Week Two: Despite Interruption

Before there was Maia, I had a vision of motherhood. More or less, she would be playing by my side (happily, of course) and I would need to feed her, change her diapers, help her nap, and there would be this time at the beginning of her life where sleep would be rough, but certainly not by 10 months!

Bronze statue of Eros sleeping Greek, Hellenistic period, 3rd-2nd century B.C. Said to be from Rhodes L. 33-5/8 in. (85.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1943 (43.11.4) 

It's not entirely my fault for thinking this way. Motherhood is romanticized and has been probably forever. Consider Aphrodite and Eros, Mary and Jesus, Naomi and Ruth... and then on the other side of "bad" mothers: Demeter, Eve, Medea, and so forth.

Here is a very small modern example of this tension between the ideal version of the mother-infant relationship and the reality, I've noticed. Lately (as in everyday for the past few weeks), when Maia is teething, I see the infant Tylenol cover with the mother cradling her baby's head reassuringly on her chest. While this can be the case some moments, other moments are more like my daughter wailing in my arms, turning her head away, and arching her back. Those moments I think about throwing that box of Tylenol with its mocking image across the room.

Here's what I'm coming around to: one doesn't have to love motherhood; one only has to love moments of motherhood. This is true of life as it is in motherhood. There is sorrow in life, there is loneliness in life, there is frustration in life; so it is true in motherhood. There is also intense joy, pure smiles, and the largest amount of love I have ever felt in my life. Just look at this face!

These, however, are some of my favorite images lately that illustrate another side of the mother-child relationship. The first is an annoyed mother trying to read and the second is a mother who is continuing about her art despite interruptions.

Eunice Pinney, Mother and Child c. 1815 National Gallery of Art

Mary Cassatt Young Mother Sewing, 1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Despite interruptions, I am carrying poems with me. Not the way I used to in the sense that I could perseverate on a line while waiting on the metro, but it's a feeling that it's there and I will get back to it once I take care of this bout of teething, change the diaper, etc. Sometimes it sneaks up unexpectedly.

Before Maia, I used to have a morning ritual of getting up early to write sometimes while it was still dark out. I had time. And getting up early now is no longer appealing when you have been 2-3 times overnight and you feel like you could peel your eyelids open with tape. Time (and sleep) was a luxury I don't have as much of anymore, but I am learning to adapt.

I would like to have an image of Venus changing Cupid's diaper. (I know... gods don't poop).

My writing has largely focused on current events - and I can't believe I wrote two "decent" fledging poems this week. Motherhood has opened my voice in writing. It's hard to explain how except to say it's larger and less qualifying of itself. There is quite frankly more at stake in the world right now that may contribute to the change in voice, but I also wonder if when you raise a child and you prepare him or her for the world, do you in turn as a parent, feel you have to contribute more towards the world than perhaps you have previously?

So far my husband and I have created a little reading monster for this world - one who is learning to love books almost as much as her mother. In fact, it was her third word (boosh) and she will scoot around the room to get to them. And ironically, during a fit of teething, reading books to her is one of the few things that calms her - more than cold gummy toys, washcloths etc.  

Lastly, motherhood and writing are hard and joyous vocations. One needs a tribe to mother (family) and one needs a group of writers to write (at least I do periodically).  I was grateful to meet with my writing group this week and be inspired by talented, thoughtful women.

I was also grateful to have this one's company while raspberry picking despite her "interruptions."

I didn't make it to Bread Loaf this year, but we made it to a meadow nonetheless.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *