Eight years ago I entered a tunnel.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew that adjusting to motherhood would not be an easy transition for me. My husband and I had spent seven years happily married and doing whatever we wanted to, not to mention the fact that I was a freelance writer. When it came to my professional and personal lives, I was in control.
As much as I tried to prepare myself for the transition to motherhood, there were certain things I couldn’t prepare for, especially the all-encompassing, emotionally and physically draining aspects of caring for a newborn. I knew the little guy would demand attention, but I also assumed he’d sleep in a bassinet in my office as I worked. Or, maybe he’d lie there and coo, while I typed away. But never did I imagine how demanding caring for a high-needs, colicky infant could be.
And, so, for the first year (or two) of his life, I felt as if I was operating in a tunnel. It wasn’t post-partum depression; it was adjusting to the reality of this new season of my life and the fact that his demands trumped my desires for the leisurely life I had grown accustomed to.
I never really got to see a light at the end of the tunnel after our first child because baby number two came along almost exactly two years later. I was still exhausted from number one, but I not only had a newborn to care for; I also had a toddler. And so the juggling began.
I will admit that I remember more details about my son’s early months than I do my first daughter’s, and I think that’s because I was so tired, operating in survival mode from day-to-day, stage-by-stage. But, at the two-year mark, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It was just in time for me to become pregnant with our third child and thus I returned.
My best way of managing the infanthood of my children was to hibernate inside that tunnel. I didn’t put pressure on myself to make big plans and do a lot of things. I didn’t do play groups or moms’ groups or even library lap time. Instead, I hibernated inside my home, inviting in a few friends and family between nap times. For the first year especially and even up to the second year, I put very low expectations on myself as to what I would accomplish personally and professionally. I didn’t set big, audacious goals for writing that great American novel during nap time. And, as much as I love to travel, I didn’t plan trips that would cause more stress than relaxation. I decided to leave that for when the breastfeeding and potty training were well behind us.
But here’s the good news: there is light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m standing in it.
I started seeing it a few months back. It grew brighter the day I unpacked the diaper bag for the last time. Ever. I saw the light, as the older two headed back to school, and for the first time, both of them were there for a full day. But it was during a weekend prayer retreat a few weeks ago that I began to realize that the tunnel is behind me. I couldn’t be happier because, while I couldn’t write that great American novel during the short sleep cycles of infants, that doesn’t mean the story wasn’t still brewing and growing and taking shape inside me.
About five years ago, I started on this journey called Unexpectant. It began as a way to create a resource for moms-to-be and a point of catharsis for moms-already. It was to be an experiment in sharing our stories to help one another through the ups, downs and in-betweens of modern motherhood. While this project first began with the notion of it one day becoming a non-fiction book, what happened over time was that something new emerged: a novel.
My passion has always been for fiction, but I first thought that Unexpectant needed to be non-fiction, sharing real-life stories from moms in the trenches. But, as I began to emerge from my tunnel, I realized there is another story to tell, one that has been inspired by many of the stories I have heard from women throughout the years. While every woman’s story of birth and motherhood is different, there is still something universal and all of those stories were coming together as one.
So, for the last few months, I have been pouring into that novel. I have been researching and interviewing, learning more about things like hyperemesis gravidarum, as well as the craft of writing. I have spent time reflecting and praying, coaxing the story onto the page. I have been taking an online workshop through the acclaimed University of Iowa’s writer’s program. I am attending Donald Miller’s Storyline conference next weekend, and I am devoting the month of November to joining in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) endeavor to write 50,000 words in one month, which would complete the first draft of my novel.
And I’m pretty excited.
All of this means that the Unexpectant website will be pretty quiet during November as the creative juices flow (or as I sweat blood over the keyboard). Throughout the month, feel free to send me words of encouragement (I’m sure I will need them!) and dig through the archives of the website until I emerge from the writer’s tunnel.
Eight years after being shocked by how much an 8-pound, 6-ounce boy could rock my world, I’m entering another tunnel. It’s a different one. A new one. An exciting one. And, just like the tunnel of infanthood, I know there is a light. The good news is, there aren’t any messy diapers and late-night feedings along this journey. Just lots of coffee, a bit of stress, and some blood, sweat and tears.