A few weeks ago, the writer (a new mother) of a Tumblr I read posted an excerpt from a blog she reads. This included a passage I love from a book I love, with the comment that “we need to re-read everything after we have our first child.” I sat there thinking THAT IS SO TRUE, then I clicked the link and realized that the blog she was quoting was mine. So I wound up reading my old post, and a few others. I thought it’d been about a year since I last posted here, but it’s been two. The funny thing is that that doesn’t seem like an outrageous amount of time to be off by anymore. At my age, already, a year can seem like so little time, so fast. But with a young child, every year everything is different. As a parent, interacting with my child, I operate on multiple time scales all the time. But I think this was always true, that there were always “fast-moving” parts and “slow-moving” parts of my conscious identity.
Has anything changed? My daughter is three years old, a full-fledged kid who talks and goes to preschool and has a whole set of proclivities and abilities that are distinct from my own, a reality she’s increasingly able to share linguistically. And a nicer wardrobe and longer hair than mine.
Magda, a longtime internet compatriot, now a very new mother, said she liked my motherhood writing in an Instagram comment a couple days ago, and my immediate reaction was to think, “what motherhood writing?” My sense of the matter is that I stopped writing when I became a mother. Or at least that I no longer had any time to do any writing but academic writing, which I’m doing a LOT of, as I near the end of my Ph.D. program.
My identity as a mother isn’t something that’s constantly at the forefront of my concerns now — clearly that was still, explicitly, a very big deal when I last posted here, when Franny was one year old. It’s hard to recreate a mental model of myself as a non-mother, not-yet-mother for comparison now. I can conjure up the feeling of yearning for a child, but filtered through the future-now of parenthood. The overwhelming whole-new-kind-of-love of new parenthood fades into the background most of the time, it just is, which is a little sad, though sometimes I still get knocked over the head with it, and gasp.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming difficulty of it knocks me around frequently (says every parent of every kid this age, or any age, ever). I think having a child has now taught me just as much about anger as it has about love. Though I may be a special case, since for a long time I was convinced I didn’t even feel anger, that the whole range of negative emotions just came out as sadness for me. Nope, it turns out, not true, not even.
My daughter’s first cousin was born a week ago, and the potency of this for me (ever since the pregnancy was announced, really) is sticking, moreso because she’s not on “my side.” I’ve known neither of them, H’s brother and sister-in-law, for long (now that 4 years no longer qualifies as long) or particularly well, but my immediate, undeniable love for their baby has changed my understanding of family. I spent the birthday in tears, as we received photos, the ones of mother and daughter shortly after birth so unspeakably beautiful to me. Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot on the intensity of the postpartum period, the sleep deprivation everyone knows is coming but no one can anticipate, the total recalculation of reality tied in with utter exhaustion. My perspective on all this all three years later has changed so much, but I remember the shock of it, and look on at this brand new family with sympathy and awe, gratitude for the window I’m offered.
Other things: We spent 6 months in Berkeley, and none of us wanted to come back. While we were there, I lost over ten pounds just from walking everywhere instead of sitting in a car. When we returned, Franny was literally packing her stuff to go back to “Blurky”, and asked for her old school daily. Back in San Diego I am spending as much time in the hot-tub as I can, a 2015 New Year’s resolution I completely failed on in 2015, along with writing more, writing at all, which is one of my resolutions every year. I’ve have been reading more fiction/memoir, by which I mean way, way less than I did before I started grad school, but much more than when F was a baby. I read almost all women. Sarah Manguso may have been my most exciting discovery of 2015. Reading a mammoth (not Manguso!) while doing conference travel finally forced me to start reading on Kindle. I’m near the end of the second of the Elena Ferrante novels now, and starting get the craze — they do capture female friendship in a way I’ve never seen.
My friend oldest girlfriend came to visit me for New Years, a massive happiness. We calculated that we’ve been friends for 20 years. I hadn’t seen her in 4, which on the one hand doesn’t matter in the context of a friendship so long, because it feels just the same as ever to be with her, like no time has gone by, but on the other hand matters a great deal, because it made me *so* happy so see her, and the older I get the more I realize how precious these relationships between women are. To be parted from a person whose presence can cause that much happiness, for years and years, is the stuff of tragic romance novels. Only they’re the romances that rarely get written, much less so the ones involving a woman and a man, and those that involve a woman and her child.