Labor of Love


“You sound like an elephant! ”  That’s how I greeted my beloved husband at the end of a stressful workday in the city. I was resting in bed. I was also 8 ½ months pregnant. He hung his jacket in the closet, turned around to face me, and calmly replied: “You look like one.” And I did. After two months of bed rest I was more than ready to deliver. My own body from its burden of joy, and my family from my mood swings and grouchiness. Pregnancy never caught me at my best. My sister had four children and glowed from start to finish. I had two and did not ask for more. The red on my cheeks came from pushing my babies out. My eyes didn’t shine until I finally held them cocooned against my breast; until I allowed myself to relax in the immeasurable comfort of my love for them.

Four years after my father died, my siblings and I made the difficult decision to move our mother into a nursing home. Lifelong memories accompanied her, along with her favorite picture of my dad, a couple of paintings, and the desk where she kept our old childhood storybooks and toys. Looking to ease her transition and anxious to leave a part of me by her side (she’s in Belgium, I’m in New York), I decided to knit her a blanket. Thick and inviting; each stitch linking us across seasons and oceans. The project proved challenging and time consuming. I picked various shades of pink, cream, and gray, and chose a tricky pattern. I swore and grumbled many times as I undid my work to fix my beginner’s mistakes. I returned to Brussels a year later bearing the fruit of my efforts. It’s been sitting on my mom’s bed ever since, warming her feet and her heart.

My children grew out of diapers and got into rap music. My mother became frail and retreated to her secret world of sadness and confusion. Lost in my own bittersweet journey of growth and letting go I started to fear the emptiness that threatened to permeate my spirit. There was a place deep within calling for attention. It longed to be filled again with expectation and excitement, worry and frustration. It refused to send me into an early retirement frozen in old books and photographs. It wanted to vibrate with the many quivers of carrying new life to term. It wanted to be wrapped in the magic of giving the best of myself. It wanted to create.

So I started to write. The first poems trickled out of me on a chilly October morning. Nine months later, overwhelmed by the summer stampede of foreign thoughts and feelings, I panicked and went into hiding. But like the yarn patiently knitted into a throw, words lured me back to the page one short sentence at a time. They led me to distressed corners I did not recognize and to happy places I never visited. There were familiar faces and new voices I would never have chosen to listen to. I was writing. I AM writing. I’ve come to accept that my creative process is like an unplanned pregnancy:  I rebel against it. I welcome it. It annoys me. It frustrates me. It satisfies me. It’s the labor of love; a never-ending cycle of filling and emptying, of receiving and giving.  And when all is said and written, I know that each word has strengthened the ties that bind me to my true self. And I can rest in the heartfelt peace of my gratitude for them.  

 2010 © Maryse G. Copans


19 thoughts on “Labor of Love

  1. Linda Strickland

    This is lovely! And so true. Writing gives me solace, and answers to questions sometimes. One’s lifeblood, that’s for sure. Like the snow on a mountain must be to a skier!

  2. Gladys

    It ‘s interesting how discovering one’s identity is such a surprise. Then one gets an even bigger surprise. One finds that identity evolves with one’s life, there is a “life-skill” with that process. It is so profound sometimes, so unexpected that it could even be called the ability to survive reasonably in tact, to “land on one’s feet” so to speak.

    Keep writing. Your “stuff” is good.

    Love, Gladys

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog. Your writing is beautiful. I’m sure many writers can relate writing a book to giving birth. You put it beautifully and showed it for what it really is, a lot of work with a great reward. :O)

  4. Jodi Sloane

    Oh my goodness, I love your writing so much. You pull me in with your every word and I can’t wait to see where you are going to take me. Thank you for sharing your work. It is a true pleasure to read!

  5. Maryse, I can tell you that every time I come visit your blog and see a new piece, my heart leaps with joy. “What has she got for us today” I say to myself. And invariably I am transported on a “mini vacation” , away from the “busy-ness” of the day.
    Your writing is so beautiful, so eloquent, so true and so clear. It is a pleasure to read every word and to linger on the feelings they trigger. Your true self does shine so bright in your writing… It is a gift to us all!
    Thank you dear Maryse, for sharing your gift with the world.

  6. Maryse,

    Your writing is straight from your heart and touches so many of us in so many ways…from acceptance…keep following your heart my friend. I love that you knitted your mother a cozy blanket…what a “labor of love” and gift right from your heart. You are a delight!!

    Love, Cathy

  7. Hi Maryse! If your words were a paint brush, you would be Michaelangelo! And I am not the only “fan” you have – duh, look at these comments lady! Beautiful post!

    Personally, I’ve learned something about writing from painting. My best ever paintings happened when I didn’t TRY, when I didn’t get in the way, and when I didn’t force myself to paint. I learned to paint when I felt like “the zone” was calling. And I learned never to paint when I wasn’t “feeling” it. I may be a prolific painter at times, at other times I don’t paint for weeks. It’s all OK either way. I just let that be and don’t fret over it. I love myself whether I’m painting or not.
    Ditto with writing. Hope this makes sense.

  8. I too never liked being pregnant. My final pregnancy was twins and I delivered them at 8 1/2 months. I was so glad to have my body back and be done with bed rest! Good luck with your writing. I like the birth comparison.

  9. Wow, you’re a glorious writer! Thank goodness you’re sharing your gift (some things are too good to keep hidden, I believe).

    I loved and resonated with this sentence: It’s the labor of love; a never-ending cycle of filling and emptying, of receiving and giving.

    You summarized my own feelings about writing beautifully for me right there. Thank you!

  10. “my creative process is like an unplanned pregnancy”

    I love this because it is so true. The urge to write exists within the writer whether she wants it or not, and takes her along for the ride – a sometimes difficult, sometimes fulfilling ride.

    Thank you for sharing your insight, Maryse.

  11. I’m late to the party! But here to echo every other sentiment and to add one word, “cigar!” (A “must” at every joyous birth, yes?)

    You’ve got another beautiful baby here.

  12. Very beautifully described, Maryse! Thank you for sharing the journey to your writing. Is it not some kind of miracle, that we can give birth even to ourselves, in ways we’d never before considered? You are indeed remarkable.

  13. I love how you “knitted” together different fragments of your life in this post. So many things which we think should be magnificent end up bittersweet, don’t they?

    Thank you–this was lovely.

  14. Thanks for putting into words what I feel about writing.
    I too have such mixed feelings about it, but I am still not okay with writing so I am NOT writing those feelings down.
    Now you have done that for me, thank you.

  15. The only way any of us get any writing done, is one word at a time, and then one sentence, and then one paragraph. Glad you are staying with it, you do write beautifully.

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