When I was pregnant & wondering about my new roles & difficulties, a creative mother of three.
I wake just after 4 AM, 34 weeks pregnant with the realization of movement, the placement of knees like sticks. Have I rolled on my stomach this way, in the night? Have I shifted internally, done most of the work it will take to memorize another human while I sleep? She is more angular now, the jabs more distinct.
Soon there will be a little mouth to latch. Soon I will have to back away, give up the independence I’ve gained while my three and five-year-olds play, nap, and lunch in school. There will be a mouth. There will be my body racked, newly postpartum, a new synthesis for measuring sleep and feeds. Words will gather under my skin, will need to be let down as I find new ways to write. On clouds, in midair, scrawl on a bookmark.
I will need to relearn this “mothering while writing thing” I’ve developed. Maybe I’ll need to stave it off like deadlines one can just worm out of. No one will miss it. No one will miss my take on the world apart from my kids. Maybe it is an early retirement, or at least a writing sabbatical.
Maybe by the time this new child is taken into school, accepted with fresh bibs and labelled sheets, the world will be so different and I will not be able to offer any more words. Maybe writing will have simply been a dream, an old website, forgotten blog with links that don’t even work anymore. Is this how every creative mother prepares for maternity leave, her sad exit curled up like leaves?
How shall we tether ourselves to letters when the head hits the floor? Birth, labour, new hours to sleep and not sleep. Seems like finding ways to bake without any flour. To raise roses without any ability to smell. I pack for the rolling in of fog, a compass tucked in flimsy nursing bras. What do we bring with us to birth a child and also words? Is there room for poetry amidst ointments and salves?
Oh, how I want to be programmed in some way to keep my hand on the pen, my eyes seeing all and swiftly reporting in Morse Code, in Farsi, or Latin, in kindness functioning to give off a sound, a tangible promise for the exchange of words or jewels.
I want to stay present is all, to have birthed and stay whole, mind relaxed but pages taut. How do we stay writable when our whole makeup sways under the wave that unclips our very legs? There will be contractions, surges that come so quickly I cannot really breathe. There will be hormones that dip and molecularly change my hair. I am curly, no, straight, mist and salt. I am phantom mother-writer, both pirate and hostage on a creaky old ship.
We women raising bodies from our own, we shift. We change, our very organs giving up space, saying, “No, you stay. I’ll get up.” We move from our spot on the floor, crisscrossed. What will I discover to be gone, or rather, who might I become?
I cannot make commitments when I don’t know how fragile I’ll be, yet I want assurance that words will be there. I want the promise of poetry, the green, blue, red, and gold foil stars on my paper. I want to stay writer, beholden to insightful critiques, to stay planted and yet, I roll with every impending contraction.
Maybe this writer thing will be a memory of something I once did. Something that fit me then like being someone with waist-length hair and hippy skirts. Maybe once the babies come in multiples, we officially can’t have it all. (See, I teeter on resignation. I flirt with the notion of failing). Maybe three is really what they say: “You’ll be outnumbered”.
You’ll never again brush your hair or even take care of your teeth. They’ll rot out of your cheeks and dirt will paste your nails. Never again have jeans that fit right and your husband will never even remember your naked body before kids. Maybe writing is the only fair trade. The thing lost in war or fallout after divorce. Simply a lost commodity, like stale breadcrumbs to toss at ducks.
Or maybe, with the help of memory, of muscles that curl to a pen, we’ll invent a new kind of filling in. An idea that comes in the night, curled up tight in cloth, that needs to be let in. Maybe I’ll find my words in a new lullaby, just the thing!
I’ll learn how to take a journal to the park when we swing. Maybe chapters and phrases will branch out like wild things, the ceiling disappearing into a jungle, a little boy named Pan standing on the cornice in search of his shadow. Maybe I’ll be the one to help, the one with stories when my daughter asks. Maybe. I’ll have words and the chance.
Maybe time, the wrestle of hours is okay, gestation building something in terms of writing. After all, those very tiny mouths open and open to find their own words, too. They eventually make sentences from all of those “goos”. Maybe waiting is okay.
I inhale enough to fill bottles, to practice for when air gets thin or stifling. I store up my breath for when I feel closed-in. I’ll choose to trust there will be enough, molecules left even for me. New reserves, hell, maybe a new alphabet.
There are many words that tell of letting go, expressions like, “Later on, then”, and, “After a while, crocodile.”
In an out. It’s only an exhale, the passing of oxygen through the narrowest of passages, reliance in an automatic system. I let go, ship off trust in a red balloon covered in peeling, gold foiled stars. We are both forging new identities, both of us created for birth and change. Where she kicks, I feel and breathe.