Writing for Two: On Motherhood and Creativity by Amy Arora

wikimedia: Anton Lefterov
In the last days of my pregnancy, a fog descended over my brain and working on my novel became
impossible. 17 days before my son was born, I wrote in my diary: Extensive editing is going to have to wait. I think I can give it one hour a day during maternity leave, once I’ve figured out the whole motherhood deal. Reading these words ten months later, I want to throw back my head and laugh, then punch Past-Me in the face.

The cliché is that nothing can prepare you for the reality of having a baby. Guess what? Clichés exist for a reason. There is no way to get ready for the sheer overwhelm of love that physically hurts, a body that has changed beyond all recognition, the euphoria and responsibility of making new life, and exploding nappies. And for me, someone who has always turned to words in times of chaos, what I was not prepared for was the fact that, suddenly, I was unable to write. 

My days were now filled with caring for my son. Together, we figured out breastfeeding and play. (We still haven’t mastered sleep.) I reveled in the joy and monotony of babyhood. When he laughed for the first time, I cried. As he slept, I watched him, marveling at his perfection while reassuring myself that he was still breathing. In the fog of hormones and unbrushed hair, my son discovered life and I discovered motherhood. Telling stories, creating worlds: it all seemed frivolous in the face of keeping this little human alive. 

Then, in the summer, we escaped the heat of France for the seaside heat of Spain. Our baby undertook bottle boot camp with Papa in order to prepare for my return to work and I was required to go out, and take my milk supply to another location. I diligently packed my laptop and made my way to a little café on the seafront, guilt accompanying my every step, and three messages sent to check that they were okay without me before I’d even sat down (they were). Even as I ordered a lemonade, my head was full of wake windows and anxiety. I couldn’t settle at all. I’d worked on my novel for a year, but it’s not like it actually mattered. 

Sustenance for writing at the cafe

I looked out at the sea, and the babies carried in slings, and the parents chasing their sandy toddlers. Then I opened the laptop and started to type. London, 1952. Katie waited. Her efforts to look like she did not care were hard won. 

Somehow, for one glorious hour, I managed to put motherhood aside and I wrote my novel’s missing scene. My characters sighed as their stories were finally brought to a satisfying conclusion. The book made sense, at last. I practically skipped back to my little family. I was a creator again, not just of physical people, but imaginary ones too. 

I’d be lying if I said that after that, I magically committed to that one hour a day. Writing still often gets forgotten, especially when my baby is teething or sick, and we all stop sleeping. But when I get the chance, I am writing. I write in my head on my walks and send myself voice notes with ideas. I write for ten minutes in the evening when Papa does bath time. And when our son naps, sometimes I write. But sometimes I also boil the kettle and watch reality TV. 

The point is, I see the value in writing again. I don’t want to stop. It’s a non-negotiable part of who I am. Because I was a writer before, and now I’m a writer and a mother. I can be both. My love for words is like my love for my son: it’s not going anywhere.

Comments

Peter Leyland said…
That's a wonderful story Amy and like many of us, I expect, it takes me back to the birth of my own child, a daughter, although admittedly I wasn't the prime mover in the process. I did at the time, however, handwrite the first hundred pages of an autobiographical novel which is now copied onto my hard-drive and is still unfinished...

Thanks for a great post about writing and motherhood which I did enjoy reading.
Ruth Leigh said…
That is so beautiful Amy, and I can relate! When I was expecting my first son, I thought life would continue as before, just with a baby in tow. I also look back at Past Me and think "Girl, what were you on??" We can be mothers and writers (I am) and the two work together. My children have brought me so much and 19 years on from that first baby, I'm weaving in those memories to books. I love that first escape to the cafe. The thrill, the guilt! Each moment is precious and you will get there in your own way. Thank you for sharing

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