Almost a decade ago, I bought a laptop. The purchase felt like a way to clean the slate. I had just learned that my son was born with disabilities because I caught Cytomegalovirus (CMV) when I was pregnant. I was not prepared for the adventure of being his mother and caregiver. I hoped that writing would sort out the mess in my head.
But I didn’t know how to write. I had never kept a journal. My corporate job was technical and numbers-driven. How could I even begin to explain my feelings? How could I transfer my thoughts to words that would make sense to others?
Instead of writing, I reached out for help in other ways. I found a good therapist. I leaned on my husband. I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. I became very busy juggling three young children. I learned how to be my son’s advocate and how to get him the support he needed to thrive. But I still had ideas floating through my mind – frustrations with accessibility and inclusion, parenting and caregiving. Many of my experiences were difficult to express to friends and family who only saw a small portion of the challenges I managed. I still wanted to write but I didn’t know where to begin.
In the fall of 2019, I finally had some free time. All three of my children were in full-day school. I enjoyed the quiet and met up with friends. Then, in January of 2020, I signed up for a memoir writing class. Once a week, I drove forty minutes to a church where a group of ten people wrote and read and shared the most intimate parts of their lives. I loved hearing about their experiences. I learned what memoir is and started to understand how to craft a story.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. My writing class went virtual. And my kids were home and learning online. I didn’t know how to balance their care and my needs while I worried about the impact of COVID-19.
“I think you have something to say,” my teacher said. She was referring to my experiences with COVID-19 and CMV. “Try writing about it.” I drafted an essay about my postpartum mental health. I didn’t know how to submit my work, but I did a little research and found popular parenting site Scary Mommy. I took a chance, submitted my essay, and was thrilled when I received an email acceptance a few days later.
After my first essay was published on Scary Mommy, in April 2020, my thoughts began to flow. I carved out a workspace (a card table in the middle of our sunroom) close to where the kids were learning virtually so I could shuttle back and forth. I jotted down ideas when I woke up, throughout the day, and late at night when the kids were asleep. I took more classes and learned how and where to pitch potential articles. It was cathartic to finally sort out my feelings in a constructive way and share them with others. Writing became my escape from the demands of each day – a way to reach the world outside my door when we couldn’t see anyone.
The pandemic pushed me to be vocal in a way I didn’t know I was capable of. Since I began writing, I’ve met amazing writers, connected with other families in similar situations, and educated people who couldn’t understand my experiences.
Now, I am back to shuttling my kids to different activities, scheduling appointments that were pushed off, and trying to find the time and energy to write. But, this time, I know I will. I learned that I have a voice — not only for my son but also for myself. And that both are so important.
Jaclyn Greenberg has written for The New York Times, Huffpost, CNN, Wired, Parents and other publications. Connect with her on Twitter at jl_greenberg or on Instagram at JaclynlGreenberg.
Very well done!!! My best to you.
Very inspiring. Well done and best wishes to you and your family.
This is such a sweet story of finding your way and finding your voice! And starting where many of us have started – with that first memoir class with the encouraging teacher. Thank you!
I’m interested and glad to read how other mother’s who have children with disabilities are able to manage with the help of writing their stories. Thanks, Jaclyn!
Hi, I have written a book – Dawn, The Doorway – Ascend through naturally distinctive children (Children born with congenital anomalies)
It is under process of publishing through Archway Publishing (From Simon & Schuster) I would like to send some more details and get your endorsement. It is based on practicing compaassion….. Grandpa of Dawn