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Reflections on a Quarantine Mother's Day

Shari Bender


Mother’s Day 1997 fell on May 11th. I was due with my first baby, a girl, on May 7th. So exciting to be ready for my first Mother’s Day just in time, right?

Wrong.

May 7th came and went. How could this be? I was confused. That was my due date. I'd gained close to 60 pounds on my 110-pound frame. This baby was cooked.

May 8th. Nothing.

May 9th. Nothing.

Mama was getting impatient. Mother’s Day was around the corner and I was READY. I tried all the old wives’ tales to encourage labor: dance moves, spicy food, you name it. Nada.

Monday May 12th, a call to my OB/GYN. New plan: induce on May 15th. Induce? That sounded scary and unnatural. But clearly, I needed a little help.

Pink pedicure in place; plastic orange hospital sandals and matching terry cloth robe — packed.

Rose was born eight days after her due date, weighing in at 8 pounds, 1 ounce and (unbiased of course) the most beautiful baby in the world.

I have been blessed to enjoy 21 amazing Mother’s Days. Time with my kids, homemade cards, hugs, Mother’s Day mani pedis, special dinners, breakfasts in bed — the days have been special, and every year includes something that makes a mother’s heart sing.

The COVID-19 crisis is a part of the Mother’s Day landscape this year, and it feels so very different.

My firstborn, Rose, started her post-graduate career in Seattle, Washington, 3,000 miles away from home. She got a job straight out of college at IHME, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. When she first accepted the job, I was skeptical about her moving across the country to work on global health data and analysis — clearly “other people’s (countries') problem.”

Six months after starting her job, IHME was catapulted into the spotlight as the White House coronavirus go-to model. My daughter’s once obscure profession had hit the national news.

As I watch her boss field questions on the nightly newscast, I try and interpret what that means for me flying to see my daughter anytime soon. Rose and I stay connected through weekly FaceTime calls and daily texts and snaps. But I miss my sweetpea, and I worry about her. Separation is hard, especially in such uncertain times.

I am lucky that my mom, who's in her 70s, lives in the same town as I do, but I haven’t hugged her since the beginning of March when she was exposed to COVID-19 at her weekly bridge game. Through the grace of God, she is okay, and we talk every day and social distance twice a week when I deliver meals and groceries. We end our visits with parallel self-hugs, carefully adhering to the 6-foot span between us. Her petite 4-foot 10-inch frame gives the biggest hugs, and I miss them.

My youngest, Joe, was supposed to have been at school studying for final exams on Mother’s Day weekend. My original plan was an overnight road trip with my mom — we'd take the 5-hour drive for a holiday dinner with my college freshman. Joe has been home since early March when his school, like almost every college in the country, transitioned to online learning.

I'm grateful to have my son back under my roof, but it is a strange dynamic with our empty nest full again. He left a child, returned an adult. I find myself bringing him water with lemon as his online study session extends into hour 3. I peek my head in and ask if he’d like some goldfish crackers as well. I baby him a bit, but it provides us both with a level of comfort during this crazy time.

With my work-at-home schedule, my quaranteen has also become my office mate. And with our social calendars all but bare, my son and I have emerged as quarantine besties. We walk through the neighborhood, take online fitness classes together and have a blast filming TikToks. We lament the disappearance of what was but are grateful for what we have — each other.

Stay-at-home orders in New York extend through Mother’s Day. It sounds cliché, but this year all I want is for my family to be healthy. Well, maybe also those hoop earrings with my name inside that Facebook ads show me every day.

I ordered cupcakes to be delivered the day before Mother’s Day, hoping that a sweet indulgence will help brighten the weekend. And I have box hair dye that my husband said he would help me apply. I might even wear a pretty outfit on Mother’s Day instead of my usual quarantine sweats attire.

As much as COVID-19 has uprooted life as we know it, we Moms are strong. From my family to yours, wishing us all grateful reflection this Mother’s Day and hope for all the wonderful Mother’s Days ahead.The writer and her children when they were babies and now as young adults.

 

Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University in 1992 and currently works as Communication and Marketing Director for a large electrical firm on Long Island. Shari is a cat-loving spiritual vegan who is embracing her empty-nesting along with her husband of 27 years. Her musings delight parents on multiple online platforms, including Grown & Flown and CollegiateParent.
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Marla Johnston
Marla Johnston
4 months ago

Happy Mother's Day! Love this story.

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