If you know me in real life or are friends with me on Facebook, you probably know that I’m pregnant with twins and due in August. Before becoming pregnant, I had a lot of panic about the changes/cataclysms/droughts parenting would inevitably cause in my writing life.
At the time that I found out I was pregnant, I was writing a series of persona poems about a couple that had been through multiple miscarriages. A friend cautioned me at least twice that there was power in my words, and I should watch what I say because it could bring it into existence. With my first positive test, I stopped writing those poems, panicked I would somehow cause myself to miscarry, but after I was out of the first trimester, I had to return to them. Their stories needed to be shared. Once those poems were done, my forays into writing/submitting have been limited, but fruitful. Four acceptances and a new chapbook out into the world.
There is a heated debate about writing and parenting. Some people have chosen simply not to have children. Others, like Cheryl Strayed, said they chose to stop at a certain number (most said two). One said the key to success was having only one. Others have said things like, “There will come times when your need to write overcomes your need to sleep,” or “You’ll discover that nothing is necessary. You won’t need a desk or a particular type of pen or a certain amount of time. You’ll make it work.” There are articles everywhere, good and bad, about how to make time for writing as a parent.
When Brian Spears, poetry editor of The Rumpus, accepted a poem of mine, I felt such strong solidarity when a week later I read one of his tweets about how he was trying to wrangle his twin daughters. We can poem and parent.
There is the gendered nature of this issue too. Not only am I carrying them, but I’ll be birthing them (which can be strung up with recovery depending on how I end up birthing them), and I might be in charge of most of their care as well, as it is for many women. With twins, it’s impossible for just one of us to take on all of the care, and my husband has always wanted to be a father and is very active already in their prenatal care. Who knows how things will be once he returns to work after his two to three weeks of measly paternity care and I am with them alone. And after that, when I return to work and we find a routine.
I’m also the writer of the two of us, not my husband. It can be difficult being a mother in the writing world. I can only find that AWP had lactation rooms as of the 2014 conference. Most (if not all) writing retreats don’t allow you to bring nursing infants, and any parent left alone with two children at once would find it difficult navigating that while their partner is off at a retreat for 2+ weeks.
Having children, especially two, is also extremely expensive. If we were both writers, we would be having much different conversations about the nature of our money since our money would be dependent on our creative lives. I am a teacher in my non-poet life while my husband manages a hotel. We make things work and live modestly, which has allowed us to save. Now we will be using that money on the purchasing of items for our children, compensating for the loss of my income when I go on maternity leave, and eventually paying for their daycare when I return to work after 16 weeks.
Poeming hasn’t given me much in the way of extra money. A few of my published poems have resulted in receiving payment. My chapbook, Philomela, sells out usually when I take it to events. The difference between the discount I purchase copies for and the actual sales price has resulted in profit when I sell it, but it’s all minor, eked out over time. I only get to read so often. There will also come a time when my first chapbook, my only book currently, won’t be as “relevant,” and I won’t be able to sell it as easily because it’s too different from my newer stuff. I’ll need new blood to sell. Eileen Myles writes well of the times she got paid. $600 for a poem seems like a lot, but over a lifetime of writing?
There’s much to wonder and worry about navigating the poeming and parenting worlds. “Wherever I am/I am what is missing:” if I’m a parent in the middle of a drought, maybe I’ll just be the poem.