As I wrote in my last post, this blog is beginning to take a pretty twisty path, without much respect for the standard timeline. Today I’ll skip back to a thread I dropped a bit hastily, but first, a brief recap:
What do we know about this character, Pokey Mama?
She came to writing late.
She came to parenting late.
She still hasn’t figured it out, BUT
She suspects her body has, and her creative, intuitive mind has. They just need to trust one another.
And now the story.
When last we met the nascent Pokey Mama she freaked out a cadre of young writers with a rash declaration of her intention to conceive. She then freaked herself out by being unable to conceive and shortly thereafter, was freaked out by a woman in a pink cardigan who maligned the quality of Pokey Mama’s eggs.
Most of her friends at the time were artists, and childless, for one reason or another. So she wasn’t confronted on a daily basis with the fact of babies, and even if she had, she’d never been a “baby” person. Maybe because she’s the youngest in a family of four and didn’t have the experience of being a big sister—but secretly she worried about her lack of maternal yearning.
Meantime, one of her best friends from high school had just birthed her third child. She was a stay-at-home Mom and her husband traveled a lot so she often had to manage three young kids herself. Pokey Mama pictured her as a many-armed goddess, nursing her baby while tossing juice boxes to one kid and playing checkers with the other. She was impressed by how competent her friend was, how committed and responsible.
As time went on, and Pokey Mama remained bookless and childless, she began to feel stuck in perpetual adolescence. She’d finished, revised and re-revised her first collection of poems, come achingly, annoyingly close to all kinds of awards, and returned home empty-handed. She had no witch’s broom, no Grail, not even a measly chapbook.
Did Pokey Mama cry? Yes. Did she curse and lash out unfairly and bemoan her lost youth? Yes.
When she was done with that, however, she did what any good artist would do. She took a step back, squinted her third eye and considered. Time to start over. What’s missing? What did I leave out?
In the case of her fertility, she’d forgotten to do the most basic homework of all—pay attention, look inward at what her body was faithfully doing every month and when. She’d also forgotten to ask around, (word of mouth really is everything) and when she did, she was guided to Verena, an acupuncturist of great confidence and a terrific accent.
According to Verena, Pokey Mama has a tendency toward “stuckness.” (I could have told her that.) Oh, and PM has a lot of stuff going on with her liver. Except Verena has this great English-Swedish accent so it sounds like: livah. Also, “damp wind.” How awesome is that? Stuck, damp wind. We needed to get things moving down there, and fast!
Pokey Mama had lots to think about as she lay on the table with teeny needles pulsing along her meridians, sending baby chi up against her stuckness. For instance, why, exactly, did she “want” a baby? Was it a consolation prize for her lack of progress in other areas? Was she sublimating or substituting or some other bad s-word that basically means not facing the facts? Mmmmaybe. A little.
Looking back on it, I think I’m being kinda hard on proto Pokey Mama. (See? I’m remaking my story!) As an artist it was critical to me to create meaning in my life. Writing had done that for me, but without external validation I began to get tangled up in all kinds of self-doubt. I began to lose perspective on my work, I didn’t know where or how to orient myself in relation to the “outside” world. Did it matter if I couldn’t get my book published? Did I need awards to be a “real” poet? In letting that shift happen (consciously or not), I’d come up empty. I felt barren.
In truth, the desire to become pregnant was probably a many-armed mix of biological imperative, social pressure and artistic impulse. I wanted to make meaning, and what could be more meaningful than creating a child? Of course, at that point, the child was an idea, an abstraction, a blank slate. (Hah! Was I in for a rude awakening!)
Telling this story probably rules me out as a candidate for mother-of-the-year. (Remember, Pokey Mama’s not putting herself up as a role model.) Not only was I clueless about what being a mother would mean, but as I’ve said before, I was terrified that becoming a mother would be the final nail in the coffin of my artistic obscurity.
But even back then, Pokey Mama was a persistent and contrary thing. She had an impulse toward re-making and revising the way she felt about motherhood, both as a woman and an artist, and that impulse was strong; it rode right over her apprehensions, kept going, and left a trail of flattened doubt in its wake. She was determined to make it work.
I’m grateful to that impulse. Grateful for the leap that brought me here, to this messy, unwieldy, crooked, constantly evolving Pokey Mama place.
And I’m grateful for Chinese medicine, which I love for many of the same reasons I love writing. I don’t really understand why it works when it works: it’s both practical and mysterious, ancient and contemporary, a skilled practice aided by intuition. Negative capability!
Anyway, it worked. After a few sessions with Verena, Pokey Mama was preggers. And once that fertilized egg implanted, I knew I wanted, really wanted to have a child. It was good to know. It felt great to reclaim my body from the old egg dump, and even better to let myself be happy about my impending motherhood.
A couple of months later I got a phone call. Yep. Somebody wanted to publish Pokey Mama’s book.