Archive for January, 2007

The Mama sandwich

The small fussy person in our household has determined that bedtime shall be at 10-10:30 every night without fail. Normally this is not a problem. But last night, I just was not tired.

Solution: bring writing to bed. I have an ancient Palm IIIe whose Memo Pad works just fine for writing scenes and stories (and blog entries) when I can’t be near my computer. I use it in the car, at family gatherings, and anywhere else the bug bites me. Last night, that place was my bed… sandwiched between my two sons.

We co-sleep, have since Hamlet was his brother’s age.* “Sandwich” is not a lightly applied term. You know how peanut butter and jelly and bread become one unit, the longer they are mushed together? I wrote, on my belly, until my elbows went numb and Hamlet’s feet threatened my spleen and the little guy had wiggled so close that he was practically under me. Then I decided it was time for sleep. After all, peanut butter and jelly do squish out when you squeeze the bread slices too hard.

I worried that two children would spell the end of my writing, but I needn’t have: the evening proves that as long as I’m willing to be flexible, my various roles can–and do–converge.

*Safely. Guidelines here.

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Before Hamlet’s brother* was born, I heard from several moms who all told me: writing can wait; motherhood comes first.

They’re halfway right. Over the last three years, I’ve often rearranged my business plan–even deadlines and potential opportunities–to accommodate Hamlet. At the risk of professionalism? Probably; “family-friendly” isn’t a quality that extends indefinitely, even from the most accommodating employers.

I’d planned, therefore, to take indefinite maternity leave. I knew it would take time to accustom Hamlet to his brother; besides, the holidays would be upon us. And, for the first two weeks after the baby was born, I cared nothing about work. “Maybe my maternal instinct finally kicked in after three years,” I joked to a friend, who also mothers more than she freelances.

But no. At three weeks postpartum, the hormones apparently subsided enough to let the writing instinct back in. Writing, as it turned out, could not wait.

Although I sometimes wonder what I’m thinking, the reality is, I need to write more than ever. You know, that peace of mind thing: i.e., “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I’ve found that the kids still come first, which is why it took me several weeks (rather than an hour or two) to write this entry. Meanwhile, I’ve found flexibility–what Lauren Baratz-Logstead cleverly called “working between the cracks”–is key. I’ve noticed Hamlet is a lot easier to deal with when I’m off the computer and using my ancient Palm IIIe; somehow it makes me more accessible while I get the same amount of writing done. And that’s a huge relief–to both of us.

*Nope, still no blog name. I decided to wait until we know more about his personality.

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Reflux redux

I was really, really hoping to avoid it this time. To the extent that I cut dairy from my diet the moment Hamlet’s little brother, at two weeks of age, started to spit up and generally seem uncomfortable with digestion. But alas, just a few weeks after that, we started to hear milk come back up the esophagus, and from there we escalated to crankiness (his and mine), and finally vomiting (his, not mine).

Fortunately, I have a pediatrician who understands that mothers are pretty good at diagnosing disorders they’ve already experienced, so all it took was a phone call to have a Pepcid prescription phoned in. Which is already working; the child is back to his normal good-natured self. And that’s good, because we’ve run up against a few issues that require cash outlays. I need to get back to work sooner rather than later, and to do that effectively, I need a happy baby!

The good news is, it looks like the blogging opportunity is going to happen – more on that soon, I hope – and clients I worked for last year are asking when my maternity leave is up. It’s good to be in demand.

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Don Murray died this past Saturday.

In addition to being a world-class writer, he was a class human being, too. I can say that with certainty not only because of the way his students talk about him, but also because of the way he treated me way back before I was a professional writer – while I was a techie peon working the computer Help Desk at the University of New Hampshire. He was a professor emeritus who needed help setting up his email. At a job where the professors are not the nicest people in the world to assist, he was one of the nicest people I’d ever encountered – not just polite, but warm, even friendly.

I was tempted to say that the writing world has lost something special, but the truth is, we haven’t “lost” anyone so much as we’ve been challenged – to learn and practice not only writing, but also humility: Murray-style.

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