(It is typical of how things have been going lately that this four-month update comes twelve days after Owl’s actual four-month birthday.)
There are three things I need in order to write: time, mental space, and both hands. These days I rarely have all three at once, and when I do, that time usually gets allotted to the necessary upkeep like laundry or food shopping or tidying the apartment. I’m still thinking constantly of things I’d like to write, and I snatch moments here and there to jot notes (most of which sit, lengthy and unsorted, in my misnomered “things to do today” note in Evernote), but the process of turning hasty scribbles into presentable writing requires more resources than I’m typically able to generate.
Also, it’s hard to write about a thing quickly enough for it to feel relevant even to my own self. Over the past month or two — or however long it’s been since my last post — I’ve started and had to abandon several posts because life has moved on. For example, I wanted to write about all the fears I had regarding Erik’s return to work, but before I could get to that, it had already happened and everything was fine (much more fine than I feared, which is a big ego boost, I must say!). Another thing that’s happened at least twice is I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night and made a whole bunch of notes that somehow didn’t seem so important once I reconsidered them during the daytime.
It’s rather amazing how things change week to week, in every aspect of our lives. Owl went through a couple of weeks of badly interrupted sleep recently, in what was probably a major developmental transition (a cognitive growth spurt rather than a physical one), and now that I’m three nights into the return of long stretches of sleep, I can recognize how very tired and distracted I was then. One can cope on little sleep, it’s just that everything seems so much better and more doable on more. But it’s hard to recognize that when I’m in the middle of it; I just feel frustrated and incapable and I tend to think it’s my own fault I can’t manage better.
I must say that four months is a fascinating time, even if the disrupted sleep was rough. Owl smiles, laughs, and chatters at us all the time. She has learned to roll over seamlessly — at least from her back onto her stomach, in one direction only — and she pays such intense attention to our actions that I wouldn’t be surprised if she understands quite a lot of what’s going on. She’s extremely interactive in non-overwhelming social situations, she’s outgrowing her baby bassinet, and she is a mere month or two away from starting to eat solid foods.
Perhaps because of this, I also feel constantly outpaced by the way everything else in my life seems to slip just out of my reach. I was telling a friend the other day that while Owl is in many ways easier to care for now than when she was a newborn, I feel busier, because back then I felt as if my sole job was to take care of her whereas now I’m struggling to figure out how to integrate parenting with everything else that matters in my life. (And what are the other things that matter? By no means have I answered that question either.)
I feel as if the whole shape of my life has shifted but I don’t know what the new shape is. I don’t intend to be — I do not think I would be happy being — the kind of stay-at-home mother my mom was, focused entirely on child(ren), cooking, and housework. But to not be that kind of mother means actively shaping my life to include other things as well, and that’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. Where does writing fit in, painting, exercise, getting my work into the world, socializing, traveling…? Not that I need to have it all figured out at four months postpartum, but my current state of mind feels unnervingly like walking through the woods at night with a flashlight: you can see two feet in front of you, but no farther, and though you think you’re probably safe where you are, it’s hard to be sure.
At any rate, having a child does bring certain things into clear focus. When I asked Erik whether being a parent has changed his way of working he said something like, “I have no patience at all now for wasting time.” I feel the same way. I still believe in wandering and exploring and just plain loafing, but I have always had many interests and activities and had trouble prioritizing one over another. I don’t know that I’m going to have that difficulty anymore. For the moment at least, I know what is most important.