November 2010. There’s no turning back now. This train is driving itself, careening towards its one and only stop:
I’ll be honest. When I found out I was pregnant, joy was not the first emotion I experienced. It came soon after, in a flood, and has for the most part lingered, swelling and pooling and swirling inside me, working its serotonin-inducing magic. But in that first moment, as I sat fully clothed on the toilet, staring at that double blue line, there was no room for joy. Every ounce of my being was too saturated, too soaked through, with a more potent emotional cocktail: equal parts fear, panic and dread.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want a baby. I did. I just figured I would have time to get used to the idea – in the abstract, theoretical sense – before my uterus began to house one. I believed this because up until the exact moment I found out I was pregnant, I had all but convinced myself that I was infertile. The fact that I had no basis for this conviction did nothing to dampen my certainty of its truth. I was a Woman with Fertility Issues. I had accepted my lot. Thus, an unexpected pregnancy wasn’t something I worried about. At least, not with the dedication and intensity with which I fixate on things I deem worthy to worry about. I told myself it wasn’t fair (in the larger, big picture sense) to fear both pregnancy and infertility simultaneously. So I opted to fret about my assumed inability to get pregnant, since I was certain – certain! – that it was the more likely of the two calamities. And yes, make no mistake: a year ago, I would have categorized both pregnancy and infertility as Calamities To Be Avoided.
Turns out my anxiety was misdirected.
So here I am, 37 weeks later, with a baby “as lofty as a stalk of swiss chard” growing in my belly (seriously, who comes up with this stuff?). His or her arrival is imminent. My husband and I are now proud owners of a crib, a stroller, a car seat, and more baby gear than we know what to do with. We’re equipped. Excited. Ready. And, yet … our lives have been oddly unaffected by the bun in my oven. Sure, my body is doing its part to accommodate this little person inside me. But my life still feels like my own.
I have been advised to prepare for a hostile takeover.
At this moment, feet firmly planted on childless ground, I have no idea what my life will look like a month from now. I’ve had a glimpse, certainly. The majority of my closest friends are either current or former residents of Life With a Newborn. I’ve heard the horror stories – sleepless nights, persistent brain fog, days that pass without a single “me” moment. Not exactly fodder for creativity and productivity. But that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? The months after giving birth to a child aren’t meant to be spent creatively or productively – unless, of course, we’re talking about creative and productive parenting. And even that would likely be deemed too ambitious an undertaking for a new mom. Don’t attempt anything that will further deplete your already compromised energy stores. Just focus on getting through the first three months with your sanity intact. Only then, after you’ve emerged from your sleep-deprived, spit-up laden haze should you attempt to reclaim your life.
This may be sage advice.
I reject it.
And with that whole-hearted, emphatic and indisputably naïve pronouncement, I begin my quest to Embrace the Detour.
Clever title. But what does it mean?
During the first twelve weeks of my new baby’s life (the length of a standard maternity leave), I will endeavor to do the wholly unadvisable and likely impossible: I will attempt to write — and finish — a novel. I will try to write daily, both for the book and for this blog. I will likely regret making the previous statement.
A few caveats: First, it’s not as if I’m starting from scratch. I’ve already written three chapters of the book — a Young Adult novel in the vein of Sliding Doors, with a sci-fi twist — and I have an outline for the rest. Second, this isn’t the first thing I’ve written. It’s the first novel I’ve attempted to write — which I’ve heard is a unique beast — but it’s not as if I’m new to the whole sitting-down-daily-to-write routine. Over the past two years, I’ve completed five TV pilots, twice as many treatments and pitch sheets, several webisodes, and a handful of other random things. And third, while my goal is ambitious, the stakes are pretty low. There is no looming editor deadline, no agent eager for pages. Nothing happens if I fail. Although, the truth is, if I do fail — that is, if I don’t finish by the three month mark — I will probably be forced (by my husband and my own conscience) to go back to work as an attorney. So I guess I take caveat #3 back. The stakes are incredibly high.
So that’s it. Embrace the Detour is an experiment in creativity and productivity in what I’m told will be an exceptionally un-conducive environment. It’s my attempt to prove that motherhood — and in particular, Life with a Newborn — isn’t something you’re supposed to just “get through” and then get on with your life. The fact that it’s new and scary and hard doesn’t mean it has to take you away from your life. So it’s a detour. Maybe it’s also a shortcut.
Then again, maybe it’s a rabbit hole. Dark and twisted with no way out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m optimistic and excited, both about this project and my sweet new baby. But underneath those socially acceptable sentiments, I’m completely and utterly terrified. Not about motherhood itself, but of what motherhood will do to my life. To all the Good Mommies out there, this will sound horrible. It sounds horrible even to me. But it’s the truth. See, I like my life right now. I like who I am. Where I am. Who I’m with. Where I’m headed. And that’s what scares me. I’m afraid that motherhood will take me wildly off course and that I won’t be able to find my way back. That being the mother I want to be will require me to leave other parts of myself behind. That I’ll wake up one day and wonder what happened to the me I spent so many years trying to find.
And yet, I want to believe that I won’t have to choose. I want to believe that it’s not an either/or, that a woman can be both supermommy and superstar. That I can.
And so here I am. Determined to do this small thing in order to prove to myself that I am capable of doing something much bigger and much harder and a lot less concrete.
I have no idea what to expect (this being my first blog, my first book and my first baby), but I have a good feeling about all of it. But then again, I’m still living in the Land of the (Child)Free. For now.