I want to tell you a story about my Mom. But you need a little background. She had her three children in the late 1950’s and early 60’s — a day and age when a lot of women didn’t breastfeed. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that formula was best.
From the moment my mom met my son, a few hours after his birth, she was crazy in love. Every coo, every glance, every burp was commented on and discussed. He was so beautiful, so obviously intelligent. As a new mom I spent hours at my parents, where she and I would hold him, care for him, diaper him ... watch him sleep.
When he was about three months old, my husband and I went out to dinner for the first time without him. My mom and dad babysat. This was before cell phones. Yes, he’s that old. I am that old.
When we returned a couple hours later our son slept soundly in my mom’s arms. But the evening had not been that smooth. He had cried, she told me. He worked himself up from sniffles and whimpers to sobs and the kind of howls that start deep in a baby’s tiny belly. My mom said she’d tried everything, the bottle of milk I’d pumped, giving him a pacifier, changing his diaper, but nothing had soothed him. And so, my mom said, after she had completely run out of ideas, she sat down with him, lifted her shirt, undid her bra and offered him the chance to nurse.
You may be thinking a woman who last gave birth over thirty years ago is not going to satisfy or comfort a hungry three-month-old. In all likelihood, it would probably frustrate him more. And you would be right, technically. But I was dumbstruck by my mom’s devotion to my son. I wrapped my arms around her and thanked her for loving him so much.
A week ago yesterday my mom passed away at eighty-nine. She spent the last twenty-four years of her life fiercely loving her grandchildren. And they loved her just as much as devotedly as she loved them.
I’ve never known a world without my mom and my sons have never known a world without their bubbie. But we have our memories and our stories that we will share and retell and we have the knowledge that we were all fiercely loved.
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