Over the last nine months, I’ve been quietly growing a small business and a small baby. It’s been an incredibly exciting, albeit anxiety-filled time, and both endeavors have produced immense joy as well as bouts of nausea and unchecked insomnia.
Because we are people who like to test the limits of our sanity (as well as our love and kindness toward one another), my husband also accepted an amazing job offer during this time, and we decided to remodel most of our home. (Construction was made possible by my parents’ endless help and advice, the work of hired professionals, and many D-I-Why did we think we could do this? projects that almost always ended with apologies for harsh tones and ice cream cones.)
No matter what we claim to the contrary, it’s clear we are addicted to taking on too much and dreaming big. However, we’re still married, we still enjoy each other’s company [most days], and we are really looking forward to the rest we hear comes with a newborn during a holiday season.
Creating My Dream Job
I’ve been surprised by the fact that being pregnant has not been the most transformative change in my life over the past year. Instead, it was leaving a promising career path in fundraising to start my own small creative agency and stationary shop that radically shifted life as I knew it. This decision has brought me more peace, fulfillment, and contentment in my professional life than I’ve experienced in my career before.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve spent a significant amount of time managing the practical realities of this shift – a large pay cut, setting up a home office and studio, establishing relationships with local vendors, and growing my client list and portfolio. However, I’ve also expended an enormous amount of energy navigating the more emotional effects of this change, too, like spending most of my time alone and embracing a new view of myself, my goals, and the ways I define success.
I’ve stopped short of writing about this transition numerous times, because I can see that being able to walk away from a solid career and paycheck to pursue something creatively fulfilling (especially when we have a baby on the way) is a luxury few others could afford to dream about much less commit to.
I know this. You know this. And, if we’re all being honest, the only reason I am able to take this leap is because I’m married to a man who spends weeks out of every month away from home to provide for our mortgage, our health insurance, and the bougie lifestyle to which our dog is now accustomed.
Oh, and he’s super supportive of my hopes, dreams, and mental stability. Real, independent-woman, hear-me-roar shit.
While I’m absolutely thrilled to be on this new career path, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t self-conscious about sharing an authentic look into the process – the doubts, the occasional loneliness, the successes, and the failures. The gig is a good one, and I’m lucky to be able to do it. It’s also the most millennial thing I’ve ever done (besides, as my sister reminds me, exclusively drinking pumpkin spice coffee from September to November each year).
Enduring Writer’s Block
And here’s the crux of my writing problem – I’m writing self-consciously this days. In my twenties, when I wrote freely about dating and grad school and the world around me, I wrote naively. I wrote without much thought to an audience’s potential reaction or reception. I wrote what I wanted, how I wanted, and used fragments and an emphatic “y’all” whenever and wherever they suited my sense of meter. The editing and shaping came later.
However, since publishing Notes From My Phone*, I’ve struggled to get back to that place. Instead of jotting down raw, unedited content – even just for myself – I write with a critical voice in mind, and my words come out as a defense, a rebuttal, or an apology for not being whatever I’ve perceived this critic to prefer.
This is an effective way to silence real thoughts before they’re ever really formed – 1 out of 10, do not recommend.
In another life – a Baltimore, pre-Covid life – I might have used an overpriced cocktail or a glass of wine at a crowded bar to provide a cloak of anonymity from which to let the words flow. However, that option is currently off the table as I am very pregnant now. Very, very pregnant. Like, the baby keeps one of her feet lodged in a specific spot so consistently that I’m sure that bulge in my skin and stomach will never shrink back to normal, no matter how many miles I run in the future…pregnant.
So at least for now, happy-hour writing is off the table, and I’m left with 3am-let’s-not-think-too-much-about-labor-and-delivery-and-get-all-freaked-out-again writing.
We’re Having a Baby
The week before I confirmed I was pregnant, we were on a family ski vacation that included cocktails, snowboarding, lots of Advil, hot tubs, massages, and a few trips to the sauna. Basically, if there’s a list of things you should not do while pregnant (and there are in fact, many, many of these lists), I spent our vacation checking them all off one by one, as though I were trying to win a prize.
On the way back to the airport, I experienced an overwhelming wave of nausea and strong suspicion that this time I might really be pregnant. I shared this with my husband, but as this was not the first time I thought I was pregnant on a vacation when I was actually sick from the dramatic change in climate, he simple smiled and said, “Maybe so.” However, he has since confessed that he thought I was wrong as usual.
With a small assortment of medical complications over the last few years, we had tried to prepare ourselves for a long and complicated road to starting a family. However, by the time we got through the Denver airport security, I’d already demanded airport Chinese food, a large Sprite, and a cup of chocolate-vanilla swirl frozen yogurt. As I am a very finicky eater (or snob according to my husband), he became a little suspicious at this point. When I deemed the subpar Chinese food “delicious,” he began to sweat.
When the three-minute timer went off in our bathroom the next morning and the little white stick read “pregnant,” we both laughed nervously, said a few expletives, and decided a celebratory breakfast was in order. We then spent the next 9 months of sporadic exclamations of “Holy smokes, we’re having a baby…” and “I cannot believe we’re having a baby…” and “How the hell do we take care of a baby…”
Now, there’s a lot to write and unpack about pregnancy in general, this pregnancy specifically, and the physical and emotional changes I’ve experienced every day for the last nine months. However, I’m not quite ready to organize all of those experiences into cohesive thoughts just yet. I want to do right by this sweet little alien life inside me; I want to wrestle with the onslaught of thoughts, emotions, and physical changes at least as much as she wrestles with my internal organs every day.
Here’s where I’ll leave this for now: Growing a baby inside of my body is wild and beautiful and an absolute miracle that I cannot wait to be done with. I will miss the comfort of her being safely inside of me, away from all that is frightening in this world, her feet securely lodged under my right ribcage, but I will also never again under-appreciate being able to speak a full sentence without getting out of breath or rolling over in bed without shooting pain.
Her eviction date is scheduled, and now it’s just up to her if she wants to exit on her own terms or modern medicine’s.
Piecing Together a New Process
I share all this personal news with you, not because I’ve given up all my aspirations of this being an avenue to share my literary writing and have instead leaned fully into the personal blog genre, but because these realities have been all-consuming. When I sit down to write (which still happens occasionally), or I lie awake at 4am next to a snoring cat, dog, and husband while this little life within comforts me with her uncomfortable jabs and awkward slithers, my mind races.
I am constantly considering all the aspects of my life at once: finishing the book I’ve been promising for the past five years, learning to be a good mom and a good wife at the same time, wondering which church is right for our child when we ourselves have more questions than answers, growing a new business while scheduling adequate time off for maternity leave, the logistics of a getting a frozen margarita with salt into a delivery room…
These preoccupations are simultaneously my reason for writing and my reason for not writing.
The process I’ve always used to approach blogs, essays, and books has mirrored sorting through the pieces of a puzzle. In many ways, it’s the only way I know how to truly process the world around me. When I try to organize all these new pieces, however, it doesn’t come as easily as it did when I was 25. It’s not so much that I can’t do it or that I’m unwilling to do it; it’s more that I sit down anticipating a 500-piece puzzle, and when I dump it all out on the table, I’m really working with 5,000 pieces.
It’s a book, not a blog. And I’m still sorting pieces.
Thank You for the Last Decade
Although this “update” doesn’t include a concrete timeline for new work and is a slight rephrase of my past promises of content and that elusive third book, I didn’t want to let any more time pass without sharing about my baby and my new business.
So many of you have supported my work and my voice for more than a decade now, and although I’m not sure where these personal changes will take my writing, I’m excited to share that journey with you. The simple truth is I’ve always been a writer – good or bad, self-conscious or not – words are my way of connecting with and understanding the world around me.
That’s not changed.
Part of the joy of running my own business and setting my own schedule is being able to carve out time to pursue this passion more fully in the coming months and years. (I hear running a small business while being a stay-at-home parent provides oodles of free time, so I really should be able to knock out this next project rather quickly.)
In the meantime, if you’re into my written work, you might enjoy learning more about my new business, Michelle Junot Creative. On that site, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite work from my portfolio each week and giving tips of the trade along the way.
Learn more at MichelleJunotCreative.com.
Finally, if you’re new to my work, I think you’ll love, and the floor was lava as well as Notes From My Phone*. You’ll not only get two great books to read this holiday season, but you’ll also help me clear out space for diapers and baby toys.
As always, I am so grateful to those who have supported this blog for years. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more adventures in self-discovery, business ownership, motherhood, and – one day soon – that third book. For reals.