Motherhood and Intended Purposes

Welcome to Moms’ Month on Dr. Stephanie! This month I will be featuring guest posts from some awesome moms around the country.  They will be sharing tips, tricks, and funny stories about motherhood.  This will be a fun celebration – thanks for joining us!  Today’s author is Pam Mellskog.  Welcome, Pam!

Pam Mellskog is a mom of three boys ages 6, 4, and 2.  She is also a reporter for the Longmont Times-Call newspaper in Colorado.  In addition, Pam writes the blog Mommy Musings. Editor’s note: Her blog is a great read and has some darling pictures of her kids! Check it out!
After I interviewed a local couple for an upcoming article to run on the Longmont Times-Call’s wedding anniversary and engagement page this Saturday, the man invited me into his workshop to look at a black box originally made to be a baby coffin.
This 79-year-old man collected all sorts of antiques – glass milk jars from defunct local dairies, oxen harness fittings, cracked wooden toys, rusty tools and so much more.
Probably a thousand or even 2,000 items filled his workshop and three white-washed semi-trailers parked in a row beside it.
Some objects, such as the crank-driven device with miniature push-broom brushes that fit over a large barrel, were so old and so obsolete that neither of us really knew the object’s intended purpose.
As it turned out, the father who built the baby coffin understood better than us how much times can change.
The man I interviewed on Monday night with his wife of 57 years said that he bought the baby coffin at an estate sale from an elderly man living in rural Nebraska with his elderly wife.
After the birth of one of their children, the then-young Nebraska couple followed the doctor’s orders to prepare for their baby’s impending death.
So, while the bereaved mother tended to the sick child as best as she could, the bereaved father built the coffin – a small, black box with brass studs on the seams long since tarnished to a color as dark as the old paint.
When we lifted the lid, we could see that this father also painted the interior a deep red. Under the lid, he used more black paint to stencil a stylized stork carrying off a sack.
But instead of placing his child in that box shortly after the paint dried, the man built a tray with compartments to fit snugly in it. And for the next many decades, he used the box for tools before emptying it and selling it to the man I interviewed with his wife early this week.
The baby lived.
In the last 24 hours since I touched the baby-coffin-turned-tool-box, I’ve thought more about my third child – a son with special needs related to Down Syndrome.
Once upon a time, society would have doomed Ray, now 2, and put him in some sort of dark box.
Doctors fewer than 50 years ago told parents to institutionalize these babies shortly after their birth and to never think about them again.
But like that old baby coffin, such a child comes with a very different intended purpose –  a life that includes tremendous potential for productivity and belonging and value.
Today, after another long week with my husband being gone on a business trip in the Middle East, I feel so far from being the parenting magazine mom – that woman who plans craft activities a week in advance, wears colorful,  fresh-pressed clothes and never seems to frown or yell or complain.
Trying to work even just 10 hours as a reporter on deadline while taking care of my three boys – ages 2, 4 and 6 – seems foolhardy!
Yet, my job gave back to my family and me this week.
Now, thanks to that interviewee showing me around his place, I have another vivid image of what my intended purpose is and what it is not.

One thought on “Motherhood and Intended Purposes

  1. Karyn says:

    The image of an empty child’s coffin is so strong. So glad your child will not be placed into the coffin of institutionalization!

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