Thursday, January 10, 2008

Circling out

Once upon a time, when I read things that were neither directly related to work nor an Agatha Christie novel I'd read forty times before, a friend gave me an article on the geographies of pregnancy. It described the ways in which pregnant women's movements are gradually constrained, partly through the physical difficulties of getting around but also through the social expectations attached to being 'careful' while carrying a baby. I never checked out if there was a sequel. There should be, because however small my life's radius when I was pregnant, it was large compared to what it became with two kids.

Looking back this last year has been hard. When I told me friend Anthony I was having another baby, that I would have two under two he laughed (a little grimly) and told me it would be the hardest year I'd ever had. Which is kind of like saying that labour hurts: it's true enough but no one really believes it will happen that way for them. And anyway, hard - like hurt - isn't something you can describe: happens to you and no words can make it real for others. So Anthony, thanks for the head's up but it wasn't much help.

Hard. Tiring. Confusing. Hurtful. Scary. And inward. I had no idea how inward I had become. I'm a homebody at heart, and I travel mainly for work or because it's good for me to broaden my experience, and not so much because I really enjoy trying to read a timetable in Thai or order a beer in German ('Ein Bier, bitte' - it's not actually too hard). But my movements had fallen into ruts, ones that you can see if you look closely in the right streets. Home - bus - work; the same path each day. Veggie store - deli - Coles; the same path each week. Home - the area; home - the op shops. Not much else as happened. It's because we are tired, and our kids aren't keen on car travel, and we've been trying to establish their sleep patterns, and there's not a lot of time to go anyway in between work and garden and keeping the home fires burning.

But mainly my inwardness comes because motherhood has made me raw. It's peeled away my exo-skeleton of distance and cynicism. I've spent the last year dodging bad news and bad scenes. I read two pages of Dave Egger's book on the Sudanese lost boys and had to leave the shop in tears; I don't watch anything that doesn't have Will Ferrell in it because it will be too emotionally draining. I've ducked friends and family; don't want to speak on the phone; never read the paper or watch the news. I've hunkered this last year, just getting through. Having kids has attached me to the world and its big and little events, and it's made me shy away from those things. I understand why animals crawl away to a dark place when they are hurt or sick - that vulnerability can only be countered through a safe quiet place in which to regain some confidence and balance.

But now, it seems we are beginning to emerge. It's a shock to realise and hard to believe. But I am reading books, lots of them, and have even agreed in principle to watch something that's not from the Scrubs box sets that have filled my nights these past twelve months. And I'm beginning to travel, nowhere glamorous or paricularly fun, but going to places by myself, for work, sure, but with time to fill with things I might like to do, and no kids to think of while I do it. I'm beginning to recognise myself again, even if I still can't describe who that self is. It's a cliche but I feel like I'm opening up again. I'm stretching out of the foetal position in which I've been curled all this past year, beginning to walk in wider circles, and sometimes even breaking the circle. My maps are getting a little bigger again.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this. Just to acknowledge to myself, I guess, that things change, and that Tuesday can be very different from the Sunday before, and this January is not the same as the very dark August, September, October I saw last year.

Anthony told me things would change. But that's kind of like telling someone that labour hurts: it's true enough but no one really believes it will happen that way for them. And anyway, change - like hurt - isn't something you can describe: it just happens to you and no words can make it real for others. But it's very real for myself.


blue milk said...

Oh man this was just such wonderful reflective, insightful writing. (Everyone seems to have come back to their blogs so refreshed and writing so beautifully, and apart from those there seems to be a large number of my favourites who have come back to close their blogs down, but anyway).

We had our worst year in ten years last year and god it feels good to be able to say "last year". I know you had a bad one too and I'm pleased to see that you are feeling as optimistic about this year as I am. I enjoyed your descriptions in this post so much - you have a way of writing that is so intimate, so personal and yet so reassuringly familiar to my own experiences. And you have just the most wonderful hold on life.

Kez said...

I'm glad you're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. My sil is really struggling this year too with 20 mo triplets - I take my hat off to you both! I couldn't do it!! Here's to a better 2008 for you - my motto with coping with Billy is "This too shall pass" :) Of course, once once hurdle passes another one appears but I won't tell you that! ;-p

Miss Cee said...

This was so beautifully written. I felt so moved by it that I wanted to say something in response, but have been staring at this little box for five minutes not knowing what to write. I don't have children, but can relate to the feeling of opening up after a period of darkness. I do hope the new year is an easier and happier one for you.

Lost in a reverie... said...

Love, love this post. Although you have changed from the experience of parenthood, you will discover new ways of being with the kidlets and Al - and I'm not sure that some change is such a bad thing. I'm so pleased you are moving around and finding a way through and out, albeit slowly.

I too found Will Ferrell helpful during my time spent locked-in...But now I'm craving something Parisian with a plot.

fiveandtwo said...

You've travelled a long way.

kate said...

It is amazing, isn't it, how such experiences are so common, and yet mind-blowing, intense, and monumental for each of us.

We're trying to work out at the moment how the hell you go away with a toddler and call it a holiday. When we've got that one nutted out he'll probably be at school...

Carole said...

All I can say is "Waow, I felt - and someday still feel - exactly the same".
When DD#2 was born, #1 was 2 years 2 months old ; that's how we had wanted it, even though we knew it would be a tough time, for a while... and just as in your case, saying and knowing it was nothing next to EXPERIENCING it. Throw in there a house being built, moving and starting a garden from scratch... but the worst part was going back to work after 2 years of parental leave. That's why I'm happy, too, that they are growing up and I am growing out of that "isolation" phase and can be myself again (at work mostly).
Love your blog, and it looks like we have a whole lot in common !

Victoria said...

Beautiful insightful writing. I hope you have a really good energising time away. It's always nice to know that the big closed-in-tiny-kids stage, special as it is, will not be forever.