82: Susie’s Babies

82: Susie’s Babies

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Susie’s Babies

One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.

~George Herbert

“Tonight, after your brother is asleep, you girls can come to my room. We’re going to do something special.” My sister and I were seven and nine when my mother whispered those words to us after supper one night. We were excited. My five-year-old brother wouldn’t be included in whatever was going to happen. Mom’s whisper indicated it was something very interesting indeed.

When my mother was sure my little brother was asleep, she poked her head into our room where we were waiting in anticipation and gestured it was time to come down to her bedroom. She invited us to jump onto her bed, and when we were sitting snugly tucked in on either side of her, she took out a book called Susie’s Babies. There was a hamster on the front cover. She told us she would be reading us one chapter of the book every night, and we could stop her anytime to ask questions.

Susie’s Babies is the story of an elementary-school class that has a pregnant pet hamster. The students in the story follow Susie the hamster through each day of her pregnancy and observe her nurturing her baby hamsters. My mother used the book as a springboard for talking to us frankly about sex. She told us exactly what would happen when we got our periods and showed us the supplies we would need.

After my mother finished reading Susie’s Babies, she told us she was pregnant. In six months, we would have a new brother or sister. Throughout her pregnancy, Mom let us continue to ask questions and explained the changes that were taking place as our new sibling grew inside her. She talked to us about what would happen when the baby was born. The birth of my younger brother was such an important and meaningful event in our lives because Mom had shared the experience of her pregnancy with my sister and me.

I was on a vacation at my cousins’ farm without my parents when I got my period for the first time. I was only ten years old, and if it hadn’t been for the fact my mother had read me Susie’s Babies and talked to me so openly and honestly about becoming a woman, I would have been terrified. Thanks to Mom, I knew what was happening and had the courage to ask my older cousin to help me.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have a mother who thought it was important to impart the “facts of life” in such a positive and honest way. I found out later that many of my friends had been left completely in the dark about the physical changes they would experience when they reached adolescence and had no idea how women got pregnant. This lack of information left them fearful and uninformed about sex, a reality that sometimes led to disastrous consequences. We lived in a small, very religiously conservative community, so there was no sex education in the schools.

When my mother was in her eighties, she told me that her own mother had never given her any information about sex. Consequently, her wedding night had been a shocking experience, and she had been anxious and scared when she became pregnant for the first time. Mom wanted things to be different for her own daughters. Thanks to her, they were.

~MaryLou Driedger

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