For years, whenever anyone asked my mother when I planned to have children, she quoted a line I once told her: “Miriam needs to give birth to a book before she’ll give birth to a child.” It was one of those lines I had said so off-handedly and so long ago, I barely even remembered it. But my mother held onto it. I think it reassured her as she waited through my twenties and then my early thirties, as she watched me get married at 35, as my husband and I bought a house and got a cat, and did all the things newly married couples were supposed to do.
Well, almost all the things.
My mother, like any good Jewish mother, awaited word of a coming grandchild, or, short of that, at least some a hint of interest from our end. But at a time when the ticking of my biological clock should have been a base drum booming in my ears, it was barely even a tick.
Because that line I had so casually tossed to my mother years before was true. All my life, I have wanted to be a writer. I dabbled in it through my twenties–writing bad stories and worse novels, joining writing groups, sharing my work with anyone willing to look at it. At thirty, I returned to school for an MFA in fiction. After graduating, I committed to writing as my honest-to-goodness job. During the day, I took an adjunct instructor position at a university. Whenever I wasn’t teaching, I wrote. And wrote and wrote. I began the arduous, one-step-forward-two-steps-back process of forging a fiction career. I won a prestigious writing fellowship. I was paralyzed by writer’s block for most of that fellowship. I got a handful of stories published in literary journals. I got dozens and dozens more stories rejected. I finished a short story collection. I found an enthusiastic agent, who tried to sell that collection. The collection never sold.
Through this all, I could not conceive of conceiving a child. Trying to get my writing published was already a full time job on top of a full time job. I couldn’t fathom a third job–and one as life-altering and paradigm-changing as becoming a parent.
And then a funny thing happened: I wrote a novel and I sold that novel. After fifteen years of trying, I had done it. I had finally birthed a book.
So now what?
At first, nothing changed. If anything, I was more consumed in my writing then ever. I was working with an editor and on-deadline for the first time. My life was all about the panic, pressure and excitement of revisions. There was no aching in my loins. There was no longing for a child in my arms.
But then an even funnier thing happened. I finished the revisions, took a few months off, and began work on my next novel. As I sat in front of my computer, I found I was a little bored. A little restless. This never happened with my writing. My writing was always what centered me, what kept me sane and balanced and happy. For the first time ever, I had the feeling of having already done this, of retracing my own steps. I was not excited. And it hit me, distinctly and undeniably:
I’m ready to try something different. I’m ready for whatever comes next.
Without particular fanfare or panic or even those aching loins I’d been waiting for, I realized I was ready to have a baby. I was ready to alter my life and change my paradigm. The idea actually excited me. Suddenly, I just knew. If my writing career had been a long, slow process, with me concertedly hammering out each step of the path before me, then the decision to have a child was far more instinctual, percolating quietly beneath the surface until bursting through one day, clear and resolute.
I am now two months away from my due date. My novel came out four months ago. I’m still at work on the next novel and no longer bored by it. Pregnancy has proven to be a creative wellspring; I’m bursting with ideas. I know my life as a writer is about to change in ways I cannot even fathom. I know everything is about to change radically and irrevocably. For many years, the idea of such a change filled me with–at best–apathy, and–at worst–all-out dread. Now, though, I embrace it. Surely, I’m about to stumble into the most rigorous juggling act of my life, but, to my own amazement, I’m up for it.
My mother already has her plane ticket booked. She arrives three weeks after the baby’s due date. Briefly, my husband and I toyed with the idea of telling relatives to wait a few months before visiting, so we could have a long stretch of time alone with our baby. But then we changed our minds; my mother, we figured, had waited long enough.
Blogger Bio: Miriam Gershow is a novelist, short story writer and teacher. Her debut novel, The Local News, was published in February 2009. It has been called “deftly heartbreaking” with “urgency and heft” by The New York Times, as well as “an accomplished debut” (Publisher’s Weekly) with a “disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice,” (Kirkus Reviews).