At 1:30 p.m. the nap-time race begins. With a kiss, I lay the baby in her crib. I shut my elder daughter’s bedroom door and sprint to the den. For the next stretch of time, 45 minutes on a bad day, 2 hours if the alignment of the planets is just so, I get to be a writer. When the nursery monitor cackles I send my muse home for the day and become Mommy once more.
For as long as I can remember, except for when I was three years old and wanted to be a giraffe, I have wanted to be a writer. First came college, and then full-time employment, and then marriage. I dabbled in writing much as a stifled artist might doodle potential masterpieces in the margins of her appointment book. Then came motherhood. At last, I thought, home with my children, I might actually begin to write.
And begin I did. Beginning was never a problem; I had ideas clawing their way out of my mind and onto paper. Finishing was another story. Teething, nightmares, thunderstorms, and dirty diapers took turns scaring my muse to the far recesses of my mind. While I had some success writing for the local newspaper and published a few essays online, I began to think that motherhood and dreams of a writing career were not compatible.
I was seven months pregnant with my second child when I entered a short story competition. Having been given a prompt, I had twenty-four hours to write and submit an entry. The prompt had to do with shortcuts. As I stared at the computer’s blank screen, the baby within me began a gymnastics routine. Using my condition as inspiration, I wrote a tale of childbirth from the unborn’s perspective, the shortcut being a c-section delivery. I had no experience with surgical childbirth, as my first daughter was born after an uncomplicated labor and delivery. To tell my tale, I incorporated details from friends’ experiences and television documentaries. I was ecstatic when I won first place in the contest and publication on the sponsor’s web site.
I went into labor ten days early. Things were progressing normally, but the doctor became concerned when monitoring of the baby indicated fetal distress. We were discussing the situation and our options when the baby’s heart rate plummeted. The doctor ordered an emergency c-section and my second daughter was born nine minutes later.
It was only a few hours later that the realization hit. Anna and I had written her birth story weeks before she was born. Perhaps my muse wanted to show me that motherhood is not hindering my ability as a writer; it is shaping me.