"Make no mistake, my friend, your pointless life will end, but before you go, can you look at the truth? You have a lovely singing voice."

-Morrissey, "Sing Your Life"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Now that I’ve had the baby, I’m for the first time getting to actually see what life is like as a mom. For the past few months, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my writing and worrying about how my writing habits might diminish once the baby arrived. The funny thing is, despite the fact that I have to be up every two hours to feed her—which means part of the time when baby is asleep, I’m asleep, too—and despite my other commitments, I still have more spare time than I would have otherwise expected, time I can easily use to write.

And on top of that, I’ve had this amazing experience to write about—I now know what it’s like to deliver a baby! Delivering a baby is one of those things that nobody can ever quite describe clearly. People will tell you that labor is insanely painful or that once you reach a point where you’re able to push you feel much better, or they’ll describe somewhat vaguely the complications that arose during their labor, but, maybe because memory is weak and flawed, nobody that I ever talked to was able to give me a clear idea of what labor and delivery would actually be like.

As a result, like most women, I went into it pretty terrified. When my water broke, I sort of knew that my water had broken and that I needed to head over to the hospital, but I was so afraid of what would happen when I got there that I convinced myself that maybe it wasn’t time, after all, so I called the hospital to describe to them what had happened. Of course, they told me I needed to come in right away, and eight hours later my baby was prostrate on my chest for our first ever skin-to-skin bonding.

The whole experience was world shaking, like nothing I ever could have imagined. I don’t hold many idealistic views about natural childbirth, but I ended up deciding not to use pain medication. I had made up my mind in advance that I wouldn’t go into it having already decided to use drugs, but that I would let myself decide based on how I was feeling at the time. That said, I pretty much assumed that I would, eventually, ask for an epidural, I was just hoping I would hold out long enough so as not to increase the risk of needing pitocin, which increases the chances of having a C-section. But, painful and exhausting though the experience was, it was never so bad that I felt I needed something to take the pain away (and good thing, too, because it’s quite possible that not having pain medication saved my life. I developed a rare but very dangerous syndrome immediately after delivery, which was caught and taken care of right away, thank goodness, only because I was hurting in ways and places that I shouldn’t have been hurting. Had I been somewhat numb to the pain, I might not have said anything, so my midwife wouldn’t have known to check me for the problem).

So I really had the whole, unrepressed childbirth experience. That eight hours of my life (and actually, the four days that followed, during which I was confined to a hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of monitors and IVs, while trying to manage breastfeeding and getting to know my baby for the first time) gave me tons of material to write about in my letters to my baby. The words still aren’t flowing from me with no effort, the way they used to, but still, I have something I want to say, which is in itself something of a miracle, compared to the way I've been feeling lately. I can go back later and revise what I’ve written to try to make the language more lyrical and the imagery pop, but for now, I’m glad that the experience was so mind-blowing and that I’m left with a burning urge to get it all down now, before it all begins to drift away from me, as it inevitably will.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm excited to announe that my baby, Amalie Beatrix Cowger, was born this past Tuesday morning at 9:22 AM. She's adorable and healthy and perfect in every other way. Due to some post-delivery complications (problems with me, not the baby), I've been trapped at the hospital all week. I'm back home now and recovering, slowly, but am taking a week off from the blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A few months ago I came across an article—which I’ve been trying to track down, but I can’t for the life of me remember who it was by or where it was published—by a creative nonfiction writer talking about not wanting her young son to read or hear about some of the essays she had written before she ever planned on having children. She was concerned about her son learning about some of the more sordid details from her life as a twenty-something, in which she did some things that she wouldn’t want her son doing. As a writer, she had felt compelled to be very open and honest, but as a mother, she wanted to keep some of these details from her son, feeling it would throw her credibility into question when it came time to tell him not to do these very same things.

As a soon-to-be-mom myself who is working on a sort of would-be memoir style series of letters that I plan to revise and then give to my daughter when she’s old enough, I found this topic extremely interesting. This is something I’ve been wondering about too—what should I tell my daughter, and what should I withhold? Do I tell her about my forays into drugs? Do I tell her how old I was when I first had sex? Or more importantly, in my opinion, do I tell her about some of the horrible, horrible things I used to think about other people? Do I tell her about what a miserable, judgmental person I was in my younger days? 

The answer, I’ve decided, is yes. I want her to know me, to really know who I am, and in order for that to happen, she must know who I was, how I came to be this person I am now. And I want her to know that these things are normal. I don’t see the value in telling her I never smoked weed. I don’t see how she would benefit from me pretending the only man I ever slept with was her father. And I definitely don’t see how it will help her if I pretend I never made mistakes, never did or said or thought things I’m ashamed of now.

I guess the truth is, part of the point in writing these letters to her is that I want her to know these things. I’m sure I’ll revise my opinions on parenting as I go, but at the moment, I feel like I want to have a really open relationship with my daughter, and I don’t want to arbitrarily forbid her to try things that I know are just a normal part of searching for yourself. Maybe by writing about these things and then letting her read them, I can connect with her on a deeper level than I would have been able to otherwise. Maybe knowing these things about her mom will help her when she’s faced with difficult decisions herself.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Recent visits to my midwife have been forcing me to face the fact that my baby is probably going to be here early. I’m at the point now where this is no longer bad news, though it is equal parts exciting and scary (I swing back and forth between feeling wholly unprepared and just ready to get this part over with and begin the next chapter of my life). Currently, I’m dilated two and a half centimeters and am 90% effaced. My midwife described it to me as being about a quarter of the way through labor already, before my labor has even begun. She was concerned about these stats two weeks ago, when I was still five weeks away from my official due date, but now she says this is actually a pretty good place to be. The baby’s big and healthy and is in the correct position; she seems ready to come out, and my body is clearly ready. She would not be considered a preemie at this point, and there would be no real risks if she was born right now.

The knowledge that she could be here any day has kicked me into high gear in terms of preparing for her arrival. I’m suddenly very concerned about the state of her nursery, what we have left to get for her, and how we will cope with taking care of her as the fall gets into full swing (Damien’s teaching two classes and working as the Managing Editor of New Ohio Review; I’m only teaching one online class, but still, even that one class, I must admit, makes me nervous—I have no idea how busy a newborn baby is going to keep me or how difficult grading papers will be on little or no sleep :P).

I’ve felt distracted and sort of fuzzy in the head for the past few months, which has made it difficult to write. Now, I pretty much can’t think about anything but getting things ready for the baby. I’ve been making trips to various stores every day or two, suddenly feeling like I should pick up another pack of diapers and baby wipes, or thinking of some other pressing thing—a play mat, say—that I need to look at in person to think about which one we should eventually get. I’m also obsessed with spending a lot of floor time with my cat, Franny, who I’m determined will not feel neglected when the baby gets here.

The end result is that, though for a while there during the summer I felt like I got into a decent groove with my writing, I’ve pretty much lost it as a writer and don’t see any sign of it coming back any time soon. There is just too much else on my mind. I’ve been fighting and fighting this ever since I found out I was pregnant, but I think I’ve reached a point now where I’m sort of okay with it. I’m worried if I try to force something that clearly doesn’t want to come right now, I’ll end up doing more harm than good. If I allow myself to spiral into feelings of self-loathing and blame, I’ll begin to associate those negative feelings with the act of writing, and if I let myself spend too long questioning my abilities as a writer, whatever abilities I do have will likely retreat even further into their shell of insecurity.

But this doesn’t mean that I’m not still hoping to write. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not going to worry about it for the next few weeks. If I wake up one morning with words dancing in my head, you better believe I’m going to rush to my computer and get them down. But I’m not going to force myself to sit and stare at a blank screen, and I’m not going to let a bit of a dry spell make me feel like I’m a failure with no skill, like my first book was just a fluke and I’ll never, never, never be able to do it again.

In the meantime, blogging helps me to at least think through writing related issues, and I’m going to keep writing letters to my daughter, also, though they’re getting more and more expository and dull. I’ll keep writing them anyway, and later, I’ll try to revise them into something more interesting, something she might actually want to read.