“Daily life is very seductive. Weeks go by and we forget who we are” – Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down The Bones.
I first read this quote long before I could possibly understand it’s true meaning – a very good friend gave me a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down The Bones as a Graduation present around ten years ago because she knew it was my dream to be a writer.
This was a turbulent time in my life – It was only four years since my son, Louis, had died, the University course I had found so much solace and distraction in was coming to an end and, at 24 years old, it was time to face the real world. I felt completely ill equipped for whatever was to come next. Looking back I was still very much in the grip of post-natal PTSD and the real world, away from the campus and endless nights holed up in the University library (and bar) felt like a doubled edged sword – a chance to start making my dreams come true, along with the chance to falter and fail, once again.
Ultimately, that concept of entering the real world ended up being rather different than I expected. Having met my, now husband, Steve in my final year of University we found ourselves expecting our eldest Daughter the year after I graduated.
Pregnancy after Stillbirth can be extremely stressful – I simply couldn’t relax, not even for a second. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I could barely function. Any thoughts of writing or building a career were abandoned as I literally waited out the pregnancy. I held my breath all the way to 38 weeks.
I can remember the day our Daughter, Amelia, was born so clearly. Her arrival healed so much of my pain, it was such a defining turning point for me.
I threw myself into being Amelia’s Mother – I had feared developing some kind of post-natal depression after the dust settled but all I felt was gratitude and relief she was here. Obviously that is a wonderful thing but I was also so focused on my family life that those dreams of being a writer began to float further and further away – who has the time to write? Or think? I reasoned that surely no-one did, at least not those who could only access the minimum of childcare, and helped to run their husband’s business (along with the cooking, cleaning, washing etc, etc).
I didn’t forget my dreams entirely, I just rationalised them into submission…there was still time (I was in my twenties), my husband’s business pays the bills so that’s where my focus should be. If I have time to write, I should actually work outside the home and earn some real money…
Gradually the years crept up until I wasn’t in my twenties anymore, I have helped my husband’s business grow and I have held, well respected, positions in business outside the home. We’ve been lucky enough to have another beautiful daughter, Poppy (another pregnancy that sent me into a stressed out tailspin for the duration).
My children are now nearly 9 and 4 years old and our lives are so busy – I actually had no idea life could be so busy; which brings me back to Natalie Goldberg’s quote “Daily life is very seductive. Weeks go by and we forget who we are”.
I understand now – all too well.
Is life how I thought it would be? No, it’s better. Remembering the way my life was when I first read this quote. I couldn’t imagine ever healing, moving forward or being happy again. However, in finding that happiness I leaned into it – perhaps scared that if I shifted my focus it would be gone. Motherhood went from being my most painful failure to my all encompassing success.
I am a good Mother – I am good simply because I love my children and do my best. Ironically, I don’t think the daily aspect of motherhood comes naturally to me. I’m an introvert by nature and I find the demands and noise of my girls super stressful, I love to sleep, I dislike cooking and the overall feeling of life and death responsibility still freaks me out even after all these years. I have learnt that just because you love something (or someone) doesn’t mean that it will come naturally to you or that you will find it easy. I’m a good Mum because I keep going, doing my best, regardless!
I acknowledge that the weeks/years have gone by and I have certainly forgotten who I am, or indeed who I was. At first I found that to be a terrifying thought – I looked around at my friend’s and peers enjoying their achievements and worried that I had given myself so much to motherhood, to heal my pain and finally be a Mother, that I had sacrificed everything else.
I’ve been working with those feelings for around a year now. Perhaps brought on by the new found clarity that finally getting some sleep brings, or perhaps as I approach my mid thirties I know it’s time to look at what I want to achieve. Yes we are Mothers, and that will always remain my greatest achievement (it’s pretty hard to top bringing human’s into the world – especially when they turn out to be awesome little humans!).
But I’m me too, Claire, who wanted to be a writer. Claire who wanted to travel. Claire who wanted to achieve her dreams. Claire who loves spending time with her friends. Claire who wanted to be a Mother – and I’ve come to see that all those things can co-exist, if I let them.
So, I began to carve out the pockets of time, I began to write – I’m not the young woman I was ten years ago when I was given Natalie Goldberg’s book, I wrote a different kind of book because I’m very different person. I put all the expectation and pressure to one side because motherhood (and age) has taught me some valuable lessons about patience and that there is virtue to be found in quiet achievements.
My first novel is being published this Summer – That feels so good to say! It’s all part of the rich life I’ve fought hard to rebuild, by doing so I’m keeping a promise to the broken, but hopeful, woman I was.
I don’t think we forget who we are when we become Mothers – I just think we get so busy we forget to recognise all the ways in which we’ve simply grown.
P.s The friend who gave me Natalie Goldberg’s book way back when also wanted to be a writer – her name is Heather Blanchard and she finally made that dream come true too. Check out her amazing debut novel Dark is the Sea here.