Jennifer's Story

Tell Me More editor Jennifer Longmire comments on her birthday, Mother's Day, and how both have a very special meaning for her family — her mother was widowed shortly before Jennifer was born.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

We've talked about Mother's Day a couple of times this week. It's this Sunday, of course. And maybe I'm throwing out a few shameless reminders for the husbands. But we talked this week about the way in which this holiday may be more difficult for some people than others. But when one of our staff members, assistant editor Jennifer Longmire, told us why this week may be particularly special for her family, we had to share that too.

JENNIFER LONGMIRE: This is a big week for my family. My birthday is on May 6, a week before Mother's Day. I often joked with my mother, hey, you know, I'm the reason for the celebration. She laughed, too, but there's a tinge of sadness in her laugh. For my mom, the year that she became a mother was also the year that she became a widow.

My father died when she was five months pregnant. She didn't grieve like she wanted to or you would think that she would. Her pregnancy was already high risk. So she buried him, moved back home with her parents and prepared for me to be born. In May, after a night of stomach pains that she mistook for gas, she went to the hospital. Surprise, mom was in labor two months before her due date.

MARTIN: two pounds, 15 ounces, very red and oh so very bald. She saw me for a quick minute and then I was taken off to intensive care. I developed complications that baffled her doctors. A set of twins from another family who had also been born the same time that I was and that weren't premature had the same complications. The doctors operated on one twin, who died.

My doctor told my mother if they operated on me, there may be a chance that I might not survive. My mother prayed, said no to the surgery and the doctors actually came up with another treatment which worked just fine. I tell her, well Mom, I was only two pounds. I think I have made up for it, and she usually laughs again.

After one day in bed, she was at my side just watching me through the incubator. She went every single day, rain or shine. She remembered being able to touch me, and when she did, I grabbed her fingers as if to say, hey, I'll be all right. I grab her finger to this day, but now I'm usually trying to lead her across the street.

I try to imagine what it was like for her, a young widow whose plans for a family and which she thought her life was going to be like it were drastically altered. I think about the fear and the grief and the loneliness that she felt. Her thoughts were on me and not herself, and praying that I, too, would survive and that she wouldn't have to go through losing me, too. And my mother is a strong woman, something she didn't know if she could really handle.

I left that hospital in July, you know, two months after I was born, a healthy five pounds and still very bald. Mom brought me home in this pink dressing gown, she recalls, that was so long that it just draped across the floor. But I was home and I was surrounded by her love and my family's love.

Now, obviously, I don't remember any of this. It started coming out bit-by-bit when I turned 13. I'm not sure whether she was waiting for me to be ready or for her to be ready to tell me. One year I did ask her, you know, Mom, did you ever get a chance to grieve? After all that was going on, fid you grieve?

She did, she said, but only after I was released from the hospital, like she gave herself permission to do it at that time. And then she went to my father's gravesite. For a while, she said, just awhile, until she felt that she was strong enough to let him go. It was okay.

And she realized that we would be okay. And we had each other. So every birthday and Mother's Day - remember, I'm still the reason for the celebration - we celebrate our shared love of books and home decorations, which she is awesome at, and shopping and plants and the color green.

Mostly, we give thanks, though. She gives thanks for the woman that I have become and she remembers how close every year that I came to not being here. And I give thanks for her because not only for what she went through, but how she's been there for me. I mean, throughout my whole life. She's my best friend. I love her, love her, love her. Happy Mother's Day.

MARTIN: TELL ME MORE editor Jennifer Longmire on a very special Mother's Day.

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