Winter Field

Stripe of Sunlight in Winter LandscapeDecember. My baby’s four month anniversary. Christmas rush. Maternal exhaustion.

Guilt has no place here. It’s really the last thing I need. Outside my home, the frost sheaths the brave blades of grass that raise their heads. Inside my home, Christmas lights offer no warmth as I weep and share two huge, aching desires in my heart: to be a mother to my beautiful son and to still keep writing. It feels as though these two dreams are destined to tear at each other, savaging my insides so that I sway from the tumult.

I continue to face depression, compromise, apathy, determination, failure, and a deep hunger to be all I can be, to not let my gifts and talents be thrown under the grinding, unstoppable machine of Motherhood.

“It’s okay to want to raise your son right now. It’s okay to want to use the gifts God has given you,” my friend insists, eyes intent, face filled with love and truth.

I cry.

I’m overwhelmed by the passion to be so much more than I am currently being, sometimes I feel I’m spilling in two while the essence of Elise drains out the cracks and into the ground to leave a colorless, humanoid figure behind.

This I know –

  1. Jesus loves me and nothing will change that.
  2. I will never ever be alone in this world.
  3. God will meet my needs always, because he’s promised this.
  4. My husband loves me faithfully, sacrificially, and tenderly.
  5. My son is gorgeous, joyful, and the manifestation of a hundred delights to me every single day.
  6. I was born to write. Words are part of my soul.
  7. God did not negate the story-telling part of my soul when my son was born. Not even close.
  8. There is much more to the woman I will become than I can see right now. I’m still growing. I’m still being born.

So this new step is spiritual. And existential. And maternal. And creative. And psychological.

This new phase, as I emerge from my cave may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

“If there’s a way to figure out how to juggle all this stuff, I know you’re capable,” another friend said to me as he prayed for me. I knew he was right.

I’m tentatively, timidly standing on this frozen ground, growing in courage to find and build the new structure for my life. God help me. God have mercy on me.

I step into the open field of ice and light, and spread my arms wide.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

Comments

Winter Field — 6 Comments

  1. Hi Lovely Elise. One helps the other. Your mothering job is all encompassing, all consuming, as it should be. But it also feeds beautifully into your writing side. In my late 50’s I am now pulling from my mom-journals, but you will not have to wait that long at all. You are doing it now and we will enjoy watching your journey!
    Susie Klein

    • Susie, I keep trying to tell myself that one helps the other! And then I get impatient when I don’t see it all adding up perfectly in a precise tit for tat. :s Thanks for the encouragement that I needn’t have to wait very long to use my journals and thoughts from motherhood in this. I want to use as much as I can now–and I also don’t want to crash and burn from trying to do too much. Thank you for cheering me on in this part of the journey. It’s hard and I need all the cheers I can get!

  2. Oh sweet friend! I resonate here. I do. Your self-care through writing is so important to being the best mom you can be. And you’re just hitting that 4 month stage where you begin to see glimmers of hope through your mommy-brain fog. You step out toward self-care and are abruptly pulled back when you can’t do it all. I find that process from 4-6 months to be so painful and difficult. It gradually becomes easier to practice your self-care over those months, but it’s so hard to not jump in full-bore when you first see the opportunity.

    I’ve found it helpful during those phases to turn every “should” into a “could.” As in, “I should be writing now instead of watching the baby sleep” turning into, “I could be writing now, but I am choosing this moment of observation.” Or “I should be loving motherhood and yet I’m longing to write” into “I could be loving motherhood, but I’m actually pretty frustrated with it right now. That’s ok. It’s a season.” Owning my journey through my “coulds” helps me learn about myself and find more balance to these times.

    • Amy–thank you. Thank you for understanding and for cautioning me. All I want to do is leap full bore into creative projects, and there’s this voice telling me how careful I need to be–or I’ll keep falling apart when I fail. This advice to let my “Shoulds” become “Coulds” is really good. I’m going to reread what you wrote right now so that I can get it to sink in deeper. xoxo

  3. Elise, I deeply relate to the experience of being torn between writing and baby-caring, though my oldest is now 19 and my youngest 16. I remember their babyhoods very clearly. One important piece of all this is to recognize that powerful hormones are affecting you right now. Hormones DO, in fact, affect your brain, your moods, your capabilities. The “nurturing hormones” give you patience, a huge capacity to be loving and caretaking, and, in my experience, a certain degree of placidity. This may be because my base personality is somewhat manic — I tend to be “up” — optimistic, high energy, even a little hyper. Motherhood was mellowing. In many ways, I was more contented as a young mother than any other time in my life. But I also did not have the energy level to delve deeply into my creativity. I wrote. I wrote in journals, I wrote letters, I wrote emails. But I did not write novels. Not even poetry! If I was a river, this would have been a broad shallow stretch of me. My journals and letters now can be fodder for writing — as the life experience of mothering has made me deeper, wiser, kinder, more understanding, more resourceful and resilient, and a better listener. Each phase of life has its gifts. Even if you can’t get at your most productive creative self through writing right now, I promise you that mothering is an incredibly creative process, and as you emerge from the intensive period (when you have an in-arms baby) to phases where your child becomes more independent, you’ll become more productive with your writing — and will have a broader and deeper pool of experience on which to draw. Be patient and kind, not only with your beloved baby, but with yourself.

    • Oh thank you for this, Virginia. I am not feeling that mellowing you describe, but I am slowly feeling a little bit more peaceful. It comes in waves. Thanks for the reminder to be kind to myself! I forget how much of these feelings are normal and reasonable. I also must stop thinking that the only thing that will make me happy is to write–because I’m much more of a person than just a writer! I can love writing, but it isn’t the sum total of who I am. Of course, that’s exactly the question motherhood makes me ask–who am I? Thank you for the love and encouragement!!

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