In Louisiana on Sunday, at my aunt's bayou-side home, we celebrated my Maw-Maw's 80th birthday with two kinds of gumbo (shrimp and okra, chicken and sausage), potato salad, and a big white cake with pink flowers of icing. In attendance were all 6 of her children, 7 out of 10 grand-children, 4 out of 5 greats. The sixth one--now about the size of a sweet potato--elicited plenty of cooing and conversation. Even I'm growing more and more charmed at my stomach, whose bulge will not be restrained by spandex.
Since my mom has four sisters, family gatherings often consist of the women chatting in the dining room while the men watch the Saints on TV. Over birthday cake and iced tea, as I asked and they answered, I entered the sisterhood of Mothers. Alicia, my younger cousin, wishes someone would have told her how painful the recovery of childbirth is. My Aunt Sandy gained only 19 pounds in her first pregnancy. My cousin-in-law celebrated the epidural as joyfully as the birth, whereas my mother chose my dad over the anesthesiologist (the doc said only one other person could be in the room with her).
But perhaps most shocking of all is Maw-Maw, who delivered all six of her children without any epidurals. "When it was time to push, they gave me ether," she told me, "which numbs the pain for only a second." When her first grand-child arrived, Maw-Maw was only 40, still raising her own small kids. "But now I have all the time in the world," she smiled, "for my great-grand-children."