mother, seafarer

It’s a strange thing, knowing you’re going to become a mother. It’s terrifying and beautiful and overwhelming and humbling, all at the same time. For me this news came as a shock. And as a writer, I’ll admit, quite a difficult thing to accept. Up until recently, I hadn’t been able to express any feelings or thoughts on the subject in any of my written work, perhaps because these emotions have, like a fetus, established themselves in a way that (without sounding negative) is more of an embezzlement of my independent energies – drawing from them, like a drawing of blood – as opposed to moulding them into something warm and malleable that can be readily used.

At first I found this incredibly frustrating, a hugely negative aspect of being pregnant. But in recent months it’s become clear how hugely necessary this internal struggle has been.

When you create you do so for yourself – whether this be the writing of a poem, a song, creating a piece of artwork, a letter, or a play – the process of crafting something that shapes your voice, and informs its meaning, is entirely self driven – a somewhat selfish, though wholly honourable means to unearthing the checks and stripes of one’s artistic DNA.

Writing when pregnant, about the feelings of being pregnant is like writing for someone else. The urge to do so is there, but the ability – not so apparent. As the pregnancy progresses the urge to write for the voice of this, as yet, voiceless child becomes stronger, like a giving back to the life that quite consciously, relentlessly continues to take something from you. I look at my parents and think of how much they’ve given me, how much I take, and how much they still continue to give. This, to my mind at least, is the natural-born relationship of parent and child. Though we share a great deal there is still a great deal of take, and take, and take again. By nature a child, fully grown or not, enriches its parent’s life; not in the drive to give conscientiously, but in the almost blind discovery of a new kind of strength: one that allows the parent to give over and over again without begrudging the act.

A life that grows inside of you, and then continues to grow outside of you, draws everything from you. As Greta Stoddart articulates so beautifully in her poem ‘You Drew Breath:

You drew breath

‘as a boy draws something silver from a river/an angler from the sea a bale of weed/ as a woman draws herself from a bath,/ as blood is drawn from a vein./You drew breath as thread is drawn through/ the eye of a needle, wet sheets through a mangle/as steel is drawn through a die to make wire/and oil draws up through wick its flag of fire’

The sense of repetition in this poem, and indeed of the phrase itself ‘you drew breath’, captures that monotonous sense of the tireless fatigue – the ‘indefatigable hoof taps’ of my pregnancy; of trying to write about my pregnancy – of trying to make sense of my pregnancy. It all becomes very much like water, a constant wave that rushes into the shore, and into the shore. A kind of inwards heartbeat, and I’m incredibly grateful for its occurrence. Poetry trickles steadily onto the page like a backwards flood. An unbroken broken bank, with the flanks pushed wide against my body. I feel almost weightless and fleshless – but like a shamanic ritual, in my writing at least, I am slowly being pieced back together. The sense of relief that I can write again now is overwhelming. But this in no way matches the feeling that I can write for another purpose. That I can give something of myself, for something other than myself. This, is the greatest relief of all.

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