Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Birthday

Sure, it was hard work to be born. I had to go through the scary birth canal, for one thing, and then the doctor and nurses poked around and made me cry and all. But actually, I don’t have any recollection of it. During my mother’s labor that resulted in my birth, whatever traumas I suffered must have been permanently soothed by her love and care.

Birthdays never really cease to be work for mothers. First they endure the entire package of physical, emotional, and hormonal change that comes with pregnancy. So even before your birth day, they are already working for you, abstaining from too much salt, from too much sugar, from alcohol, from most medications. They eat more vegetables, drink more water, religiously take prenatal vitamins, and -- oh the love expressed -- may even eat liver. They read, attend classes, rearrange their furniture, their work schedules, their plans and futures, preparing in one way or another for your arrival.

Then they give birth to you. And of course, that’s really hard work.

They take care of you every day after that, too, but they try to make your birthdays extra special. They plan and prepare parties and celebrations, even at age one, when you won’t remember the event except through snapshots of you in the high chair, paying studied attention to the lone birthday candle stuck in the center of a cake baked just for this grand occasion. (My parents put fire right here on my high chair tray? Does that mean I can touch it?)

On birthdays, mothers take you on special outings, cook your favorite foods, invite and allow gatherings of friends and relatives. They give you presents. They hug you tight even during the horrible meanness of your teen years. If you move to a city far away, they send you gifts or money; they send you birthday cards with poems about how great you are and how glad they are to have you, and they call to let you know that they love you and are thinking about you because you are extra special on this day particularly, your birthday.

Mothers don’t mention all the work they’ve done on all your past birthdates and those days in between. They don’t even think about the work, they are so blinded by how much they love you.

That’s why, on my birthday each year, I think a lot about my mother.

She used to tell me that she was so na├»ve after she and Daddy married that she didn’t even know she was pregnant; she and Daddy thought her constant morning sickness meant she had some terrible illness, and she was going to die. She was not yet nineteen when she went into the hospital to have me, and the physician gave her scopolamine, the drug that put her in Twilight Sleep, as was the custom in 1955. She remembered hearing a scream, then realizing it was her own voice. She said that a nurse told her to do something, but she yelled at her, “You big fat COW!” which, to my knowledge, is the only time my mother expressed out loud anything mean to another human being.

Daddy and Mama had planned to name me Debbie, but before they left the hospital, Daddy said, “No, we’re going to name her ‘Doris’,” and then, instead of going home, they drove to the home of my great grandparents, “Because Daddy wanted to show you off,” she said and smiled, remembering.

Do you think Hallmark could come up with some kind of Happy Birthday/Mother’s Work Day card? Nah, I guess not, plus, that would be too hard to sing. And mothers don’t mind that they’re not recognized for such profound and timeless work on the day of your birth and all the rest of your birthdays. They don’t even think about it. They are so blinded by how much they love you.

Proverbs 31:28  Her children shall arise up, and call her blessed.

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