The Chrysalis; Giving In

cherry blossoms

I gave in.

I struggled against the tides and tried to write, tried to resume the life I had, while juggling the mothering of a newborn. I hired a nanny. The nanny didn’t work out. I fired the nanny. I was left by myself, which was kind of better than having a nanny-that-wasn’t-working-out.

I was trying to write. Trying to compartmentalize the fact that I was now a mother. Ignoring it, in order to write, and resume my former identity. Struggling to make elaborate meals (never happened), when slapping some cream cheese on a bagel (un-toasted) was the best I could do. Maybe this is what people mean when they say “trying to have it all.”

It was like swimming upstream. And in the end, I hadn’t made much progress. I didn’t get any further upstream. I think I ended up downstream anyway. Didn’t get any writing done. Didn’t get any reading done. For all the sacrifice–for all my exertion and for all the time I didn’t spend connecting with my daughter, I was left unfulfilled and exhausted. So I decided to go with the flow. Follow the water. Let my life lead me.

Frankly speaking, I was too exhausted to do otherwise. I was beaten into submission. I looked at my daughter and whispered, “P, you got me beat. We’re just going to do it your way.”

This resulted in many many days in which I sat in bed with my kid, napping when she did, alternating between feeding, diapering, burping, pumping, and then napping with her when I could. Some days, that is pretty much what I did all damn day. All day. All night. Just that. Maybe get up and load the dishwasher full of bottles or do a load of laundry. Watch a TV show. But pretty much, just that. Especially when my husband was out of town on business trips.

(And why am I writing this in past tense? Because this is what I’m doing everyday, even now). My biggest thing last week was ordering a rice cooker online, because I was so desperate for hot food and I couldn’t track a stove with a baby. And deal with being chastised for clogging up the holes in the burners with boiled-over-rice-paste-water. I was So Excited about this rice cooker. I tracked its progression on UPS, salivating as it neared. I tweeted about The New Rice Cooker. One of my best friends emailed me, worried about what he perceived was increasing desperation. No, I told him, I’m okay. Just Really Excited about a Rice Cooker, because you see–my life has condensed down to a rice cooker. I’m not unhappy! I told him. Just! A little! Crazy! About a rice! Cooker! Hot! Food! Ohdear, I told him. I may be a little crazy.

I did worry about my writing. About returning to my novel revision. I dreamt about making a meal from scratch. And I fretted about who I’d become–just some clichéd stay-at-home-mom with unwashed hair, making no contributions to society, obsessing about breast milk. But that’s kind of like letting the river carry you and straining your neck to look at the river bank from which you originated. So I forced myself to just be, again. I stared at my baby. I smiled at her. I had conversations comprised of back and forth cooing (what was I saying? I had no idea, but my baby seemed pleased). I gave in. I forgot what day of the week it was.

I haven’t given up. I’ve given in. I acknowledge the different journey, the new journey, under my body. I acknowledge that I have no map for this new place. And I basically say, “Fuck it.” I am going to give up control and just explore without agenda and without an end.

Good things happen when I say, “Fuck it.” Excellent things happen, actually. But I’ve never done it simultaneously with giving in.

Giving in made things a lot more peaceful; to just be with my kid, make my mind a blank slate, and see what would happen. In short, go with the ease. Nothing kind of happened. Everything kind of happened. My life became little milestones comprised of minutiae–feedings, diapers, burps, naps. Picking out her outfits. Shopping online. Looking out the windows. Putting the baby in the sling and getting the mail. Maybe walking up and down my block. And yet these little things are kind of huge.

And–little surprises from the outside world are coming to me. An email from a former student, thanking me for inspiring her. (Which of course in turn, inspired me). And my writing community came to me, threw me opportunities. My friends sending me galleys of their new books (holding a book in my hands makes me feel human again). The world had not forgotten me. I should not forget me. I was able to sequester a little bit of energy. I started to read in snippets. I wrote this blog post while the baby napped (and she woke up right as I finished writing this post, as if this post were meant to be).

It’s my time in a chrysalis. As a writer. As a human being.

Making the most of my time in the chrysalis. By giving into it.

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16 Comments

Filed under Life, Parenthood, The Personal

16 responses to “The Chrysalis; Giving In

  1. Volunteering as a beta reader (via your blog) for short fiction might be a way to feel connected when time is limited. I’ll certainly endorse your writing expertise.

    And you know what? Bagels and cream cheese taste pretty good.

  2. was it a Zojirushi? Those are nice . . .

  3. This is beautiful, truly.
    Every new mother I know hits this point, relinquishing control, giving up what was. It’s the way to open the door to what is, and what will be.
    It’s the stuff they don’t tell you in the baby books. They really should.
    I hope you can find ways to take care of yourself during this big transition. Yay for rice cookers!

    • @ericjbaker Hi. Thanks. I just–don’t really have much time to read. Any reading I do is devoted to my work as Fiction Editor at Kartika Review or reading novels of friends…

      @jasonbladd: yes! a Zojirushi! It is so wicked-great!

      @Tea: You so get it. Not a surprise, but you do. 🙂

  4. Yep. You described the first year with a newborn for many moms. Heck, the only reason I have been borderline productive with my existence the past 2 1/2 years is that I got accepted to grad school the same year my daughter was born, and the most I could defer was 12 months…

  5. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m glad you’ve given in and just let things happen the way they happen, flow the way they flow. I’m glad you have a new rice cooker, because a good one is awesome and essential and you deserve it. You have P now, and once you’re ready, you’ll have your novel again, because it won’t ever have left you. It’s yours.

    Love you.

    • @Annalisa: It’s kind of depressing but also mind blowing at the same time. good on you for going to grad school as a new mom! I can barely get up to shower!

      @Nova: I know. It’s hard not to be hard on myself. I really did not expect it to be like this–and it’s taking enormous psychic energy for me to adjust. I’m a “I can do it all” kind of woman, and now it’s difficult even to boil pasta. Thank you for believing in me! You are a really good friend. A really good friend. 🙂

  6. Karl knobler

    I Believe that we are all refugees from the lives that we thought we were going to have. Thrust out of the comfort zone, one way or another, disoriented, we begin to look for resources internal and outside and use what we find here to move forward. Welcome to a new world. I hope the opportunities abound as they come to your attention. Disorienting though, isn’t it?
    Love and dedication
    Karl, k

    • @Karl: so touched by your words, which brought me to tears! disorienting and uncomfortable, but as you have taught me, lots of good stuff to find here. and good lessons to learn.

  7. Ericka

    Beautiful. And so true. This is what it’s like… for a while. Giving in to it and exploring the terrain here is SO rich, so valuable. You won’t always be in this place. I love how you are noting it… and honoring it… while you are.

  8. Yes, yes and yes. I didn’t write much of anything for the first year of the twins’ lives (which began only two years and a few months ago). Around the one-year mark I started in again, first with a blog and then with “official” essays. And — astoundingly — I’ve now had more than twice as many things published in the last year than I did in the five years before they were born. Here is a post I wrote when I was just getting back into writing. The motto to keep in mind (for later — NOT NOW!) is “It can be done!” Right now you’re doing exactly what I did, what is needed, and what just IS.

    http://fromthehatchery.com/2012/03/11/it-can-be-done

  9. I continue to give in. I work a lot one week, give in the next, because we will never regret the time we spent with our babies/children, but we will regret the time we didn’t. And how freeing it is to give in, to lie in bed when the baby is napping instead of racing around like crazy trying to exercise and write and blog every free minute we have. Yesterday I took the kids miniature golfing while the house sat a complete disaster after a weekend away. And I will never regret spending that gorgeous day outside with my kids. So glad you are going with the flow.

  10. Pingback: On Opportunity and Unexpected Collaboration | 80,000 words

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