Mother’s Day

Mother's Day Gift

This was my first Mother’s Day in more than three decades with just one woman to celebrate. My mother is 81 and we’re blessed to have her with us-still feisty and still quick to tell me or my sisters “I may not have gone to Wellesley but I know this! (Whatever “this” happens to be at any moment in time.) But for the past 36 years Mother’s Day has been much more intense. Longevity runs on both sides of our family; long before I became a mother, I had my mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law and my grandmother-in-law, often in different cities, to consider and plan for and celebrate in ways unique to each of them. (And no, amazing intellect notwithstanding, CMadison never had any helpful ideas on this score!) But as a black woman with three sons, Mother’s Day is even more intense now-and the first step of that deeper significance happened 32 years ago.

On May 9th, the Friday before Mother’s Day in 1980, our twins, Charles Madison Penn Nabrit (born 1st and named after his Dad) and Damon Princeton Penn Nabrit (named after a Baptist minister who befriended my Dad when he came to Columbus to study at OSU after WWII) were born. We’d suffered two miscarriages before their birth, almost 6 months of strict bed rest during their gestation and over 11 hours of labor before the decision was made to perform an emergency C-section with the hopes of saving at least one of them. They made their arrival healthy and vibrant and practically perfect in every way. We suffered two more miscarriages and then in 1982 Evan Washington Clarke Nabrit (named for both grandfathers) arrived-also by C-section and also practically perfect in every way!

So, now that our sons are adults what you may ask is, “What’s up with the Mommy musings?” Well, in light of the Trayvon Martin murder, the question of Ann Romney’s work history and the titillating cover of the nursing toddler on last week’s Times Magazine, I just felt “led” to say something(s). And yes, I definitely see a connection.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. Hebrews 11:23. Trayvon’s parents, like all of us who have brought black male children into this world, understand this Scripture in a very particular way.  CMadison and I relied upon it in 1991 when we decided to start homeschooling Charles, Damon and Evan, even though we’d never met any other homeschoolers and even though several folks explained what a bad idea it was. After all, who did we think we were to shield our sons from institutionalized racism?!  Yeah-and the craziest part? Nobody black argued about the reality of institutionalized racism-just the idea of us removing our sons from it.

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Hebrews 11:24. Trayvon’s parents, like so many parents of so many black boys, black teenagers and black young men were robbed of the blessing and the pleasure of watching him “come to years.”  C and I are aware of the blessing and thankful for the opportunity to see each of our once fat baby boys become toddlers, then big boys, then (funky) teenagers and now delightful and pensive and loving young men. (I’m also thankful I resisted the urge to kill’ em and make it look like an accident. Adolescence can be ugly and homeschooling removes all escape!)  But we’re especially thankful and awed that even after attending places like Princeton and Amherst, Charles, Damon and Evan have grown into black men not just well educated, but sure of their own identity and connection and responsibility to community. And no, that is never a foregone conclusion.

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. Hebrews 11:25-28.

When I see our sons and my brother David and his wife Sonjia’s four sons on a Sunday, when I see these seven young brothers, 5th generation Pentecostals, driving the church van, feeding the hungry, ushering during service, gathered at their grandparents’ dinner table every Sunday afternoon-acknowledging not just who but Whose they are-I am delighted to see they have “endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.”  

By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. Hebrews 11:29. We look at our sons and wonder what miraculous things will come next through their faith and the collective prayers of paternal and maternal generations. Sadly, Trayvon’s parents and the rest of us have been deprived of whatever amazing things he might have done in his life.  I’m more than sad; I am and have been very, very angry about that.   So when I saw the cover of Time Magazine with the caption “Are You Mom Enough?” I was not amused. I’m sorry but a skinny, white, blond, 26 year-old mother of a 3 year old who literally is not yet weaned is not in a position to throw down the gauntlet to me or anybody else who has already raised a child to productive adult status. (Okay, truthfully, I’m not sorry-and I know she did).  And I know some of my white friends (and yes, I do so have white friends!) will say the Times cover has nothing to do with race and attempting to connect it to the tragedy of Trayvon’s death is a classically false equivalence.  But the fact is every major hot button news story this past week (and most other weeks) has had a racial component. 

When we talk about the “Mommy Wars” we’re talking about the issue framed primarily by wealthy, white Mommy’s in much the way that the broader conversation about women’s issues (and whether or not Ann Romney ever worked) is framed around issues defined by rich, white, women. Similarly issues of Christianity in American all too often are framed exclusively by white Christians (as if Jesus is their cultural mascot!) much as the civil rights issue of marriage equality is framed primarily from the perspective of the white LBGT community.  The thread that runs so true in all these discussions? “Whiteness.” Which brings me full circle, the murder of a black boy in Sanford, Florida in 2012 is no more without precedence than the state sanctioned murder of Jewish babies under King Herod’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. Hebrews 11:23. I wonder if we will have to help hide our grandsons?

Women in Black & White

Paula reading a book

Women in Black and White

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 1, 2006; 7:24 AM ET

Leading a Mommy Wars discussion in Columbus, Ohio, I met a woman named Paula Penn-Nabrit, with whom I had a great deal in common: We both have three children, had studied at elite East Coast colleges, both worked in business, and each had written a book about parenthood. (And if Paula’s name sounds familiar, it may be because On Balance profiled her experience homeschooling her sons a few months ago.)

Our primary difference is that Paula is black and I am white. But we discovered that this led to another commonality: We both had long wondered why candid communication and camaraderie between black and white women, at work, school and home, is unusual in America.

So we decided to do something about it. We developed the first national survey exploring how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion, and relationships differ for black and white women in America. This isn’t to say that other distinctions — racial, economic, cultural, religious, geographic — aren’t important, too. But given the long and interdependent history between black and white women in America, we thought it would be fruitful to give women a reason to contemplate and discuss our commonality and differences.

The “Women in Black and White” survey launches today. Completing the survey, which is anonymous and confidential, takes about 15-20 minutes. The questions are meant to be thought-provoking; you’ll find them very different from standard market research. The survey is not scientific and it’s not designed to be used to set any policies or draw any national conclusions.

The questions are meant to get us all thinking about the role race plays in our lives as mothers and workers, and to start an open conversation between black and white women in this country. The results will be released in 2007. Neither Paula nor I stand to benefit financially from the survey. It’s also important to mention that no one at The Washington Post had anything to do with developing the questions or analyzing the data.

Does your race influence your work, where you went to school, your parenting style, your goals for your children? If you answer “no,” think again, and take the survey. You may be surprised by how little you’ve thought about and talked about this fundamental aspect of American women’s lives.

View the article comments here.

Download the tabulated survey results here.

CMadison’s Journey – The Saga Continues

Here’s the latest update on CMadison and his journey of miraculous healing.  And like everything else with us, it’s been a family journey. October 10, 2004 was his last dialysis treatment-and no, he did not receive a kidney transplant. What he did receive was a miraculous healing brought about by prayers-many of them yours, and we thank each and every one of you!-and a consistent, long-term, nutritious diet.

This ends an almost two-year struggle that was illuminating in its intensity.  CMadison entered the hospital in late November 2003 after he stepped on a nail during our book tour for Morning by Morning.  Within a week he had suffered acute renal failure and congestive heart failure as a result of an undetected allergic reaction to the antibiotic.  He was unconscious, in ICU, on a respirator and ventilator for two weeks while we were told we needed to amputate his leg and prepare for the worse.  But there was a light at the darkest hour.  CMadison crashed around 11:00pm on a Saturday.  Sunday afternoon, Damon and Charles walked up to me in ICU with clenched fists and instructions, “Mom, we’ve brought oil from church.  You sit here.  We’re going to anoint Dad and pray for him-he’ll be fine.”  They emerged 10 minutes later and announced they were going to Wendy’s.  Their absolute confidence in the power of prayer was just the balm I needed, and from that moment forward all my energies were focused on his healing, not his condition.

After 40 days and 40 nights CMadison was discharged in January 2004 with 24 prescriptions and a requirement for dialysis 3 times a week.  But his leg was still attached and only the large toe was amputated-claims of gaseous gangrene notwithstanding!  He had 5 subsequent hospitalizations during 2004, mostly from infections from the dialysis port.  But through it all we kept praying as we slowly weaned him off all but four prescriptions.  We continued to feed him whole, live food-for the first 8 months I didn’t even buy bread! -Everything was made from scratch.  And now, 20 months later, CMadison is up, walking around on his own two legs, relying upon his own kidneys and his own heart.  It truly is miraculous, and we are truly thankful that we had the opportunity to witness God’s validation of His promise that the “fervent, effectual prayers of the righteous availeth much.”  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your prayers and good wishes as we walked this path.

But it wasn’t all suffering.  During the quiet time of CMadison’s hospitalization I was able to write proposals for two new books, one on marriage, Beloved Friend, and one on parenting, Conscious Parenting.  (After all, what else can you do for 12 hours a day at the hospital?!)   I’m currently working on a third, God and Greens: The Power of Prayer and Proper Nutrition.  I am convinced that the miraculous healing God manifested in CMadison is much more readily available than many of us may yet realize.  In any event, thanks for your patience, I know many of your emails have gone unanswered-and I’m working to correct that, so don’t be surprised if you hear from me!

I’ll let you know when I find an agent and a publisher for these new works and in the interim, may God continue to pour blessings into all your endeavors with your families!

CMadison’s Journey

Hi Everyone! A thousand apologies for my long silence, but I really do have a good excuse.

Last November we were in New York as part of the East Coast leg of our “Self-Directed, Self-Financed Book Tour”.  I got to talk about Morning by Morning at the acclaimed Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem.  My long-time hero, Prof. Derrick Bell introduced me, we finally got to meet Sharita Hunt, the woman who wrote that exciting article for us in Black Issues Book Review, and Wendy Urquart, my sister from Wellesley came to hear me!  We ended a perfect evening with dinner with Cruz Russell, a longtime friend and classmate of CMadison’s from Dartmouth.  By the time we finally got to the hotel for the evening we were exhausted but exhilarated.  Little did we know that we were just beginning a terrifying chapter in our lives.

Somehow, CMadison had stepped on a nail.  When we returned to Columbus, we immediately went to the doctor who recommended a 2-day hospitalization for IV antibiotics.  C has been a diabetic for about 9 years, so infections always are a concern.  He was admitted on November 24, 2003 and almost immediately, he seemed to deteriorate. But it wasn’t until he suffered acute renal failure and congestive heart failure that the doctors realized he was having an allergic reaction to some of the antibiotics.  CMadison was in the hospital for 40 days and 40 nights!  It was the start of an intense time of testing for all of us!

For 2 weeks he was in ICU, unconscious and on a respirator, a ventilator and dialysis.  I was told to prepare myself for the possibility that he might not survive, and that if he did, he might have irreversible brain damage due to the congestive heart failure. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough angst, I also was told (in the hallway no less!) that he needed to have his leg amputated, because there was gaseous gangrene on the x-ray.

Thankfully, I had a lot of support throughout this ordeal.  Our pastor, Dr. Eugene Lundy, was a cardiologist before he became our pastor; so he was able to pray and give much needed second opinions!  I also had the support of CMadison’s sister, Barbara, and her husband, Harvard. Yes, that is his real name! Both are physicians as well, so I had tons of professional assistance at my disposal.  I also had the love, the prayers, and the support of my biological family and my church family.  But most of all, I had the support and practical assistance of Charles, Damon and Evan.  Damon took over our business, and Charles ran the house while I sat by their father’s bedside.

When Evan came home for Christmas, he stepped right up with his brothers – despite the disappointment of finding out we were unable to send him back for the second semester of his senior year.  This was a blow to all of us, as Evan is an honors candidate at Amherst, but the catastrophic implications of CMadison’s 40-day hospitalization was financially devastating.

Thankfully, CMadison finally regained consciousness and the full use of his immense intellectual capacities.  I did not agree to the amputation of his leg, but I did have to allow them to remove the great toe and a lot of tissue in the bottom of his foot.  The initial x-rays didn’t reveal that particles of the nail still remained in the foot. Undoubtedly, this in part accounted for why the infection wasn’t responding immediately to the antibiotics.

After the first week or so, they finally decided to do an MRI; and that’s when the residual nail fragments and the rest of the infected tissue were removed.  C’s heart doesn’t seem the worse for wear, and his cardio-pulmonary health seems stable.  Unfortunately, his kidneys have not yet recovered from the assault, and he remains on dialysis three times a week. When the doctors finally were ready to release CMadison on January 3rd, the recommendation was that he be transferred to a rehab center.  The presumption was that I would be unable to care for him adequately at home.  Once again, Charles, Damon and Evan stepped up.  They insisted that their father come home, and they helped care for him – daily – until he was on his feet again.  Shopping, cooking, wound care & dressing, blood sugar testing, insulin injections, transportation to dialysis and doctors’ appointments, you name it, they did it or helped me get it done.  Best of all, they did it pleasantly.  Everyone put their individual plans on hold until we were able to collectively get CMadison back on his feet.  I am happy and thankful to be able to report that CMadison is out of his wheel chair and barely using a walker.  The wound that allegedly couldn’t heal in less than a year (the other justification for the amputation) has healed- completely!  He’s back in the office, working on the business Damon kept alive in his absence, and everyday he’s getting stronger and stronger.  I am continuing to pray for his complete recovery and in the meantime CMadison continues to go to dialysis.  His spirits are good, primarily because he is so proud and so pleased about how his sons stood up in his absence and held his place for him.  I have to admit, I’m pretty proud too!

So, that’s my long-winded excuse for this incredibly long silence.  For those of you who knew about this saga as it was unfolding thank you for your prayers-I felt them! Be on the lookout for an email from me in the near future.  I am about to launch a free, online newsletter that I (hope!) you’ll find interesting.  In the interim, please feel free to order additional copies of Morning by Morning directly from me on the site and encourage your friends to do the same-we can definitely use the cash!

Peace-Let’s Continue To Pray For It!