72: The Magic Formula

72: The Magic Formula

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

The Magic Formula

There’s nothing more vital to the bond you share with someone than simply being there for them.

~Suman Rai

I couldn’t help her! My daughter was in the hospital, deep in the throes of labor with her first child, and there were complications. Her doctor was willing to let her labor progress a little longer, but there was a good chance they’d have to do a C-section. The doctor said the decision was hers — whether to wait it out or go into surgery immediately.

There was nothing I could say to help her because I’d never given birth.

My daughter was part of the package when I married her widowed father when she was twelve years old. I had never been a mother when this almost teenager dropped into my life. She didn’t come with an instruction manual either. So what did I know about having a baby?

Now, nothing was going as planned. Bonnie had wanted to use a midwife and have her baby at a birthing center. But here she was, at the hospital, in labor and not dilating, plus she had developed a fever. She needed to make a tough decision. Should she labor a little longer or have the C-section?

I could see all her fears play across her face. And I had nothing to offer her.

My husband and I stepped out of the room to allow my daughter and son-in-law a chance to talk privately. As we were leaving, I leaned over to her and said, “Trust your gut. You’ll make the right decision.” That was all of the motherly advice I had.

As we waited in the hallway, I felt like a mother in one way, because I didn’t want to see my daughter hurting, anxious and afraid. On the other hand, I was helpless. I didn’t know what it was like to be in labor and face the decision she was about to make. How could I support her when I had no idea what she was going through?

Some mother I was! Failing my daughter at the most critical moment of her life.

No one trains to be a parent. It’s a learn-as-you-go position. There were many times when I was clueless and leaned on my husband to deal with an issue. There was no magic formula. Many times, I went by instinct alone.

That was what I encouraged Bonnie to do now, to trust her gut. But was that enough?

Finally, our son-in-law called us back into the room.

“I’m going to have the C-section.” Bonnie announced. “I know my body, and with this fever, things are going to continue to spiral downward.”

I grabbed her hand and nodded.

“It’s time to get this baby out,” she said, with more confidence than she probably felt.

My gut instinct said this was the right decision. Despite her own fear, I think Bonnie felt that, too. She was learning to trust her own instincts.

The doctor confirmed that she made the right decision. This baby wasn’t going to come naturally.

Although nothing went according to their plans, a healthy baby girl was born, and Bonnie came through her first surgery with flying colors.

In the months that followed, my daughter adjusted to her role as a mom and I adjusted to mine as “Grammy.” There wasn’t much advice I could give her about raising an infant, so I could only show up when she needed me.

It still bothered me that I didn’t have any sage advice and perfect words of wisdom for her, especially at the hospital. When I mentioned this to her, she had a quick answer. “Mom, everyone has told me what I should do, how I should eat, how to prepare and care for this baby.”

I felt all the weight of my inadequacies, because I had told her nothing.

Then my daughter’s next words broke through. “Because you didn’t tell me what to do or how to do it, it was so much easier to be around you. You were my safe zone.”

Safe zone? Me? Her words stunned me.

What I perceived as my weakness, my daughter perceived as strength, or at least, safety. What more could a mom want than to be the safe place for her daughter!

She confirmed this on her first Mother’s Day, when she posted a note to me via social media:

As I celebrate my first Mother’s Day as a mama, I want to wish the happiest of days to my awesome mom! You have set the bar so high over the years we’ve been mother and daughter; I hope I can give my daughter the grace, love, support and joy that you’ve given me every day since you said yes to being my mom. I love you!

Tears sprang to my eyes as I read her words. She loved and accepted me as a mom, just as I was.

There isn’t a magic formula to motherhood, whether you’re a parent by birth or marriage or adoption. I only needed to be there for her and support her.

Bonnie and I now choose to take our journey further, expanding beyond our mother and daughter roles. This time, I’m privileged to be Grammy to my sweet granddaughter and a safe haven for my daughter. We’re on this new road together, believing in each other, learning, and trusting our instincts. And knowing that we love each other. That’s our magic formula.

~Rebecca Yauger

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