As my daughter, Jill, approaches delivery of her first child, we have had many conversations that have brought back many memories. Tonight we were talking about hospital stays and what she might need to take and what it would be like. So much has changed since I had my first baby 38 years ago. One thing she mentioned is that all new mothers have a private room now. I always had a roommate. Another new mother, a stranger to me, separated by a curtain. Sometimes it was nice to have someone to chat with; other times I nearly went crazy hearing only half of hours of phone conversations.
My favorite memory of being a new mother with a roommate was with my second son (1980). I had been induced and had a fairly easy birth (relatively speaking, of course). He was notorious even before he was born. I remember the nurse shouting out to the other nurses when she checked me, “He’s got white hair!” My Tim had a full head of white-blonde hair. He was beautiful.
My roommate was about 10 years older than I was and was from the Philippines. I was fortunate to have the bed by the window. She was very sweet and quiet as I recall. Early in the morning the day after our deliveries, she peeked around the curtain. She held her baby with his full head of black hair. She said timidly, “Excuse me, may I borrow morning sunshine?” I wasn’t sure how to reply, but welcomed her to the window. She explained that in the Philippines, it was customary to bring babies into the morning sunshine to prevent jaundice. I had never heard of that before, but it made me happy that I got to learn about her ways.
Again very early the next morning, she asked, “Excuse me, may I borrow morning sunshine?” I smiled. I felt differently about sunshine in the morning. I felt differently about mothering. It was my first time sharing motherhood with someone from another country. I knew she had taught me something important–even though I couldn’t put it into words. Even now, I’m struggling to express why that memory is so dear to me nearly 35 years later. I think perhaps it is just the simple act of love. The mother doing her best for her baby in the ways that she learned from her mother.
As I told Jill the story of “May I borrow morning sunshine?” we felt close. A simple act of love. Perhaps she will bring Maggie into morning sunshine and remember.