Becoming a mother is a time of metamorphosis, not just physically, but mentally and socially as well. I remember that first moment I took my baby out in the stroller. Internally, I was freaking out. Who was I? Who was this overweight, sore-breasted woman with a stroller? Though I had planned to get pregnant, I spent the whole time obsessing on the process of the growing child within and my own expanding body. I hadn’t foreseen myself as a woman with a stroller. I imagined how I looked from a distance, and I did not recognize what I saw. Who had I become? What could I be in the future?
I always wanted to be a writer. In high school, I wrote on anything, anywhere, anytime—horrible poetry with allusions to Greek mythology and classic rock songs. Later, when I wanted to write literary fiction, I was told to write what I knew. But I didn’t want to write what I knew—I already knew it.
In my mid-twenties, I stopped actively writing and focused on teaching. I still wrote strange stories to amuse myself sometimes at night. I got married. I obsessed on the wedding and all the details, the honeymoon, my job. I read a lot, but I didn’t write. Drunk one night, I came across a Bukowski poem, “so you want to be a writer?” Reading it made me realize I wasn’t a writer. Bukowski was telling me not to do it. The muse had abandoned me. I cried in a drunken over-emotional way about the dream that I had given up on. Instead, I had chosen to pursue a completely different type of dream, one that would have horrified my teenaged self: Motherhood.
I got pregnant. I read. I panicked. How the fuck was this baby going to come out of my body? Wasn’t this the most glorious, stomach-turning thing I had ever wished for? Suddenly everything was toxic and terrifying. What was I doing? What had I done? A child, into this world? Terrible. Beautiful. Wonderful. Unimaginable.
Then I was a working mother. It was all encompassing, exhausting. Sleep training, teething, putting on shoes, finding matching socks, sippy cup tops? Insane.
It was so great, I decided to do it again.
Sometimes, on the rare occasions when they both fell asleep in the car, I’d check Facebook. A fantastic escape! A glimpse into other people’s lives. Other people were out in the world having adventures that didn’t involve bringing wipes, snacks, and extra clothes.
Checking Facebook and watching TV just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I needed to get away, far away into the mythic past. I started reading Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths and all of them were so erotic. The gods lived for their own pleasure, to torment mortals and each other. Why did that seem so refreshing?
One night I had the idea for a story. Medusa—what was her real deal with Athena? I mean, really, why did Athena hate her so much? I tried to Google it. The Greeks, my precursory internet search said, were all like the Athenians—their women had no rights, married at a young age, were kept ignorant. Well, that’s no good, I thought. I can’t write about that.
I returned my focus to what the children ate and watched. I talked about feelings, I wrote books with them about their feelings. I was tired. I watched HBO’s “Rome,” I sewed a Voodoo flag, and I remembered a short erotic story I had written years before about Xena, Warrior Princess and a Persian boy’s desire for vengeance.
I began to write and research a period of time I knew nothing about, and it was so much more interesting than researching what sunscreen was safe or what sippy cup had the least amount of BPA. I started writing when the kids were asleep. Basically, whenever they slept, I wrote or researched that time period. I used the library, Audible, used bookstores, DVDS, anything that gave me a peek into the ancient world which was so horrifying and intriguing.
I needed an escape from my real life. I needed to escape so far away that the mythical past was a perfect reprieve. No matter how hard things are here, life was so much worse in the ancient world.
And then I got stuck in my novel. It wasn’t writer’s block. I knew what needed to happen, but it was so awful. I just couldn’t do such a terrible thing to my character.
I distracted myself with the story of Cupid and Psyche. I didn’t remember how it went exactly, only that Psyche was to be sacrificed to a monster for having a beauty that rivaled Venus’s, and that Psyche’s monster husband came to her only in the dark.
While the kids asked questions about Johnny Cash lyrics and clouds, the image of an abandoned young woman, left for a monster, getting swooped up by the God of Love played through my mind. I started writing to distract myself from the difficult part in my novel and my inability to meal plan.
Once I began researching, I realized that the story of Cupid and Psyche was like “Beauty and the Beast” with a bit of “Rumpelstiltskin.” I imagined living alone in a beautiful Roman palace with no one but invisible servants and a secret husband. To a tired working mother of two, it sounded delightful.
I was able to write and rewrite it while my children watched TV. The screen time I had been so afraid of letting them have gave me the gift of freedom. A gift of revision. Not just for the story, but for myself.
Motherhood is hard. When I became a woman focused on tummy time and crib bumpers, a part of me panicked. “Who am I now?” I thought. And now? The original novel that contained the story of Cupid and Psyche was called The Golden Ass or Metamorphosis. And motherhood, writing, and life itself is really nothing but a metamorphosis.