Some days here in this house is my whole world, and others I am itchy to be part of something outside these four encroaching walls. There’s a constant tug between this small person who is blossoming with every minute of nurturing and play, and a tiny voice inside my head reminding me ‘I’m a person with needs too’. I want to be and do everything with her, but I want to model what a woman following her goals looks like too.
Before I was pregnant, I would look ahead to new motherhood and imagine that it would be my whole life in these early years. I have always wanted children, and I have always wanted to be in a position to stay at home fulltime with my kids. I thought I’d put my writing career to the side, and perhaps step back into it when my children were old enough to go to school. Maybe I thought that way because at the time I was a student and then a journalist and I didn’t LOVE it, or maybe it was because my mum was such an inspiring stay-at-home-mother I wanted to try and emulate that.
I started writing the manuscript for my first book Please Don’t Hug Me because at the time it felt like it was something I couldn’t not write, and not long after that I got pregnant. It was embarrassment of riches really, finding the thing I wanted to do career-wise at the same time as fulfilling a lifelong wish. I’d hoped to be able to finish my manuscript before baby arrived and enjoy the best of both worlds, but then I went on to have hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) for the entire pregnancy. I was in bed vomiting all day every day. It was incredibly demoralizing to spend long days and even longer nights stuck in bed not even able to look at a screen or a book because it made me nauseous. I was cut off from the people in my life and things were fairly grim. My growing stomach was a reminder that my state wasn’t permanent though. I could look ahead. Looking ahead felt like all I could do. When HG took away the thing I wanted to do so desperately, it fueled my desire to make that dream come true more than I thought I could want it.
And then, oh baby. In the first months of new life I detoured into another dimension. One filled with in-the-moment moments and mindfulness thrust upon me. ‘One day at a time’. There was joy unparalleled; she slept and all searching left my body. The tiredness demanded a deeper word than tired. It took root in my bones, but I was unencumbered somehow.
Around about one year in I started to come up for air. Things are the same, but we’re underwater, or on the moon. I tried to carve out an hour a day of my own, and when that fell away, an hour a week. It remains a battle for the time, the space, and the reason. Why write, when there is food to prepare, washing to be done and a child who would be happy back inside the womb some days, it feels? Why write, when friends are strangers, and I’ve forgotten what a meal tastes like warm? Why write, when my sentences trail off before I finish a thought; what good could come of those words? It feels meaningless and never so important as now.
I write so little but like what I see. More importantly I like what I feel. There is calm and rhythm. The slow beating of a drum. May she knows what this feels like someday. Without the padding of time it’s bone on bone. I write less but it’s better. Or if not better than truer.
At first I was rusted, but the want was there. I was a dog chasing its ball over a cliff. I kept at it, buoyed by every mother who has been before; she is the sea. Agnes’ first birthday was the line in the sand and when I reached it, my book came back out of that bottom drawer. I edited in every nap time and spare minute. I buffed and polished the piece of my heart I’d laid down on paper and timidly took it out into the world. It found it’s place, and for that I am so thankful. I’m still working on the balance, sometimes feeling like I’m failing at both, but excited about what lies ahead.
If you’ve got any tips about balancing writing and motherhood, please send them (and coffee) my way.