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  • Writer's pictureKarina M. Sokulski

Postpartum + Drafting--The Experimental Nature of Writing With a Newborn

“Say goodbye to all your free time now that the baby’s here!”

I dreaded these words. They're harder to shake off. You're at home with a newborn. Everything’s different. You can’t even think about anything other than the responsibility you’ve been preparing for the last nine months. Depending on how your delivery came about, you may also be dealing with the added layer of recovery that follows a cesarean--like me!

Now that your bundle of joy has arrived, the naysayer's warnings evolve to a discouraging promise that you're out of time. And yet, none of it is true! Just as with pregnancy, finding the time with a baby is going to take dedication, organization and a little bit of luck. Everyone’s experience will be different postpartum but there are a few tips I’ve come up with that I feel will translate well from person to person. Whether you’re a new mom or not, congratulations on your baby! It’s an incredible journey I couldn’t have fathomed until I embarked on it for myself, and I still have so much more to learn! Especially when it comes to balancing this new life with my writing. No doubt you feel the same way (or else you wouldn’t be reading this post), so let’s get into it!

"Where do I start?"

At the beginning! Before you begin the experimental attempt at incorporating time for your writing in your new, postpartum life you start with the most important step:

Rest, heal and recover at your pace. The reality is you've only got your imagination, memorization and maybe a quick jot down of journal writing to depend on. When you first get home from the hospital, you're going to be too exhausted to do anything else. Most likely in recovery writing's going to be a dream and a window of time you're not actually writing in. Baby’s little tummy’s growing with each feeding. You’re up every two hours, and depending on how you delivered, mobility may be its own challenge. Be kind to yourself. Think of this as a maternity leave from your writing, albeit shorter than the one you’re taking from work. A restful break can be a much-needed time to rejuvenate your creative energy in disguise. Ever get stuck on a writing process and no matter how hard you worked to fix it, taking a break turned out to be the only solution? This more likely will be one of those times for your creative brain anyway. Right now, your priority is connecting with your baby, letting yourself rest and settling in to your life as a new mom.

"Ok, NOW where do I start?"

The first month (or months) are where our experiences will begin to differ. Half-way through month one of my baby’s life I was still limping around with a velcro waistband binding my torso. I spent every waking moment in baby’s orbit. Writing I nonetheless could not do.

But I did get back into outlining.

Despite my being mind numbingly exhausted, physically taxed, and completely occupied by tending to my baby’s needs, I still managed to write my chicken-scratch lists. I was on more of a semblance of a schedule with my newborn, but finding time to outline was messy, inconsistent, and honestly up to luck. Like when I was pregnant; I rewarded myself for each time I could scratch down notes and not lose sleep over a day without doing so when I could. Depending on how far along in recovery you are and your baby’s adjustment to their life at home, pockets of time will vary. It’ll be up to you to experiment and see where you can fit in time in your schedule.

Now mere days away from starting month three of my child’s life, my pockets of time for writing have evolved to hours long sessions. An achievement I’m elated by.

"What if I NEVER find time?"

“I’m not writing like I used to.” “Maybe I’ve lost my touch.” “Maybe my hormones have changed my ability to write!”

Yes. These are word-for-word things I said to my husband. No. None of them proved to be true. I have my critique group to thank for reinforcing that fact. It just took time, rest and finding the pockets of opportunity to plug in some writing.

And forgive yourself when you don’t.

You're exhausted, you have a new life depending on you and your brain isn't prioritizing your writing. You're beating yourself up for not "trying harder" to plug in some writing time. Rampant hormones, lack of sleep from a newborn's schedule and creative longing are a guaranteed depressive cocktail that will weigh on the brain. My writing plan was sporadic at best until it wasn’t. Then maternity leave came to an end and I returned to my work schedule—all while making sure I dedicated time in my daily, post-maternity leave schedule to make time for writing sessions. More on that later.

"So how did YOU do it?"

Let’s break that down. I mentioned outlining before and finding the opportunities when I could. Let’s revisit both and explore what other steps I took that brought me back to a consistent writing routine.

Draft while you can, outline all the time

Chicken-scratch bullet points are essentials and easy to resume if interrupted--and you will be interrupted. The advice I was given by my doctor, family and friends was to nap when the baby naps. Maybe this is due to years of coping with insomnia but I’m lucky if I can nap alongside baby between the hours of four or five in the evening. Napping in the mornings is a no-go for me. I can’t seem to get myself to do it no matter how rough the night before was. Luckily for me, my inability to nap during the day offered me my first opportunity for actual drafting. It’s an added plus on the weekends when my husband eagerly gets our baby to chest sleep on him while he watches a football game. If you’re like me and are chronically awake during the day postpartum, you’ll find yourself with plenty of opportunities to outline—even if you’re racing against the baby's nap clock.

Opportunities, opportunities, OPPORTUNITIES

This is our word of the day. More on this because this will be a major part of experimenting with your new mom schedule. As mentioned previously, outlining can be a nap time activity when you can't nap with the baby. It can also be your go-to when your baby’s experiencing a sleeping milestone and you’ve woken up while they're still sleeping hard. Squeeze in time when you have a babysitter. When your spouse is giving you a break--even just an hour makes all the difference. Once you’ve managed this enough times a week, month, etc. that’s when you can work towards a writing schedule that starts to make sense. Keep your laptop close to your bed. A journal on your side table. Anything to make use of when you’re awake and your baby is not.

When you can't get away

Believe it or not, sometimes my baby joins me for writing sessions when I don't have backup. He'll be in his bouncer right next to me after having eaten and on the best days he'll fall asleep to the sound of my keyboard clacking. On the tougher days, he'll be demanding attention, and I'll manage some outlining before I'm unbuckling him from his tried-and-true bouncer and off to tummy-time we go. Don’t give up if you notice getting away seems increasingly impossible. Remember that not only are you working to develop a new writing schedule, but you’re also doing this alongside developing your new mom schedule. Both take great determination, effort, and patience. All things you have to practice as a new parent, one step at a time.

When you have to miss out on writing sessions

Yes, we are revisiting this one. It’s important for a new mom fresh out of the hospital and new to being home with their new baby to hear it over and over. Forgive yourself when you can’t write. Forgive yourself when you need to skip your attempts to write altogether. Jot down notes when you can and try, try again. Keeping your writing on the brain is enough. Reading a book that inspires you is enough. Watching shows and movies that inspire you is enough. When you do start finding that time to write again, attend your critique group when you’re able—even if you don’t have pages to bring that week. Keeping your brain engaged is key so you’re ready when you actually can get your writing done.

Reconstructing your schedule

Impossible, I’ve found, to do without some form of scheduler app. I’m using Google Calendar’s phone app to keep track of my day-to-day reminders. I don’t know how I’d organize myself otherwise. Now that I’m back from maternity leave, I have a constant schedule of reminders dinging from my phone—each focused on my three most important schedules: baby, work & writing. In that order. Baby’s feeding, diapering and napping schedule start us off from one in the morning to midnight. Every two-three hours I’m following baby’s routine and as soon as he’s down for a nap, it’s time for work. Most of my weekday’s consumed by graphic and web design work which leaves my evening for writing time for two reasons. The first: baby’s schedule is also tailored to a lot me free time when my husband comes home relieving me for dinner and personal time before bed. The second: baby’s schedule is also tailored to a lot me free time when my husband comes home relieving me for dinner and personal time before bed. In that evening time there’s at least two (or three if I organize myself well enough) hours to write. On the weekends, dad gets to bond with baby over some football and mom gets plenty of time to read, recharge and write.

Reframing your writing schedule is hard but not impossible. Results may vary but your motivation to keep writing doesn’t have to be. Doing so at first will be a challenge because you're uninspired, you're exhausted, you’re missing your writing but are constantly interrupted and--let's face it--your new schedule, no matter how dedicated you're able to be won't look like what you imagined. But that's ok, because like with every other stage from pregnancy to postpartum, things never stick to the plan we imagined. They turn out the way they are meant to. The same will happen with your writing--getting back into your routine won't look like you imagined, but it'll unfold how it's meant to. Stick to it, forgive yourself when you can’t and before you know it, you’ll be back at your keyboard as a writing mom.


Until next time, from the Writing Nook!


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