Greeting cards sum up Mother's Day with simple messages. "Happy Mother's Day." "I love you." "Enjoy your special day." But what they can't describe are the profound and compelling stories behind being a mother. Joy, hardship, revelation, compromise, pride, expectations, surprise and satisfaction are all part of the equation. We asked mothers at The Register- Guard to tell us their thoughts about being a mom.
Wedding bells and blues
In 27 years of motherhood, I've played plenty of roles: Milk dispenser. Book reader. Chauffeur. Tuition payer. None of which prepared me for my current one: Mother of the Bride.
It's stretching me, though my laid-back firstborn is no Bridezilla. She's chosen a simple beach wedding in a quiet Mexican town.
Waiting in a coffee line recently, I watched another bride and harried MOTB haggle with a consultant over a dress style to flatter seven variously shaped attendants. My daughter's only maid of honor - her sister - will wear a sundress of her own choosing. Our biggest fashion challenge was flip-flops to match.
Even finding a bridal gown was easy. A local shop conveniently held a liquidation sale just as my newly engaged daughter flew home from Philadelphia. She fell in love with the second dress she tried on. In a bit of bibbity-bobbity-boo, it fit perfectly. The "CASH ONLY" signs were crass, but the price made it easy to dismiss her worries about the long train dragging in the sand.
"So what?" I said.
It's not like she's going to wear it again. Or like her daughter will wear it someday. When I dug out my wedding dress - which my own MOTB had paid to preserve - my daughter laughed out loud at the ruffled cotton eyelet.
My tug has been emotional, from the moment she brought our future-son-in-law home to meet us. Normally, she pops out of the car and runs to hug me. This time, she hung back, waiting for him. It was subtle, but clear: "Ah - her primary attachment is to him now."
I was shocked at my dismay when they made a perfectly rational decision to get legally married at Philly City Hall before coming to Mexico. (Who knew it would cost $500 just for foreigners to get a marriage license?) I already had my "no changes" ticket from Oregon to Mexico. The ceremony there will still be meaningful.
Yet I keep picturing that Norman Rockwell painting of newlyweds signing their marriage license before no one but a justice of the peace. Clearly, something's missing: the MOTB.
- Karen McCowan, reporter
At the starting line
All I know of motherhood so far is morning sickness, restless nights and rapid weight gain.
Friends talk about the magic and wonder of pregnancy, but it's all lost on me.
I just feel fat.
It seems I've been pregnant forever, but I know it can't be true. My husband shows me photos of myself from just nine months ago, and I hardly recognize the svelte and stylish woman - I've grown so accustomed to elastic waistbands and baggy hand-me-downs.
My husband and I are expecting our first child May 18. We expect our daughter to be late, since chronic tardiness is a shared characteristic.
But the sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned. Nine months seems like a gratuitously long time to haul this little person around.
We're ready to meet her. And apparently she's ready to meet us.
Some nights I feel like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, moments before the creature shreds its way out of her abdomen. Our baby is quite the kicker, and the puncher, and the squirmer. Her favorite trick is pressing her feet against my lower ribs and straightening her legs.
Early on, her presence made me terribly ill. My morning sickness reached its crescendo one day when I threw up all over the Lane County Courthouse on my way to a sentencing hearing. I realized then that this kind of public humiliation was preparation for the inevitable struggles of parenthood.
The sickness is gone now and all that's left is the waiting.
My husband, a runner, compares this period to the moments before a 100-mile race. Except you don't know the start time. All you know is that at some point in the next few days or weeks, the starter gun will fire and the race will be on.
It's an apt analogy. We've been to birthing class, read all the books, prepared the nursery and packed the bags. We're at the starting line. Now we're just waiting for that pistol to go off to signal the beginning of our much-anticipated journey into parenthood.
I expect to find the magic and wonder along the way.
- Rebecca Nolan, reporter
EDITOR'S NOTE: It turns out that Alice Lillian jumped the starter's gun, arriving two weeks early at 12:02 a.m. on May 5 - just a few hours after Rebecca filed this essay. Mother and daughter are doing fine.
Thankful for the journey
I was up-front with the man who is now my husband when we met 14 years ago: I didn't particularly like children, and I was never having any of my own.
"I'm really not the maternal type - too selfish," I told him, though I felt it was so obvious it needed no explanation.
He wanted kids but married me anyway. Whether it was his subtle powers of persuasion or the subconscious ticking of my biological clock, there I was in July of 1999, alone in a New York hotel room regarding the positive results of a home pregnancy test with equal parts horror and exhilaration.
One of my immediate reactions was disappointment: I couldn't go out for drinks that night with the other reporters at the conference.
Suffice it to say I came around. To the astonishment of longtime friends and family, I embraced motherhood with a full-on bear hug, happily giving up many grown-up pastimes I never could have imagined doing without and relishing my new role as "Mama."
Two years later, it was an easy call to try for a second child, and this time when I learned I was pregnant, I felt pure bliss.
Occasionally, I long for the unencumbered pleasures of the past, and scold myself for not having fully appreciated them.
My husband and I recently left our boys with my in-laws and stole away to the coast - only our second overnight getaway since having kids.
I'd forgotten what it's like to take a brisk hike, uninterrupted by the inquisitive Miles poking under rotting logs or the recalcitrant Toby insisting that his legs are no longer operable.
We sipped cocktails and listened to live music at a pub and watched two movies in the hotel room - neither featuring a single talking animal.
By the time we got back the next day, though, I was aching for my children, and I felt a twinge when I realized they hadn't missed us in the least.
I'm struck by how complete my conversion has been. It even extends to other people's children. Where I used to dread being asked to hold infants at social gatherings, now I'm the first in line to take a turn and marvel at those tiny, dimpled hands.
Motherhood for me has been a strange and surprising journey of the heart - one I don't fully understand, but am so thankful I took.
- Anne Williams, reporter
Boys will be boys
My son was a planned child, inasmuch as one can plan for such an incredible responsibility. In ways, I wasn't prepared at all, yet many parents echo this sentiment. While raising this child, I discovered a unique individual who challenged my expectations of who I thought my child would be.
Born in a tiny apartment on Seattle's Capitol Hill on Dec. 21, 1977 - a successful home birth that remains a source of pride for me - he was delivered by Kirsten, a midwife from Norway. Like a big sister, Kirsten helped a frightened 21-year-old bring her precious bundle into the world.
With my love of the natural world, of beauty inherent in forests, rivers and mountains, I visualized my son embracing this appreciation with me. For four years, we lived in Elkton where he started school and experienced country life raising animals and tending gardens.
He grew to his full height of 6-foot-5, a lanky and agile man. He didn't care for school, preferring skateboards, hip-hop music and socializing. Though people find him fun, witty and intelligent, many peers express concern for his apparent lack of a realistic life plan. They grew up while he continued to skate through life without a clear goal.
Three years ago, he moved to Asia to teach English, settling in Jakarta, Indonesia. As I rarely hear from him, I can only assume he's working. He's in his element: a huge city with many people to befriend. I wonder what problems he encounters, who provides support in times of need. I try to imagine who he is now, whether he's taking care of himself, if he's helping others. One catastrophe after another brings Indonesia into international news so often, I've lost count.
Now that he's 29, I often ponder a common phrase I hear from wise parents: "Oh, boys don't mature until they're about 30; don't worry, they're just like that."
When winter solstice arrives this year, my son will have reached that milestone. Whoever he's become, I want to be proud, even if he still cherishes concrete over trees.
- Sherry Franzen, news aide
Moments of clarity
Treyson entered the world quickly, ready. When the doctor set him on my stomach, he quieted suddenly to listen to my first `hello' and to hear his father say his name. Everyone present in the dim room noticed his awareness.
That focus hasn't ever wavered, really. Three weeks after birth, he was staring at the wood knots on our ceiling. Sure, all babies stare at ceilings, but to me Treyson appeared to be searching for meaning.
At 10 months, Treyson spent some time studying our chandelier. I thought perhaps it was making him anxious; he would suck his thumb and frown. Eventually, though, he looked at me and said with certainty, `Tuh.'
A grand light in my life had just said, `light.'
Treyson loved picture books as a toddler. When I read aloud, he concentrated on the words, touched the bright art. About this time he became fascinated with construction vehicles - their sounds, their workings, their presence. He wondered: Why, why, why were so many diggers yellow?
One summer day, when Treyson was 4, he sat down to draw, an activity he did often but with abstract results. Sitting beside him, reading, I had no reason to suspect this moment would be a departure. He chose a red crayon and gazed fixedly at the blank page. I believe I held my breath. Then, red circles and lines rapidly became a `backhoe loader,' he informed me. (Why, yes, it was!) He took another sheet, a yellow crayon, and whipped out a `cement truck.' Then, with green, a `dump truck with driver.' A `cherry picker' in orange. A `giant wheel loader with driver' in blue. A `bulldozer with ripper' and a `pumper fire truck,' both in purple. A `crane' in black. Eight clear drawings in minutes.
Now, nearly 10, Treyson is busy drawing meaning from life, enjoying his relationships and his many interests with that familiar mind-set. Through it all, his loving intensity colors my heart, my world.
- Christine Sherk, copy editor
Lessons from a fighter
The first time I saw my son Sam, his head was the size of a tennis ball and his hands were no bigger than bottle caps. His fingers were too small to wrap around my pinky, and I had to squint to count his 10 perfect toes from outside his glass incubator. A tiny tube tugged at the corner of his mouth, while an intravenous needle supplied drops of nourishment from a machine far bigger than he.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought, how can a 1-pound baby endure all this? But when he looked up at me that very first time, he had an unexpected expression. He seemed to be saying "Don't worry Mom, I'll get through this."
And I believed that he would. After all, he'd been through so much already.
Problems started showing up in mid-pregnancy and worsened with the passing weeks - bleeding, low amniotic fluid, abdominal spasms, a deteriorating placenta.
The prognosis was grave: Miscarriage was likely.
But even as conditions worsened, the heartbeat remained strong and one thing was clear: This kid was a fighter.
At the 26th week, I was rushed to the hospital with bleeding and contractions. This was it, I thought. This was what I had been dreading. But after a hurried Caesarian section, Sam was born with no apparent abnormalities - except for his size, just shy of 1 pound.
The next day, the doctor approached Sam's incubator, put her hands inside the porthole and peeled away a cloth that covered his body. "He's a very nice boy," she said, hopefully. "But he is very small."
Three days passed and her cautious comments had a note of optimism. Sam was defying the odds.
I was amazed at his progress. He flailed his arms and legs at the sound of my voice. He squirmed when I tickled his feet and armpits. He even managed to wrap his thumb around the feeding tube and pull it out.
I expected great things from this young man.
So on the seventh day when the doctor reported a serious complication, I couldn't comprehend it. The next day the graveness of his condition had sunk in. His left arm was stiff in the air; his miniscule body twitched with spasms. The expression on his face had changed, too. He was still fighting, but it was clearly a struggle.
That night, he let go.
That was six years ago, and I now have two healthy, rambunctious children. To this day, I can't think of Sam without a tremendous sense of loss. But the pain is tempered when I think of what he taught me about being a mom during his short lifetime. He showed me perseverance, spirit and grace. And he taught me to never for an instant take my children for granted.
- Diana Elliott, team leader
In the days after our first child was born, my husband and I often walked out to the mailbox together. When I opened the baby cards and read the loving messages, I frequently burst into tears.
Finally, after at least a week of this, my exasperated husband asked, "Am I to expect that this will happen every time the mail comes?" It did, for at least a few days.
My tears were for joy, the unfathomably happy surprise at how grace-giving and life-affirming it was to be a new mother. I'd prepared myself for the loss of sleep, the exponential increase in laundry and the challenge of living on only one income, but I honestly wasn't prepared for this amazing happiness that would dominate my life even as those other expectations came true.
My husband and I and our little white dog had full lives even before our Katie was born. We all backpacked in the Cascades on the Pacific Crest Trail, climbed mountains and hiked along the Oregon Coast.
My husband and I both worked in helping professions often involving interaction with children. When people told us we'd make good parents some day, we smiled politely and thanked them. We weren't anxious for our life to change.
But on the day my now-grown daughter was born, my life changed in ways that no one had told me about.
They didn't tell me about that tsunami of joy that would wash over me at the moment I first held my baby daughter, nor that this would recur whenever I got to see her and hug her and hear her after separations of days or weeks.
They didn't tell me that I would cry so much and laugh so much, often simultaneously. Nor was I told that that laughter and those tears would spring from a deeper place in my soul than I ever knew existed.
They didn't tell me I would learn so much from my daughter.
When she was 13, I made unflattering remarks about purple-haired young people we saw as I drove along the main street of town. "Mom," she chided, "you shouldn't say things like that about people you don't even know. Some of them could be my friends."
She was right. I was crestfallen. We'd raised her to be nonjudgmental, respectful and appreciative of people for their kindness, gentleness and integrity. I'd violated that code and she called me on it. She's now 27 and I'm still learning, thank goodness.
I wasn't warned that the friends she would bring into my life would be terrific people I'd grow to love as "my other kids," nor that I would miss not only my daughter but the rest of the group when they all went away to college, and later, embarked on their adult lives.
They didn't tell me I'd find in Katie such a thoughtful, caring, generous and honest friend. She is.
- Louise Rose, news aide