A Shabbat afternoon poem
Reb Zalman on morning prayer

Motherhood, the bitter & the sweet, in Zeek


Just in time for Mother's Day (in the US, anyway), I have a new essay out in Zeek. The essay tells the story of what becoming a mother was like for me. Here's where it begins:

My memories of the earliest months of parenthood are blurred by that perfect storm of surging hormones and sleep deprivation. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how we survived sleeping in 45-minute increments, much less learning how to care for a newborn while doing so. Even more disorienting: I wasn’t sure who I was, now that I’d had to set aside my identities as student, writer, scholar. In that one long day of labor, it seemed, I lost access to almost everything that had previously defined my existence. The exceptions were those stalwart souls who made the effort to stay actively in our lives despite the colicky infant — and, however faintly, poetry.

WaitingToUnfold-smallAs the essay continues, I talk about postpartum depression and how dubious I was that anything would ever get better -- and about the miraculous fact that, once I got the help I needed, things did change. They didn't necessarily get easy, but they did change, and I am forever grateful.

Over the course of the essay, prose is interspersed with excerpts from several poems from Waiting to Unfold. I think the essay contextualizes the poems in a certain way. Reading the collection takes you on a journey through my experiences of that first year. Reading this essay offers you that in microcosm, along with some of my thoughts about that year and about motherhood now that I've been doing this for three and a half years.

Here's another little taste of what the essay says:

There are times when parenting is an unalloyed joy, and at those times it’s easy to feel connected: with my own mother and grandmother, with all the mothers I know, with all the mothers who have gone before me and who will come after me. I feel cradled in an endless chain of blessing.

And there are also times when parenting is hard. Miserable. Exhausting. Overwhelming. For those of us who have to wrangle postpartum depression, those times may wildly outweigh the sweet ones, for a while. I wish I could find every mother who feels the way I felt in those early months, and say to her: it’s going to be okay. You are not alone. It won’t always be like this.

Beyond that: feeling this way doesn’t disqualify you from motherhood. There shouldn’t be shame in not savoring every instant of exalted motherhood. And feeling that anhedonia, that inability to savor — whether it’s fleeting or recurring — does not exclude one from the community of mothers, the chain of connection as far as the human imagination can see.

Read the whole thing here: The Bitter & the Sweet: Reflections on Motherhood. My gratitude is due to Erica Brody, the (new) editor at Zeek, for soliciting this essay and giving it a home.