Writing, for me, has always been a way of understanding things—a way of recording the events, to play back to yourself later, when you feel safe enough to look at them closely. Writing is like the TiVo of life.
So it was when I was a newborn mother to Carter. I remember the impossibly long days, and the longer nights, nursing, it seemed, constantly. I listened to the same CD of lullabies over and over again, and Tom said I’d been imprinted by them like a baby duck. Maybe he’s right. I still can’t listen to Shawn Colvin without tearing up.
I wrote, then, in and around my expanding life, my changing shape, the loads of laundry and the CD on the player. I was hungry for stories about other people’s experiences, too, so I collected their words, and before I knew it, I had so many they made up a book.
With my second pregnancy, I wanted to go back maybe, to those heady, consuming, confusing early days, but of course you can never go back, I know this now. Instead I embarked on another journey, this time to lands even more foreign to me—twins, the NICU, and Avery’s diagnosis of Down syndrome.
With my nose still red and itchy from the anesthetic, the babies freshly ensconced in the NICU, Tom and 4-year-old son Carter barely through the door to the cafeteria, I had out my little blue notebook, writing it all down, like a spy in my own life. Trying to uncover clues. Trying to make sense of it all.
I wrote and wrote, until there were so many words, they made up another book, and then the book took on a life of it’s own, a fourth child, needing my attention, as well as the babies-growing-into-toddlers, toddlers-growing-into-children. It was easy to submerge myself in the rush of life, the ebb and flow of what other people needed from me.
Until I woke up one morning and realized that if I’m not growing babies, or chasing after toddlers; if I’m not writing books about those experiences, then what might I be doing? Where am I going? What’s next?
I don’t have an answer.
For the past ten years, I’ve lived my life in service of my family, and they’ve been good years. A part of me doesn’t want to let go. But I can see that I have to, in order for my children to grow into the next stages of their lives. I need to look ahead, instead of checking the rearview mirror.
It feels scary and also, very familiar. It’s like being a newborn mother all over again. That time when we’re called upon to stretch, and grow, and become—ourselves, but new and improved.