A couple of nights ago, I finished a novel. This is hardly. . . er. . . novel, since I’ve now written fourteen altogether (Gee Crikey Willikers, Etc) – and that’s only the ones I’ve finished.
Last year I tried the Mirena contraceptive, hoping it’d help solve some of the health issues left over from pregnancy #1. Instead it made things epically, spectacularly (but temporarily) worse. It took longer to remove than usual, and during those horrid months I had to take sick leave because the Mirena made me so depressed (and sick, but I could almost handle that). Desperate to find a way out of the pit, I started a novel.
The Mirena was removed, and I felt it was better to get on with pregnancy #2 than to sit around being unhealthy and miserable for longer. We conceived more or less instantly (scroll down for pics of the results…) which was great, but meant I had maybe a fortnight before the nausea etc completely took over my life. I did Christmas shopping, took extra shifts at work, visited friends like I was about to go on holidays, and so on. Although I’d hoped to finish the novel, it didn’t happen. Once that fortnight passed, I knew it would likely never be finished. It was 33,000 words long (more than halfway through a young adult first draft), and was by no means the worst novel I’ve ever attempted. So that was a shame.
Fast forward to this year. TJ is here and although he’s super easy in most ways, it’s been a long time since he’s settled during the day except in my arms. So I’m rooted in place for around twelve hours a day (even when CJ comes home, because he can’t hold TJ while doing the dishes), and watching the effect of yet more neglect on Louisette (who’s had a very sick mum for a year now) is heartbreaking.
Since Louisette was born, I’m largely mentally healthy – except when physical problems persist more than a couple of weeks. Which would be fine if my health was average, but it’s only been three and a half months since the last (and, thankfully, final) pregnancy, and it’ll be another nine months before the hormones finish leaving my system – then who knows how long to fully recover after that, but definitely years for weight alone (I was in the healthy weight range when we began trying to conceive the first time). So this time around I have post-partum depression. Awesome. And a MASSIVE debt due to pregnancy illness. Oh, and right now I have bronchitis for the THIRD time since having kids – and it’s no coincidence that each time followed a few weeks of gentle, controlled weight loss. I can’t win. (It’s awfully early to be deliberately losing weight post-partum, but I weigh so much now that it’s a serious issue all by itself.)
It’s really hard to imagine life even a few weeks from now, when things will likely be utterly different on the TJ front. I work hard to remember how quickly babies change, and that the worst is over, and that there is an outside world.
Once again I turned to writing, because I feel awful about my parenting at the moment, and I needed the other side of myself to take me out of the crapness.
Long story short, I wrote a novel. I wrote it in a month, from concept to (first-draft) completion – a large chunk of that WITH a baby on my lap and a toddler on the whine, often causing me to write one-handed, stopping and starting as the baby stirred or the toddler made a new demand. Or I had to stop for another painful bout of coughing.
It always takes courage to write a book, and after the first one the hardest book is the one you write when so, so many other books have been so, so rejected. It takes a special kind of courage as a parent – and, let’s face it, as a mother in particular because that’s how our world tends to work – because you need to actually convince yourself from moment to moment that writing for an hour a day (or however much) is more important than sleep, or playing with the kids, or cleaning, or seeing another doctor, or having an adult conversation.
That’s something I do believe, which is an extraordinary thing. After all these years, I still believe in my writing more than virtually anything else.
I really, really hope I’m not wrong.