WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Edwards huddled, tired but happy, among family members in a car on the Senate subway, reflecting on the travails of being the mother of a suddenly very well-known 8-month-old girl.

“You go to the grocery store with a baby, it’s more complicated,” she said. “Your husband gets sworn in as senator and you bring the baby, it’s more complicated.”

And so it went Wednesday for the wife of North Carolina’s new senator, Democrat John Edwards, as she went to the Senate chamber with baby Emma bouncing on her knees and 16-year-old daughter Kate at her side. Her husband crowded into another car, surrounded by reporters and well-wishers. Not a typical day for the Edwards family — until now.

“This is not the sort of thing we do every day,” said the senator’s mother-in-law, Liz Anania. “But I think Emma is getting the most attention. And she’s going to expect more of it if this frenzy keeps up.”

As the 106th Congress convened Wednesday in Washington, the former Raleigh trial lawyer faced jury duty as early as today for the impeachment trial of President Clinton. But the cloud hanging over the nation’s capital wasn’t dampening his spirits.

“No. Not for me,” Edwards told a group of reporters after his official swearing in before the full Senate. “I’m feeling extremely excited and extremely honored at the same time.”

Edwards began the day at an 8 a.m. breakfast with about 40 members of his family at the Hyatt Regency, where 95 rooms were reserved — not enough to accommodate the hundreds of Edwards supporters making the trip from North Carolina. Many attended the official swearing-in at noon, where Sen. Jesse Helms escorted his junior counterpart down the center aisle of the Senate chamber to receive the oath of office from Vice President Al Gore. Edwards then took his seat in the back row next to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

“[Helms] and I talked before we walked down,” Edwards said, adding that Helms was “very kind, very gracious.”

Although Edwards appeared every bit the polished politician as he became North Carolina’s first Democratic U.S. senator since 1992, back in the Dirksen Senate Office Building later Wednesday he moved with the ease of a country lawyer and the flashbulb popularity of a rock star. Among those waiting for a glimpse of Edwards at the reception was Jean Harris of Dallas, who had traveled to Washington on a bus with 24 other Gaston County residents.

“We’re so proud of you,” Harris told Edwards as he signed a glossy photo of himself. “And we’ll be even more proud when you become president.”

Edwards made his way through the mob of supporters, stopping along the way to pose for snapshots and talk with family members and N.C. dignitaries, who included former Congressman Charlie Rose.

“He’s going to be very good for North Carolina and very good for the farmers of eastern North Carolina” Rose said.

Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) Date: January 7, 1999 Page: A6 Copyright, 1999, The Durham Herald Company