From the time I knew to wear a colored flower to church on Mother’s Day, through becoming a mother myself, to losing my mother and switching to a white flower, I have celebrated this day with my ever-growing family. It’s a good day. Meals out in a restaurant, breakfast in bed made by our young children, and family visits have always filled up my day and my heart with love.
What about mothers in fiction? Of course Mother’s Day did not always exist; it may have started in the late 1800’s. My novels set in the American Revolutionary War are long before this day. I got thinking about Lucy’s role as a mother and thought I’d lift a section out of The Loyalist’s Wife, the first book in my Loyalist trilogy. Perhaps this is why mothers have their own special day here in Canada and elsewhere.
Lucy is by herself in their cabin for months while John is off to fight for the British in the Revolutionary War. She is ten miles from their nearest neighbor and in the cold December night she starts to have contractions.
THE FIRST SHARDS OF DAYLIGHT were long past and the winter sun lit the farmyard outside. The rooster had long since crowed and the chickens scratched fruitlessly in the dirt of the barn floor. The oxen stood by their empty manger and watched a tiny mouse flit back and forth, all of them following the call within. They were hungry.
Lucy had no thought for them, nor was she hungry. Her work was before her and her body knew its job, rhythmically pushing, relaxing, pushing, pushing, relaxing, and again pushing the baby along its way. She worked when necessary and rested for scant seconds between the contractions.
Soon she had no time to rest and the pain rose and rose and rose and never stopped, taking Lucy with it, up and over the mountain, searing her whole body with need. Need to be done, to birth this baby, to win this war, right here, right now.
The screams became endless grunts and groans. Her eyes felt like they might pop out of her head and her sweat smelled sweet and musty. She fell back, spent. Her eyes closed. Relief. Blood seeped back into her brain. “Baby…” She struggled up on her elbows to look. “My wee child.” She saw the still, bluish object between her legs and struggled to reach it. She hardly knew what
she was doing as she stuck her finger in the mouth and pulled out wet slime. She held the baby by its feet and slapped its backside. And waited, terrified, sobbing. “Oh, baby, my baby. Breathe. Breathe.” There was nothing. She jerked the baby to her bosom and held on tight, squashing it to her, crying and crying.
And then she wasn’t crying alone. She heard the sweet howl at the same time as she felt the baby’s chest move against hers.“You’re alive.Oh, honey, you’re alive.” She lay back down and rocked the newborn against her. What would John say when he knew he had a… son or daughter? She held the baby away from her and laughed. They had a son. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t even noticed before, or thought to look.
Now pictures flooded her mind, of John and their baby, of John and their little boy, of herself teaching him his letters, of John teaching him to ride, to shoot, to hunt, to do everything. Their whole future was spread out before her in her mind’s eye and her smile came unbidden as she lay the wee babe down.
The cord pulsed big and blue out of her child’s belly. As the blood flow slowed and stopped she knew she must cut the cord. The knife lay beside her, ready. She had to slice through the line connecting her and her son. Her hand was wet with sweat. She reached for the knife.
And dropped it. She began to cry. The baby wailed with her. She took a deep breath, looped the slimy cord over her hand, and sliced it through. Through her tears she saw that her boy was safe, his color was good and his lips moved. He was hungry. She gave him her breast. He seemed to know just what to do with it.
-from The Loyalist’s Wife by Elaine Cougler.
This Mother’s Day give a moment to thinking of all the mothers you know and to the fathers, too, who find that selfless part of themselves and willingly submit to it for their children.
I’ve heard it said by many a writer that writing a book is like birthing a baby so add writers to your positive and thankful thoughts. Happy Mother’s Day!
Two Precious Mothers with Their Precious Kids