In the past 16 months of motherhood, I’ve experienced the highest and the lowest moments of my life. I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, been overwhelmed with love and been overwhelmed by the urge to scream at the top of my lungs. Through all of this, my understanding and appreciation of my own mother has grown immensely.
I’ve always known I had it pretty good in the parents department, but as my mom has listened to my venting this past year, she has been sympathetic by sharing stories that make Olympic athletes look like wimps.
So to honor my mother this Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor all the things she’s done over the years that don’t typically make it into Hallmark greeting cards:
Like most Utahns (especially in the 70s), my parents got married young and started a family soon after. As mentioned in a previous post, my mom spent much of her pregnancy with my sister either throwing up constantly or lying half-comatose on a pea green bean bag.
My sister was born with lactose intolerance, but since no one knew this back then and no one supported my mom in breastfeeding, the formula caused her to projectile vomit almost every time she ate. She was also constantly crying for three straight months. My mom was determined to be a successful young parent, so the few hours that my sister did sleep, she cooked and cleaned instead of resting herself. She was so frazzled by the time my dad got home from his long hours at work that every night she immediately ran to the local payphone (they lived in an apartment with no phone) to call my grandma crying. My grandmother – being my grandmother – never once offered to help babysit, even though she lived mere minutes away.
When my mom got pregnant with my older brother, she sensed something was wrong early on, but no one would tell her anything (the doctor told my grandmother and they agreed to keep it a secret). My brother was born with a rare recessive genetic disorder called Ellis Van Crefeld syndrome, causing him a variety of health problems. The most extreme was a heart condition that required open-heart surgery at 8 days old. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know much about anesthesia for babies back then, so he went into shock and passed away during the procedure. As any parents knows or can imagine, there isn’t a word for the kind of pain that comes with losing a child.
A few years later, my mom decided she wanted to have another baby even though she knew there was a 25% chance it would have the syndrome. My father was terrified, but the moment she got pregnant with me, she had an instinct that everything was going to be ok.
My parents now had two kids and only one income, so mom did everything she could to save money. She sewed most of our clothes and handmade many of our gifts; she canned enough food to last until the Second-Coming, she made her own dryer sheets, helped my dad raise rabbits in our backyard for meat and to sell (yes, so illegal and so white-trash); tended a full garden; kept a composting bin; and never bought anything new for herself.
My mom also made sure every holiday and birthday was special for us. Even now that we are adults, my mom still throws joint birthday parties for me and my sister (we were both born in December) complete with homemade invitations, balloons, streamers and our favorite home-cooked meal. For Christmas we always got to decorate home-made gingerbread cookies, leave lettuce out for the reindeer, open stockings full of our favorite treats, and then my exhausted parents loaded up the car with presents so we could make the rounds to all the relatives.
On Thanksgiving she spent days cooking and preparing for the big meal, made little paper turkeys to hold dinner mints and tried her best to run interference with my grandmother. Even on Easter she stayed up all night writing age-appropriate clues, hiding eggs and little presents, and making Easter baskets.
Finally, there were the millions of little things she did every day: she stayed up late gluing together school projects; attended countless (and doubtless painful) softball games, recitals and school plays; she braided hair; shopped for prom dresses; planned vacations; kept the house spotless despite the fact that we teased her mercilessly for being OCD; lost sleep over our bad boyfriend choices; lost sleep over our career choices; and now loses sleep over the grandkids.
I’m not sure how she functioned so well for so many years on so little sleep, but all I can say now is….thanks mom.