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WHY MOMS NEED THEIR MOMMIES, TOO.

Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/10/08

 

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/lifestyle/columnists.nsf/dirtylaundry/story/80F13D7E186A315E862574410072FD51?OpenDocument

Why moms need their mommies, too

By Aisha Sultan

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

05/10/2008

 

My pregnant mother lapsed in and out of consciousness in the passenger seat next to me. I was 15 and could barely handle the family minivan as I drove her to the hospital. I was sure we would crash.

My mom could barely breathe. She was in her third trimester, carrying her sixth child, when she was hit by a merciless asthma attack. I could hear her gasping for each raspy breath, and I would count the seconds when she stopped breathing. Miraculously, we made it to the hospital, where doctors treated her partly collapsed lung.

Months later, she gave birth to my youngest sibling: the baby boy doctors had advised her to abort when she had gotten pregnant at age 40.

She had come to this country from Pakistan, a young bride, 23 years old, with a husband her parents had chosen for her. They talked for the first time on their wedding day after the ceremony and reception. She knew she would be leaving her entire family and way of life to move to America a few months later.



"I was scared," she remembers.

As she adjusted to a new country, its customs and language, she focused her energy on keeping the house in order, her family well fed and children in line. She is our moral compass. My mother has spent hours in prayer for her children and tells us that a mother's prayers are heard directly by God.

We didn't have much in common growing up. She was very much a product of the culture in which she was raised — not unlike her own mother: conservative, religious and traditional. She sewed beautiful traditional outfits for us when we were young, and every day, when we got home from school, a hot, home-cooked meal was waiting for us.

If staying at home with six children weren't trying enough, she refused to hire baby-sitters. She didn't really believe in baby-sitters, even though she had opened the doors of our home to moms needing child care for their babies. She would laugh at the irony of her home overrun with children. In Pakistan, when she was studying social work in college, she would visit poor women and tell them not to have so many children.

But becoming a mother and raising children in this country have Americanized some of her Pakistani ways. No woman in her family ever left her parents' home until she got married. But my mom was there to drop me off at college. She cried for a week every time she passed my empty room.

Initially, she tried to take an active role in choosing my spouse, but once she realized it wouldn't work, she relented. Still, regardless of which city I lived in, she always showed up to meet any prospective suitor who might be marriage material. She cried at my wedding and stood beside me during each of my labors. During those crazy early weeks of motherhood when I was a hormonal mess, she stayed with us, making homemade soup and forcing me to eat.

After an extended maternity leave, I had serious doubts about returning to work. I called my mother, fully expecting she would agree. Instead, this woman who has spent most of her life devoted to raising children, told me to go back to work.

"Your children will be fine," she said. All four of her daughters work — a writer, an attorney, a real estate agent and an airline reservationist. She has a son in college, and her youngest son, who was born so perilously, is graduating from high school this year. She's now a grandmother of six.

I want her to stay young and beautiful. When I was growing up, young men had crushes on her. Even now, at the age of 58, she is stunning. I tell her to wear sunscreen and get facial peels, for which she never has the extra time or money.

She came from her home in Houston for a short visit last month. I introduced her to a group of my friends, and one of them said to her, "Your daughter is a Superwoman," referring to the many projects I'm typically juggling at one time. It felt odd to hear. That's the word I've always used to describe my mom.

On her recent visit, she spent an entire day cooking my favorite Pakistani dish. She spent hours altering one of my new outfits. And, she came to a charity event I organized and dropped money in the donation box.

I've frequently told my children: "No one loves you like your mom." Long pause. "And your dad."

That's something she's never had to tell me.

asultan@post-dispatch.com | 314-340-8300   

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