Motherhood & Words

Maybe it is the weather, which is hot and humid, so much like the weather six years ago when she was born. Maybe it is because I am thick in the revision now, typing as fast as I can, absorbed in the narrative of our own lives. Or maybe I will always do this on Stella’s birthday, see the then and now, check the clock throughout the day and remember, yes, this is when the incident with the rice sock happened, this when her oxygen began to dip, this when the nurse handed me a plastic mask to place over my face, when the doctor said I needed a C-section. Later tonight, after I have tucked my big girl into bed, I will look at the clock and remember the minute the doctor pulled her from me, the way I vomited after she was safely out of my toxic body. I will remember the nurse, a man, who held the lima bean bowl to my chin. I will remember D at my side and then gone, following the isolette to the Special Care Nursery. In the following days I will also remember the other parts, the room spinning with mag sulfate still thick in my veins. I will remember the call from Special Care, the respiratory distress. I will remember that first time I was wheeled into the NICU.

And after I am done remembering (for now, at least), I will turn to my big girl with her long shiny hair, the girl who said to me on Friday: “Mom, do you know what the best thing in the whole world is?” And I said, “What?” And she said, smiling her toothless smile, “Kindergarten.”

I will turn to her and listen to her stories, the stories she narrates, and nod my head and smile, even when I can tell she is exaggerating. I will hold open my arms and tell her I’m sorry when I snap, and I will ask her whether she knows how much I love her. I will smile into her hair, when she obliges me, still, her arms stretched wide: “Sooooo much.”

Happy birthday, Stella. I love you.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Elizabeth on September 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    So beautiful — who knew motherhood would be so fraught with joy and sorry, right? Happy Birthday to your Stella.

  2. Leightongirl on September 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Oh yes, a very happy day!

  3. Melissa on September 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Happy birthday to you both.

  4. Sara on September 13, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Happy birthday. Powerful memories, but such a strong sense of wonder in the now, too.

  5. Mary on September 13, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Beautiful Kate, just beautiful. Sounds like your memories are augmented by the weather and the revision, but I imagine that those memories will always be powerful, and that you will always be in awe of how it all turned out. Happy Birthday to you both!!

  6. cath c on September 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

    you so beautifully expressed what is really going through our minds when we recount the hours of labor, etc in a humorous way. i think we do so just to keep from turning into a pile of mush about the day we become mothers.

    happy birthday, stella!

  7. Mummy mania on September 14, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Beautifully written. She's a lucky girl too…. momentous moments that last forever…

  8. kate hopper on September 14, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you, ladies. We had a wonderful day together. And when she was tucked into bed, I crashed, as well.

  9. Ines on September 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Congratulations, Kate. What a milestone. And, isn't it true? I mean, the exaggerated stories and all. My sense of wonder is also exaggerated when I hear my own 6 year old daughter tell these kinds of stories too. Have a wonderful day!

  10. Toby's Mom on September 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Beautiful post, Kate. And, happy birthday, Stella!

  11. The Blue Suitcase on September 16, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Thank you, Kate, for the inspiration. I love your writing. And I love your mothering, and your precious family.

  12. Kelly on September 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    beautiful post. happy birthday to stella. interestingly enough, my girls 6th birthday was originally scheduled for sept 27…another two weeks away…yet it was july 29. you and i share a very similar beginning to our little girls' lives. 🙂

  13. Scheherazade's Den on September 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    i only just started reading your blog, and this had me almost to tears while at work in the library…my boy is only a wee 11 months and even at this age I understand the lightening speed of it all. someone put it best for me by saying it is like one long sleepless night since they were born. i too remember being wheeled out of the delivery room feeling like i had been on a battlefield, gazing at my bounty which lay beside me in his portable cot all wrapped up, little eyes alert and open.
    my heart feels like an overstuffed toy since becoming a mum, so much love spilling out.
    thank you for writing this beautiful post.
    (by the way i have just started my own blog for new writers, i haven't started writing too much about my motherhood experience just yet but I will.

  14. American_in_Cairo on September 19, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Kate, it's so interesting to be a re-reader of these memories as well, to remember that lima bean bowl and the rice bag, and to feel as if, even though these weren't my experiences, I am laying down these memories again with you as well, sorting them out, examining them.
    I hope your revision is going well!

  15. American_in_Cairo on September 19, 2009 at 8:06 am

    P.S. Of course I meant "sock." Golly.

  16. evf on September 19, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for that. I can see and feel from where you sit to write about your girl. Birthdays are wonderful.

  17. Andria on September 22, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Happy birthday, beautiful and mighty Stella!

  18. Scheherazade's Den on November 2, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Hi Kate and mamas,

    I loved this post as I mentioned before. Like you I became very reflective nearing the first birthday of my first child…so much so I wrote a blog entry here if anyone's interested in reading called Birthing and Beyond. I wanted to write a bit about how giving birth is so much more than the physical act…

    Thanks for reading,