Christopher Higgs, author of: The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney (Sator Press)
Assembler of: ONE (Roof Books), with Vanessa Place and Blake Butler
What is your writing schedule like now, and how do you anticipate it will change when the baby is born?
My wife is 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant today, so I’m presently in a very strange liminal position, on the cusp, at the threshold: our little boy could emerge any minute now! This anxious anticipation has me frazzled. Getting work done, any kind of work, seems impossible right now. All I really want to do at this moment is either stare at my wife’s belly and send magical thought-rays to the baby urging him to exit his womb room; or, watch engaging television shows like The Killing or The Following, where I can just zone out and chill my eagerness.
Over the course of the pregnancy, though, my writing schedule changed dramatically. In the first trimester my wife got pretty sick, which required me to become sole house cleaner and meal maker, which I really enjoyed because it made me feel like I was actually contributing to this crazy process. During that time, at the end of most days I would get my wife set up for bed and then I would go out into the living room and watch the Lakers game. I think I watched all 72 games last year, but since we live in Florida they usually start around 10:30 PM, so I would put the game on and write intermittently until the game was over, and then I’d go to bed. When second trimester kicked in, the sky cleared and my wife’s physical and emotional situation improved tremendously. We both got a lot done in that period. I went back to my “normal” routine (i.e. before pregnancy), meaning I wrote for at least half of my day. Third trimester sort of reverted back to first trimester in terms of when I wrote, which is to say I would steal time late at night.
Anticipating the change when the baby arrives is tricky. On the one hand, I imagine I’ll want to do nothing but stare at him and play different kinds of music for him. On the other hand, I am finishing my Ph.D. and going on the job market this fall, so I’m going to have to find time to work. Everywhere I hear this idea that even the most disorganized writer will become organized out of necessity, that time will have such a premium none will be wasted. I’m really looking forward to that phenomenon, if it’s true. In the past I would describe myself as a professional procrastinator. It will be awesome if the baby helps me to focus.
Have you and your partner talked about making sure you each get time for your work/creative pursuits after the baby is born? What’s the plan?
We’re very privileged. Neither one of us has a 9 to 5 job. I’ll be teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall, and she’ll be teaching Mondays and Wednesdays, so we’ll be able to cover for one another during work hours. In terms of writing, the plan right now is for me to watch the baby in the mornings so she can work in her prime hours and then she’ll watch the baby in the afternoon during my more productive hours, and then the three of us will spend the evenings together until the baby goes to bed, and then it’ll be just me and my wife time. As I type this out, I realize how it sounds too good to be true, a little too perfect. Would be lovely if it works out this way, but experience has taught me not to put too much stock in plans. Chances are, we’ll have to learn a pattern we can’t even imagine at present. Luckily, we’re pretty good at making schedules.
Has your writing been affected by impending parenthood? How about your reading preferences?
Yes, both my reading and writing has been affected by impending parenthood. For one thing, it has sparked an amazing learning process. If you would have asked me two years ago to define a mucus plug, or to explain the benefits of breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding, I would not have had answers. But now I could talk your ear off about those things. There’s a whole world of information out there, which for me went untapped until I entered this situation. Over the past nine months I’ve read handfuls of parenting books from generalist classics like What To Expect… to more specialized editions like Harvey Karp’s quintessential cry-prevention guidebook Happiest Baby on the Block; probably most importantly, I read Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley for our birthing class. I’ve watched hundreds of YouTube videos ranging from cloth diaper comparisons to nursery set up suggestions; I’ve looked at countless parenting websites and community boards to get ideas about everything from how to best handle vaccinations to the pros and cons of circumcision; I’ve spent hours reading information on the Consumer Reports website about which car seat, stroller, baby carrier, etc. ranks highest in safety; I’ve started paying attention to children’s books, a genre I had never before even glanced at, and have read reviews by experts and amateurs alike in hopes of determining which books we need to get our little guy.
All of this reading has inspired me to become more interested in writing nonfiction. However, try as I might, I can’t seem to write about this whole becoming a father thing. I had these grand plans of writing essays on the subject, but every time I sat down to try and put finger to keyboard, my brain froze. This interview is the most I’ve been able to say on the subject, despite being filled with exciting things I want to convey. Since my wife is committed to a natural childbirth, outside the hospital setting, with the aid of a midwife, I know our story is unusual and could not only be interesting to others but also might serve to inspire others to consider alternatives to the conventional method of childbirth in the U.S. So, I want to write about it. I feel like I need to write about it. Hopefully, maybe, answering these questions will help to open the floodgates and encourage me to write an essay or two about this wild experience.
Do you look at your published work differently now, knowing your child will read it one day?
No, I’m proud of my work and would be thrilled if he ever read any of it, but I figure he won’t be interested. I saw this picture of Tom Araya, the lead singer of the great thrash metal band Slayer, embarrassing his kids at the Grammy Awards last year. My first thought was, how on earth could someone as legitimately cool as Tom Araya ever be seen as anything but awesome? My second thought was, probably kids don’t care so much about the art their parents create, or how cool that art might make their parents to other people. To them, he’s just dad; and at some point I’m guessing all dads can be embarrassing.
Are you terrified? Admit it. You’re terrified. It’s okay to be terrified. What scares you most about this whole baby-on-the-way thing?
In terms of the immediate transition to fatherhood, I’m more excited than terrified, to be honest. I’m super stoked. I can’t wait for him to get here. Fear isn’t really on my radar. For the most part, I’m not a worrier. As a defense mechanism, I’m a researcher: someone who tries to learn as much as possible about a topic in order to alleviate the fear of the unknown. Plus, if life has taught me anything over the past 35 years it’s the futility of worrying about stuff. Whatever shall be shall be.
That said, I began reading this essay by Joanna Schroeder called “An Open Letter to My Son, Who Yesterday Was Called a ‘Nerd’” and I couldn’t finish it because I got so sad thinking about the eventuality of this situation five years down the road. So I guess for me the only thing that’s terrifying is the fact that sooner or later my son will have to mingle with other children.
You can ask one question of those writers with kids who’ve gone before you. What do you want to know?
What parenting books and websites have you found to be the most helpful?