Halves of the Heart

The more people it’s become either important emotionally or professionally necessary to tell about the pregnancy, the better I feel. Being secretive (rather than just being private, if that distinction makes sense) has always been something that makes me feel awful. Nervous, cranky, not myself.

Next week, the department will get our schedules for next year, and my boss warned me that people are going to either figure out or ask why I only have one prep (this year I have four). I’m also a little bit (or a lot) vain, and I don’t want people to think the reason I’m not teaching an AP class is because I’m being demoted. So, I’m going to be honest about next year and open up to both my colleagues and my students. Nick reminded me that I don’t owe my students any sort of explanation, and suggested that I might be imagining that they even care what I’m teaching next year (for the most part, I think he’s right, but I also hate the idea of anyone thinking I’m not doing a good enough job to handle the challenge of four preps, including my students. I don’t want them to avoid challenges and be lazy, so I don’t want them to think I am, either). This means I’ll also tell the girls on the team. Right now, my plan is to tell the boys’ team coaches (who don’t know yet), and explain that I am still going to be the head coach in cross country, and then tell the girls at the team meeting after our race on Tuesday. It’s a little earlier than the typical beginning of second trimester time, but I’ll be nearly 10 weeks by then, and I think that opening up about why I haven’t been running intervals with the varsity girls will also make me feel better. Most days I feel good on runs, and have been keeping up with the varsity squad on easy runs and the next group on interval days, but I also know that there may soon be a day where I don’t feel up to running at all, let alone with the faster girls, and it will be easier for me to respond appropriately if I know that everything is already out in the open.

Yesterday I felt pretty queasy all day, and instead of going out to dinner as we’d planned, Nick and I spent the evening at home. I started and finished a collection of personal essays by my college creative writing professor. I took at least three writing workshops with Megan Stielstra when I was at the University of Chicago, and in the ten (!) years since graduation, I’ve read everything of hers I could. Recently, her essay “Channel B” was published in the Best American Essays anthology.

I first read Channel B years ago–when I thought I might like to have a baby someday, and when I had friends who had babies, but before I was anywhere in a how-will-motherhood-change-my-life state of mind. Last night, as I was blowing through Once I Was Cool, I was particularly drawn to two essays about writing and motherhood. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love in my life. I love teaching. I love coaching. I love writing. I love training. I love Nick. I love my parents. I love my friends. I am excited to love being a mother. How can I have room for all these things I love so completely? I already often feel that I can’t do everything I love to my standards.

When I was in 10th grade, I had a journal where I would write down my goals. Here is one list from the May I was 15:

  • Break 12 in the 2 mile
  • Kiss Mark Johnson
  • Get a 5 on the AP US History Exam
  • Get into the University of Chicago
  • Get a PhD from Stanford or Berkeley

Although I never did kiss Mark Johnson or apply to PhD programs, I am still a person who loves to make lists, to cross things off those lists, and to add new, loftier plans. It is hard to accept that the list (which is now, thankfully for me and those who share a life with me, mostly mental) is shifting, not only in its focus, but in its nature. I don’t know what exactly will be hard about being a mom. I don’t know what will feel impossible, and unlike knowing how to make flashcards, take practice tests, proofread my essay 803 times, or run 400s with short rest, I don’t know what steps I’ll need to take to be a patient, strong, loving, supportive, mom. Some people who are well-meaning, but obviously more sane than I, have suggested that my priorities will change once I have children. They’ll say this as though this is supposed to be reassuing: what consumes you now won’t consume you in six months.

WHAT?! I’m a loyal girl. I’ve been loyal to running, to my love of literature, to my dreams of writing, for more than half my life. Consistently consumed by the same passions for longer than I’ve known how to drive. There has not been a season since 1996 when I was not trying to PR in some distance. There has not been a day since I read Harriet The Spy in 1989 when I was not writing down the strange things around me and spinning them into stories.

In Megan’s interview with The Rumpus, “Where I Write,” she talks about the two halves of her heart:

I am writing from an artist residency, all expenses paid, far away from the city in a beautiful old house. I have my own room. My own desk. Zero responsibilities save for writing and reading. It’s so still. The sun is shining through my window. I can hear crickets. I can hear my own thoughts; my own heartbeat. I’ve accomplished more in two weeks than I have in six months, and the sheer force of my gratitude could power a small city.

 But.

 I keep glancing up, expecting to see my kid drawing pictures at my feet. A hundred different times, I’ve been sure I heard him laughing in the next room. Last night, I counted mileage: If I leave now, I could be in Chicago by bedtime. I could read him a story, wait til he falls asleep, and be back at the residency by midnight.

Once again, the two halves of my heart.

I am excited and awed and humbled, of course, but also sometimes terrified about the two, or five, halves of my heart.

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