Letter to an older mother

Week 20, Day 1

Maureen and Jeff are sort of a gift to me from my brother Tad. Tad and Maureen went to college together, and the closeness of their group meant that Maureen and Jeff came over from Mobile to New Orleans on a fairly regular basis. Which meant that I got to know them and become friends with them, through everything from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the births of their two daughters. They’re thoughtful and fun folks, and I’m always so glad when their New Orleans trips coincide with mine.

On Saturday, I opened my mailbox and found a big book envelope with a Mobile postmark. When I opened it, I found that Maureen and Jeff had sent a book and a note.

The book is Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Mississippi author and professor Beth Ann Fennelly wrote frequent letters to a former student, also a writer, who was pregnant for the first time. That student shared the letters with another pregnant friend, and so on and so on, and eventually Fennelly realized that she had a book. I’m only on page 52, but already I can see why Maureen keeps a copy close at hand. I’ve dog-eared a few pages, made a few mental notes. At the Advanced Maternal Age of 42, I giggle a little bit over the subtitle, but then I think, well, when it comes to motherhood, I am a newbie, one of the youngest. And between the book and the sweet, kind note, Maureen and Jeff have hit on something meaningful and useful and special to me.

The first page I dog-eared, I dog-eared for this passage:

“You will be knitted more tightly into the social fabric because you’ll need help. You’ll feel vulnerable — as if you’re condemned to wear that hospital gown that opens in the back. But you’ll also feel bolstered because so many people you ask for help (and many you don’t) will give it. You’ll exchange independence for community, the needing and being needed.”

That’s part of what the Facebooking and blogging and e-mailing with all of you has done for me. It’s given me such a strong sense of community, of being part of something at once intimate and all-encompassing. Your sharing of experience and laughter and stories and tears have been the knit and the purl, as fortifying and necessary as my pre-natal vitamins and the sight of our boy on an ultrasound. I may not always manage to respond to every comment in a Facebook thread, or say to say thank you for every suggestion, but I’m happy and grateful for them all, and for all of you.

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