Embracing Chaos (Or: Bringing Your Baby to Writing Group)

Nothing prepared me for the amount of isolation I felt after giving birth. I was astounded by how desperate I was to return to my old routines. For me, that meant gaming and writing group. A week in, I was ready to leap back in, but it wasn’t like I could leave the baby behind—he still wouldn’t (and would never) take a bottle, for one thing.

And this is where it became important that my friends are fucking amazing people. My gaming group played in our living room and passed the baby around lap to lap. My writing group conducted a critique of a short story (this one), hollering a nuanced analysis of the underlying themes over a screaming baby as I rocked him desperately.

As a new mom, overwhelmed by love and fear, feeling my identity shifting and crashing like tectonic plates to create a whole new, chaotic landscape I couldn’t begin to map, I needed to write. I needed to remain part of my community. I needed to know that motherhood was not shutting the door on the most important parts of who I was, or cutting off the relationships and people I valued most.

The baby disrupted meetings. He bogged down games. He distracted everyone. But I had a community of people who prioritized supporting each other, even when it made things less than ideal and efficient for a little while. I could trust my writing group to let me lean on them during a period of intense upheaval, and they trusted that I would get my own feet under me when I could. It was disruptive. It was an imposition. It was temporary, and for me, it was a matter of survival.

A few months ago, my parents hosted a house concert to celebrate my brother’s wedding. The musicians’ childcare fell through, so we hired someone to watch both babies upstairs. Neither child cooperated. And so much of the concert was conducted hours after bedtime, with a baby on “stage” in Mom or Dad’s arms and another grooving in the front row, shoulders waggling to the music.

Life is imperfect, and babies want to get into the midst of things. Sometimes the solution is to stop thinking in different spheres of life and work and creativity, and let them all get messy together.

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