(January 14, 2021) Lyz Lenz’s writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book God Land was published in 2019, through Indiana University Press. Her second book Belabored, was published in 2020 by Bold Type Books. Lyz’s essay “All the Angry Women” was also included in the anthology Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay. Lyz received her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. She lives in Iowa with her two kids and two cats. She describes writing-motherhood in three words as “Creative and Chaotic.”
FROM THE EPISODE: READING LIST & REFERENCES
Lyz Lenz’s Website
Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women
Not That Bad, Edited by Roxane Gay
Barbara Robinette Moss, Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter
Nobody wanted to publish my writing, so I started a blog, like everybody. Then I started having children, so suddenly, my blog became a “mom blog.” Just purely by using my uterus, I became a niche category.
When you give birth to a child, they are still part of you, in a way, and your story is still their story. Our political dialogue tries to cleave the two apart, but really, for the longest time, we are the same organism. When writing about my kids in the early days, their story was my story.
I write about my divorce, and I still have to co-parent with my kids’ father and now his wife. I want to write honestly, but I also want to respect boundaries. It’s a constant tightrope.
Women often police women’s performance of gender far more than men do. In extreme performances of gender, women are able to ask for thing. Pregnancy, marriage, planning a wedding–that’s the whole bridezilla thing. All of a sudden, a woman feels empowered to ask for things, and maybe she’d never felt she could before.
“The four trimesters of pregnancy and birth encapsulate a political and cultural dissonance about the way we police bodies in America.”
Why do men get mad at me? There is something about a woman who has nothing to lose, and that happened, I think, when I got my divorce. I learned that my happiness was not ancillary, that it was actually the point. And that all people deserve to have good and happy lives. It’s not selfishness to want that. It’s not selfishness to ask for it. It’s not selfishness to take the time you need to write. It’s not selfishness to go for the career that you want. And I think we often tell women that, “No, you gotta die on the cross.” You don’t have to! Walk down from that cross; go do what you need to do. It’s not great up there. It sucks.
“I think we often tell women, “You gotta die on the cross.’ You don’t have to! Walk down from that cross; go do what you need to do. It’s not great up there. It sucks.”
I realized I had nothing to lose, and I started making bolder choices. I started writing more boldly, in a way that I didn’t before. I started asking harder questions, not just of myself, but of the people I was talking to.
“There is something very powerful about a woman who walks into a room and says, ‘I don’t need you. I’m here because I want to be here.'”
The wonderful writer Maggie Nelson said, “Every story is a story of a body.” Pregnancy is a great way of talking about how you cannot separate flesh from your reality. I think about that often when I’m writing: How does this interest me? Why am I interested? Why do people care? And how does this affect the fleshy reality of our lives?
After my daughter was born, my mother asked me, “How do you feel now that you’re a mom?” I was like, “I feel like myself but fatter.”
I’m not trying to undermine faith in science and medicine, but we do need to understand the ways that science and medicine fail us, and how a lot of it is built on misogyny and white supremacy. I remember feeling very let down by the medical establishment after the birth of my daughter, which was very traumatic. I had postpartum hemorrhaging, but nobody would tell me what was going on. They wouldn’t even tell me how many stitches I got.
It shouldn’t take personal experience for people to listen and change and grow, but my perception of women and work and the emotional labor we do and the loads that we carry radically changed when I became a mother. It changed from “This sucks” to “Let’s burn it down!”
“My perception of women and work and the emotional labor we do and the loads that we carry radically changed when I became a mother. It changed from ‘This sucks’ to ‘Let’s burn it down!’”
My writing is my career, and it is a priority, and that means it’s a priority over folding clothes, it’s a priority over raking the lawn, it’s a priority over all those things that we somehow think we need to do that are really just ancillary to the task of living. In my bedroom right now are baskets and baskets of unfolded laundry, and I don’t care. I don’t match socks anymore. We have a sock basket, and I just dump. Screw matching socks.
“Part of taking care of my kids is being a fully well-rounded human being. They need a mother whose life is not all about them, because one day they’re gonna leave me, and be like, ‘Get a friend.’”
I have chosen to prioritize my work over other things. Does that mean that some days I don’t work out? Yeah. Does that mean some days, emails don’t get answered? Yeah. Phone calls don’t get returned. Text messages don’t get returned. Because this is my time, and I worked so hard to get here, and I’m so grateful that I have it.
“You’re not stealing time; that time belongs to you. Take it, and don’t apologize for it, because your contributions to this world matter. You as a full human being matter.”
You’re not stealing time; that time belongs to you. Take it, and don’t apologize for it, because your contributions to this world matter. You as a full human being matter. Go for it. Balls to the wall—no, labia to the wall, ladies.