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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

a kinder, gentler version

Zoe is 4 weeks old today, which seems impossible. How have four weeks already passed? How have four weeks of me doing nothing but nursing and bouncing a baby just disappeared?

These are hard times for me. I started to feel more like myself at the end of last week—the scary hormone visions (more on these another time) are less vivid and I even read a little last week. Stella seems to be adjusting to life as a big sister. Dinner time is a little more manageable. Zoe is gassier now, but when she smiles (she really smiles, I swear), I press my lips to her downy red hair and feel so lucky. But I’m still so tired and irritable, especially by the end of the day. It doesn’t help that D just started a new job. I’m really excited for him—really—but it doesn’t make me less frustrated with his erratic schedule.

I had this idea in my head (while I was waiting for Zoe to be born) that I would somehow be able to surrender myself completely to these months of caring for my kids, and I’m certainly happy to not be teaching right now and to be on maternity leave from my communications job. But I can’t stop thinking about writing. I can’t stop worrying about not writing. I can’t stop thinking about my manuscript. I fret over essays and stories that are getting rejected and need to be revised and sent out again. I worry about all the books on my self that I’ve been meaning to review on this blog. I can turn off other parts of my work self, but I can never turn off the writer part, and in a way I wish I could put her to rest for a month or so. Be quiet, stop worrying, take this time.

But maybe these moments—when I want to write but can’t—are what make me committed to writing when I can finally get back to it. Before Stella was born I was a writer who rarely wrote. During those long winter months after she was out of the hospital, when we were stuck inside and I was unable to put her down, I couldn’t stop thinking about writing, about the necessity of words. And when I was finally able to go to the coffee shop for a couple of hours, words and images simply poured out of me. I vomited everything onto the computer. A year later I had written half my book. Two years later, I had finished a complete draft.

The truth is that right now I can get only one thing—two things on good days—done each day. On Monday, I went to Target and vacuumed downstairs. Woo-hoo. Yesterday I napped for two hours. Woo-hoo. Today I’m posting this, which is huge because both girls are home with me. I am standing in the kitchen typing while I watch Stella’s soup cook. Stella is watching a semi educational video in the other room and Zoe is sleeping in her car seat. These are stolen moments.

So when would I write? In the evening, I am so crabby and tapped that I all I want to do is watch episodes of The Wire, which I wait impatiently for the mail carrier to deliver. I can’t get up early to write because I’m already up early, feeding the shark.

I know I’m hard on myself—I’ve always been this way. Now would be a perfect time to trade myself in for a kinder, gentler version of me. Is this possible?


Anonymous said...

Kate, I do think you have to let the writer-self rest, take a break and loosen her hold on you for now. I wouldn't be able to say this if I didn't know from my own experience that you never really lose the writing. It's okay to let it rest for a little while. You'll pick it up again--and it will be right where you left it, waiting.

Sending you a hug and wishes for lots of good sleep and good times with your beautiful girls. Four weeks? Where does the time go?

Suzanne said...

I understand. I did a lot of writing when my twins were babies, partly, I think, because motherhood was potentially so all-consuming that I had to write to claim a bit of myself. I wrote at midnight. I got babysitters and went to write in cafes. I wrote my novel while my kids were in nursery school, and now that they are in elementary school and demand so much less of my time, I can't seem to motivate myself.

Special Needs Mama said...

I think motherhood, because it is so all-consuming and overwhelming, also feels as if it might utterly demolish our writer identities. Fret not. You are a writer always, and will be a writer again when the kids are sleeping and you are rested. Take notes if you must, but think of everything as going into your writing: reading, living, raising those beautiful girls.

Jodie said...

Kate, I simply can't comment on how to carve out time for writing with a newborn and a four year old.

However, you are a good writer. Why? Because the phrase "feeding the shark" will stick with me for the next six month every time i hike up my shirt and wait patiently for my little one drain me dry.

Well said my friend, well said.

Andria said...

I am amazed (and a little pissed)that you vacuumed the downstairs. Damn. I've got 4 weeks on you with my new baby, and I haven't even done that yet.

Also, it's funny how alike we are right now. Dave's and my nightly Netflix escapism? Big Love. I put the kids down for their naps and go to the mailbox, where the little red envelope is waiting.

I remember that you and Donny had this ritual when Stella was tiny, too -- but it was the Sopranos then. I feel an essay brewing. New motherhood and HBO escapism. There's something to it.

Anonymous said...

A kinder, gentler version, is something we all want, I think.

Hang in there, I think you are doing very well.

Lisa said...

She has red hair. I am smiling.

kate said...

I think you're right-motherhood feels so consuming that it seems that there is no longer room for Kate the writer to exist (or thrive). I WILL start taking notes, and maybe that will make me feel calmer about it all. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

what the heck are you doing vacuuming?! :) now, that's pretty amazing. somedays still, i get two things accomplished.

i know it's hard to shut off the writer and the worry that thoughts are getting away from you. i actually put a dry erase board in my kitchen and i'll sometimes just write one word on it, or one sentence that i know will jar my memory at a later time. you could then collect these as 'writing starts' when you feel up to it. to me, it was like trying to grab at the strings of balloons before they left me for good. the kitchen is our grand central, so it helps to have a place there for me to attempt to multitask (like the simmering soup and sleeping babe and you at the computer)

all in time, my friend. try not to do it all, let some go, and get some rest. those postpartum visions will fade.

kate said...

Andria and camera shy momma, the vacuuming only happens because Stella is in pre-school three days a week. I would never be able to vacuum (or do anything else) if she was home full-time with me.