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Fumbling toward Greatness

Karen is a girl in my office who is currently almost five months pregnant with her first baby. Frequently she will ask me about some peculiar twinge she is experiencing or about how I came to make one of the approximately four million decisions made about my son’s care in utero and up until now.

I like this girl a lot and I’m flattered that she seeks my advice, so I try to dispense as many pearls as wisdom as possible in my most reassuring, motherly tone.

Hopefully she never discovers I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.

Doesn’t she remember my office baby shower when I brought the house down by unwrapping a nasal aspirator and chirping brightly “You can never have too many pacifiers!”?

While sorting photos for Graham’s baby book the other day, I came across one (shown above) that never fails to crack me up. It was taken as we prepared to leave the hospital after his birth.

There are a few things that strike me about this photo—one is that my hair looks surprisingly good for someone who has just given birth, but I digress.

Mostly I am struck by the juxtaposition of utter contentment and barely-concealed terror.

Graham could not look more serene: sleeping peacefully, he is blissfully unaware that his very survival depends on the glassy-eyed people flanking him, both of whom appear to be fighting the onset of a panic attack.

I remember those early days well. We referred to Graham as our little yawning chasm of need. Everyone talks about how overwhelming new parenthood is, but the intensity of caring for a newborn is still shocking.


Surprisingly though, you figure it out pretty quickly. In some ways, being a good mom is the hardest job in the world; in some ways it’s the easiest. For me it was several months before Graham truly seemed like he wasn’t part of my body anymore, hence tending to his needs, while incredibly exhausting, was as natural as tending to my own.

You just do it. You feed, you burp, you clean, you adjust, you rock, you coo, you protect, you love with a ferocity that sears your soul.

And one day you wake up and see what you have wrought and your heart is flooded to bursting with wonder. How is it possible? Is it a miracle?

Yes it is. And knowing that Karen is about to experience it sometimes chokes me up. She can ask me questions all the day long and I am happy, thrilled really, to babble on about how it was for me.

But deep down I know that when her own little yawning chasm of need arrives, so too will the answers she seeks.

Photo courtesy of Don Mills Diva

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