On being Mum…

meandstel We had planned it so well, the midwives, myself and your father. There were ‘gas-and-air’ canisters, huge sheets of plastic and other mysterious supplies under the sofa and a largish inflatable paddling pool propped up on top of it. We were ready, we thought.

You were late, so they say, but I seem to just like to cook my babies over the 40 week mark. Well done babies but medium rare steak, please. But because of the over-40-weeks thing, there was a threat of being induced. And I had read far too many birth stories online and just knew that inducing was not what I wanted for either of us.

When the consultant scheduled our induction, I trundled out of the office like a sad tortoise. Hot tears ran down my cheeks as I told your father what they’d done and how desperately I didn’t want that story for us.

I had been so focused on the whole mystery of childbirth. That was the moment I couldn’t get past just like with marriage sometimes we can focus on the wedding when what is really going on has a much longer reach. I was in the holding pattern of your little movements making waves across my belly and your bout of hiccups almost every day after lunch, no matter what I ate.

Your arrival was probably my first, biggest lesson in giving up control. Though I didn’t go quietly…and the lesson has dawned on me ever so slowly, ever since. What happened was nothing we had planned, but everything we needed. Because the story that ends with your arrival was always going to be good.

A home water birth was the plan. Everything was purchased and ready. Midwives were on call. I’d had a ‘sweep’ with the consultant to try and ‘get things going’ naturally. I could write more about that here, but then this post would veer into a PG-13 rating…The consultant was so pleased with herself after this ‘sweep’, said I was already dilated 1, and she’d be surprised if things didn’t ‘get going’ now. Her words meant almost nothing to me, I just felt ‘Ouch!’ But again I hobbled home on the bus after relating the hopeful news to your father. Maybe we’d get to meet you sooner than later after all?

And indeed, the first signs of your appearance did come that very evening with gushes of water and intense contractions. I phoned the midwives straight away, and someone who looked seventeen showed up at our door. She said she was a midwife, but we’ve always wondered if I was her first home birth and/or delivery.

She seemed really nervous and that put your dad on edge, he told me later. I was already having an out-of-body experience at this point, to cope with the pain. The teenage midwife’s main beef was that she couldn’t hear your heartbeat with her antique monitor baby-heart listening device. I was just frustrated at her vain attempts and her asking me to sit up when I just wanted to curl into a ball to deal with the iron-man of contractions that was happening in my body.

At one point, when this whole heart monitor/contractions fiasco was going on, your dad popped his head in, and with cappuccino in hand, asked if he should fill up the paddling pool now? I think we both just glared at him. I don’t think I had the powers of speech anymore, but shortly after this, the midwife called for an ambulance to take us to the hospital. I was relieved because I didn’t think she could handle it on her own.

And in the end, we had an amazing team around us. The midwife who delivered you was a German lady called Mitzi and she was amazing; helping me in those first moments after you were born, while you were being born. She taught me how important it is to listen to that specific ‘mama’ part of me, to trust in it cause it’s given to mamas for a reason.

I don’t know how or why mamas seem to be the parent with a sixth-sense connection to their children, but it’s often the case. It happened for us over time. As I got to know you and we found our unique rhythm as this brand new family. You made us that – a family. I’ve always marveled at that. Such a big job for a tiny little person.

My priorities got reset the second I stepped outside with you. We were leaving the hospital and I was riding in the back with you securely strapped into a too-large looking car seat. And I couldn’t believe we were just allowed to take you home, just like that! I’d have dreams where I was still processing that your amazing-ness was a part of us now. You’d been hidden for nine months, but now all the world could wonder at you with us.

And the world seemed bigger and louder and riskier now that your newness and tiny fiestyness were part of it. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Whether it knows it or not, that world needs you. Now more than ever. To show it what beauty and kindness look like in a preteen female form. To show it how powerful they can be. To show us all, my sweet girl. To show us all.

 

Welcome to the Query Games, may the agents be ever in your favor.

I first heard about the DFW Writer’s Conference about a month ago when I went to an AIR time event to hear Sarah Riehm (local playwright, author and friend of a friend) speak about her career and works. She mentioned going to the conference at the start of her career and how it had opened doors and she’d found a critique group through it. She also mentioned that finding an agent is much harder than getting published, though I’m not sure where she got that statistic…However, when I investigated the conference  and saw that I could get a face-to-face opportunity to pitch to an actual, real, live agent, I was sold!

But first things first, what to wear, who to print my business cards, and oh yeah, pitch preparation. I did tons of research and the advice seemed to be to go to the face-to-face meeting with an elevator pitch (short, pithy, just a few sentences) and then wait for questions from the agent. This was a dialogue, not a speech. In everyone’s dream scenario (most people would deny this, but I’m being honest here), the agent has to compose herself as she is just blown away by the brilliance of your story and delivery, is impressed with your writing ability, and wants to sign you on the spot (though there are reasons you should never do this…). This NEVER happens…except when it does.

The more likely scenario is for the agent to say something like, “I’m interested, send me your query letter and the first 10 pages,” OR “Sounds great, but not for me.” Agents have to become masters of the easy let down. The one I pitched to was so convincing in her generous no, I was sure she was going to change her mind. I even considered writing something she represents just so she could say yes.

Here was my biggest pitching problem: the research I did on the agents at the conference somehow didn’t match up with their real-world interests. Maybe I was doing the research too late at night, maybe I wasn’t clear on my genre initially, maybe I was too hurried to pick my top three choices. All of the above is probably true. And no matter how kind and truly lovely my new writer friends were about my failed pitches, I fantastically bombed. And I could see it coming.

My pitch session was early in the day and I knew going into it that my first choice agent didn’t represent my genre. In my defense, genres are slippery suckers and my book could fit into a couple. But never mind, cause she did pass on my book, but with such grace. Agents are gracious souls…except maybe when they have a gong in front of them.

I felt such fondness for all the agents I met, even the egomaniac who was roaring, literally, throughout his class. They really do want you to do well, not only cause that’s how they get paid, but because maybe they like good stories? I especially admired and appreciated the graciousness of the two agents I pitched to on Saturday night when I wasn’t excited about my pitch/book/life anymore but by golly I was still gonna spew out share my idea with them even though one didn’t even represent my genre – AGAIN!! – and the other one was just trying to have a chill with a beer and I was all, “Hi! I wanted to meet you! Can I pitch to you? (NO pleasantries or anything! No – Hey, so how about those queries at the gong show? HAHA! No, so who/what are the most exciting writers/books to you at the moment? Argh… my Momma taught me better than this people…).

That final agent, God bless her, tossed a dog a bone. She said, after the world’s longest pause, “Okay…you can query me.” She didn’t say she was interested (I noticed this), but she did give me permission to do what I could have already – which is to send her an email with my query letter and first 10 or so pages of my novel…though I guess I get to say this is a requested query since I twisted her arm with my bloodshot eyes (SOOOOO tired, I was) and my desperate/monotone pitch.

Some of you might say, Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad! (It was, you’re wrong) Or, well at least you got a request! And yes, that is true, but I’ve discovered I hate face-to-face pitches. There’s a reason I use writing to express myself. I’m going to wholeheartedly embrace the email pitch for a while…after I re-work my novel’s ending. But more on my conference editing session next time…