May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” Motherhood


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Motherhood” Chapter 47
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

We all celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about the selflessness of motherhood lately—about giving up all your time, money, your sleep, your sanity…even your body for a bit to let a parasitic embryo grow inside of you for nine months and then spend the next thirty years or so occupying the frontspace of your brain every waking minute.  I love watching pregnant women absent-mindedly stroking the underside of their protruding bellies while they place the other, anticipatory hand gently atop the beach ball, effectively framing their expectancy’s roundness; or the duck waddle of late pregnancy, with the accompanying get-this-thing-outta-me verklemptedness. There’s a beauty in this altruism, the succumbing to the endless river current that motherhood brings.  The tears of joy, tears of recognition, tears of fear and sadness.  Lots and lots of mom tears.

When my own wife was nearing labor we stopped in for a checkup at Swedish before heading south after spending a day in Seattle, and the medical personnel suggested that we go walk around the block a couple times and get something to eat and then check back in afterward to see if she’d achieved another centimeter of dilation.  Terrified of lengthening our tether to the hospital so near to fruition, we did just that—grabbing some clucks and fries while she caught her ever-lessening breath between trips around Boren and Mercer.  Returning back to the ER she was now the required expansion, so they booked us into the birthing ward for the night.  Once her epidural was administered and they broke her water, we knew we were getting close and a shuddering wave of panic engulfed Michelle—I’m sure at the realization that she was about to pass what amounted to a bowling ball between her legs.  Nervously I held her, touching our foreheads together in a silent attempt to calm her, and for several minutes it was just the two of us alone in a crowded room amidst the white coats, blips and blue-lit monitors.  When they eventually play the trailer for the movie of my life, this quiet, charged, tender moment will be amongst the many highlights.

My own mom forced me to go to church as a kid, trying to create some sort of moral compass in me.  Her expectation of me was always to go to and to finish college—which I eventually did on my own dime and in my own time after a lost period of post-teen listlessness and over-drinking that I’m sure she forfeited hours of sleep over…seeing me only when I’d show up for a free club sandwich at a restaurant as she’d slip me a $20 afterward and tell me that she was praying for me.  A few days ago I met her and grandpa at Mercato’s in Olympia along with my sister Linda and we treated them to lunch (I had a lovely pumpkin ravioli with apple cider cream, carmelized onions and hazelnuts).  I brought her a big planter full of flowers that Michelle had picked out—she loves to grow stuff (I do too), and I helped her unload it at her house and placed on the bench outside her front door.  I thought about it driving the whole way down from Auburn—how now, after I’ve been a parent for over fourteen years and I now know what goes into it, that so many times you regret losing your patience, losing your temper, losing your focus…how hard and thankless parenting often is—that your payoff is often way down the road once your own kids have matured and begun to realize what you went through—that I should just say a simple, “thank you”—but alas, there was never a break in the conversation or a quiet aside.  She often reads my column, so hopefully she’ll still receive my unspoken gratitude. 

They say there is no smother without mother—the helicopter moms with their thick tangles of apron strings and endless questions…but remember—she once had your diapery shit underneath her fingernails.  She’s had the last of your Ritz crackers crushed up in the bottom of her purse for weeks.  She made you a late dinner when she was dog tired and got out of the bath dripping wet because she heard you screaming, only to realize you were just venting at a video game.  She cleaned the carpet where you left a Sharpie with the cap off.  She never let on that you interrupted coitus with your night terrors or how hurt she was when you didn’t come up with even a homemade card for her birthday.  No one will ever love you more than your mom.  Don’t ever take that for granted.