11 May 2012

Accelerating, Part Deux

My oldest daughter, Sarah, turns seventeen on Tuesday, and she already has an early-morning appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles to take her driver's test.  Thanks to lots of practice, she is already a good driver.  I have no doubt that, by ten o'clock Tuesday morning, she will be fully licensed by the State of New Jersey.

My neighbor asked me the other day what I think it will feel like when Sarah gets into the car by herself for the first time and drives away.

Sarah was born by cesarean section, and for the first couple of weeks of her life, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  Not only could I barely move, but I was also terrified.  Nothing had prepared me for the feeling of having a new baby in my arms.  She was tiny and delicate and seemed to do nothing but scream.  I was exhausted and didn't know what to do about it.  Because of my fragile physical state, and in preparation for my ultimate return to full-time work, my husband had insisted on hiring an au pair from Iceland.  The au pair's name was Disa, and she was lovely, sweet and helpful.

Except that I gave her very little to do.  I sat in my bathrobe all day, holding the baby, afraid to put her down for even a moment.  I was worried that something might happen to her in a moment of inattentiveness.  What if I hurt her?  I didn't know the first thing about taking care of babies.  Sure, I'd read all the books, but that didn't help me.  That was all theory.  I now had a real, live small person in my arms.  There was no way I was going to let anything happen to her.  I was never going to let go.

One day, Disa, tired of doing nothing and probably annoyed at my disheveled state, said, "Give me the baby.  I'm going to take her for a walk downtown in the stroller.  You need to go take a shower, get yourself together, and put on some real clothes.  We'll be gone for an hour.  That should be enough time, right?"

I knew she was right.  I needed to start recovering from the shock of motherhood and become a person again.  I reluctantly handed Sarah to her and watched her bundle the little girl into the stroller and head for the door.

"Go," Disa said over her shoulder.  "Take a shower.  Do your hair.  Put some makeup on."

I went upstairs to the bathroom and turned on the shower.  Comforted by the sound of the water, I went over to the window, knelt by the sill, and pushed aside the curtain.  I watched Disa push Sarah down the front walk.  When they reached the sidewalk, they turned left, proceeded a few feet, and then disappeared from view.

Something indescribable gripped me.  I wasn't ready to let go.  What if they never returned?

That, I imagine, is how I am going to feel on Tuesday morning.


Jane said...

Ah Jennie. Although I can't possibly imagine what it must feel like to have a child on the cusp of being able to drive, I can empathise with your feelings about that newborn stage. I had never really thought about the meaning of 'heartstrings' until the pixies were born. And I bet yours were being tugged that Tuesday. So did Sarah get her licence? Do tell! And thanks for linking up with the POTMC - isn't it fun to find so many new and diverse blogs?! J x

Jennie said...

Dearest Jane, for a picture of Sarah proudly displaying her new license (license), see Accelerating, Part Trois: http://www.jennieiswriting.blogspot.com/2012/05/accelerating-part-trois.html. Thank you for inviting me to the POTMC. I love linky parties and hope to get some new readers on board - and to find some great new blogs to read! xo

Happy Homemaker UK said...

I'm a few years from my kids getting drivers licenses, but I can only imagine the feeling! Wonderful writing & capturing the moment. Following you from Post Of The Month Club :) XOLaura

Susan said...

Dear Jennie,
One of life's lessons is about to happen in your life.
Speaking as someone who has no children I want to offer the point of view from the child.

I can still remember my driving lessons with my dad, how he took me to a parking lot of a supermarket on Sundays (they weren't open on Sundays back then) and let me drive around the parking lot, him telling me "oops you have just taken the back fender off of that car, watch the front end of this one, Him helping me stay in the lane. I even remember taking a driving lesson because what if he didn't teach me something? The instructor told me I didn't need to waste my money that I was ready to take the test.

What if I failed? I didn't and I passed on the first try. I was so proud, I couldn't wait to get out on the road, It was such a sense of freedom. I still enjoy driving.

Having said this, I was scared to death as well. I was in the car all alone, what if something happened? Would I remember what to do? The car seemed immense. It was a Ford Fairlane 500. The steering wheel was huge like driving a bus. But I loved it.

Knowing what a responsible person you and Sam are I imagine Sarah is well prepared. Trust you have given her what she needs to be a responsible driver.

I know it will be hard, but it is part of the process albeit one of the harder ones.

She is on her way... she will fly... Good luck to you and to her!

Gina said...

As a mum of a 14 year old daughter I feel myself creeping nearer and nearer to the milestone you stand at and I am sure I will feel as nervous as you describe. You told a wonderful story about the early days of motherhood. Thanks for sharing!