Freaking out

Looking up

I’ve kept this news on the down-low. For so many reasons. Because it makes me feel vulnerable. Because I don’t want to jinx it. Because it is scary business. Because it’s been a largely private journey. Because I’m wary of everyone’s reaction to the news. Because everyone expects me to be giddy-happy, and the journey has been so complicated and heartbreaking. Because it fills everyone else with expectations.

Because it’s one of the things I’ve most desired, and I wanted to keep it to myself for awhile. Because it’s one of the things I’ve most desired, and I wanted to protect myself for awhile. And I’d like to keep protecting myself, but it’s just impossible.

But now–I feel compelled to share, because I am freaking out, partly because I’ve been shrouding myself in quiet privacy. And this fear–this fear has found its way into the crevices of my identity as a writer–because my identity itself is changing. I’m in this weird transition–from one thing to another.

Because you see, after thirteen years of trying and not-not-trying and multiple times given up and then, after wiping my tears on my sleeve, forged on ahead again…I’m pregnant. I’m over 26 weeks pregnant, in fact. About 2/3 of the way through my pregnancy.

Untitled

And yes I’m happy. It took me a long time to allow myself to relax and be happy, to say it will be okay, that this is real. I shared with one friend and then another and then another, one at a time, dipping my toe into the water, revealing my secret, getting used to saying, “I’m pregnant.”

I couldn’t even say, “I’m pregnant” to the OBGYN receptionist on the phone, which prompted her to say, “Why are you making a checkup appointment with an OB? You can call your primary care physician, you know.” To which I said in garbled voice, “Because I’m prrrrrregnannnnnnt.” Oh it felt weird to say that. It felt like someone else saying so. It felt unreal. In those early weeks, I was cocooned in caution. The caution cocoon happens when you try and try and try and never get something you want.

We reached milestone after milestone. In disbelief at the good news each time. Deep down, we were thrilled. Deep down, the drumbeat picked up its pace. And yet, we measured our outward reaction, because all those years trying to get pregnant? They took away a big chunk of our innocence. And that’s okay. Sometimes things cost innocence.

I’m not freaking out about being pregnant anymore. I’m excited. I’m not freaking out about giving birth. It’s going to happen. I’m not freaking out about the changes in my body. It’s a part of the process.

There is a new freakout: I’m freaking out, as I do most changes in my life, about how it will affect my writing, which is a core part of my life, identity, and sanity.

Some of my non-mama friends have told me it’s just like anything else–that I’ll just make the time–that people have jobs and responsibilities and they manage to carve out time for writing. But I have a strong feeling that motherhood is unlike anything else–even while pregnant, this thing has taken over my psyche, my thoughts, my heart, my finances, my time, my body, and my time. It’s all-consuming.

For the record–I haven’t had that creative-burst that people say women have during pregnancy. It just hasn’t happened, thus increasing my silent freak-out. I really wanted to finish a major revision of my novel before giving birth. That isn’t going to happen, even though I’m forging onwards in my revision so that I’ll have no regrets.

The closest I’ve ever come to having something hijack my writing is my stroke, which left me completely unable to write fiction for nearly two years. And yet my stroke recovery was still a time focused utterly on myself. That ain’t motherhood, either.

I am positive that longterm, motherhood will be amazing for my writing. That it will inform me as a human and in turn my writing. That my kid is going to give me tons of ideas and windows into the rooms of life that I haven’t yet entered.

But short term? I am anxious. I know I won’t be able to revise my novel for a few months. But will it be a year away? Two years away? I don’t know how I could handle that.

How do you manage? How do you transition your identity as a writer into motherhood? What are tips for making time? How long did it take to get back to your writing? Are there things I’m overlooking?

I have so many questions. So many questions.

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20 Comments

Filed under Life, Pregnancy, The Personal, Writing

20 responses to “Freaking out

  1. I don’t want to freak you out, so I’m not going to say congratulations or that I’m excited for you (even though that may be true). But I will say this. Having been one of the people who watched from afar as you fought back from that stroke, one step at a time. Having watched you prioritize your writing time and time again. Watching you not give up. The one thing I know about you is how much it matters to you. You’ll figure it out, you’ll make it happen. You will.

    PS. All my mama-writer friends tell me you get very efficient with your writing after you have a child. VERY efficient. This may not be a bad thing. I could use some of that myself 🙂
    You’ll work it out. xox

  2. Interestingly, my female writer friends haven’t said much about the changes that happened in their writing once they had a baby, but my male writer friends have talked a lot about maximizing the tiny bits of downtime.

    That said, a friend of mine who had a baby a year ago, I think it was, just published the first book of a trilogy, and has produced the second one while taking care of the baby (not alone, though). I’m sure you’ll find a way. Though, what do I know? I don’t have kids…

    A lot of people I know found Lev Grossman’s post on the subject useful:

    http://levgrossman.com/2012/09/benedict/

    • @gordsellar: who knows, it may be just too depressing to hear the report from the female perspective of new motherhood when it comes to writing. my guess is no writing gets done in the early months, so there’s nothing to report. finger crossed that i’m one of the lucky few who can get her writing chops back within a year.

  3. Congrats on your lovely news! So happy for you. I wish I could answer your questions, but I only started writing once my youngest was three. However, I am sure you will find a way to fit your writing life into your parenting life. Good luck for the next 17 weeks!

  4. michelle

    How do I not sound convivial? This is excellent news! I can also imagine this opening new venues of writing to you……some of the children’s books are soooo lame I bet you are inspired in new genres!!!!

  5. Ericka

    Great questions, and important ones. Do not pass go, go directly to literarymama.com. Where writers who are mothers discuss these issues in strong, honest fiction, CNF, poetry etc. Again and again. You are not alone with the gifts and dilemmas motherhood brings, and you will figure it out, and, like pregnancy, parenthood will alter you and your writing. But you are a writer, Christine, and motherhood changes us but doesn’t alter the essence of who we are. The answers to your questions will only be revealed once you find out who your baby is, what she is like and what her needs/patterns are. (And those will keep changing), and how you react to that.

    Mothering, like writing, is an ever changing process. It might take a while to figure out the intersection, or it might not. Either way, both will happen. And, again, I am so very happy for you.

  6. Congratulations!! No freaking out required. I’m a mom of four including 5yo identical twins. Everything works out, and the kids fall into step (yes kicking and screaming, but fall into step none-the-less).
    Good luck!
    Leigh

  7. Here’s the thing – having a toddler never inhibited my ability to write my series. My youngest was about three. I stayed up late (never past 1 a.m. because I had a job to get to) and found a rhythm doing that. It meant going on the minimum amount of sleep, but I did that while writing before she was born too.

    It was last year, preparing my oldest for college, where I literally had not one ounce of creative energy. Between college visits, helping with admission and scholarship apps I had nothing left. It drowned out the voices. I vowed that once she was in school I’d reclaim that mental space and I have. I honestly never found mothering a toddler while writing and promoting draining. Then, my writing time was my quiet time. I just had to be happy with only having it at night.

    Once you’re used to the baby’s schedule, I think you’ll find the time to get in your writing fix. And you’ll keep doing so as the baby grows into toddler, then preschool etc…The time that you may have used, in the past, to relax just may be replaced with writing.

  8. Well…I admit, I didn’t write a word for 2 years after having a baby. I found it all-consuming to be a mom. BUT I wasn’t very far in the writing process then–just dabbling, really. I know many writers who have been successful in juggling a young family and a professional writing life. It is really juggling and letting yourself slack on things that aren’t as important (like cleaning!). You get really good at finding stolen moments of time.

    And though I didn’t write for 2 years, when I came back I came back hard, and it was better. I was a different, broader person as a mom. So it WILL work out, even if you did end up taking a break.

  9. First, congratulations! I don’t want to freak you out more–I know many women who write and mother at the same time (YA writer Wendy Mass has young twins! and still manages to write.) Sadly, I was not one of these women. Or at least, I didn’t think I was. I only wrote stories when my kids were little and then squeezed in writing when I could (while waiting at piano lessons and soccer practices etc.) Now I feel very blessed to have given my kids my undistracted self for many years and am focusing on my writing full time (one child is off to college and the other is in high school and wants me out of her hair anyway.) I guess what I’m saying is you will figure out what works for you and you will be fine.

  10. I was really scared about this when I was pregnant, too. People react to motherhood in such different ways, I heard stories from both sides – moms who took tons of time off, moms who wrote in the hospital. Personally, I was somewhere in the middle.

    For the first three days after my son was born, for the first time in my life, I didn’t even have an urge to read. (For anyone who knows me, that is just a mindboggling statement! I read CONSTANTLY.) For the first few months, I didn’t feel even the slightest urge to write. I was too absorbed, too scared (we had some health issues), and most of all too tired. ALL my energy was required for my baby.

    I started feeling like I might never have another story idea again, and I was so out-of-it, I wasn’t even freaked by that, despite the fact I’d spent my whole lifetime pursuing writing with total intensity. (Like I said: I was in a state TOTAL exhaustion and being overwhelmed by other stuff that was more urgent and important at the time.)

    Just over three months after he was born, though, the beginning of a new short story came swimming into my mind. I wrote the story while my son slept on a nursing pillow on my lap. It felt kind of like starting to wake up from a long creative hibernation. Then I had line edits for my novel sent to me by my publishers, so I had to get through them, and they were my goad to start writing as regularly as I could, even though that wasn’t very regular. I still didn’t feel like myself, and tiredness made the creativity feel slowed down to a sludge…

    …and then suddenly, about 8 months after my son was born, he started napping on his own (until then, he’d only sleep on top of one of us), and all of a sudden I felt like a Real Writer again, and things pretty much got back to normal (with INTENSE use of his naptimes from then on! and then childcare later on).

    We had baby health issues as complicating factors, and also a baby who ( because of the health issues) couldn’t EVER be set down apart from one of us until he was 8 months old, making everything harder than I had hoped. Even so, it was still less than a year before I was writing steadily and productively again, and that first story I wrote after his birth not only got published, it never would have been written without him (because it came straight from my experience of parenthood).

    Like I said, I know other writer-moms who were slower or faster to get back to regular work…but when it comes down to it, I think the most important rule is just never, ever to be hard on yourself about it or hold yourself to someone else’s timetable. When you become a parent, you don’t just take on another full-time job – you take on an extra TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR job, even if you’re part of a co-parenting couple. Plus, you’ve got hormones racing through your body for at least the first 6 months.

    Everything will settle. Everything will work out, and it’ll go so much better if you can be gentle with yourself as you go through all the different phases of adjustment.

  11. (But, ah, sorry about writing a whole essay there! Obviously this is a subject I feel really passionate about…)

  12. Thank you to everyone for all your comments and support. I’ve been hesitant to come out about this and ask for help, especially since motherhood and mom culture seemed so intimidating and exclusive a group for many years. I’m so grateful. And @Stephanie: I appreciate your comprehensive rundown! No need for apologies–more like thank you from me.

  13. margosita

    I’m not a mom, so I don’t have any advice to offer, except to say that I’ve seen successful mom writers and I don’t doubt that you can become one, too. I think being scared is sort of the first step. You’re aware! And thinking! And worrying! It makes it less possible for changes to creep up on you.

    What a great adventure you’re on.

  14. oh my gosh, i wish you the best of luck and health for you and the bebe! and i’m sure you will be able to figure out how to keep writing. 🙂

  15. Wow. I haven’t read this blog for a while, and look at what happened! You’ll make the time, I’m sure of it. It’s not nearly the same, but I am going to grad school while raising a child (had to put off grad school for a year, though: I found out I was pregnant the same day I found out I was accepted into my program), and while it often gets crazy, everything manages to fall into place most of the time.

    Good luck!

  16. 6 months postpartum, here…and now I know what so many of the mamas here, mean! Motherhood has truly been all-consuming…kind of literally, as my baby has consumed my body (i’m fighting hard to GAIN weight these days). But I’m finding my way back to writing as I type.

  17. Pingback: P is for Postpartum Depression | 80,000 words

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