I’ve been mulling, mulling, mulling… over the conversation between Rachel and Sarah. I’ve gone back and forth about posting here.Â Â Â But here it is, what I feel. Limited though it may be.
As a writer, my poetry/prose have mattered to me. Language has been a huge part of my life.Â I have made sacrifices/compromises/choices to be able to write. I have defined myself by my writing.
But writing has never been WHO I AM. Writing is not more important than me. I am what matters in that relationship.Â My writing has never eclipsed me. I don’t think it could.Â Maybe it justÂ isn’t good enough, but I don’t think that’s it. My place in the world as a human has always felt bigger than my place in the world as a writer.Â Writing is part of me.
If I could pick to have an extra year to live, or my writing would all be erased from the world, I’d have a hell of a year.
Well, guess what?Â My children aren’t part of me.Â I’m part of them. If I could choose one extra year, or magically make it as though the kids had never been born…
Being a mother is bigger than being a person. For me. Just for me.Â I cannot speak to what others feel as moms or writers or people.Â I don’t judge them, really I don’t.Â But for me… this is it. What life is.Â Because this is the life I’ve lived.
I have some sense that when I had kids, I became diminished as a person myself, but that in shrinking, I also became far more than I ever had been before.
That is exactly what I was afraid of, before I had kids– being diminished, changing.Â And it is the greatest transformation/gift/blessing of my life.Â The alchemy of motherhood has been, for me, that what I feared most turned out to be the greatest boon.Â The surrender and loss of self have been my single greatest joy.
If I knew then, as a non-mom, what it would be like to become a mom? If I could have seen a video of the inside of my head today? If the me-that-I-was could have glimpsed the nights of sleeping in vomit, the months of no-sleep and the lack of writing time and the lack of libido and the lack of time alone and the lack of showers and the weight gain and the chicken nuggets and the playdates and all of it…Â I honestly don’t think I’d have had kids.
There. I said it. It’s true.
Because it was too big a sacrifice to make without knowing what it would be like to actually have the kids, emotionally.Â The kid-having-joy was a currency I didn’t understand yet.
Parenting has been, for me, a surrender.Â I’m glad I did it.Â But it is a surrender, a consumption.
And this change is a hard one, because it leads to a supercession of identity.Â That self feels less real/mature/vital than this self to me today.Â Which (I think) makes moms sometimes feel like non-moms are somehow younger, less experienced. And that makes it really really really really hard to speak about honestly, from a position of equality.
I think that’s part of what troubles people about the conversation between Sarah and Rachel.Â It’s likeÂ a Jew and an evangelical Christian in interfaith dialogue.Â In order for the Christian to be honest, they have to say, “You just haven’t seen what I’ve seen. You don’t know all I know.”Â Even if they approach with sympathy/love, they approach in a condescending way, a postion of having gone beyond…
Meanwhile the Jew is going, “Rapture? You seem NUTS to me, wingnut. If that’s beyond, you can keep it!”
I’m glad Rachel and Sarah are talking about all of this. I’m saddened that people are hurt by their words.Â ButÂ this is my place in the conversation.Â And for some reason I feel the need to claim it.
Also– I want to add that being a mom isn’t, for me, about biology.Â It’s about surrender.Â Adopted or biological.Â For me the transformation is about surrender.Â And if you’ve surrendered to something else– maybe to writing, or to your partner, or to a pet, or to a friendship so big it consumes you…Â you may know what I’m saying…Â If you, without having kids, would give up your life for someone else, you may have just gotten there another way.Â I wish I could have ever been a friend/partner like that. I’m not.Â That’s my limitation.
I was a VERY self involved person.Â I still am.Â But now I’m not the MOST important person in my universe.
I’m the third.Â For better and for worse.
(and now I’m cringing as I hit send)