Foxgloves & fireflies: About to be the mother


Her first Mother’s Day…

As I write this, my daughter is in a holding pattern, waiting for that first little twinge that is like nothing she’s ever felt before. I told her about my first labor pain with her brother, Tony. It felt like a butterfly’s wings folding up, just a light flutter that I’ve never forgotten.

I’m both excited for her and dreading it for her. I hate the idea that I’m two hours away – that I can’t be with her when she goes into labor because I know she will be nervous and anxious. I remember that when I went into labor my own mom was there with me. Every time I had a labor pain (and they were real back then girls, no epidurals!) I would open my eyes to see her worried face, two pink curlers forgotten in her hair, looking at me as if I were dying.

I want to tell Dominique so many important things, things that she will find out soon enough, but I want to tell her myself. I want to tell her that she is about to take part in a miracle. It’s God’s miracle, I know that, but childbirth is like being a part of that miracle. It’s like sharing the stage with God for just a second, when He hands over a precious little girl, fresh from Heaven, for her to care for and cherish.

I want to tell her something profound that I heard Dolly Parton say on a “Designing Women” episode. It was one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard. What she said to the other actress, who was pregnant, was, “Tomorrow you are going to meet the one who will be holding your hand on your way out, and you will love her with a love you haven’t the capacity to imagine.”

That’s so true; I held my mother’s hand as she lay dying, and although she couldn’t talk by then, I could see in her eyes that love that had sustained me for almost 35 years- a love that only mothers know and recognize.

And when the baby gets here, when she holds her for the first time, she will understand why the word “no” was invented. It was to keep her safe. “No! Don’t touch that, it’s HOT!” or “No! No jumping on the bed!” or “No, don’t eat that; it’s past the expiration date!”  

She will finally know why she always heard, “Call me when you get there” and “Put on your seatbelt” and “You’d better watch the speed limit!” and the motherliest plea of all, “Be careful!”

I can remember the exact moment it dawned on me that I was someone’s mother. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever felt, even up to this very moment. It is a huge responsibility, and other than following your own mother’s example, or maybe Ann Landers’ advice, there are no patterns to follow and no insurance that you are doing it right. I’m still not sure that I’m doing it right…but it sure is the inspiration for a lot of prayers.

Mothers are sounding boards, fixers, nags and encyclopedias of the same things that their own mothers reminded them of often, like “Stand up straight” and “Don’t roll those eyes at me, young lady!”  (If you think you won’t turn into your mother, just wait until you hear that “eye roll” thing coming out of your own mouth, and I can promise you, you will).

I want Dominique to know what it took me years to learn: that time will fly by, that she should savor every midnight feeding, which is really just a way of bonding with her baby, of rocking and holding her close, of keeping her safe while she still can, that no matter how tired she is, reading “Good Night, Moon” is infinitely more important than watching the “Housewives of Whatever” and that she, too, will one day feel the toothbrush to make sure it’s been used.

I want her to use these first precious and fleeting weeks to appreciate the wonder of being a mother, of bringing a life into the world, of realizing that the little girl sleeping in her arms is the result of her parents, Jason’s family, and all of our ancestors, of Reason Young who loved a girl named Julia so much that he walked from South Carolina to Alabama without knowing if she would marry him or not. Of Edward Lomax Cammack, who traded his position as a plantation owner for an education because he didn’t believe in slavery, of Edna Wren Roberts Young, who raised 11 children, and helped to raise 24 grandchildren, and had the capacity for such love that all of them swear that she loved them the best, of the proud Indian heritage of Nina Gillespie, of the humor of her grandfather, Nick, and the grace and beauty of her grandmother and namesake, Isabell. I hope she has my grandmother, Fanny McLemore Cammack’s determination and her sparkling blue eyes and the creativity and talent of her great-great Aunt Marguerite, whose soft voice I can’t wait to hear when I call her with the news.

Being a mother is a job that you never retire from, never get totally perfect and are never as sure of as you pretend you are in a crisis.

I hope that being a mother is as wonderful for her as it has been for me. Through the laughter and the tears, it is the most important job in the world…. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there! May your day be filled with love!

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