A WALK TO RE­MEM­BER

LAURA deCARUFEL LETS GO OF HER NEW- PAR­ENT PANIC ONE STEP AT A TIME.

Elle (Canada) - - Relationship -

Be­fore my baby was born, I thought I un­der­stood fear. I’d wait­ressed in a Lon­don pub dur­ing the World Cup. I’d once talked my way back­stage at Prada. I’d in­ter­viewed Tilda Swin­ton. But­ter­flies? I was familiar. But when lit­tle Char­lie ar­rived, on a rainy Wed­nes­day in Novem­ber, the rush of love I had ex­pected to feel was

pound­ing like a marathoner’s heart­beat. Jes­sica Alba, for in­stance, is known for her role in “you know, that movie with that guy” and yet has built a $1-bil­lion prod­uct em­pire around her tran­si­tion into moth­er­hood.

“It’s ex­cit­ing,” a woman breathed con­spir­a­to­ri­ally to me in the of­fice kitchen when she spied my swelling belly. “You’re go­ing to have all new pri­or­i­ties and not care about any­thing you used to.” I gaped at her. Her en­thu­si­asm twisted into a raw-edged threat. The prospect of be­com­ing some­one else was ter­ri­fy­ing. As a writer, I’ve worked hard to har­ness my voice. What if moth­er­hood made it sound as un­fa­mil­iar as a tinny old voice-mail mes­sage? I be­came con­sumed with the worry that get­ting preg­nant was some­how ad­mit­ting I wanted to lose the pro­fes­sional ground I was gain­ing—that I was choos­ing poo over pro­mo­tions.

My im­pend­ing fa­mil­ial joy felt like an­other pri­or­ity that threat­ened to de­rail my ca­reer, be­cause the fact is that, while ex­pec­tant su­per­stars of­ten get a boxof­fice boost from their bump, it’s not a ca­reer coup for real women. I’d likely be left scrab­bling around with dead­lines, di­a­pers and frizzy hair like some per­verted ver­sion of a Cathy car­toon.

I started re­sent­ing celebri­ties who preened and ca­ressed their preg­nant bel­lies, with pa­parazzi in tow, like hens sit­ting on golden eggs. Screw North’s and Suri’s moms, I grum­bled. They have staff and some­how get to “have it all”—a con­cept my gen­er­a­tion is slowly ac­knowl­edg­ing is seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble. (Granted, this was a par­tic­u­larly un­fair way to feel for some­one who has spent many days in­ter­view­ing thought­ful and in­ter­est­ing ac­tresses.)

Then, when I was near­ing the end of my preg­nancy, I had a lib­er­at­ing mo­ment in a Las Ve­gas bath­room. (Weird, I know.) I was there on busi­ness. It was late. Ev­ery­one else was pop­ping bot­tles. My silk dress stretched con­spic­u­ously across my round midriff in the crowd of hard bod­ies. Nonethe­less, h

STAT SCAN NEARLY EV­ERY CANADIAN WOMAN POLLED IN THE ELLE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL WOMEN IN SO­CI­ETY SUR­VEY FEELS WE ARE

DIS­CRIM­I­NATED AGAINST AT WORK AF­TER BE­COM­ING

MOTH­ERS.

ac­com­pa­nied by a low hum of ter­ror that I had not.

This was next-level, laser-fo­cused fear: I just wanted him to live, and I wor­ried all the time that he wouldn’t. I watched him sleep, lis­ten­ing for his tiny ptero­dactyl breaths. I asked ev­ery vis­i­tor who held him close “Are his eyes open?” which was code for “Look down and tell me that he’s okay.” I wor­ried that he was col­icky, that he was go­ing blind, that he didn’t like me.

Then, when Char­lie was two weeks old, I left the house for the first time in days, hop­ing to es­cape my para­noid haze. We went for our first walk to­gether, Char­lie nes­tled in his slick Bu­ga­boo stroller. Be­fore Char­lie, I’d thought of the celebri­ty­favoured car­riage as an­other jewel in my sta­ble of designer pieces—as lov­ingly crafted as my hand-stitched Mul­berry bag or my per­fectly cut Phillip Lim jacket. I’d picked it out as care­fully as I chose which heels to wear to Fash­ion Week. But sud­denly, as we turned to­ward the park, I re­al­ized that what re­ally mat­tered about the stroller wasn’t its pedi­gree; it was that I trusted it was strong enough to pro­tect him. It was beau­ti­ful ar­mour at a time when I needed as much strength as I could get.

The win­ter sun hung low, cast­ing the kind of grey light that makes ev­ery­thing seem hy­per­real—a high­def af­ter­noon. It rained a lit­tle. Char­lie slept. I stopped ev­ery once in a while to check on him. He was fine. He was bet­ter than fine—he was won­der­ful. Cu­mu­lus clouds slid quickly across the sky, and my heart light­ened along with my step. Sud­denly, a rain­bow ap­peared. Then, al­most un­be­liev­ably, a sec­ond rain­bow shad­owed it. It felt like a bless­ing, a huge cos­mic grin. I stood still, watch­ing my per­fect baby boy sleep in his hand­some stroller. Slowly, grat­i­tude over­took fear. We walked on to­ward home, baby steps into our lu­mi­nous, un­cer­tain fu­ture.

I was hav­ing a good time, soak­ing up the heavy bass and watch­ing ab­surd laser-breasted aerial per­form­ers.

As I wad­dled into the coed bath­room, I could feel a set of eyes burning into me. “God.... What are you do­ing here?” asked some half-drunk club­land douchebag ac­cus­ingly, pan­ning over my ripe belly.

I’m not sure if I’m proud of what fol­lowed, but here is a state­ment of the facts: I re­al­ized I could learn some­thing from celebri­ties who deal with re­lent­less crit­i­cism about their choices. And I held up two mid­dle fin­gers and walked out.

I was sick of judg­ing my­self. I was fin­ished with feel­ing awk­ward about be­ing preg­nant and fret­ting about whether it sig­nalled a lack of com­mit­ment to my craft. I prob­a­bly would have felt more em­pow­ered if I’d ripped open my coat like Bey­oncé in­stead of stum­bling awk­wardly into my boss’ of­fice and con­fess­ing that I’d got­ten my­self knocked up. (My boss, by the way, showed noth­ing but un­wa­ver­ing sup­port.)

Mostly, I stopped wish­ing that other women—no mat­ter how fa­mous—would fail just so I’d feel bet­ter about my own fears. Be­cause, if I’m be­ing hon­est, one of the most re­as­sur­ing con­ver­sa­tions I’ve ever had about moth­er­hood was with Drew Bar­ry­more, who cried and told me she felt “like a to­tal box of hair” and then looked into my eyes and promised me it would be won­der­ful any­way. Or the seem­ingly per­fect Jen­nifer Gar­ner, who sat across from me in a crisply pressed cot­ton dress while acutely preg­nant and ad­mit­ted she felt “neu­rotic.” “It must be a hor­monal thing,” she sighed.

So, in that Ve­gas bath­room, I de­cided to let go of the point­less shame and envy that had been hold­ing me back. I would stay up late if I wanted to, ded­i­cate my­self to my ca­reer if I wanted to, be a good mother if I wanted to.

It didn’t feel like the end any­more. It fi­nally felt like the be­gin­ning.

Bu­ga­boo Bee3 + Van Gogh stroller, $869 (bu­ga­boo.com)

Blake Lively Jes­sica Alba Kim Kar­dashian Gwyneth Pal­trow

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