Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fumbling towards greatness

* I adore baby showers. I adore ritualistic aspect of them, right down to the silly games and soggy sandwiches. I especially adore the sense of community that envelops me when I reach out and welcome another life to the planet.

Fumbling towards greatness was the fourth post I ever published here, back when I had approximately four readers. I'm publishing it again as part of an on-line baby shower for two of my favorite dot comrades, due with their second and third respective babies in the next few weeks - Rebecca at Girl's Gone Child and Kristen from Motherhood Uncensored.

The shower involves posting favorite memories of the early days of parenthood and is sponsored by Beau-coup Showers and Gifts. Check out the button in the right hand-side bar for more info on how to participate and enjoy my trip down memory lane.*


Karen is a girl in my office who is currently almost 5 months pregnant with her first baby.

Frequently Karen 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 Graham’s care in utero and up until now.

I very much like this girl 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 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.

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43 comments:

Laura said...

None of have a clue on what we are doing...but as long as love is the main factor, then, I think we will make it to greatness!

Lovely, heartfelt post. Thanks for sharing.

Beth (A Mom's Life) said...

That picture is a classic! You both look so tired...happy but tired.

And you are so right...the answers come right when you need 'em!

Great post!

Brittany said...

I went and found our first family photo. It looks much like yours!

And then I think about the 2nd time around... I think I was MORE scared! I knew what to expect, a little more, and that seemed to scare the daylights out of me!! haha.

Melisa said...

Great post! I think we had the same looks on our faces too. :)

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Reminiscing about Gavin's first days as he turned 7 this week was surreal. Figuring it all out. I felt like a pro after mere weeks, but BEYOND underqualified for the first three weeks. Strange how that happens.

KEEP BELIEVING

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

He looks so tiny in that photo. And, you're right, your hair looks fabulous. What a lovely memory.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's amazing how even when your children are grown your body automatically knows what to do with a baby--the rocking and the walking are just so instinctive.

Valarie said...

My SIL is having her first and is constantly calling me to ask if this is normal or if she shouldn't be doing that. I always tell her that the best advice I can give her is to let her know that it is normal to feel totally and completely out of control, but that it is the most amazing experience she will ever take part in. That picture says it perfectly. :)

Heather said...

I think I snorted out loud at this: "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."

Vodka Mom said...

fabulous! just fabulous!

Stomper Girl said...

Aw, that was great.

Mandy said...

Um, so I was in baggy sweats and a shirt that I'm sure had stains on it when I left the hospital the first time.

You look great! I'm not sure I'd have guessed panic. Maybe just sheer exhaustion (who can't relate?).

A lovely post over all!

Life As I Know It said...

So true and beautifully written.
When anyone asks me for baby advice I tell them that my advice is never to listen to other people's advice...each baby is different, each mom is different, each family is different. We all find our way and nurture these incredible little darlings we bring into the world.

tinsenpup said...

Your hair does indeed look impressively fabulous. But the two of you look like you're quietly whimpering as that little boy lies there peacefully without even a thought of checking your references or qualifications. Great photo.

painted maypole said...

nothing short of a miracle. i agree.

Vered - MomGrind said...

So true. You just learn as you go, and the little one somehow survive the ignorance of the first few weeks. And the terrible fatigue.

angie said...

What a wonderful trip down memory lane!

Tootsie Farklepants said...

Ha! You do both look a little shell shocked. Like, what do we do with this?

Karen said...

I love that picture - it sums up everything new parents feel.

Shannon said...

That picture is perfect - I LOVE IT!!! You're so right, we all figure it out day by day - some of it anyway. The rest is always a mystery.

Tranny Head said...

I LOATHE baby showers! LOATHE LOATHE LOATHE!!! Especially the games! You know - the one where people melt chocolate in the diaper and you guess what kind of candy it is? Eww. I hate bridal showers, too!

Anyway - I digress. The picture IS fabulous - I'm sure by the time we have another kid I'll be even more terrified because I will know what to expect (or not expect)!

Mrs. Chicken said...

Oh, my God, that photo.

Too funny! And so revealing.

Can I just say that the terror is no less severe the second time around?

Ellyn said...

I love those first few terrifying weeks of parenthood. The bazillion calls to the doctor, the three AM feedings, and those little baby noises. Love it all. Looking back it is hard to believe it was very real. It was a kind of waking dream for about the first six months.

Laura said...

Perfect post. Your picture cracks me up! Yes! The terror! I laugh at my own first born's picture because we bundled him up in about 7 layers of clothing..it was snowing outside...and well,the poor kid was outside for all of 3 seconds! Live and learn.

And your miracle is really, really cute!!!!!

Beck said...

I LOVE going home photos.
In my picture with The Girl, I look like a sarcastic 12 year old - and they LET ME BRING A BABY HOME WITH ME. Oh yes they did.

Jaina said...

::hugs:: That was beautiful.

kia (Good enough mama) said...

"his very survival depends on the glassy-eyed people flanking him"

I love this part! How true, how true!

Kellan said...

What a great post and so true! I love the photo of you in the hospital and the description you attached to that photo - so funny. Graham is so darling - you are a lucky mom!

Take care, Kelly - see you soon - Kellan

Laski Gal said...

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

Isn't it amazing how things turned out???

I remember telling the hubs, "OMG, we kept him alive and well another day. High five!"

JCK said...

I can see the terror. Good to talk to her about that aspect. ;)

The photo is awesome! And are you married to a rock star? :)

anti-supermom said...

Parenting is a great gig, you get lousy pay, poor sleep and you don't have to have any credential to have a baby.

You also get the pure, complete love.

I think that picture of you three at the hospital is PERFECT.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Love that photo of your family, you both do look a little terrified.
I found exactly the same thing as a new mom (at 19 years old, yikes), that you just do what needs to be done and it works out okay:) I found with my second I thought I should know what I was doing and felt totally out of my depth. Like I forgot everything and I kept second guessing myself.
Ignorance is truly bliss.
great post and good luck to the preggos!

Jyl @ MommyGossip said...

When I look back on my baby pics right after the birth of my two boys, there is a distinct difference between one and two. The first, I am exhausted, stressed, scared, and just look horrible. My hair didn't even make it out alive--OK, alive, but barely kicking! But, for the second, I looked like a beauty queen. I was serene. I was smiling. It was as if I were on vacation. Funny how things can change.

Hetha said...

I'm struck by how much you and your husband look alike there, it's in the eyes. Must be the terror! And man Graham is getting so big! Love his long hair :-)

Kelly said...

I totally enjoyed your post here! Not only are you right, your hair DOES look fantastic for just birthing a child ;) but it's true - when a baby comes, so do all the answers. You just... deal. And it's wonderful!

OHmommy said...

Oh Kelly. That was so sweet and so very true.

That is SUCH a great picture of you guys, you can see the slight terror in both of your eyes. And little G is so tiny.

So cute.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

What a wonderful post...something that speaks to every single one of us who have been in that moment, the keen mixture of terror, bliss and anticipation.

Blessings From Above said...

Motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding job we will ever have. Which you explained so beautifully in this post!

Kami said...

"fighting the onset of a panic attack"...I can't stop laughing and mostly because I know if I pulled out our picture bringing home our first baby the same could be said about us.

This was great, thanks!

imbeingheldhostage said...

I am so glad you re-posted this, omgosh you had me laughing (it's 11.30pm here, not good to laugh too loudly).

John-Michael said...

How perfectly you said it with "a ferocity that sears your soul." That says, so well, the truth of the happening in life ... when it pays its ultimate 'dividend.' You are my unfailing Source of inspiring reflection and recollection. And I thank you for ... YOU.

Lovingly ...

Elaine A. said...

Oh I love this! Post and photo! We drove away from the hospital asking, "Are they really letting us leave WITH the baby?"

My husband has always been so proud that he changed our first child's very first diaper in the hospital. It was of course, the first one he'd ever changed in his life! : )

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

I can still remember my husband looking at me in the hospital room and saying, "So they are just going to let us take her home now?" hahahaha. You definitely learn as you go, and your life is never the same again. It's better. It's definitely harder, but it's better.