The half-inch piece said:
July 23, St. Joseph’s Hospital: David and Joanna Slan, boy, Michael Harrison Slan, 6 pounds, 2 ounces.
I was a mother!
It hadn’t been a dream.
How could I do this? How would I manage? Could I keep him safe? Could I help him grow? Would I be there when he needed me? Would I know what to do for him? How to care for him? How to guide him through life?
And the worst thought of all: Would I fail?
I was still sobbing when a nurse walked in with a clipboard. She took one look at me, another at the crumpled paper, and knew instinctively what I needed: my mother. But my mother had gone on vacation with a friend and neglected to leave a phone number where she could be reached.
Without preamble, the nurse wrapped her arms around me, patted me on the back, and crooned, “Hush, it’ll be all right. You’ll be fine.”
You see, until I read those words in the Bloomington Pantagraph, I didn’t believe I was a mother. Something about seeing the situation in print, the smell of the ink, the feel of the rough paper, made it all real real. The gravitas of the situation walloped me, overwhelmed me, and left me floundering in a sea of self-doubt.
Of course, I still have moments of self-doubt, but since then they’ve gone on for weeks and months at a time.
Even so. Yesterday we dropped Michael off at Purdue University for a week-long program called STEP (Seminar for Top Engineering Prospects). He refused to take the gift bag I tried to hand him.
“Uh, no, Mom, uh, thanks,” he said. His eyes wore a bovine, white-rimmed fear of embarrassment. “But, I’ll open that when I get home, okay? We’ll celebrate my birthday at home, uh, not here." (This was punctuated with a nervous glance around at the other teens heading for the dormitory.) He looked down at me and added, "All right? Um, thanks, though. I appreciate it.”
And then, just like that nurse did eighteen years ago, he hugged me.