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I'll never forget the day I found out I was pregnant for the first time or saw the first ultrasound of my baby. It seemed so surreal. When you realize that there is actually a human being growing inside you, one that you helped create—and will now have to shape into a thinking, feeling person—it's completely overpowering. The cycle of life is intrinsic to nature, something that occurs every day, but there is nothing ordinary about it when it is happening to you—the feeling is awe-inspiring.
And then comes the day you feel your baby moving inside you for the first time. It's exciting, it's a little strange, and it's also a bit scary—for this is the moment when it becomes real. Suddenly, all your fantasies about what your child will belike are replaced by the realities of the responsibility you are about to undertake, and the looming questions about how to nurture and raise this new little person.
Nothing changes your life more than the birth of your first child. One moment, you are an individual free to do whatever you choose. The next, you are a mother. From then on your own needs are secondary. There's nothing that anyone can ever tell you, no book you can read, that prepares you, that accurately reflects the powerful emotions that come with this new link in the cycle of life.
Watching your baby gurgle, smile, laugh, clap, talk, walk, and start to play and think is the most amazing miracle. Motherhood has truly been the most joyous, fulfilling, and important experience of my life. It's also been the most challenging and tiring job I've ever faced . . . and that's saying a lot for someone who has woken up at 4:00 a.m. to goto work for twenty years. (All right, so maybe it was good preparation for those early morning feedings!)
Although motherhood is hard work, constantly requiring you to make tough decisions and set boundaries, I never cease to be amazed at how much my daughters enrich my life. I never knew that macaroni art could elicit such sentiment, or that a finger painting could be as valuable as an original Picasso. My life without my daughters would not only be empty, it would definitely be dull.
The importance of my relationships with my daughters, their impact on my life, and the strength we derive from one another are mirrored in the stories of the women and girls from across the country that appear in The Story of Mothers & Daughters documentary and book. These intimate and poignant stories of women and girls from different backgrounds and of different races resonate with mebecause—although the stories are all unique—they highlight the universal hopes, dreams, and fears all mothers have for their daughters. The stories eloquently describe the many revelations all mothers have as we watch our daughters grow.
One of the most significant of these revelations is recognizing bits and pieces of yourself in your children as they get older. Watching my daughters Jamie, Lindsay, and Sarah is like watching a movie of my life. I hear them speak and I'm taken back in time to when I was their age. I'm sure every parent, for just an instant, has recalled splashing in the tub as they've bathed their child. As I helped my girls learn to ride their bikes, I was reminded of the day I felt those wobbly wheels beneath me. And let's admit it, we buy those doll houses and all those little pieces of furniture because it's just as much fun to play with them the second time around. The difference today is that you can teach your daughter that she can grow up to be the architect of that house.
You also begin to understand just how much your own mother influenced you. You find yourself passing onetiquette—sending thank-you notes, never showing up at someone's houseempty-handed—and traditions that establish the importance of family togetherness. As the many mother-daughter stories in the book and documentary make clear, mothers pass on all these importantlegacies—and have since the beginning of time—and, as the mothers can attest, it's both awesome and exciting to see your passions, desires, attitudes, and dreams reflected in your children. As daughters grow and begin to take on identities of their own, the degree of their mothers' influence becomes more apparent. Just when you think she hasn't been listening to a word you've said, she surprises you by exhibiting the very behavior you had been hoping to pass on.
My mom's influence on my brother and me was enormous. She always wanted us to have a positive attitude, to always try to do the best we could. My mom's name is Gladyce, but it's no accident that her friends all call her Hap, short for Happy. She's always seen the cup as half full, and taught me to approach each day with a smile. Mom tried always to teach us to be fair, to care, and to have integrity. So when I think of these virtues today, I think of my mom.
I also got an incredible sense of confidence from her. She was always her own person. Mom never allowed someone else to shape her convictions. Perhaps the quality that I am most grateful to her for instilling in me is never holding a grudge. It's such a waste of precious time, a drain of energy, and it solves nothing. She believed in kissing and making up, forgiving and forgetting. If we had a disagreement, Mom insisted that we talk about it, get it out, and let it go, and it was never long before she would be at my door with a smile on her face, as if it had never happened. I loved that. I consider that one of the greatest attributes I got from my mom. The Mother-Daughter Book Club Rev Ed.
How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh, and Learn Through Their Love of Reading. Copyright © by Shireen Dodson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.