Mother’s Day, 2014
THE DAY OF BECOMING A MOTHER For Mother’s Day, 2014 I awoke one morning during this Mother’s Day time somewhat puzzled to find I was remembering a story of long past. Suddenly the memory was there, clear and sweet, and I found myself wondering how life had all turned out for those I was remembering, for they were only briefly in my life. It all happened decades ago when I was a young mother of five children, all born within five years! The last two, twin girls, brought the total up quickly. I was helping my husband with the bookkeeping for our drugstore which we owned for nearly ten years in Fallbrook, California, a small, charming rural town in San Diego county. My husband’s workload was huge, twelve hour days, six days a week, and mine was on going at home as well. With the addition of the twins, the work at home was now monumental. I had three little ones in diapers, for the son next to the twins was only sixteen months old at the time of their birth. Diapers in that era were the old fashioned cotton wash-them-yourself kind. Though costly diaper service could be had, disposables had not yet been invented. I needed help for sure. I went to a employment office to look for candidates. Those seeking work or collecting unemployment checks stood in a long line at one window. My line ( potential employers) was a short one. I got to the window and said I needed domestic household help, ideally live in, or for several hours a week. The clerk shook his head said there were no such helpers available. I offered that I would pay fairly and be flexible for their hours. The attitude was surely I could not expect to find people willing to do this. I left. “Okay”, I thought to myself, “I tried.” I went home and set about networking into the large hidden pool of undocumented workers from Mexico in the area, who, eager to be here, worked in avocado groves and helped with domestic work of all kinds. In the next few years we had some wonderful helpers, including two sisters from one family who aided and supported our lives, and we theirs. My Spanish was passable and improved with their presence. We could laugh and commiserate over the stunning amount of work to keep up with it all and the delightful antics of the children. We were acquainted with the family of a local physician who also had Mexican help, though the wife. Wyla, didn’t speak any Spanish and apparently was never able to become very fluent. But she had a young girl who helped her for several months and was especially welcomed when Wyla had her third child. Her little boy was only a month or so old when I got the phone call. Her voice was panicky, full of alarm and concern. I managed to get some coverage for my home front and drove to their lovely home and knocked on the door. With a look of great relief Wyla welcomed me in and anxiously took me aside to explain what was happening. Which was pretty unbelievable. Her Mexican girl had been pregnant and had just had a baby that morning…in the bathroom. For some reason that amazes me to this day, she and her physician husband had not figured out that Lupita was pregnant! Very hard to believe. She told me she had wondered why Lupita was so long in the bathroom that morning and had been completely taken by surprise to realize a baby had been born! But more than that the young mother was in shock and was not relating to the baby. That is why she called me. I entered the bedroom alone. The young mother was lying forlornly in a large double bed. Her shiny black hair swept over the pillow and the white bedspread was pulled up to her chin. Her sweet, open brown face was paralyzed in fear and denial as she stared into space in a near catatonic state. Surely, I thought she must have known she was pregnant? But we found later, she had kept it concealed from everyone, including the cousins where she stayed on weekends. She may also have lived in dread of repercussions she would suffer if found out by her family sent back to Mexico. Who knows? But now the situation was dire. The baby, lay swaddled in a bassinet on the far side of her bed and was whimpering and crying out with a newborn’s need for his mother. I went to the baby’s crib speaking the mother’s name softly and telling her my name. She stared stoically into space and gave no acknowledgement she had heard me. I began talking to the baby and eventually picked him up to hold and comfort him, as I addressed his mother. “Lupita, Usted es una madre! Y su nino es muy bien…. Que guapo babito! Lupita, you are a mother! Your baby is very well. What a handsome little baby! He wants his mother Quiere la madre… Que ojos bonito What beautiful eyes! I went on admiring her little one and exclaiming over the wonder of him. After a while she turned and looked my way. I nodded to her and smiled. “Your baby loves you,” I told her. Slowly, she perked up in curiosity and interest and sat up in bed. In the end I was able to put little Juanito into her arms and she smiled with Mary like beauty and wonder at her baby and put the hungry child to her breast. Staying long enough to be sure they had found each other and all was well, I went out to speak to the doctor’s wife feeling the primal bridge had been made. Thank goodness. I drove home holding the question,”Where it would all go from here?” That question was beautifully answered. The family kept both Lupita and the baby. Juanito became little brother to Wyla’s little boy, they were almost like twins. The two of them grew up together in that home. What a wonderful beginning for the children, and for the two mothers whose destiny was now joined in a sisterhood to keep this special household all together. At this Mother’s Day time I smile again remembering this as one of the loveliest “Mother’s Day” I have known. A day so long ago, when I was able to witness the overwhelming fear of a frightened adolescent girl turn into the wonder of the maternal joy of motherhood.