This month has been a blur. I thought the earliest days would feel similarly blurry, but they were distinct in their newness, their strangeness. Now, just over 12 weeks in, the day-to-day fuses together. The first half of March was different from the second half, though, since I was editing my book. I alternated between either working on it or looking after Clara, and there wasn’t much time for anything else. Luckily Clara was still in her newborn hardcore napping phase because I don’t think I would’ve been able to get it done otherwise. (Thank you, baby! And also thank you Andrew for also making sure I had plenty of time to work.)
The thing that I found interesting about editing was how much of the work was shifting sections around to fit the right way – it wasn’t really a matter of adding new sentences, but changing the order of the existing ones, like a puzzle. The answer was there, but I couldn’t see it until I looked at it from a few different angles. I also realized that the best way for me to edit was to read the words out loud, so for better or for worse, the book that Clara has had read to her most has been my own. It put her to sleep more than a few times; I won’t be asking her for a blurb.
There’s still work to do, but I think the heavy lifting is done, and I’m happy with the manuscript. I still can’t believe that after all these years of working on it and fussing and revising, it will be available for others to read. It freaks me out a lot as well, but I have a few more months to psych myself up.
The other half of the month, the non-book half, was more quotidian. I took Clara for long stroller walks when the weather warmed up. I cooked dinner more often and tidied up a bit. When she napped and I was too tired to do anything useful, I watched many episodes of The Mindy Project, Togetherness or Better Call Saul. We went to mom and baby yoga classes and I met up with my mom group a few times. I spent a lot of time trying to make Clara laugh with my animal impressions, which are much less impressive than Andrew’s. It’s so fun that we can actually make her laugh and smile now! You can’t take for granted the heart eruptions caused by gummy baby smiles – they’re the best.
I also read Elissa Albert’s After Birth, a messy and passionate book I sometimes related to completely and sometimes… didn’t at all? Either way, they were very strong reactions in both directions. I can’t quite get my thoughts together coherently about it, and I think I should read it again when I’m beyond these first few months. Maybe the subject is too close to me right now, especially if you consider that I read most of it on my phone, scrolling through the text as I was nursing the baby, often in the middle of the night. For a much better rundown, read the always insightful Kerry Clare’s review of it over here.
Despite my flip-flopping feelings, I highlighted many parts of the book as I read it. Unfortunately I must have done it wrong on my phone because I can’t find them now; I blame reading too late at night. There was one highlight that worked, though, from a part where the narrator is pondering the dissertation she’s been working on while she drops her son off with a babysitter:
So the dissertation thing is pretty much a lie. But you need an identity, some interest and occupation outside of having a kid, you just do. Otherwise the kid has to be your sole interest and occupation, and we all know how that works out for everyone.
It’s funny that this is the one excerpt that worked because I often thought of it during the second half of March, the idea that all-encompassing mothering is dangerous. I do know that having a writing project grounded me, helped me feel more like myself, so when I didn’t have anything formal to work on, I felt a little aimless. But sometimes it also felt good to have no other obligations, to just focus solely on being a mother, especially as Clara becomes a fascinating little human (her latest trick is sticking her tongue out; it kills me.) It’s a double-edged sword and I’m not sure if I’ll ever figure out the right balance, but I’ll keep trying.