I always think of giving birth to a child as a kind of death. I know that sounds melodramatic. I am prone to melodrama. But in my case certainly it’s been true. Each time I give birth, a part of me dies. The selfish part, probably. The part that doesn’t want to give up sleep and luxurious mornings in bed and the liberty to do anything I want at any time of the day. It is a painful, difficult process, this business of raising a tiny infant.
But there is an upside to death. It clarifies what you want out of life. Amazingly, after the birth of my second son, I was aware what my life purpose was. To write. Which, as a financial journalist, I had been doing up to that point, but it was always writing about what other people wanted me to write about, which is not quite the same. How best to invest. Tips for filing your tax return. Struggling with debt. And how many articles about saving for your retirement have I written? Too many. It was time to take action. It was time to write the stories I wanted to write.
So I did. I wrote about Alfonso the Tooth Mouse, the curious little brown mouse who comes in the night to exchange milk teeth with money, a story inspired by the notes my dad used to leave me when I was a child. I wrote about farting, seeing as I was surrounded by a family of farters. I wrote about a white pony in Lesotho who has magical powers which her owner Neo discovers one moonlit night. And from there, I just carried on and couldn’t stop.
It’s been five years since I started this creative writing journey. At first, it was a bit of a gamble, a question of “What if…?” I’ve been longlisted for two awards, which has given me some confidence that there is merit to my work. One of my books, The Lemon Tree, has been published by Penguin Random Struik. The rest I’ve chosen to self-publish. It hasn’t been an easy journey, especially when I get questions like “Are you still writing books?” which seem to have a sub-text of, “When will you get a real job?” But I love it. And I’m realising more and more that dreams are there for pursuing and that we regret more the things we don’t do in life than the things we do.
In February our family welcomed a new addition to our home: little Hope, the most contented and patient of my babes. She has fitted into our family in such a seamless way and the best part was that I missed all the hairy moments of having a tiny, helpless newborn baby who needs to be fed at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes I mourn the first seven months that we didn’t get to spend with her when she was at the baby home, but mostly I am thankful. And even though she’s in a beautiful routine, she is still another little life that I need to sacrifice for.
So here’s to dying to self. Here’s to motherhood and getting up in the night to feed your child. Here’s to pumpkin spat out on your clean top and changing pooey nappies. Here’s to the hundreds of ways we die to self every day so that our family may thrive and grow. And here’s to those little nudges that God gives, the clues to our destiny and identity, and the still, small voice that leads us, saying: “This is the way; walk in it.”