The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, February 10, 2007

We'll Call Her Sarah

By Ellen Meister

I recently had a conversation about love with a very dear friend who's pregnant with her first child. We discussed how some women fall in love with their babies before they're even born, while for me, it didn't happen that way. With each of my three children, there was a discrete moment within those first hours of life when it hit me with such powerful force that everything changed in an instant.

So when Patricia Parkinson of the Canadian Writers Collective asked me if I'd like to post a blog entry about love--any kind of love--this was very much on my mind. I asked if could use an excerpt from my novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, which describes that specific moment. Patricia, a mother herself, gave me an enthusiastic approval.

So here now is that excerpt, dedicated to my dear friend and her baby ...

From "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA"
by Ellen Meister

"It's a girl!" the doctor said as she pulled Sarah's slithery pink body from Lisa. She suctioned the baby's nose and mouth and held her up for Lisa and Adam to see. "Your daughter!"

A gulp of wind hit Lisa's throat. She looked at the living, breathing, wailing creature and was slapped with a reality as new to her as oxygen to the baby's lungs. She was stunned. Not by the baby's gender, but its very existence. There she was, facing the very moment she had spent so many months preparing for, and yet she felt as surprised as if she had opened her eyes to discover the world in color for the first time.

She inhaled with a deep shudder. "We have a baby," she said to Adam. "A baby!" She saw tears on Adam's face and realized she was crying, too.

"We have a baby!" Adam echoed, and laughed. "Our little girl. Are we calling her Sarah?"

"Sarah Elizabeth," Lisa pronounced.

"Sarah," Adam said, looking at the baby. "You're Sarah."

That night, after her visitors left and Adam had gone home, Lisa complained to a kind nurse named Maureen about her discomfort. She gave Lisa a fresh icepack to put on her episiotomy, and asked the new mother if she wanted her to take the baby to the nursery for a few hours.

"So you can get some sleep," Maureen said.

Lisa bit her lip. "I don't know. I'm breastfeeding."

"It's okay. I'll bring her back in a few hours."

Lisa nodded. She was as tired as she'd ever felt and was glad to be relieved of the responsibility for a few hours. As she listened to the sound of her baby's bassinet being wheeled toward the nursery, Lisa fell into a thick sleep.

There began a dream. Adam telling her about some new software he had created. A wonderful, glorious, revolutionary product. He was excited to show it to her in action, and led her toward a building where a company was using it to multiply profits beyond imagining. But on the way there she lost sight of him. She came upon a factory and went inside to see if Adam was there. She found him and the dream changed. The thing that he wanted to show her now was a beautiful melody coming from the walls of the baby's room. Or was it the baby singing? As she followed him toward the song, the dream was interrupted by a woman's voice.

"Mrs. Slotnick? Do you want to nurse your baby now?"

Lisa didn't want to open her eyes. She wanted to drift back into the dream and find the source of the beautiful melody. She let her eyelids flutter open so that she could tell the woman to go away and let her sleep.

"I need more sleep," she planned to say, but stopped. At the sight of her infant something deep in the animal region of her brain produced a tidal force of maternal longing that drowned her intention. "I need ... my baby," she said, reaching for the tiny package. And as she cradled her daughter in her arms, she took a deep inhale off the top of the newborn's head and discovered the savage, feral power of motherhood. Lisa fell in love.


Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins, Inc.

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA is available in bookstores and from online retailers in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more, visit


Blogger Myfanwy Collins said...

Oh, this is so beautiful, Ellen. I remember it well from your novel, except that it made me cry even harder reading it this time.


Sat Feb 10, 08:26:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Beautiful. A very intimate, almost secretive moment you've shared with us, Ellen. What a place to go, those first dreams a mom has after giving birth. And then that between moment when her eyes are half-opened and she's realizing where she is. My thoughts have never gone there, probably because I was at ease, full of pride for my wife, thankful, and I was always too busy being washed over by my own private little moment, when mom is having her first restful sleep, and I can step away for a short while, go outside and have that air hit my face. A new everything. Thanks for bringing me back there this morning. I'm in love all over again.

Sat Feb 10, 09:46:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read Myfanwy's comment, "I remember it well from your novel."

And I was thinking?, "I remember it well" my beautiful, baby boy, 21 now.

Lovely writing.

The Maple Room

Sat Feb 10, 10:02:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How lovely, Ellen! You captured it perfectly.


Sat Feb 10, 10:15:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger srr said...

There are so many tender moments like this in the novel...just got through listening to one (again, with Lisa). Very difficult to do without sounding maudlin. Beutiful, Ellen!

Sat Feb 10, 10:29:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa McMann said...

This was one of my favorite parts of your book, Ellen. How nice to read it again!

Sat Feb 10, 11:58:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

Ellen this is lovely, so many memories come flooding back to me, this is a beautiful portrayal of a mother and child. Lovely, and thank you so very much for doing this..xoxoxo

Sat Feb 10, 12:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Ellen said...

Myf - Thank you, my friend!

Antonios - Thanks for your generous words and for sharing a bit about YOUR moment. Lovely!

Diane - 21 years and I bet you remember the moment vividly. Thank you!

Kath - I appreciate that ... especially coming from someone who's done it one more time than me!

Shelly - You're always so generous and supportive. Thanks!!

Lisa - You rock. Can't wait to read yours.

Patricia - Thank you so very much for this honor! I feel like Canadian for a day. You're the best, Patricia.

Sat Feb 10, 01:18:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

what a woman Ellen, xoxo mwah!!

Sat Feb 10, 01:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Thank you for posting this, Ellen. I enjoyed your book so much and this passage was very real for me. I fell in love with my babies in the middle of the night in the hospital when it was just the two of us, nursing and getting to know each other.

Sat Feb 10, 01:50:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Mother love. How perfect. It was a long time ago for me, Ellen, but I remember it well. Thanks.

Sat Feb 10, 02:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Ellen. This is an example of why I loved your novel so much--lots of heart.

Sat Feb 10, 04:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Katrina Denza said...

That was me...


Sat Feb 10, 04:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tammy said...

For me it was so different with Ryan, I felt removed from this foreign creature, not quite who I had imagined. I guess it was the emergency c-section after 19 hours of back labour - the process was so different to the fantasy. They rushed her to check vitals. It was a while before the said everything was OK. They wouldn't let me hold her, I was still tied up as all eyes were on her, but they handed her to my dad who was in the O.R. with me and he literally melted. Later that day when the moment had worn off, the tears flowed so fast and furiously. The love just flowed and filled me up - so different to any emotion I had ever felt. So raw. So real. Beautifully written Ellen, I definitely have to get your book so I can read it in its entirety.

Sat Feb 10, 07:51:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

As a Mom to be in a few short months, I was glad to read this! I already feel love for my baby, but am looking forward to that animal instinct moment as well. Thanks for posting this.

Sat Feb 10, 08:27:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Ellen said...

Patricia - Right back atcha!

Jennifer - Thanks for the kind words about the book. And I'm glad you relate to that hospital moment. It's overwhelming, isn't it?

Tricia - Thanks! And yeah, I don't think you ever forget that first woosh.

Kat - That means so much to me. xo

Tammy - What a grueling time you had. Thanks for sharing that. And I agree--the feeling is so different from anything you've ever known before.

H.E. - So glad you stopped in! I wish you a beautiful and easy birth. :)

Sat Feb 10, 11:12:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger RobinSlick said...

Oh, how perfect, Ellen.

And because I know you had Myfanwy in mind when you posted this, my eyes just welled up with tears, too.

And yes, you've totally captured the experience of motherhood, especially first-time motherhood. You know what a rock music fanatic I am...well, they had music in the delivery room and the minute they put Julie on my belly, wearing a little white and pink striped hat, Cat Stevens' Morning Has Broken began to play over the speakers and to this day, I can't hear that song without weeping.

And your book is full of those moments, I agree...just a wonderful, wonderful read and the type of book you sit with a yellow highlighter pen so that you can reference certain phrases which really hit copy is marked up bigtime!

Sun Feb 11, 08:05:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Ellen said...

Robin! You just made me cry TWICE. Morning Has Broken. Oh, God! And thank you SO much for the kind words about the book. You know how much that means to me.

Sun Feb 11, 11:39:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

What a wonderful post, Ellen. Glad you could pop in and join us.

Sun Feb 11, 06:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Ellen said...

Steve - It was a pleasure! Thanks.

Mon Feb 12, 06:07:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Beautiful. I've found myself often thinking that my love for my kids is more elemental than any other love I've felt. Elemental, biological, deep in the molecules, pre-conscious, a creation of ferocious instinct. This passage puts in me in touch with those wonderfully passionate feelings. It was a pleasure to read moments like this in the midst of a funny, fast paced romp. But excerpted here, the passage has a chance to sing solo, so to speak. And it soars.

Mon Feb 12, 10:37:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Ellen said...

Andrew Tibbetts, you always find the path to my heart.

Tue Feb 13, 07:25:00 am GMT-5  

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