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©May 2001

Carol Jane Remsburg



Mothers and Daughters












Mom didn't tell me how she would be, my daughter I mean.  Mom didn't tell me that I wasn't up to raising a child like us.  Mom also didn't tell me that I wasn't ready—would never be ready for motherhood.  Mom couldn't.  Mom was already gone before Erin ever arrived.


I was thirty when Erin was born.  In my own mind I was more than ready.  I was eager.  I wasn't too young or too old.  I was certain in my mind and in my marriage.  After helping out with my nieces, I thought I had it down.  I would be a Super-Mom.  I found out that being a mother isn't easy ever.


From the very first I knew I'd lost control of the situation.  Little Erin Morgan came early—by nearly a month.  The doctor said it was due to the stress of the loss of my little niece.  Hmm, it might have been but I don't think so.  I think Erin was just ready to meet the world and didn't want to wait any longer. 


She was breech and under "stress."  The doctor didn't know what the stress was but performed an emergency C-Section on September 6th, 1990.  What he found was surprising.  Many babies are born under this type of duress with the umbilical cord wrapped about their necks choking them.  Not in this case.  Infant Erin was born with both hands securely wrapped about the umbilical cord sending a clear message—I WANT OUT NOW!  The doc's had never seen this before.  Why wasn't I surprised? 


For the preceding two hours I'd been petrified over the notion that I was going to give birth—that day.  If I could have changed my mind I would have.  I'd only had eight months to get used to the idea—one we had worked for.  Hmm . . .


Once I located my hubby, taking up most of those two hours, the visit to the hospital was terrifying.  Oh, it wasn't them, it was me.  I was just scared to death.  Then the hospital personnel and doctors and nurses took over.  I couldn't do anything but lay there and have monitors placed, needles shoved up my spine, and a catheter put in by a very kind male nurse.  I wasn't even considering modesty or the indignities just then.


In the operating room it's a fast "zip" and it's done.  I'm not allowed to view the proceeding because the patient might not like all that blood and gore and stuff.  Hey, I wanted to see—but I wasn't allowed.  They were busy folks in there and did all the right things.  Still I was asking questions.  They began to go unanswered like I wasn't there so I got a little louder.  My initial question was is the baby okay?  Got a "Yes" on that one.  Boy or girl?  After two repeats, I got "Girl."  Apgar scores?!?!!?  That I had to holler for.  Erin got 9/9 on both tests.  They test twice just to make sure.  If you aren't a MOM then you don't know what I'm talking about.  That means that she was PERFECT even a month early.  They are the highest scores you can get.  I was so worried about her lungs and her eyes and well—everything.


They whisked her away and then zipped me up and stuck me in recovery.  With an epidural I couldn't even hold my baby right after birth.  The recovery room nurses were kind and patient.  I wasn't patient at all.  I kept telling them I was fine and I was ready to see my baby.  That was about 8 PM.  Her birth was 7:20 PM.  I didn't get to see her again until about 1 AM when they said she was hungry and asked if I wanted to feed her.  They'd put me to sleep with a load of Percodan® about 10 PM and I wasn't aware of much.  I remember them coming in and going back out.  Needless to say, I didn't get to feed Erin her first meal.


By 5 AM the next morning, Erin was ready and so was I—if I could just get out of that damned bed.  That was a job and more.  We sit up because we can.  We also need abdominal muscles to perform that little trick.  Mine had been sliced and diced and then neatly stitched back together.  Also, they didn't feel like it that next morning.  It took all my toe-muscles and arm-muscles and a helluva lot of willpower to get vertical.  The "oohs and ahhs" from the nurses should have alerted me that I was not normal.  Most new C-Section Mommies don't manage getting out of bed without help.  I wasn't quick, but I got there.  Then over to the "chair" we had the pillow in my lap to help support my new baby for her first meal from MOM.  The baby vs. breast race was on. 


A newborn is often slow and sluggish and irritable.  Mine was none of the above.  She was quick and she was sure.  She liked "left" breast only and thought "right" breast was some cruel trick of fate.  She ate very little and promptly went to sleep.  Me, worried Mommy, freaked.  My baby isn't eating!  I couldn't tell how much?  She kept going to sleep.  You can only chase an infant about on a pillow with your breast for so long.  It was weird. 


I'd been on an IV from Thursday evening until that early Friday morning when they took it out.  I hadn't realized that they had Percodan® in that drip.  So when they came with the Percodan® in pill form, I shunned it.  I told them I was breast-feeding and I didn't want it to affect my daughter.  They smiled, shook their heads, and walked away.  They also didn't bring me anything else.  So within 10 hours of surgery, I had NO PAINKILLER MEDICATION at all—not even a regular Tylenol®.  I didn't give this much attention but when Doc showed up on mid-Monday morning to release us from the hospital—he was aghast over it.  Okay, so "aghast" didn't do it—the man didn't want to believe that I'd been walking and moving about and not screaming for something.  Meanwhile, I'd been puttering around VERY slowly.  As a matter of fact, totally vertical had yet to be achieved—I was more in the Quasimodo hunch and shuffle.  I shuffled everywhere.  It was a good thing for me. I healed so much more quickly than the others.  Lots of the new mommies during my stay with C-Sections never got out of bed.  They stayed there for a week or more because they wouldn't get up.  Notice I said "wouldn't" and not "couldn't."  There is a difference.  It's just that it is a hard difference.  I wanted OUT. 


During that brief stay in the hospital I awaited little Erin's first "poopy" diaper.  It was vitally important.  I greeted it with glee.  Little did I know that I'd come to dread the others that followed.  Little Erin specialized in "poopy" diapers—of the magnitude that only Steven Spielburg could put on the screen. 


Later much of it was "firsts" and blurs and all that.  Her new room, her bedding, listening to the baby monitor that I turned up so loud that I could hear her every breath—sounding much like a silver-backed gorilla preparing for battle.  Everything had to be perfect from food to bath to sleep to everything.  Her first bath at home had a huge audience.  Don't believe for a second that I was calm about it.  It took place on the dining room table because a "real" bath was another week or two away. 


Little Erin Morgan was the most precious thing I'd ever seen—because she was MINE.  My nieces were almost as wonderful but I couldn't take them home and own them—I'd tried that.  My sister was quite nice about it but they weren't MINE.  I spent years making my nieces MINE and they all know that I'm their Second Mommy—but not Mommy. 


Erin was mine.  I was terrified and enthralled with her all at the same time.  Terror ought to have no place in motherhood but it's found there all to often.  It should have it's own subtitle under "motherhood."


Within two weeks of her birth Erin maintained that "I'll sip a bit and go back to sleep" routine.  She lost weight.  It was weight she couldn't afford to lose.  Breastfeeding also didn't allow me to judge just how much she was getting, but I'm no dummy.  I knew she wasn't getting enough.  Thus, against the wishes of sisters and doctors and nurses, I went straight to the bottle.  Within two weeks there began a steady weight gain.  She was more alert and alive.  I'm not sure if it was due to her not ingesting any of the residual effects of any Percodan® in my system or that it was just time for her to become more aware.


Erin blossomed—and I have the naked baby pictures to prove it.  I'm saving them for blackmail during her teenaged years.


Erin was a "Caulk" child from birth.  With that mug there was no mistake.  She was one of "ours" much to the dismay of outsiders and in-laws.  She is gorgeous.  The last generation wasn't anything to write home about but the "Caulk" kids in "this generation" are truly beautiful and they can thank US for it.


Erin is also different from the rest of the "Caulk" children.  From both sides of the family she managed her Strawberry-Blonde hair which hasn't graced either side.  Ruth, my mother-in-law, has a mane of dark auburn locks.  Her's isn't thick or heavy like some in my family—which I didn't inherit—but hubby's side also has some heavy, thick hair.  So, Erin got it all.  She managed the glacier-ice blue, expressive eyes, the snub nose, a smattering of freckles, Mom's bulldog chin, and the hair.  Oh, yes, this kid's got hair that Vidal Sassoon would weep just to touch.  Nobody's got hair like this—and nobody's got a kid like this.


Erin isn't just her hair.  Nope, and she HATES her hair.


Erin is, well, Erin's unique.  She's almost eleven now and is struggling hard to find her way.  It's that pre-teen stage that's so hard.  She wants to be "herself" but also get along with her peers.  They all want to be grownup but something in Erin knows that being grownup early isn't where it's at.  Erin still enjoys the fantasy and play and wonder of childhood and I try very hard to allow her to enjoy it.  It won't last forever and she won't be a kid forever.


When I first became a mother I knew it wasn't going to be a "care-free" existence.  Little did I know that I'd birthed a little "Napoleon" who wanted and seemed to need to "rule."  This wasn't what I'd bargained for.  This wasn't how I grew up where Mom and Dad knew everything and laid every law down and we only groused rarely.  Nope, this wasn't one of those things.  Some kids are easy.  Some aren't—especially when they are just like you and learned all your weak spots long before they were out of diapers.


None of this was what I remembered when I was little.  Mom, the mother of three daughters—with me the last—never doubted herself when it came to us.  Oh, she wasn't perfect and let us know that.  However, my tantrums always used to bring about the phrase, "You are giving me a nervous breakdown."  That often was enough to shut me up, but sometimes I pushed that.  To be honest I did. 


To be further truthful, it's a wonder that any mother with one or multiples haven't mentioned the phrase "nervous breakdown" when you suddenly realize that what you birthed knows more about you than you do yourself.  That's scary.  It's only scary because they watch you when you aren't thinking and they know and they learn. 


From the time a babe can scoot a walker there is no such thing as bathroom privacy.  It began as soon as you could put them in that walker and close the bathroom door with them inside for just long enough for that 2 minute shower—wet, scrub, and rinse.  You were done—during which you poked your head out about a thousand times just to be sure everything was okay.  They laughed.  Of course they laughed, you were funny with all your contortions and rushed motions just to get finished so you could continue to keep them safe.


Next comes day-care, kindergarten, and regular school.  There are doctor's and dental visits.  There will be needles and sickness.  If you are lucky it won't be Roseola---if you don't know about it then count yourself lucky—it's 3-5 days of living hell, high temps and buying stock in Aveeno®.  For three days the tyke never completely dried off from those baths.  She slept—I didn't.  Those weren't the only times when that happened but that particular fever was hard to quell.  When it got to 104.5o degrees Fahrenheit and stayed there then that's only something a mother does know about.  It's also something a mother never forgets and something she'll "pooh-pooh" until her death.  It's something she'll ever admit to her child about how she was terrified beyond anything else—because she was afraid she'd lose that child and no one could minister better to her.  I stayed connected to her pediatrician and the hospital.  Little Erin survived and so did I.  It was a lesson of love and devotion.  Moreover it was a lesson in faith. 


Yes, there are fears worse then death; worse than mutilation, worse than any trauma that might happen to you.  Yes, it could happen to your child.  They will never know or understand your fears for them.  In sickness and in health we moms are always there.  We watch, we fetch, we clean up after, we love, we watch, we coddle, we urge them forward, and we watch some more.  And they'll never know any of it until it happens to them.  And we love them.  We love them so much we allow them to fall, skin a knee, find an enemy—and we love them more.  We help them grow.


No, Mom never told me any of those things.  She might have tried earlier on when I wasn't listening but after Erin was born, she couldn't.  She died almost two years before Erin was ever born—but Oh, how she would have loved this kid.  Marion would have embraced her, scolded her, and held her up to the rest of the world as a challenge.  Yeah, little Erin is a champ.  She's a kid that will grow and learn and become—just like all our kids.  Erin has potential. 


With that potential comes trouble.  Little Erin has her own palate of "things;" ordinary things but "things" just the same.  For every child there are challenges and mountains to climb.  As mothers and as fathers, we are there to help them on their ascent.  We cannot always be there when they stumble but we hope that we've provided the proper gear, the rope, cleats, and the sense to know when to dig in and when to leap and when to swing free before finding a new perch.  That's what it's all about. 


Parenting, being a mom or a dad, is a huge undertaking.  Many of us have little sense of it before it actually happens—even when we plan for it.  All we can do is help, assist, and give the appropriate lifts, love, and reassurance when it's needed.


So the next time you look at your mother, don't just think about all the diapers she changed.  She did that with love and care, but she's done much more than that.  She's helped you to grow, learn, and become a real person.  She gave you your launching pad.


Remember too that our future is never done until we too are gone.  Shouldn't we make the most of it?  Our mothers sacrificed and loved us enough so that we should.  Maybe all of us can try a little harder tomorrow.


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