It seemed that Writing the Life Poetic was in its fourth trimester, too. With the proofing of content-in-layout complete, there was a final step I hadn’t anticipated whose logistics were far more complex and time consuming than I could have imagined: permissions. With forty poems by other poets appearing in my book’s pages, it was now time to request permission for usage from those poets and their publishers.
I was sleeping maybe two hours at a stretch. Night and day were one continuous blur of breastfeeding, diapering, rocking to sleep and making mental to-do lists that would never get done. I became a highly calibrated diagnostic machine attuned to every sound, movement and bodily function of this mysterious little sea creature posing as my son.
Theo wanted only to be with me. Too new for any agenda or activity other than relating to and being in contact with his mother, he simply needed all of me, all the time. Having lived alone and worked alone for most of my adult life with occasional evening and weekend spurts of extroversion, my brain chemistry was completely unprepared for this recalibration of relatedness. I was euphoric and overwhelmed and desperate for time at my computer, where I could think things and write them down. I wanted to take a step back to reflect: What did it now mean to be a mother – this baby’s mother?
But I didn’t even have time to make it to the bathroom on my own terms. It became apparent in these early days that the fortress that was once my life, my identity, my sense of self had been blasted to smithereens. I had no context or language for this new vulnerability of caregiving. I had only my moment-by-moment indentured service to the life of my precious son. I did not regret the dissipation of my old way of life; I just hadn’t quite found my foothold of context in the new one yet.
My office was up a steep flight of stairs. It was doubling as a guest room for a steady stream of family who had flown in to visit and help. Recovering from c-section surgery and entirely entrenched in the play-by-play maintenance of Theo, it took me at least three weeks to make my way back up there. I remember swaying over my desk, a bit dizzy, looking out at the computer screen over the head of my sleeping child, trying to remember exactly what it is that I was supposed to do here.
A mother finds the resources to what needs to be done. And so it was with my fourth-trimester book. One permission request at a time, I typed myself back into some semblance of writing professional. As the e-mails clicked out into the ether and the contracts for usage started arriving, I was learning step by tenuous step how to integrate who I had been into whom I was becoming. Steeped in the present tense of new motherhood and new authorhood, I tended these new babies – my multimedia twins – with a kind of enchantment laced with regret, knowing that soon enough they’d be traveling in the world without me.