Last night, walking down Bay Street toward the launch of The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, I looked up to see the sign above Ben McNally Books and flashed to a memory of the last time I walked down Bay Street and passed this bookstore. Maia had been with us for all of one week, and I was maneuvering her stroller through the flood of well-dressed professional people, noting how glaringly I stood out from them. Late to meet up with Richard. Overwhelmed and near-defeated at the logistics involved, now that I had a child in my care, in the gargantuan task of merely going downtown. And I looked up and there was the bookstore, and I went Oh. I have been wanting to go to that bookstore.
Not that I couldn't have gone in, but at that point in my sudden and ill-fitting mothering role, the orchestration of door-opening, stroller-hefting, diaper-bag-and-child-wrangling, was almost more than I could manage. Also, I was late. Also, I wanted to really go to the bookstore, I wanted to wander and browse and soak in and enjoy, quietly, peacefully. And in the preceding week, I had learned that such pleasures were no longer mine.
"With hindsight I understand," writes Rachel Harry in last week's National Post review of The M Word, "that the gift of motherhood, shared by every woman who wholly accepts the lifelong commitment of loving a child, also comes with a loss — a loss most mothers don’t communicate, because its definition tends to lack language and vocabulary, in what becomes this new and uncharted maternal world."
Oh, that day on Bay Street, I was feeling the loss.
And last night on Bay Street, I entered Ben McNally Books, and I was greeted by stacks of books that contain an essay that I wrote, and I stood in front of an audience and read from that essay. The essay is, in part, about Maia, about my experience of becoming a mother in the sudden and unconventional and overwhelming way that I did, about how I felt in those early novice-stroller-wrangling days. About the loss. The choice. The love. I read out loud from this excellent book, in the company of other women writers articulating their own thoughtful and nuanced experiences, and I signed books and had my book signed, and there was so much warmth and attention, a standing-room crowd.
And I thought, This is a pretty good way to finally enter Ben McNally Books.
(Another thoughtful review, from Angie Abdou, here.