When I was eight years old, I wrote a short story about a family of gingerbreads that lived in a cupboard. To both my embarrassment and pride, I won first place in a Young Author contest. I was terribly shy, and winning this award encouraged me greatly. My short stories became an outlet, an escape from a difficult childhood. Being from a family of businessmen and engineers, however, creative writing wasn’t exactly encouraged, and eventually I drifted away from it. College came, then a move West, then career, then another move, and so on. The only writing I was doing was new hire materials and vendor communications.
I didn’t return to creative writing in any serious way until I was a new mom. I started writing essays about motherhood, about coming into this role with hesitation, about exclusively pumping, about the drift in some friendships and the birth of new ones. Some days were, of course, too chaotic to write, and on others I couldn’t summon words. The more energy I devoted to my craft, however, the more satisfaction I got from it.
Two years later I became pregnant again. When I was three months along, I got a call from my midwife about an abnormal test result; my baby had screened positive for a genetic defect. She might be born with special medical needs, my midwife said. She also might not survive the pregnancy.
I wrote a lot through those dark hours, when my husband and I didn’t know how things were going to go, when I was having severe cramping and other symptoms of miscarriage, when I thought maybe it’s just as well, and then feeling guilty for having thought that. I wrote through those long rides in the car to a specialist on the other side of the state. I wrote to prepare myself for a child with special needs. I wrote to prepare for a miscarriage. I felt something awaken and spark, like pieces being welded together inside me, a human-ness, an ability to connect with others in a new way.
My daughter was born at term and healthy. They tested her in the hospital, and days later we learned that she didn’t have a genetic disorder; it had been a false positive. Somewhere between my lines about preparation, projection, and dark emotions, an empathy developed, an understanding of parents with children with special needs, an understanding of those who had lost a baby. That flicker of awareness, that peek into those worlds, made my humanity richer.
Today, I write about my sensitive six-year-old son and how to preserve that sensitivity. I write about my daughter’s sensory disorder and trying to understand her world. I write about my own parenting and breaking the cycle of abuse. With every essay or poem, I aim to let my reader know that she’s not alone. I write about the human experience. After all, when it comes to anything motherhood, I figure I can’t be the only one.
This piece originally appeared on Literary Mama.