Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mothers do the hard work

There wasn't the usual caterwauling in the operating room when he was born.

He was bluish purple when they pulled him from his mother's abdomen following her C-section - a perfectly formed, seemingly healthy 10-pound baby.

Except he wasn't breathing.

His umbilical cord wrapped around his tiny neck once...maybe twice...cutting off the breathing that would have allowed him to cry out.

The pediatric staff suctioned his airway and compressed his tiny chest to initiate breathing while the surgeon and his team stitched up his mother.

Minutes passed slowly, agonizingly, as the ped staff whispered words of encouragement to the infant in their care until, at last, he uttered a barely audible cry and his color changed to a dark pinkish hue.

He was whisked away to the maternity unit for further treatment and evaluation while his mother waited, helplessly, for her surgery and recovery to be over.

An hour passed.

An hour during which she was unsure if her newborn son was alive or...the unthinkable alternative that she fought to keep her mind from entertaining.

And then, finally, she held him. And nursed him, his little body nestled near hers. And all was well.

How do I know all this? I know because I was there, a spectator for the complicated birth of my youngest child, my son Jack.

I knew then - as I do much more keenly now nine years later - that when it comes to parenting, mothers do the hard work.

It's not that fathers don't try - even the most involved, most supportive ones.

With mothers, it's different.

From the moment of conception, the stakes and level of commitment are higher.

First trimester nausea. Weight gain. Bodily changes. Thinking always of two rather than one. And, finally, labor and delivery and the effort of bringing a miracle into the world.

But that's only the beginning.

Mothers are the ones who tend to the child with a raging fever that accompanies double ear infections, trying to sooth and cool the youngster while thinking all the worst thoughts about the health of someone so little.

They swaddle a child with croup and carry him into the cold winter air, hoping and praying that it will help open airways that allow only wheezing breaths to pass.

They sit for hours at a dining room table, poring over pages of scribbled notes...trying to make sense of them to help a very stressed fifth-grader prepare for a social studies test.

They comfort a distraught teenager when long-time friendships suddenly turn adversarial and words and actions are used as weapons to hurt and humiliate.

They wake up in the middle of the night, filled with anxiety about their performance in the most challenging job they've ever had.

And they feel their children's emotions a hundred fold or more...the exhilaration and despair, the anger, the uncertainly, the fear.

They are protector and comforter...champion and cheerleader.

And the best of them will never acknowledge themselves as such. These are the women who always question whether they could have done something more...or better.

So many of the positive aspects of my life have been shaped by the many wonderful women in it who have held and embraced the role of mother. In this regard, I know I have been truly blessed.

And my children likewise are now receiving the same blessing.

Given their ages, they probably don't fully realize it right now, but they will in time. And their appreciation for the person they call mother will grow exponentially as years pass and, someday, as they become parents themselves.

So to the mother of my children - and mothers everywhere who toil each day "trying to get it right," I extend my gratitude.

Thanks for doing the hard work. Your efforts are appreciated more than you will ever know.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post. Thanks for the google + follow. Great to connect with Maine author!