Category: book

With my heart in my mouth, I’m coming clean on my blog today. I don’t know why it’s taken this long. Perhaps it’s that creative perfection gene that runs so strongly through my veins. It’s not good enough, it needs more spit-and-polish, what if they reject me….

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook and just rely on blog posts to keep updated with my latest, about a week ago I put the first 14 chapters of my book – Into The Bliss: Having & Holding Ellanor – up online for public reading.

If you would like to get a feel for the book and what I’ve been banging on about for the past five years (and thank you for staying and listening if you’ve been with me on the journey for any of that time!), you are welcome to read it. A comment or some sort of feedback would be lovely (many of you creative/writerly types would understand the way that makes a heart sing), but it’s not necessary. The gift is in being able to share it with you and I give it out in good faith that it will reach the eyes and touch the hearts of those of you needing to find something in it.

I wrote it not for me. Not to settle scores. Not to rewrite history or state facts or lay claim to grief. I wrote it for everything. Everyone. The All of this thing called life, and the intangible but undeniable realm that lies beyond life – in both directions.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. It pretty much wrote itself. The working title of this book, in the beginning, was a joke between myself and Steve. We actually called it “This Thing Writes Itself.” I was floored at the way it came together. I was humbled into something akin to stage fright at the story I could see. The realisations that came to me as I would quickly fumble for the light switch and write thoughts down on paper in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I would have entire chapters hanging in my head like heavy water balloons. I would get up, freezing cold in the dead of winter, wrap myself in something warm, pray that the LGBB wouldn’t get up too early (she was seven months old when I began this) and burst them onto my Word document. Woken by her. Ellanor. I would come out of sleep with her urging me out into the still, silent house so that I could capture the magic. Occasionally, I’d try and do it without waking too much – I would type with my hands flying across the keyboard, eyes closed, still half asleep, drearily hit the ‘Save’ command and drop back into bed with barely half an hour before the LGBB was likely to wake.

I came to discover that my best and most creative, uninterrupted time was between 2am and about 6 in the morning just as the dawn crept in. Poetic, wouldn’t you say?

I wrote myself out of the dark both literally and …. literaril..y…. during the course of writing this book.

But despite this, I maintain, I didn’t write it for me. It was merely a wonderful bonus, to be able to explore the depths of this far-reaching thing called Life. See what you think. Don’t be afraid! It’s not as indulgently doomy and gloomy a pity-party as one might expect. In fact, rather the opposite. Well… so I’m told (it’s hard to be objective about such things as the author).

 

 

I have a couple of public massive thank you’s to offer, at this point, because I’m so grateful for what I have received — from Shae (from Free Range In Suburbia) who shares top billing in my blogging circle for being one of only two people so far who has read the entire book; the generous and highly gifted author in his own right, Steve (from Bloggertropolis) is the other who made it to the last page; Toushka Lee (from Toushkalee.com) who I’ve also entrusted the whole book to (thank you, T!); Suz (who writes at Autism Our Words); Anna (as in, Anna Spargo-ryan… she writes proper like, for a living… I am not worthy) who is sticking with it and meandering somewhere in the latter chapters and possibly regretting putting her hand up and admitting she liked the memoir genre; Naomi (who can be found Under The Yardarm), my dear friend Allie from my first foray into online forums eight years ago (who blogs In A Beautiful Pea Green Boat) and also a number of other generous friends from my Facebook world who don’t have blogs but who have been stalwart readers, supporters and cheerleaders during this long process. They’ve read varying versions as the book has been drafted, redrafted, heavily edited, cut and spliced since 2007. Some of them would possibly hardly recognise the story if they read it now.

What do you think? Will you read it? Have you read it? If you give the chapters on Authonomy.com a go and feel it worthy, please help me spread the word. My aim is to get an agent for this. I’m working on it. I’m told time and again that it’s a book that “needs to be published”. However, “needs” and “will” remain two vastly different realities.

It’s like winning the lottery, I know….

 

 

My beloved grandparents on their wedding day, 1948

 

Ruby and Tom. My father’s parents. One of my most cherished old family photographs.

I loved my grandfather dearly and missed him desperately after he died in 1995. The relationship I had with my grandmother was distant but cherished nonetheless. My fondness, great respect and sadness for her grew and deepened only after she died in 2000. Too late to properly love her.

Her story, and her mother’s before her, became an integral part of my book. Indeed, held the key to understanding the beginning of my own difficult childbearing journey. She’d probably wave me off gruffly and tell me to stop being such a sap – in fact, I’m fairly certain much of my writing would have quite annoyed her! But it’s true.

I want to honour the story of these two fresh-faced newlyweds.

In the three years following the photo above, these two resilient Londoners tried and failed several times (the exact number is unknown but it was more than two) to bring a child into the world. My Dad was to be my grandmother’s only surviving child and my granddad never had any children of his own. By 1951, she had lost any remaining hopes of having another baby when the doctors had to give her a full hysterectomy. Grandma was just thirty-four.

I write about them in my memoir. Here is a section very dear to my heart, which I’ve chopped up to shorten the word count of this post a little. It’s set in the year 2000 (just five months before Grandma died of a heart attack right before my eyes):

 

It came as rather an unexpected shock when I had to break the news to Grandma no more than two months later that we had lost the baby. It became one of the most poignant and difficult phone calls I had to make. Her voice was small and she suddenly sounded so sympathetic and tender.

“So…. No Milly then,” Grandma said forlornly.

With fitting traces of harking back to Cockney-speak, her nickname for our baby had been Milly. As in, Millennium. Because it was the year 2000. I know, it’s dreadful, isn’t it? I used to cringe whenever she said it and suspected she referred to the baby as Milly just to get a rise out of me. But now as she said it, sounding so far away, I wanted to burst into tears and wished there was still a Milly for her to rib me about.

“No,” I said quietly. I could not believe she was reaching out to me over this, as I had honestly been expecting a bit of tough love from her. And then I understood why.

To my surprise, Grandma began to divulge some of her own failed pregnancy history to me—I found it hard to take it all in and concentrate but had a strong sense that the connection we were making with each other was most important. Although I knew she had undergone a hysterectomy at an early age, the extra detail Grandma was going into was news to me. I had been privy to some very vague references to Grandma having had a miscarriage at some point in the past, but I had been too young to have any real questions or understanding of what it all meant and had never pressed for information.

In this phone conversation now, my grandmother indicated to me that she had actually had several miscarriages. From what I gathered, at least two of them were second trimester losses. This was huge news to me. I immediately saw Grandma in a new light. So much of her well conditioned self-protection made sense now. My attention also turned to Granddad and how pained he must have been, how they both must have felt, losing their babies. It enriched my memories of how engaged Granddad had been with his grandchildren….

….Granddad eventually had to arrange for Dad to be sent away and looked after by a close family friend on the other side of London while Grandma convalesced. But Granddad would always laugh heartily and have me in fits too, making light of a time in their lives that I now realised must have actually been extremely trying. His ability to spin positivity and light, especially into what I learned so many years later were the saddest of circumstances, became hugely inspirational to me. His subtle lesson was a poignant gift to me, remaining unrealised until I drew strength from the memory of his outlook and attitude as Steve’s and my own pregnancy battles loomed larger.

Ruby was hospitalised for several months during their last pregnancy while in her second trimester, sometime in 1951. She was thirty-four. I gathered from her account that the bed rest did not work. Her baby succumbed and as they could not stem the blood loss, Ruby also lost her uterus and with it, obviously, any hopes she and Tom had to conceive and retain a healthy baby together. She was gravely ill for months. I have no idea of the specifics, of why she was losing her babies, but in these intervening years I have often wondered and felt great sympathy towards her.

These musings about my paternal female line went round and round in my head from the moment my grandmother shared her secrets with me after my own miscarriage. Unfinished thoughts and disconnected threads of my heritage would come back to me time and again during the course of my trials. I knew they were vital to my story and I had a feeling there must be a lock somewhere, for I had been given the key so obviously, starting with Grandma’s talk with me in the year 2000. And yet, that lock remained tantalisingly hidden for some years, willing me to keep searching for it.

It is unfortunate, looking back now, that nobody was more aware of Grandma’s failed pregnancies. When she died she took with her all that history and experience because it was not something openly spoken about. Even today, miscarriage is not a widely accepted topic of conversation. So I never heard about the difficult side to making babies that Grandma went through….

….Eventually, it helped me draw some logic and sense from my own devastating miscarriage experience where there seemed to be none. That some of the healing for her and revealing this private information about herself came from my miscarriage. On top of this, and perhaps most surprisingly, my relationship with my grandmother would actually deepen and strengthen after she had passed away. Not that I knew any of this then, in our phone call….

 

 

I have grown despondent.

In the last week, I have been researching diligently (again) the perfect synopsis, how to pitch a query (and how to work out who to pitch it to), the little tweaks and quirks of the memoir that give the task that extra twist. Then I take those notes and learnings back to my synopsis and slump as I see the huge task (again) ahead of me to improve it further. Add to this the battle with the word count – which I am winning, at least on the memoir front, I must say – and I am a rather sensitive ball of nerves come Friday night when I am told (for not the first time in my blogging “career”, granted) that my posts are officially the longest in someone’s reader.

Okay. I win. Or you win! You get more. For free!

And I grow even more despondent. About my long-worded posts this time. But only because I’ve spent the week in this other world of cut-throat “live and die by the synopsis”. I’ll get over that soon enough (even though in the back of my mind I’m trying to recall the past month or so of posts and tally up less long ones to short ones……)

Along the course of writing my memoir, I have sent out the briefest of pages here and there. Always difficult when the subject on some of those pages is reading it for themselves for the first time.

And here lies my latest heart-gripping fear:

How do I properly prepare a reader for seeing a scenario from my perspective?

How do I learn not to take responsibility for their words or actions in my story?

When does merely being the story-teller (through my eyes, told from my point of view) cross the line into something else?

How do I protect myself from their feedback when it inevitably returns with the sensitivity of The Average Person not used to seeing (if not their names – for I have changed them all) their words or their deeds in print?

It was confronting enough for me, as a willing participant, to see our story told in brief inside Making Babies when the copy arrived in my letterbox signed by the author. So why have I not considered before now the creep up the back of the neck that one of those in my memoir might feel if this goes forward?

How do I reconcile the fact that for my story (Ellanor’s story) to go forth – a vital story that “MUST be told”, so others continue to profess – some of these characters must be in it? I’ve removed entire characters (and, therefore, plot sequences) from the story in the past five years. I’ve merged some, and certainly sometimes watered down what they have said – the frequency with which their snarks have been delivered included – but if I contain it any more, it will simply not be a true representation of what it is like to live with the stigma of a dead child.

I’m beginning to realise why there are some books on the shelf that seem not to delve too far in to this area (of relationships surrounding this subject) – it takes a pretty special story and author to persevere. [slumps]

This realisation has taken the reality of publishing to a whole new level. A level I’m not entirely certain I am cut out to stand on.

What do I do here?

Universe…. tell me!

 

(and hey, the greatest fear currently in my life, brought to you in under 600 words! How do you like THEM apples?!)

 

Otherwise known as Chasing Pavements.

By the end of 2012, if I have not exhausted every agent (Australian or otherwise) and started croakily imploring “Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements even if it leads nowhere?” Adele-style then please slap me, all of you, and tell me I should’ve tried much, much harder.

Here’s the thing:
…I have a memoir ready to be published … okay, polished by an editor of their choice then published.
…It’s in two parts.
…Part 1 is 84,000 words – it loosely chronicles Steve’s and my journey to parenthood for the first time and the abrupt end of our daughter’s life.
…Part 2 is 77,000 words – it branches into the awakening of the positives to be found in the death of our baby, our IVF journey and culminates in the eventual “success” of a take-home baby. Enter stage left: The LGBB!
…I have been short-listing some agents since November but haven’t nearly exhausted the list yet. It’s a long process, trying to decipher who would be interested in my work.

I have had the diligent, supportive and helpful readers. I have had the critics. I have had the “you haven’t written a book, you haven’t even nearly finished writing yet” helpers who haven’t read a single word {way to confuse me! I’m preeeeetty sure I have a well-rounded, well edited book here, or so I am being repeatedly told by very intelligent readers, so – with the greatest respect for your experience – perhaps offer to read it before you offer to tell me I don’t have anything worth publishing yet!}. It’s time to push the baby out of the nest.

But in which direction?

Ultimately, I feel the pressure of knowing none of it will have meant anything if I can’t get this thing out there. I know, I know… the healing in the writing has to have been worth it… Blah-blah-blah. I’ll cut to the chase and just say, no. It won’t have been. If I can’t get this off the ground, I will have fallen short of my goal and I can’t let that happen. Not when Ellanor’s memory is all over the darn thing. Besides, I never started writing it for any other reason. And I haven’t written the book for that (self-healing). I was well through the worst of it when I began writing. As for the actual logistics of distributing the book, I’m not keen on self-publishing. I want to truly leave no stone unturned as I go down the traditional route of publishing. So I will be boning up on what I do know about how it all works – and will be scrambling to fix and change things according to what I learn, because there is SO much I don’t know about how it all works! It’s kind of like trying to find the end of a piece of string amongst a balled-up mass of intertwining threads and other people saying they have a vague idea of what you’re looking for and where you’ll find it, they saw it, oh… “over there somewhere, you’ll find it, just keep looking…” Aaaaaargh. Just TELL meeeee!

*composure*  Now I’m just starting to sound like Veruca Salt.

Image

What I hope to achieve is only going to be possible if someone has faith in the project. This is where I am going to call on the support of any readers out there who want to see it happen. Plenty of you have said “It HAS to get out there!” and “I am going to do all I can to spread the word… because the story needs to be told!” and words to that effect. It has buoyed and humbled me to the ends of the Earth. I truly hope that sometime in the not too distant future, I get to call you on your words and ask you to come good with them!

So, uh…… anyone know any good agent/s who don’t mind a bit of real-life nitty-gritty wrapped up in a positive message??  Then help to hook me up, dagnabbit, starting with sharing this post!  pretty please with a cherry on top

The other night, in my jumble of thoughts that had been piled one atop the other until I could start to sort through them – much like a pile of clean clothes that waits to be folded until you absolutely MUST move them because you need the laundry basket – I remembered a single line from one of the latter chapters of my book.

The first part of the chapter (unedited, okay, just if you’re reading and you’re “in the field” and you want to take potshots *disclaimer over*) is below. But the poignant line that kept repeating in my head as I grabbed that much-needed alone time in the shower was:

Be your own Light source.

I can’t be more profound than that. Perhaps it will speak to you if you read the following, but I am damned if I can string together a coherent sentence in my mind now to more properly or completely explain myself…. Gimme a break. I’ve just farewelled Cyclone Family (I love them, I gnash my teeth over them – the children – I wonder why my daughter MUST copy the naughty antics and lose herself in her cousins instead of being her beautiful self, while they are here. I mourn, deeply, the fact that I will not see my sister in-law again for another two years when they leave… But now, at least I can think for the first time in two weeks and have some precious sweet Me Time)

For now, I want to ask you:  Do you know how to be your own Light Source?

AUGUST

In August, I had a really profound dream. I was, of course, still coming back down to Earth after the euphoria of giving birth to our girl, as well as becoming familiar with the floating nothingness of learning how to live without her – and yet, with her, for she was both eternally in my life and not present.

At first, the dream didn’t seem like much. But it was terrifying, bathing me in a cold sweat. One of those dreams that really grips you. One that you come out of, realising, by the sensations in your body, that you’ve had adrenaline coursing through you and when you connect it was because of the dream you just had, it kind of freaks you out a little bit more. Years later, I can still remember the fear and dread I felt, long after I woke up.

In the dream, I was somewhere outside, in pitch darkness. My eyes were wide as saucers, trying to adjust to the lack of light. Eventually, I was able to see a little way in front of me.

I was in a forest. A forest of dead, bare, white-barked trees standing grey against the pitch darkness of the night. It looked as though a fire had gone through and razed all the vegetation, everything seemed to be covered in white ash. It was beautiful, almost lunar in its appearance – if the moon’s surface bore dead trees, that is.  

In the distance, I saw something flicker. It was the flash of a wild animal’s eyes glinting off a light source. A rising sense of fear sent goosebumps right up my back and into my scalp. The animal was hunched over in a prowling, purposeful stance, coming towards me and fixing its steadfast, hungry intent on me as it padded closer, hunting me like I was its prey. I backed up and found myself standing alongside one of the trees. Clambering up the trunk, I tried to get as high off the ground as I could. I was petrified but I didn’t know what of, exactly. The dark, the predatory animal, the silence. All of it. I was hyperventilating and panicking by now. This was not what I had bargained for, this dream, when I had gone to bed that night asking for a message or visit from Ellanor (something I had grown used to doing, for I learned to look out for her or her words in my dream state). And then I saw the animal. 

Wow, it’s beautiful but it looks spooked, I thought. It looks menacing and out for my blood, why is it hunting me so fiercely? What is it? I was instantly informed, somehow, that it was an ocelot. Its staring eyes never left mine as it came closer and closer, really getting low to the ground now. And then it leapt towards me.

I was up the tree with nowhere else to go. The ocelot sank its sharp, feline claws into my right thigh. And I screamed. The pain was searing and instant, a sting that lingered for some time after I woke up. When I did force myself awake, there was a silent scream still in my lungs and I breathed out the air I had been holding onto.

I still felt shaken, hunted, although I was now in the relative safety of the darkness of our bedroom, feeling more and more present in the room, Steve sleeping peacefully at my side. When I made myself think back over the events of the dream, I suddenly realised I had been the light source. I made a promise to myself to seek out the animal wisdom teachings of the ocelot, for I had been getting used to seeing these sorts of things – dreams and other seemingly odd or out of place messages – as signposts to my further learning, becoming guided by the rhythms of these instances that were unfolding for me in my life more and more, instead of shying away from them. Once upon a time, before knowing Ellanor, these were the sorts of things that I would wave off, not even willing to consider them as anything other than random occurrences in my daily life (or dream state).

It took me four years before I finally got around to looking up the ocelot totem, even though I was still wondering from time to time during those years what it had been trying to say to me that night. What I uncovered helped to retrospectively patch another part of the quilt of my healing at that time in my life, for I had also been on the precipice of growing into the more aware, more open, more willing person I was to become.

Animal Totem: The Ocelot

Comfortable in the high trees and in water, Ocelot can show you how to adapt to whatever environment you find yourself and how to look at your surroundings from on high. Ocelot also shows you how to regenerate through solitude and quiet meditation. Because they live in both land and water, they have a connection with both the physical and spiritual world and the ability to be in two places at once. Use Ocelot as your meditation guide to connect to the spirit world.”  

Putting aside what was obvious to me – that the appearance of the ocelot in my dream, and now finding this particular totem’s wording, was a confirmation of connecting with Ella in the world she had so briefly left to come here – I found the dream so much more profound, now that the years had passed, as if it had happened back then in order for me to bookmark it, somehow, and provide me with this affirming proof so far down the path I had been on. I was the Light source, a point not lost on me, now I look back on it. It gave me some confirmation, at least, that I had been on the ‘right track’, even back then when I honestly thought I might shrivel up and be forgotten if I did not diligently stay the course in my connection to my own truth. 

“If they can’t get it through to you while you’re awake, they’ll do it when you’re asleep!” Jen had once told me, laughing at my wide eyes. How right she was.

My life was much different around the time of the visit from the ocelot. I was looking at things from a higher perspective more often by then – from my soul’s perspective, or my higher consciousness – for that was where I was learning to forgive myself and my actions, give myself and others a break, find my own solace and, most important to my survival, have a safe place in which to regenerate and fill up my reserves, sometimes daily. For this was my new way of being; Steve and I were living a life pummelled by insecurities now, without all our previous social masks and various obligatories to cushion us. We were dealing with our sorrow, learning how to incorporate our lost child in our lives with meaning and joy, whilst continually having to replenish enough strength to weather whatever the next day and its trespasses were going to bring. I was supposed to learn to accept these shortcomings, delivered by the people around us, even though some were clearly not accepting me in my newfound state.

Towards the end of August, I wrote in my journal:

I am a psycho

Now I’m totally depressed and low, I give up. Don’t even know why I am writing.

I can’t do “this” anymore, whatever “this” is. I don’t want to say I want to stop trying to get pregnant, but I think I have to. I’d say it’s for my sanity, but if I stop trying, I haven’t got any other focus, really, so how can that be good for me?

I’m exhausted. I just completely give up.

So tired of all this shit.

I just wish I wasn’t here.

I don’t feel, at the present moment, that there is anything that really brings me true joy anymore.

Not Steve. Not Pepper. Not friends or family. Nothing previously in this journal. I feel like a fake. And maybe I am.

I can’t stand this life. I hate where I am. And I am stuck here.

Just living.

And I don’t know what for.

 

Diary entry, 25th August, 2004

I recall that this was one of, if not the, lowest days I have ever had in my life. If I was truly going to end my life, it would surely have been on that day. But, once again, something gradually bailed me out over the ensuing hours. As acceptance of my continuing living, breathing, physical self set in, the tears flowed. I did not want to feel stuck here, on Earth. This was not the death sentence I was meant to subject myself to, not in Ellanor’s name. I briefly noted the turning point of coming out of destitution into decisiveness. There did not seem anything more to say:

Spent the rest of the 25th and most of yesterday inconsolably sobbing.

I have given up on being pregnant, of ever having children, anyway – something (someone?) in me keeps telling me it’s not giving up. It’s letting go, with acceptance.

Just as I did when Ella needed to go.

Diary entry, 27th August, 2004

Soon after I made this entry, Steve and I agreed that we had to confront the acceptance of facing a childless life together. It was so difficult to call it that, because we knew we had already given life to a child, yet here we were, having to consider ourselves possibly now destined to be “childless” anyway. We had connected very soundly with an amazing little baby with a huge soul and a set of challenging physical hurdles that meant she would leave us all too soon. It was, therefore, painfully difficult to say to each other, “Well, maybe that was it. Perhaps Ella was all we were ever meant to know.”

Don’t wait for permission. Breathe out, it’s okay to let go what you’ve been holding onto. You are adaptable, no matter what. Don’t forget your Soul’s perspective. You can be your OWN Light source. It is, after all, within you.

Have a good weekend. I’ll be back properly next week!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers