she would readily admit that she has been spoiled throughout the years because of this status. "But maybe not enough," she would add.
From wailing over a bad hair day to the classic rolling eyes during a lecture from Mom, our daughter has provided her fair share of drama since that foggy October night. One thing is certain, though. That evening was the only time in her life that she was early for anything. And, yes, we love her anyway.
My Adoption Day
Hope is the parent of faith.
Cyrus Augustus Bartol
I was devastated as I left the attorney's office with my husband.
"I guess that settles that," I said as Vince opened the car door for me, and I slipped inside. He climbed into the driver's side but kept the keys in his hand.
"Settles what? We can still do this," he said.
"There's no way I'm going to ask Bonnie for that. It's not worth me legally adopting her if we have to order a new birth certificate with my name on it. She remembers her mother. Having a new birth certificate is like asking her to pretend her mother never existed. I won't ask her to do that." I couldn't stop the tears from welling in my eyes.
I had been married to my husband for two years. We had long since been talking about my adopting his teenage daughter. Her mother had been killed in an accident several years before, when Bonnie was ten years old. I had been so excited heading into the attorney's office to start the proceedings. Now my heart plummeted, all because of a piece of paper that would have my name on it.
"I know it makes sense when you adopt a baby," I told my husband as he started the car. "It just never occurred to me that Bonnie would need a new birth certificate at her age. I won't do that to her. I won't make her choose between mothers."
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Mothers and Daughters by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dorothy Firman, Julie Firman, Frances Firman Salorio. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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