Staff Photo: Nicole Puckett Snellville resident Crystal A. Douglas-Snell will celebrate her first Mother's Day today after the birth of her son, Kembric on April 21.
SNELLVILLE -- Crystal Snell's newborn son slept peacefully, but the mother couldn't rest.
She had questions. Lots of them.
Little baby Kembric is doing all the things a 2-week-old baby should.
But his mom wants to make sure she has a handle on everything, so she stops by Eastside Medical Center's Mommy and Me group last week on the way to have a bump checked by the pediatrician.
"I'm glad someone is willing to listen," Snell said. "This is totally new. I've never done anything like this in my life."
This Mother's Day, Snell's husband has offered to take over baby duty, so she can take her grandmother out to dinner.
But the Snellville woman isn't even sure she can leave her tiny tot for even an hour.
This year, there won't be a hand-drawn card from her son, or a flower bouquet picked from the garden (unless his daddy does it). All that will come later.
For now, with her body still raw from pregnancy and delivery, her brain a fog from sleepless nights, motherhood is still a mystery.
It's that magical ability to calm him in an instant. The way her body can fill his tummy. The way he curls his feet up under him.
And it is hard work. Twenty-four hour, never-ending work.
And there are still those moments when nothing works. When his burps turn into vicious, painful hiccups and his bowels are explosive. When she can't imagine how a scream that loud can come from a mouth that small.
"The support really gets mothers through," said Linda Holderried, the lactation consultant who leads the group. "It's hard. It's a lot of pressure."
"I stuck it out and it's been awesome. It's such a blessing," Mary Catherine Slay told Snell about struggling to breastfeed her son, now 5 months old.
Everything about little Leo is a miracle, she says, as he finally falls asleep against her rocking body.
A stepmom to a 14-year-old, Slay never thought she would carry her own child, as she hadn't ovulated in nearly a decade.
By some touch of God, around this time last year, it happened, all on its own, and she and husband Randy were ecstatic.
But then Slay's blood pressure began to rise.
After five days in the hospital, her pre-eclampsia developed into the potentially lethal HELLP Syndrome. The doctor gave her time to call her family, before putting her under general anesthesia and performing an emergency Cesarean.
Five weeks before his due date, Leo was rushed to the NICU, but his stay was short, only a few hours.
"He's my little miracle, in more ways than one," Slay said, resting her cheek on his mostly bald little head.
"Motherhood is amazing," she said. "If I could take all of this and put it in a bottle, I would."
Unlike Snell, who is still caught up in the never-ending flood of questions and diapers and hiccups that comes in the first few weeks of motherhood, Slay has established a routine.
She is back part-time at her hair studio on the Lawrenceville Square, dropping Leo with her mom and relishing the happy moments with her family.
"Thank God for my mother," Slay said, with a new appreciation for the woman who once nursed her and changed her own tiny diapers. "She's just an awesome mother."
Already excited for the Coach purse her husband gave her for her very first Mother's Day as a mom, Slay has begun to see the rewards in her sweet baby's smiles.
And Snell is beginning to, as well.
"It's a lot more work than what I expected," she said, adding that pregnancy helped mellow her and teach her patience even before her son came into the world to test it. "It's a good challenge, though."
The best part of motherhood so far: "I don't know if he has smiled at me or if it's gas, but it's those moments. They are so peaceful."