Battleship Motherhood – or – How I Lost My Muse

Just over a month ago, I sat down to write a post about Mother’s Day, and my complicated relationship(s) with parenthood as both idea and practice. It focused on a extended metaphor about a battleship we toured at the maritime museum here in Brisbane. I had photos of the kids aboard the  HMAS Diamantina, like the one below, to illustrate the ways in which motherhood is deeper and sturdier than.. blah, blah, blah… you get the picture.

X & O bringing their target into focus


But instead, just under 200 words in- the muse faded and I was left staring at this stupid keyboard with nothing to say. This happens sometimes, so I let it be.

Then my youngest child, O, went into hospital.



The opportunity for me to write about, or talk about or, let’s be honest here- even think about- parenthood is a privilege I often take for granted. It wasn’t always so. Before B, before O, it was just me and X, trying to figure out how to get dinner in our bodies every day.

There was little time for writing, though I tried to sneak it in whenever I could. I remember pulling a composition book out of the trash at work one day. Someone had put their name on the front in pink ink- big bubbly letters- and only used maybe a third of the pages for what looked like chemistry notes before pitching it into the garbage.
I covered the front with a magazine clipping and it became one of my treasured objects. But I hardly had time to write in it.
We were too busy moving from place to place, trying to hide from my violent ex-husband.
I did write about that. A love letter to my son that he still hasn’t read.

Scan copy.jpeg
Me & X, 2003


And I was reminded of all of this while O and I sat in the hospital. No internet service, no muse, no luxury of having time for myself to consider the circumstances or move the words from interior to exterior- the words were simply gone. It was nothing more than existence.

O, clearly thrilled with the situation


We were there for ten days. O was tethered to an IV for antibiotics, and quarantined to his room. I was allowed to leave, but couldn’t. When I had to run downstairs for food, I scurried back up as quickly as possible, not wanting him to feel abandoned or to miss the rare visit from the specialists who held to keys to his release. The nights that B took over and sent me home, X slept in my bed and we both kicked ourselves awake from nightmares.
I was so grateful for the friends we had made here who came to visit, bringing games and crafts, or sending little messages between their own stressors of finishing up classes and writing research papers. My cohort took up a collection, which we used to buy some pet mice when we got home. And, though they do make a racket on their running wheel, they’ve become beloved members of the family.


And when Father’s Day came last weekend, I sat down to write- certain that the muse would tip-tap across my fingers and spill out all the buried truths I’ve been walling up behind this impression of parenthood (and childhood) I’ve propped here.

I was wrong.

So I’ll leave it at saying very simply that I am so grateful to have access to the hospital for my child, for semi-socialised medicine that allowed him to stay where he needed to be at no cost to us, for family and friends both near and far, for the power to put my words into letters, and the time to put those on paper. I do not take my privileges lightly, though I admit to sometimes minimising them when it is convenient for me.

It crushes me to consider giving up writing- even for a day, a week, a month. But I have.
I had to. My children and my family will always come first. And that’s just the way it is.

And with (or because of) the tumbling pain of acknowledging all that, the muse came tickling back up to me again today. I wrote several pages on a personal project; got started on that last, dastardly little paper I need to turn in for school; and finally got around to updating this blog.

We have a new house rule: No more illnesses or injuries.
That should keep everything on the up-and-up, right?

My guys (plus one) playing under the overpass.