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.