• Satya Robyn
  • Preparing for the pram in the hall by Betty Herbert
Preparing for the pram in the hall by Betty Herbert
Written by
Satya Robyn
December 2011
Written by
Satya Robyn
December 2011

As ever, I am starting this year with good intentions.

Less time-wasting on Twitter, more writing, better blogging. I have a paperback launch in January, and a new book to pitch. I want to read more widely, and more often. I’d like to take more walks to help me think.

Same ol’, same ol’, then? Well not quite, because this year, my list of resolutions has a particularly urgent quality: I’m expecting my first child in May.

As soon as you announce you’re pregnant, women practically line up to tell you that your life is over. You can forget about your social life and your career, they say. From now on, everything’s about the baby.

In the first few nauseous months, I let this get to me. This may have been a very much wanted pregnancy, but the idea of losing the things that make me feel like a human being – writing, interacting, achieving – was utterly terrifying. But then, I started to look around me at the people I most admired. Nearly all of them, male and female, had children. Maybe it wasn’t so hopeless after all.

As Caitlin Moran said in How To Be a Woman, having children only makes the ambitious more focussed, zoning in on those brief moments when you can get to your desk and work. At twenty weeks pregnant, I’m already feeling that: life up to now seems to have moved at a luxurious, leisurely pace, and suddenly I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to some serious work.

Just as, suddenly, the chaos in my cupboards and drawers seems intolerable and must be sorted out, so does my lackadaisical approach to work. Last week, I put my head down and wrote 12,000 words which, given that my first novel took me three years to write, is a mind-boggling pace for me. And now I am full of a kind of bring-it-on bloodlust for more. I am busy making, making, making on all fronts.

Of course, there will be sacrifices and a great deal of change. But for many years now, when people have asked if I’m planning to start a family, I’ve told them that I’m writing books instead of having babies. It felt like a stark choice. Now, finally, I realise that I can have both, but only if I’m determined enough.

In the meantime, a couple of great books are helping me through, and neither of them are pregnancy manuals. Zoe Williams’ Bring It On, Baby is a pugnacious, ballsy call to arms for new mothers that made my heart leap with common feeling. Meanwhile, Anne Enright’s Making Babies is rammed with a deep, questing intelligence that is not in the least bit soft around the edges. Both women wrote their books with babies sleeping next to them. And they made me feel as though I might manage that, too.

Betty’s Memoir, The 52 Seductions, is out in paperback on 19th January. Her blog is here.


This blog is part of the 'Looking Back Looking Forwards' series edited by Fiona Robyn between the 1st and 7th of January. What did we learn about writing and about ourselves in 2011? How will we use this knowledge in 2012? What do we hope for? Do join us and write your own post, tagged with "Looking Back Looking Forwards" (don't forget the quotation marks & capitals). Read other's posts here (or by clicking on the tag). I'll be featuring a small selection of your blogs during the week. Enjoy.  

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  • Helen Phillips

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful & inspiring post, Betty! I'm expecting my first in June & have been wondering about these very things. Best of luck to you! 

  • Satya Robyn

    Allyson - yes I think that's true, and I guess this brings advantages & disadvantages (I have to guess because I also see myself as an aunt!) I think it's still especially hard for women to find space for their heartwork, whether we have children or not... we're trained to make space for others...