The morning I started at Kveller, I had everything carefully planned out. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and went to the living room to work on a few emails, and put the coffee on. At 7:30 a.m, baby miraculously still asleep, I tiptoed into his room to begin the wake-up process, and print out my Human Resources forms — because we live in NYC, so of course, our printer is set up in the nursery, which is also the office. The baby woke up and began watching me struggle with the printer through the crib bars; it turned out we were low on toner, but …that was fine! I was prepared! I had an extra box of toner ready for such an occasion. I opened the box eagerly, only to discover that instead of a cartridge, there were all kinds of forgotten file folders in there.
I let out a few words that would not be appropriate if my child understood complex language at the time. So much for my foresight printing my forms in advance.
The baby clamored to get out; I removed him, took him to bed and nursed him, since I was still breastfeeding in the mornings and evenings before and after work. We had a few laughs and I changed him, and then my husband’s alarm went off and I handed the baby over while I dressed for the first day, with an outfit I had carefully selected beforehand.
While I was brushing my teeth and my husband was in the shower, I put the baby in his crib. He tried to pull up but perhaps since he was a bit milk-drunk he toppled over and demanded (read: cried) to be held. At this point, he wiped his face and nose all over my special first day of work top and, now that he was much happier, re-commenced playing with his toys. Meanwhile I had to do some emergency sartorial damage control (baby wipes, people).
While all this was happening, my baby was experimenting with a syllable, repeated over and over again: “Ma. Ma. Ma. Ma.” At the time, he would say this with his arms outstretched to me, a pre-verbal combination of “Mom,” “mmm,” and “more.”
My heart almost broke to leave him. It did every morning. And yet I was excited, so excited, for what was before me: the words of Kveller’s amazing writers, waiting to be midwifed into publication.
After each day, I would rush home from the office to nurse and wake up once in the middle of the night, at least, to do the same. I felt like Bridget Jones all the time — but the mom version, battling clothing disasters, illnesses, childcare mishaps. I frequently came into the office carrying an extra-large coffee because I’d gotten fewer than six hours of sleep.
There was nothing to conclude from this except that working full-time with a baby — heck, merely living with a baby — is hard. And then slowly it got easier, and then much easier, and then, suddenly, it was time for me to move on, to find my own voice as a mom and writer as so many Kveller writers have in this forum.
So much happened at home this year: my kid learned to talk, to walk, to sing (a little bit anyway) and to stop crying when I left him. He sleeps through the night and understands and makes jokes, and even self-weaned (with a bit of prodding) at a year and a half.
And look what we did here at Kveller: We published so many stories I was thrilled by, that dug into stigmas. Stories about moms and abortion, about parenting with humor, about surviving the toughest of tough times as a community. We lamented new warnings about boxed mac and cheese, and dedicated ourselves, again and again, to trying to raise our kids to rise above this miserable world we find ourselves in in 2017.
We covered so much territory, and I’m so proud of what we did (and I learned a lot about parenting from our writers!) Yet there are silences we still haven’t explored as a community — around childcare workers, around class, gender and sexuality, around the oppression and plight of women at home and in Israel and Palestine — women who may not look like us or share the same cultural framework. We can go deeper, and I know we will.
So here’s my parting plea, both to you, my dear Kvellers, and to me as I move forward on my own writing and editing path: Let’s keep writing into the silences and writing past the happy endings, avoiding those neat conclusions that put a bow on our experiences. Because there’s never really a bow, is there? And if there is one, we know it has a spitup stain on it.
Find me, and let’s keep the conversation going. I’m on Twitter @sarahmseltzer.