Welcome to the first installment of Pokey Mama, my slow parenting odyssey. First, some back-story:
When I turned 30 I quit my full-time job as director of an arts council and decided to “be” a poet. It had taken me two colleges, six years and much flailing about to finally get my undergrad degree from Syracuse–a BFA, Selected Studies in Visual and Performing Arts. Selected Studies is a very special degree for TWCD’s (Those Who Can’t Decide.) I was kind of a painter but kept putting text in my paintings. I wanted to work in a museum but hated my art history classes. Most of all, I loved poetry, but after two particularly debilitating creative writing workshops, decided I would never write again.
I did stop writing for about five years, but eventually a friend of mine talked me into trying a community-based workshop and before I knew it I was underemployed and brandishing an MFA in Poetry from the low-res program at Vermont College. So it was the 90’s, I was married, working part-time, trying to publish my first book, get into artist colonies and then, at the age of 35, I was accepted to the Breadloaf Writers Conference as a “waitress” with a bunch of post-grads in their 20’s. They were a talented, interesting bunch (I could name drop) and it was fun, but they were young, I was not and it was a little weird, like being a den mother at a camp for over-achievers.
Long story short—toward the end of the conference I was in the laundry room talking to a couple of “fellows” and found myself declaring that I was planning to get pregnant. Their reaction was interesting—a little impressed, a little creeped out—like, have fun with that. Like, there goes whatever “career” you might’ve had. I could see them crossing me off some kind of invisible list while I went on folding laundry, already sunk in the ho-hum, Cinderella watching the step-sisters primp for the ball.
Yes, I said, I think it’s time. But inside all was not well. Just about everything I’d experienced screamed NO! Go back! Right? It’s hard enough being a woman artist, add children into the mix and it’s lifelong obscurity/head-in-the-oven time. Either you’re shuffled off into the compartment labeled “domestic” (read irrelevant, minor, who cares) “crazy” (see oven, above) or worst of all “feminist” (writing about your life/body in a way that’s not sexy).
I don’t know why I chose to make my declaration of impending maternity at that moment. Maybe it was the ticking clock, maybe all the pseudo-mothering I’d been doing, maybe I was a little allergic to the heightened colony atmosphere, or maybe I was giving up. (More on that later.) But once I’d said it, I could feel it was true. I was going to do it. And once decided, I figured the hard part was over. I’d go home, my husband would be happy to see me, presto-chango! Baby! As it turns out, this was a bit of a mis-conception (sorry, the pun is too good to resist).