Monday, July 23, 2007

The Power of A Hug

Eighteen years ago today, I was lying in a bed reading a short blurb in the newspaper when I burst into tears.

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.

I was here in the hospital after 21 hours of labor. And I’d had a boy. That tiny THING in the nursery was my child, and I was responsible for him.

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.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Aww...such a cute picture! That's such an amazing moment when your first baby is born--completely overwhelming! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hugs to you Joanna! It doesn't really get any easier when they leave home for good - I'm a mushy mess anytime we part - but there ARE compensations . . . when they start bringing home the grand children :)


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

You-all are very kind. I appreciate being able to share my thoughts with both of you.

Hilary said...

Sigh. I know the feeling. As long as they keep those hugs coming.. all is good. :)