As the Lowcountry prepares to celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday, three area moms talk about their roles and how they'll spend their special day.
"Our family was complete"
For the first two months of her daughter's life, Jessica Green barely felt like a mother.
After Payton was born 11 weeks premature on Aug. 10, she spent 66 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Medical University of South Carolina.
Green, 27, spent every one of those days by Payton's side and every night at her father's house in Charleston, waiting until she could see her daughter again.
"When they're in the hospital, you feel like a mom, but not really. You're not really caring for your baby," Green said. "To take her home, it was amazing. I felt like our family was complete."
Today, Green still most looks forward to her mornings with Payton.
"When she goes to sleep at night, I just can't wait until she wakes up," Green said. "When she sees you, she smiles and smiles."
Though she's a new mother, Green says her new role already means everything to her.
She loves watching her 13-pound daughter try to walk before she can crawl.
She's relieved that Payton is developmentally one month ahead where doctors say she should be, and that they don't anticipate any health problems down the road.
And she is full of pride in her daughter's determination while working with her early intervention and occupational therapists each week.
"I always wanted to be a mom and I think that everything that Payton's gone through, it's very rewarding to watch her every day," she said. "She's going to be something one day. She's a determined little girl, you'll see."
Green says she simply wants to spend her first Mother's Day with Payton and husband Creg, 30.
If Sunday's expected storms subside, she might go to a park and take her daughter on the swings and slides.
If not, she'll remember what matters most.
"Just hanging out with family."
Sharron Williams will spend her 18th Mother's Day the way she's spent so many other Sundays -- driving her husband and four sons nearly 100 miles to church.
The two-hour drive from greater Beaufort brings them to Beulah United Church in Williston, where Williams' father is the pastor and her three teenagers help with worship, the sound room and the camera.
Williams, 38, says they'll probably end the day with a big dinner she's prepared, and then make the drive home to Beaufort.
Their weekly trip has become an important ritual for the family, Williams said.
"We enjoy it because it gives you that time," she said. "You're in the car together. You have no choice but to talk or to fall asleep."
While there are days when most of the crew slips on headphones for a long nap, a car full of teenagers can get pretty loud, she says, especially with four spirited brothers.
The oldest, Marlon, graduates from Whale Branch Early College High School this year and will attend Allen University in the fall on a basketball scholarship.
Kevin is a 10th grader and varsity basketball player at Beaufort Academy.
Zion is an 8th grader at Lowcountry Montessori who enjoys soccer and track.
Jashon is in kindergarten at Riverview Charter and plays for the Beaufort Wildcats.
"Sometimes we have very intense conversation," Williams said. "They keep me on my toes. They're very playful, very loving. And I'm blessed they've never gotten in trouble."
It's no accident, though, that her children have learned respect.
Williams says she encourages her sons by showing them what they can do, not by telling them what they can't.
She says being a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
"I love nurturing them. I love seeing them grow," Williams said. "It's just like a flower -- when I put the seeds in the ground and I have this beautiful flower, that's how I imagine my boys."
'Cheerleader, memory maker'
Hilton Head Island mom Nancy Hudak didn't think she deserved to be interviewed by the newspaper.
But she has certainly put in her time -- changing diapers, kissing boo boos and encouraging her kids to do their best -- as the mother of 10 and grandmother of 19 .
"Motherhood is just such a great adventure," said Hudak, who has been a mother for 55 years. "I see myself as their cheerleader and their memory maker."
Hudak described her age as 35 in spirit and 300 in wisdom.
Growing up in a family with only one sibling, Hudak said she always wanted to have many children. She said she could think of no better job title than "mother."
Hudak fondly recalled past Mother's Days, especially those when her children were little and brought her breakfast in bed.
For dinner, they always got out the good china and table cloths, and prepared an elaborate meal.
She loved the homemade cards and gifts.
Not that those days were always perfect.
"Then it was time to put everything away, somehow they disappeared," Hudak said with a laugh.
Now that her children are grown and scattered across the country -- two, unfortunately have died -- Mother's Day is very different.
But as long as she has at least one of her kids around for the special day, Hudak is content.
This year, granddaughter Amanda made Hudak a large, green sign that read, "You're always happy with Nana."
She will spend this Mother's Day with her one local child, his wife and their two daughters. The family plans to head to Tybee Island to explore and have a picnic lunch.
She will also spend a lot of time on the phone talking with her other children and grandchildren.
"Being a mother has given my whole life meaning," she said. "It gets better and better. I have really loved every era."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.