Give your mom the mic — and listen to her story

    What does a woman want most on Mother’s Day? Breakfast in bed, flowers, dinner in a fancy restaurant, and a day free of laundry? Those things are nice, but it doens’t need to be so complicated.

    A group of women in Delaware say sometimes the best thing you can do for your mom is just listen.

    Every mother has a story to tell. Listen to Your Mother is a nationwide community of women who are creating a platform for those stories to be heard. 

    On Sunday night, World Cafe Live in Wilmington will host, “Listen to Your Mother: Wilmington,” an evening of storytelling from newbie and veteran moms and women who are not yet mothers. The event is one of a series of similar events happening in 24 cities around the country this week.

    “In creating a cast, we found our show falling into two sections: being a mother and having a mother,” wrote event organizer Shosh Martyniak.

    “Each woman brings her own perspective; some are filled with pain and heartache while others are filled with laughter. However, what struck us about each of these women was their ability to be brave to shed their fears and bring us their most personal and intimate feelings about motherhood.”

    Here are four excerpts from essays to be presented on Sunday night.

    Kelly Brown“Finding the Balance as a Working Mom,” by Kelly Brown

    Before I had a child, I always wanted to be a Stay-at-Home Mom. I daydreamed about baking cookies from scratch and cheeks dusted with flour. I had blueprints in my mind about the miniature preschool I’d set up in the breakfast nook of my kitchen. We’d do crafts, make organic meals, cloth diaper, and I’d sew my daughter matching ‘Dolly and Me’ outfits while she played with her dolls at my feet.

    The reality is that I usually forget to buy half of the cookie ingredients. The only ‘scratch’ involved in my recipe is me scratching my head and wondering if cottage cheese is a suitable replacement for the eggs I left at the store.

    I also don’t have a breakfast nook. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there is a kitchen table underneath that pile of paper and four loads of laundry. Our crafts more often resemble a Tim Burton nightmare — the kind he doesn’t want to bring to life on film.

    Organic food and cloth diapering? I love fiction, don’t you? However I do sew … if you count the time I zip-tied the plastic head of her baby doll back onto its fabric body.

    Sadly, my dreams of being the next June, Betty or Donna were short-lived and being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t in the cards. While my employer is not climbing up my leg asking for fruit snacks and sorely in need of a tissue it is no less a displeasurable experience. (And if your employer is doing any of those things and they are not related to you; you need to file some sort of complaint.), being a working mom posses a whole new set of challenges.

    Sandy Leonard“Arrivals,” by Sandy Leonard

    When I was nine years old, I learned a lot about life.

    I learned about the birds and the bees when my mom took me to our local drug store and picked up a pregnancy test. Curled up on her lap in the kitchen of our yellow brick suburban Chicago home, she explained how the pee stick worked. The science and the secret of that stick made me love my soon to be little brother so intensely from that moment on.

    See, I was the first one in our family, even before my dad or my older sister, to know that she was pregnant.

    Many months later, the crib that had been waiting patiently came alive with receiving blankets and burp pads and cries in the night. My mom taught me how to change his diaper, carefully covering him with a diaper cloth so as not to get squirted. I learned how to hold him so that his wobbly head was safe and secure.

    A few days later, I awoke to animal howls, screams. This was not the sound of my baby brother. I ran to find my mother alone in her bed, my dad on a business trip, holding her head and writhing in pain.

    I learned how to spell cerebral aneurysm when I was nine years old.

    Jeannette Bezinque“Breast is Life,” by Jeannette Bezinque

    I need to get something off my chest. Well, not exactly. I need to talk about two very important features on my chest: my boobs. These little siphons of liquid gold are causing quite a storm these days. Not just mine, but everyone’s boobs. It’s taken me a long time to realize that boobs aren’t just for magazine covers.

    I hate the slogan, “Breast is Best.” Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding, but that phrase just doesn’t work for me. I don’t recall thinking that it was the best as an infant. It didn’t feel like it was the best when I was strapped to a pump suctioning every last drop for my newborn. It certainly wasn’t the best when I nursed through the pain of mastitis. Which, if you’ve never experience this, feels like someone is pulling a piece of barbed wire from your back all the way through your nipple. And now, even though breastfeeding really feels like it’s the best for my second baby and the best for me, I’m plagued with the guilt that it’s not the best for everyone. Breast isn’t best. Breast is life.

    Putting a boob into a baby’s mouth is a pretty weird concept to grasp if you’re not comfortable with the topic. It’s one of those things that feels natural, but doesn’t really seem natural since it’s usually done in secret. I myself do not alert the general public when I am breastfeeding my baby. I like to breastfeed in ways that don’t draw attention to the act. Which is becoming increasingly difficult as my baby gets bigger, louder, and more capable of pulling my nipple with her as she attempts to swan dive out of my arms.

    My early breastfeeding experiences were a ridiculous display of how to fumble with nipples. First of all, I didn’t have to take it so seriously. Each time, exactly three hours after the previous meal started, I sat down to nurse my baby in our special chair, with my special snack, and my special reusable water bottle. Now, I hardly even sit down to nurse my baby. If I do, I get to have a toddler crawl all over us.

    I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I spent deciding how to feed my first newborn in public. I debated wearing a blanket or pumping and giving her a bottle. I packed a cooler and all the handy breastfeeding supplies from the formula company into the diaper bag. I’m pretty sure that the kit of bottles made me forget that I had boobs. It’s hard being a mom at first! There I was, stressing and fumbling while my husband and I passed her back and forth over my boobs. I completely forgot how handy they were! The worst part is that I didn’t even realize how silly I was …

    Terry Heyman“Death’s Daughter,” by Terry Heyman

    My mother once told me that if you reach a certain age, you will most likely die by one of three ways: a stroke, a heart attack or cancer. I asked her which method of death she preferred. She drew on her cigarette and exhaled a jet stream of smoke. “Well,” she said, “dying by stroke and heart attack are relatively quick and painless, but at least with cancer you can arrange your affairs a bit before you go.” Then she gave me a look, the one that said, so what else do you want to know?

    When I was sixteen, my mother and I fought regularly, mostly about my less than acceptable grades. My mother was a physician who graduated medical school in 1958, one of only three women in a class of five hundred students. Grades were important.  And it was around this time that I had begun to refer to my mother as Death, behind her back of course. I thought it was an apt nickname for a New York City emergency room doctor who smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. I’d make up names for fictitious movies based on whatever my mother was doing and write them in sharp block letters in the margins of my notebooks: “Death Meets the Teachers,” “Death Lies Sleeping Upstairs,” “Death is a Bitch.”

    Twenty-three years later, when my mother-in-law Linda was diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer, I would need Death to teach me everything she knew about dying …

    The Wilmington show is on Sunday, May 12, 6 p.m., at World Cafe Live at the Queen.

    Do you have a story to tell — about your mom or about being a mom? Submit an essay about motherhood to Speak Easy, and we’ll consider it for publication. (With your permission, we’ll also pass it on to the folks at Listen to Your Mother. You can also contact them yourself.)

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