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Happy Mother's Day

by Laura W. Haywood


I don't think I was cut out to be a mother.

The day after my son was born, a nurse brought him to me with a bottle and said, "Feed him."

"How?" I asked, desperately clutching the baby, terrified I'd break him. He seemed so fragile.

"The same way you'd feed any baby," the nurse said.

"You don't understand," I said. "The only other baby this young I've seen was my sister, and I was eight years old then."

With elaborate patience, she showed me how to hold the baby and how to shove the bottle into his mouth. Then she left.

Johnny drank a little of the bottle, then pulled away and, the next thing I knew, he was hiccoughing.

Panic! Clutching the baby, I felt around for the nurse call button. I couldn't find it and, gingerly leaning out of the bed, I saw it on the floor.

"Hic," said Johnny.

"Help!" I cried, but no one came.

Frantically I look around and my eye lighted on the telephone. Still holding on to the baby for dear life. I managed to grab the phone. I called "Information," got the number of the hospital, dialed the number and, when the switchboard answered, I screamed my room number and yelled, "The baby is dying." Then I hung up the phone.

"Hic," Johnny said.

In a minute, there was the sound of footsteps running down the hall and my door flew open.

"Hic," Johnny said.

Several nurses and doctors burst into the room, stopped, and then withdrew, badly concealing laughter. Only one older nurse remained.

"The baby has the hiccoughs," the nurse said gently.

"I know he has the hiccoughs," I said in annoyance. "That's why I called you."

"All babies get the hiccoughs," she said.

"Well, I didn't know that," I said in exasperation. "And the Pope almost died from them!" Since I was in a Jewish hospital, I'm not sure my reference to the Pope did anything to convince her I wasn't a lunatic.

She took the baby and left the room.

From then on, I was allowed to see the baby only when my husband and mother were present. They give me the baby, I'd put the bottle in his mouth, and he'd refuse to drink.

Then my husband or mother would take him, give him the bottle, and he'd slurp down the whole thing. It was humiliating.

It seemed to me there was only one possible solution. My mother lived with us and the baby had been born in May. When we took him home, I tied a ribbon around his neck, handed him to my mother, and said, "Happy Mother's Day."

I went back to work and, for the next 11 years, my mother was in charge of Johnny.

And it was the best thing that could have happened to him.


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