Mother o’ Mine

Issue No. 11 | May 6, 2022

Friends, Americans, Countrymen:

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. We know it’s easy to be cynical about the moneymaking opportunity this holiday represents (“it was invented by greeting card companies, maaan!”), as we too were once college freshman. But surely a yearly reminder to honor the woman who gave us life does more good than harm, no matter how crassly some may commercialize it. 


We must also resist a more insidious cynicism about motherhood itself. The demotion of mothers to “birthing persons” is only its most recent manifestation. Perhaps we should blame Freud, who taught us to pardon our own failings by locating their cause in whatever mom did or didn’t do. This tendency is everywhere in our culture, and has produced much bad art.


Let’s not dwell on that. Instead, let’s celebrate the often barely perceptible (because so ubiquitous) unconditional love that most of us have been blessed to receive. These verses by Rudyard Kipling will do nicely:


Mother o’ Mine

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!


If you’ve forgotten to send your mother flowers this year, it’s not implausible that you could find a service to do it for you at this late date – life in 2022 is nothing if not convenient. Consider the cost, though – both to you and to the kind of world you’d like to inhabit. 


Only about 22% of the flowers bought in the United States (whether online or in stores) are grown in this country. One way to ensure you’re supporting local growers is to look for the Certified American Grown label.  


Certified American Grown is an independent trade association representing flower, foliage, and potted plant farmers in the United States.  Their website lists member farms across the nation, as well as offering tickets to their popular Field to Vase dinner series.


When planning for a home birth, it’s important to consider–


What’s that you say? You’ve decided on a hospital birth? Not expecting children anytime soon? Not even married yet? Good for you. Would you like to explain that to the lady whose water just broke in the produce section?


Every day newborns make surprise entrances in parking lots, amusement parks, taxis, building lobbies, and fast food bathrooms. Often with the help of the nearest stranger. Could this be you one day? Here’s a handy how-to to keep you from losing your head if pressed into service. If you’ve never witnessed a live birth, you may wish to steel yourself in advance with an intimate look at the process.  


It is often our mother who introduces us to the pleasure of stories; this was the case for the great children’s book writer Roald Dahl. A Norwegian immigrant to Wales, Sofie Magdalene Dahl entertained her only boy (he had four sisters) with tales from Norse mythology as well as incisive observations of neighborhood intrigue. Widowed when Roald was just three, she single-handedly raised her children without complaint or fuss, imparting to them the empathetic yet wholly unsentimental understanding of childhood that is everywhere evident her son’s books. 


When Dahl stumbled upon writing after trying several other occupations, he had already spent years honing his craft for a discerning and receptive audience of one. From the time he was sent away to boarding school at age nine, Dahl wrote his mother some 600 letters over a 40-year span. The best of these are collected in “Love from Boy: Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother.” They are a vivid record of Dahl’s eventful life – which besides literary celebrity included a stint in Africa working for Shell Oil and a near-fatal plane crash as a Royal Air Force fighter pilot – as well as a fascinating portrait of a unique mother-son bond. 


“No uterus, no opinion” must rank as one of the least convincing political slogans of all time. It should be clear that men have a stake in birth (a surprising percentage of men started life as babies), just as they have a share in conception. 


Of course, the tradition of women helping women give birth is ancient and venerable. And yet midwifery today is often presented in opposition to (male-dominated) obstetrics and gynecology, a return to a wiser way of doing things. But childbirth, while natural, is dangerous; and we wouldn’t want to do without the progress that dedicated men have made in drastically reducing maternal and infant mortality. 


One such man is Dr. Edward H. Hon. Trained in radio technology in his native Australia, he moved to America to begin medical studies after World War II. After graduating, he accepted a position in Yale’s Obstetrics and Gynecology program. It was here that Hon drew upon his electronics background to address a persistent problem in delivery rooms. As a 1969 “Life Magazine” feature on Hon put it: “The fetus must struggle to survive the strains and pressures being put upon it. For years attending doctors have had no reliable way – nothing better than a stethoscope – to tell precisely when the fetus was in trouble. Consequently, some five to seven infants per thousand die unexpectedly each year.”


The fetal heart monitor Hon developed has prevented the deaths of innumerable babies; we gratefully count our second child among them. Happy Mother’s Day to our wife, and to all mothers everywhere. 

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