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.

22 thoughts on “Becoming

  1. You always seem to touch a chord in my heart when you write so openly and freely about your journey as a woman. I think that is what is so hard to see all at once: woman is so many parts of life. We are Wife. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Grandaughter. But when we become Mother, it feels like we have graduated to another space, almost outside ourselves and we leave behind the “girl we once were”. At least, that is best as I can describe it for myself. And I am “becoming” all the time. Shifting and moving into “more than.”

    I think you are a true artist. I look forward to more of your creative work!

  2. Nancy, your love for your daughter shines through so clearly, and I know that a Dx affects not only the parents, but everyone who loves them, too.

    I have so much more to say! I’m sending you an email, let me know what you think about my suggestion.


  3. Nancy,

    You didn’t leave an email or I wouldn’t hog up Jennifer’s comments with a response to you. I just can’t not say that I hope you or your daughter will write me. I’d love to talk about this. My son is 3 and I *still* get on that roller coaster sometimes. Click on my name and it will take you to my blog. I’m not a world-class writer like Jennifer (:-)) but you can email me from there.

    Take care,

  4. I guess I meant to say the ‘baby’ issue is so far behind you that you may not want to respond – it sounded odd when I read my previous post. I should have said you are so far AHEAD of all this — 🙂

  5. Hi
    This is so not on your topic but neither was chicken – although it sounded great. I’m clutching at straws on how to help or speak to my daughter. She has 3 children and is expecting her 4th (a little girl) in May. She found out on Jan 5 that this baby will have Down Syndrome. We are very close (although 400 miles apart) and I just don’t know what to say to her when she says things like ‘I just can’t get excited about this baby at all’ — then she will talk about not wanting to hospital people to keep taking the baby (ie gets protective). Then she looks on websites and sees adorable babies with Down syndrome — then she says ‘oh, they’re just not cute and my baby won’t be either’ – she is on an emotional roller coaster and I hurt with her. She is reading your book and there are many times she can laugh and say ‘it will be fine’ — then I see her look at the new carriage and I know she wants to cry not only for the baby who will be in it, but for the baby she THOUGHT would be in it. You are so far behind all of this you may not want to respond, but if you do… wow, that would be great.

  6. Thank you for the comments, and suggestions, and general awesomeness of your support. I’m waiting, and waiting, for that next thing to reveal itself…or as Bennett would say, “I’m using my patience.”


  7. I’m waiting for the day I’m in your shoes, sometimes very impatiently! I have my interpreting that I so want to get back to. And I really want to use what I’ve learned on my road with both kids so maybe I finally will venture into working with children. I’ve always stayed away from interpreting for kids, not wanting to get involved with IEPs and the opinions of parents who think ASL is horrible and want their children to be hearing-like — obviously I have my own opinions and they are strong ones and I’d never been sure that I could bite my tongue enough to work in that setting. But now that I’ve seen my son’s preschool and met a range of kids (not all with Ds) I find myself wanting to be a good language model for those youngest ones, even if it means I have to use SEE signs I could find a way to make even that conceptually accurate if I tried.

    Hehe, sorry for the blog post, but I’ve recently been really bitten by the idea that I could do this so I’ve got a lot of excitement buried inside, waiting for the day that both kids are in school.

    Here’s hoping you get bit by this kind of good bug soon.

  8. I don’t know you well enough to even venture any suggestions. But I *do* know that whatever you decide, it will be full of grace, dignity, ebullient love and joy. And it will stretch you yet again. Those things I do know, for sure.

    I look forward to whatever you share about the process and the journey.

  9. You sure know how to live, Jennifer. I keep witnessing that, so I guess I’m spying on your life, too. Thanks for being such an amazing model of how to live — with simple honesty and awareness.

  10. When we write, we are *present in our own life*–we are thinking, feeling, assessing and developing perspective. It is a formative process, cathartic and soothing (where we “stretch, and grow, and become—ourselves, but new and improved”).

    I, too, write to sort out thoughts, to make sense of things. Writing is a way of reflecting and recording, but our writing also reveals much about who we are, what we value, and where we’ve been (what we’ve experienced and discovered along the way). If we look close enough at where we’ve been, we can find important answers about our future.

    I don’t know if you’re taking suggestions, but I can see you teaching, or doing a cookbook (of simple, comforting, & mostly healthy 🙂 food to prepare for the family)…with narrative, of course!

  11. Very nice post. I can see my own life in it, (but with no books of course and not with the skill with which you write). I always look forward to reading your posts.

  12. your words are always so full of truth. places to see and feel myself in. your shared vulnerability is like a soft sheath of hope for all those uncomfortable places inside. thank you again!

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