A friend recently told me that a note I sent her reflected the way I was raised. When I confirmed that hand-written cards and letters started at a very young age in my house, she suggested it told a larger story about the role my mother has played in my life.
That theory made me think back to a few years ago, before my mom’s 60th birthday. I had reached out to family and friends in an attempt to gather 60 messages. I asked each person to share a favorite memory, inside joke, funny story or something they admired about her. My goal was to present my mom with a stack of 60 red envelopes, each containing a special birthday note from her nearest and dearest.
As the messages trickled in, I noticed a pattern. The same words kept appearing. Strong. Elegant. Positive. They talked about her sense of humor. Many included a nod to loyalty and faith. They said she was inspirational and intelligent and encouraging. It turned out to be a truly amazing gift.
With gratitude, I realized what my friend was talking about. The very characteristics these people had used to describe my mother had become the bones of my spine.
There are a lot of memories I could add to that original stack of messages describing my mom. But one gesture rises to the top.
Last February, I woke up alone in a sterile hospital recovery room after a traumatic birth experience. Mr. Wonderful was with our new daughter in the nursery, where she was being monitored.
At some point, I looked up groggily and saw my mother standing there with her hand over her mouth. I had asked her not to come to the hospital when I gave birth for a couple of reasons: I had a feeling my labor would be an all-day affair so I thought I’d save her from endless hours in a waiting room. But I also wanted to give my growing family an opportunity to bond privately and ease into our new normal for a few days on our own.
We promised to update her via text on the big day — and we did — but when Mr. Wonderful told her I was being prepped for a C-section after 17 hours of labor, she knew something was wrong.
Driving at night is one of this woman’s least favorite things, but she got in her car after 11 p.m. and made the 45-minute trip to the hospital, stopping only briefly to peek in at our little girl in the nursery on her way to find me. When I saw her standing at the foot of my bed post-surgery, it was almost 2 a.m.
Seeing her face was a pleasant surprise after the comedy of errors that led up to this moment.
“Hi. Did you see her yet?” I asked, wondering if she’d met her granddaughter.
“I came to see YOU.”
“Don’t you want to know her name?” I questioned.
“I came to see YOU,” she repeated. “To make sure YOU are OK.”
I don’t remember what I said next, but Mom left immediately after that conversation, making the same drive a second time in the middle of the night. She saw me for less than 5 minutes.
I’ve replayed that conversation in my mind often since, and I can’t think of a more fitting example of a mother’s love — a proper welcome to motherhood — especially inside the holy mess of a birth story gone awry.
It’s a gesture that lines up beautifully with every message inside those red envelopes. And it’s one that I will never forget.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. It was from you that I learned to be me. Te quiero mucho.