Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eula Biss Had a Baby

In days of ignorance, when friends cautioned against the mixing of the writing life with the parenting life, I guffawed. I had a model in my mind of Gina Ochsner, a woman whose situation crossed my path in my first years of graduate school. A mother of three and a writer, Ochsner went to a bar every evening for a few hours to get her writing done, always home in time for baths and bedtime. This sounded like a very good life for me. Plus, she's Catholic, so clearly the heavens were speaking to me.

I have one baby, just the one, and I never write anymore. Glancing over the panels and discussions for this year's Nonfiction Now conference (a conference for - you guessed it - nonfiction writers), I was struck by how far removed I am from the conversations of my field. Here's a panel of note: "Nonfiction: A Hybrid Genre or a Highly Evolved Form?" This will be an excellent panel. I know it to be true because there are awesome people on this panel, including Nicole Walker. I would like to go listen to Nicole and others in my field discuss what we're doing. I want to get excited about it. I want to have written something.

But alas, I have not been getting to the bar in the evenings. At this very moment, I hear my son has woken up and he is playing with blocks. He doesn't know I'm up and writing this blog, but when he finds out, it is all for me here in the subsaharan writing land of bloggerville.

Eula Biss had a baby. She is my hero, writerly speaking. Seriously. She's freaking amazing. Read here for evidence. I am watching her, waiting to see how the baby affects her writing life. This is not to say I am at her level or that the writing I was doing before in either volume or quality was comparable to Biss's. But still, I wonder how this baby will take over the landscape of her life, how it will reach past the very fingertips that once pounded out on a typewriter.

I do note with some satisfaction and consolation that Biss is not on the Nonfiction Now schedule. I shouldn't be satisfied about that, but for the moment, I just need to be.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Question of Two

As soon as that baby comes out, the question of will I have another one climbs up into that place and fills the void of the recently empty womb. It's crazy. You don't want to ask it. You want to leave that question alone. You want to enjoy the baby you have right in front of you. And yet.

I have tried to ignore the question from my mother, my father, my siblings, my in-laws. But I cannot ignore the roar of it coming from my own body. I am 36 after all. If I want to do this again, it's not like I have all the time in the world.

One is so nice. One is so manageable. And Atticus is a marvelously good baby. He really is. People comment on it all time. I'd like to take credit for that, and maybe I can insomuch as he's very well-loved and well-tended to, but anyone who knows me and my husband knows that if we have a well-behaved and chill baby, those are my husband's genes poking through. If we have another baby, maybe this baby will take after me, which is to say, this baby will be wild, adventurous, and troublesome. Those are three wonderful, wonderful traits in an adult, but docile is a much, much better word for a baby.

Do I want to go through that pregnancy again? Pregnancy stinks. It really does. Especially when you have to go through Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This is a very real consideration. If I decide to get pregnant again, we will have to arrange for one of our mothers to be here for maybe a month to get us through the worst of it. And I have to plan around work. And Atticus will have to watch his mommy be very, very sick. I don't want Atticus to see that.

Moving past the pregnancy, there's all those sleepless nights again. How do we ever survive them, we mothers? It's such a cruel, cruel time maybe meant for bodies more resilient and younger than mine.

But a new baby, a little brother or sister for Atticus ... wouldn't it be a disservice to Atticus to not have one? Wouldn't we regret it when we're older? Can I get through the first couple years of it again for the long reward of it?

I say my little family a lot now. I like my little family, but is that the right word to describe us as a permanent unit? Are we meant to be a little family or are we meant for something a little bit more? Will I ever just say family without the little in front of it?

That torturous question. I told myself I wouldn't consider it again until Atticus was three, but that's an impossible thing to avoid as this blog suggests.

Why have more than one? Why do we choose that? Is it because we have more to share? Because we love the smell of babies? Because we are careless about family planning? What are we here for? What should my life be?

I end a lot of blogs with the word Blurgh. Blurgh.