I’ve noticed how hard it has been to revisit poems I wrote before I had my son. These poems have a certain vibrancy and creative potential that feel completely inaccessible now that I’m on the flip side of a pregnancy, and on the journey of raising a child. I’m realizing now that trying to revise these poems has felt so particularly intimidating because it is a reminder that I can never go back. Not only as a writer, but in life. I don’t necessarily even want to go back, but I’m a Cancer and a poet, so of course I am prone to heavy bouts of nostalgia and longing.
Nothing can ever compare to the experience of pregnancy, when my body was literally a creative force. As a writer, I am forever in search of “inspiration”. I forget that at its most literal, the word inspiration means the drawing of breath; inhalation. Actual life force. There is no “inspiration” I can gather from the outside world that can mimic the inspiration of growing a child with, and in, my own body. I am sitting here reflecting on that as I face these poems I wrote during my pregnancy that feel incredibly foreign in early motherhood (yes, ten months in is still early motherhood as far as I’m concerned!) There is a certain mysterious and mystical quality about these poems that I feel I will never be able to replicate now that I know what it is to give birth and live life with a baby. This is not good or bad, but makes sense. Of course I have a fundamentally different identity and process as a writer now, because I have a fundamentally different identity and process as a human.
The flip side of this mystical quality that shaped my pregnancy poems is an earthy, truth bomb-y quality that has been shaping my poems of early motherhood. My vantage point is now fully rooted in the ground of motherhood, and there are plenty of poems to write from this space. Revision is the nitty gritty of the writing process, and it feels arrogant to say that I don’t need to revise or continue to work on the poems I wrote when I was pregnant. I feel that I owe it to myself to revise and edit my old work. But I also think I am realizing that there is something distinctly un-mystical and un-magical about the space I’m in as a mother right now. And that is awesome! I love the edgier, harder version of myself that has emerged through the process of raising a child. I want to honor her by writing forward from that place, instead of trying to go back, at least for the moment. I still acknowledge the softer, dreamier version of myself too, and she will inevitably also show up in the new poems. After all, we are never any ONE thing—as artists, or as mothers, or as humans.
By, Julia Alter
Birth Love Family
Photo by John Jennings