"Theories are poor things at the best, and the bulk of mine have perished long ago. I love better than any theory the sound of the Gate of Ivory, turning upon its hinges, and hold that he alone who has passed the rose-strewn threshold can catch the far glimmer of the Gate of Horn."
— W.B. Yeats in The Celtic Twilight
When we last spoke, 10 months ago — wow, that is longer than it took to gestate my son — I talked about being pregnant. Well guess what, I had the baby!
And now the baby has me, utterly and completely. It is not: my old life plus a baby. When he was born, so was I. We are doing something new.
Almost six months old, my son is an absolute treasure, and a challenge that stretches me to my limits. As expected. Thankfully, coping has become much easier than when he was six days or six weeks old.
Regarding expectations: Life has changed more profoundly than I anticipated. Of course, when your first child is on the way, you do expect that things will change more than you ever could expect.
Knowing intellectually is always different from knowing viscerally. I have passed through a crucible; nothing will be the same again. Which is good. It is very good. I love him.
Motherhood has forcibly changed my relationship to "productivity." These days, "productivity" is breastfeeding every couple hours around the clock, or just sitting on the floor playing. Plus an ungodly amount of laundry. I have to be okay with that. I mean, obviously I'm not okay with it, but still. I have to be.
Near the end of pregnancy, I slowed way the heck down. Anything that wasn't indispensable baby prep fell by the wayside, whether it was finished or not, and has languished there every since. That turned out to be most things.
In an earlier draft of this newsletter, I wrote:
I am 36 weeks (8 months) pregnant. I keep telling myself "one day at a time." I am trying to steadily do a little bit whenever I am able. A little bit of what? Lots of stuff, running through my head near-constantly! Way more stuff than I'm going to actually manage by May 12 (or thereabouts... my baby doesn't even know he has a specific due date, so he'll show up on his own schedule). [As it happened, my son was born at precisely 38 weeks, on April 28.]
Usually I'm pretty happy-go-lucky, thanks to modern pharmacology. "What will be, will be," is my mantra, and I would smile while saying it. But at 36 weeks pregnant, my equanimity has been swamped by hormone soup. I'm tired of my fatigue and worried about my anxiety. It's still true that what will be, will be — but will it be enough?
There's so much I want to get done before the baby arrives, mostly "nesting" things to do with improving my home environment. But also creative projects. I've made negligible progress since December. I'm disappointed in myself, which is maybe unreasonable considering that instead I've been growing a whole new human. And working — I do have a job. Alas, emotions disregard constraints like "making logical sense" and "what is actually feasible under the circumstances."
Reality: 1) I must prioritize the pragmatic essentials. At this point I only have the next month or so to Do Things and my energy is limited. 2) Most of tasks I'm fretting about are wants, not needs, and it's okay for them to wait. It would be nice to replace our irritating kitchen faucet but the damn thing is sufficiently functional to live with, if not ideal. I can't make everything perfect before baby arrives. I just can't. 3) Change always entails loss. The trajectory that I envisioned for myself before motherhood became imminent is not what's going to happen. Whether I like it or not, I must relinquish that which I expected myself to have finished by now. I will have to let go of the ideas I had about my future before the real version started arriving.
What will be, will be. And what won't, won't.
I hope I don't sound too negative. It's not all bad — I'm excited to meet my son face to face. My husband and family are very supportive. Still, this is hard, you know? I've never been the world's most productive person, but right now I feel like the least. My brain is not amenable to explaining away the feelings. I've always resented that, the inability to talk myself out of a funk.
My mood emerges from a deeper place than the rational layer. My distress about the kitchen faucet is not really about the kitchen faucet. It's the expression of a primal impulse to control and optimize the spot where I will rear my young. And it's about how little control I really have, no matter what I manage to optimize. Regardless of how much I prepare, I won't be prepared, because no one is truly prepared for parenthood.
Ha! I was right about that.
Also while pregnant, I marveled at the mystical experience of sharing my body with a new life:
I was in the bath reading birth stories from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and this thought came to me: "My body is his body, and his body is my body." The him in question being my gestating child.
He is inside one of my internal organs, crowding the others as he makes space for himself. His presence has become the purpose of the organism that is me. I grew his bones. If my diet hadn't offered enough calcium for this purpose, it would have been drawn from my own bones.
"God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members yet one body." — 1 Corinthians 12:18-20, NRSVUE
My husband said it's a Venn diagram — the baby and I are distinct, but physiologically overlapping. I think we're like an avocado: I am the rich nourishing flesh, and my little son is the potent seed enveloped by that flesh. Together, for now, we are a single fruit.
(Side note, this metaphor made me curious about avocado germination. Did you know it's practically impossible to find a photo of an unpeeled avocado sprouting? Always just the naked seed. I am faintly perturbed by this deficit. Anyway, purportedly the avocado fruit doesn't feed the sprout, but rather entices an extinct megafauna to eat the avocado and then expel the seed elsewhere. TIL.)
My son resides outside of me now, but I still feel like my body is half his.
So, yeah, that's what's up with me. I'm slowly emerging from the baby haze, bit by bit — in the sense that I've resumed feeling guilty about my abandoned creative projects. But they're less important than my son, who needs me so intensely.
Despite my distraction, I've amassed a bunch of these! Peruse with pleasure...
- AI writing platform Lex is out of beta, from Nathan Baschez + team. Great tool that I use frequently for work. Purely as a word processor, the user experience is better than Google Docs — Markdown support by default, hell yeah! — and then obviously the AI features are handy.
- Jane Flowers' fashion brand Affalé will delight any pattern-loving maximalist. Having purchased a duffel, I can vouch for the quality. "AFFALÉ is in large part a tribute to the rich history of Surrealism, especially the madcap energy of its early pioneers." Yesss.
- David Auerbach published Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities. Here's an excerpt and an interview with David.
- Brady Dale published SBF: How The FTX Bankruptcy Unwound Crypto's Very Bad Good Guy.
- Michael Curzi unveiled the creative studio Hallsong Media (see more in the video section).
- "On the Evolution of Credit Cultures" by Toby Shorin
- "Transcending My Father's Abuse" by Valerie
- "you can just do stuff" by Alice Maz
- "Notes on an Unfinished Conversion" by @meaning_enjoyer
- "Your brain on books: themed readings lists for a 20-page-a-day habit in 2023" by Razib Khan
- "Foraging for Abundance" by Ethan Reeder
- "Even More Bay Area House Party" by Scott Alexander
- "baby baby baby" — highly relevant to my current interests!! — and "why write" by Benedict Hsieh
- "War as the Truest Form of Divination: On Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian" by Justin Murphy
- "Honey, I hacked the Empathy Machine!" by Aristophanes
- "Confessions of an OnlyFans Ghostwriter" by Emma Francis (seemingly a pseudonym)
- "Luck-based medicine: My resentful story of becoming a medical miracle" by Elizabeth Van Nostrand
- "Writing, Riffs & Relationships" by Tom Critchlow
- "Warrior, Soldier, Noob: a short reflection on war porn and shark attacks" and "A slightly better form of metonymy" by the inimitable Cornelius Stahlblau
- "You're probably a eugenicist" by Diana S. Fleischman
- "When Johna Ramirez's son joined a wildly popular circle of tween YouTube influencers, it seemed like he was fulfilling his Hollywood dreams. But in the Squad, fame and fortune came at a cost," by Nile Cappello
- "A lot with a little" by Simon Sarris
- "On being ready to die, and yet also now being able to swallow slurries — including ice cream" and "How do you say goodbye?" by Jake Seliger (plus the rest of his blog and his wife's blog)
Videos and Music
From the aforementioned Michael Curzi:
- "A Shelf-Making Sermon on the Altar of Creativity"
- "The Story of Hallsong Media"
- "'One Way Out' | HALLSONG Media | Ad Summer 2023"
If there's anything you wanna share or tell me, hit reply. Fair warning: I have never been less on top of my personal email. But I'll probably reply eventually.