In Germany, you’re legally obliged to stop working six weeks before your baby’s due date and for the eight weeks following its birth. The period is called Mutterschutz, literally “mother protection” and for me, it’s been a gift.
As I write, there are ten days left before my little one is expected. I have spent the majority of my Mutterschutz hard at work on my final novel edits. There is nothing quite like impending labour to focus the literary mind.
Some time ago, I stumbled upon this LitHub article about famous writers and their attitudes to having children. Opinions range from Doris Lessing’s “No one can write with a child around … It’s no good, you just get cross” to Lily King, who says: “My first novel took eight years—much longer than my novels since then. . . Once I had kids, my sense of self was no longer completely defined by my success or failure as a writer. It’s given me confidence as a writer to try things, and worry less about failing.”
The debate reminded me of how Robert Louis Stevenson defined the relationship between literature and life:
Books are good enough in their own way but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.
For me, writing a book has been a years-long labour of pain and love.
In just a few days – perhaps sooner – another labour of an entirely different magnitude will begin.
Nothing I have ever read can possibly prepare me for what is to come.