When I was pregnant with our first child, I painstakingly wrote out a multi-paged birth plan. My husband and I had all of these first time parent ideals. We proudly presented the obstetrics team our detailed instructions for how we wanted everything from lighting and noise level to every conceivable emergency contingency. Some of our expectations were realistic, and some earned us a straight up “smile and nod” from the doctor and nurse midwife. We wanted everything to be perfect for our son. You know, birds chirping and the sun shining, all to welcome him to the world.
For the most part things went as planned, but not perfectly. I will spare you the details of my first childbirth story, but I will say there were no emergencies and he was born healthy. It is utterly astounding how quickly he has grown into a thirteen-year-old. I try not to think about the fact that we will likely be eye-to-eye for only a few more months and his shoes are already bigger than mine. I love laughing with him, and I hope that won’t ever change.
I’ve been reflecting back on that first pregnancy and childbirth plan to remind myself that indie publishing my first book, The Recollection of Trees, is very much the same process:
- Other people have gone through this, but their experience is not my experience.
I got tons of well-meaning advice from other parents, some of it was helpful and reassuring, and some of it was utterly terrifying. The biggest difference between authors and parents? Parents love to share their stories with anyone who appears interested or pregnant. (For reasons unknown, it’s assumed that if you have a pregnant belly, you are dying to hear about their c-section after 13 hours of labor.) Veteran authors rarely share their publishing stories to newbie authors who haven’t asked for advice. They do post to social media, blog, and send e-newsletters to their subscriber lists, and those stories can get just as overwhelming as the ones I heard at my baby shower. Just like my third trimester, I’ve had to scale back my interaction with those more experienced at this, mostly due to the barrage of constant change within traditional publishing that has left many successful authors in limbo. No one wants to hear about the emergency scenarios when they are in their 39th week of pregnancy. NO ONE. Be kind. Keep it to yourself. PLEASE.
- Other people have gone through this and survived, and so will I.
One of the things that kept me somewhat sane was the idea that millions of women have given birth since the dawn of time and my body, just like theirs, would know exactly what to do. I wasn’t on a wagon train or in some remote mountain village for crying out loud. I had access to all that I needed and more. I would survive. Thousands of books are published every single day. Every. Single. Day. Gloria Gaynor sings it best, I WILL SURVIVE.
- My baby will be special, even if I am the only one who knows it.
Knowing that my book will be among thousands is daunting. However, I keep reminding myself that even if no one loves it as much as I do, I made it. Just like there are no children exactly like mine, no one’s book will be exactly like mine and no amount of book sales or peer approval or critical reviews can change the truth: It is a dream project that I started and finished. It is a race I trained for, ran, and completed.
- Nesting does not bring birth any sooner, but it makes me feel better about it…sort of.
Nesting just about drove my husband crazy. Switch all the furniture from the downstairs bedroom with the one in the upstairs? Yes, dear. Switch it back? Yes, dear. Paint the walls Lemon? Yes, darling. Wrong shade? Buttered popcorn? Is that a craving or a paint color? What’s that honey? Mint green? Editing has been like nesting. I can waste hours on one stupid sentence, then cut 40 pages in five minutes. Will I ever be completely satisfied? At a certain point you have to choose the damn wall color and stick with it. Latte Foam it is, darling.
- Finding the right professionals and tools for my situation is crucial for things to go well.
Notice I said for things to go well not perfect. I searched for the right birthing center, Lamaze class, lactation consultant, obstetrician, nurse midwife, crib, breast pump, diapers, stroller, and baby monitors to give me some control over the inevitable situation. Or at least the illusion of control. Experienced agents, editors, cover designers, text formatters, proofreaders, printers, and booksellers…all need to be a good fit for my genre, target audience, creative process and ultimately, sales. I made a list. It helped. A little bit. Mostly I trusted my gut instinct.
- Choosing the best birth announcement design can be overwhelming.
Hat or no hat? Blue outfit or striped? Holding the baby or baby by himself? Design it myself or pay someone to make my baby look amazing? Let me just say that I have obsessed over the book cover design until my eyes crossed. Is the cover important? YES. Are readers supposed to judge a book by its cover? NO. Do they? YES, they absolutely do.
I’ve been working with a great cover design artist, but recent circumstances beyond my control forced me to change designers at the eleventh hour, which has delayed my planned release date. However, the new amazing designer is award-winning and has created covers for some bestsellers, so the delay will be worth it. Art is subjective, but I hope most people will like my cover as much as I do, and more importantly, love the baby inside!
I tried to keep the delay announcement lighthearted on social media. In truth, I feel like I was sent home with false labor pains. I probably won’t sleep until it’s launched. More coffee please.
- Everything is changing in my life to make room for this new beginning.
I once had a total pregnant meltdown in a mall department store. I felt huge because, well, I was HUGE. After a long Michigan winter, it was time for my favorite therapy: new spring clothes. You know, bright colors to chase away the winter blahs. I passed the ladies department and it was full of all things spring. I turned to the maternity department and what did they have on the racks? Pastels? Prints? No. It seemed they expected me to set sail. The entire area was nautical themed with big red bows and navy horizontal stripes. Just what a “widening by the second” pregnant woman wants—to look wider. Ahoy Mommy! I burst into a tidal wave of hormonal tears that no salesperson in a 50-mile radius was equipped to deal with. Determined to leave with something pretty, I defiantly bought bright, spring colored socks and exited the store with mascara streaks on my cheeks. That afternoon’s surveillance video was likely converted into a “how to handle difficult retail customers” training video. The truth is that legendary meltdown was really about me finding a way to embrace my new reality, and sometimes I’m not so great at change. I wish I could say I’m laughing at some of my “graceful moments” of publishing. I’ll let you know…
- Selecting the best support system ensures a safe baby and a sane mama.
There are nice people, and there are not-so-nice people. I’ve learned from both, but I prefer nice. Just as I did not trust any person off the street to hold my newborn, I don’t share the details about my book plans with anyone outside my inner circle of trusted friends and family. I’ve gone through my social media friends, weeding out those I know are not interested in being 100% supportive. I’ve gone through my in-person friends and family the same way. Yes, I am that protective and paranoid. No, I’m not worried about people stealing my idea (anymore), but I don’t need anyone tearing me down when I am in the fragile fluctuation between self-doubt and triumph. Also, anyone who has rude things to say about the Detroit Lions (not in a joking spirit) simply has to go. At first I questioned my sanity on this, but then I realized that my Lions (win or lose) are my stress outlet. All of my publishing frustrations can be vented by cheering and yelling insults at my guys in Honolulu blue. I’ll teeter on the fence about a person who seems a little less supportive of me, but say something negative about my team and I don’t even blink. We all have our lines. That’s mine. Unfriend. Unfollow. Buh-bye.
- I want everything to be perfect, but it won’t be and that’s ok.
Like I said before, not everything went exactly according to my first childbirth plan. I planned not to scream so I wouldn’t frighten my baby, but, well, it hurt like hell so I got a bit loud. Ok, I screamed. Like a horror movie prom queen. With my first son there were no birds chirping, but in the moments just after his birth, everyone in the room had sunshine in their eyes. (I even had a second child, and the second time around I was way less uptight about everything. My husband agrees. See? He’s nodding and smiling. Maybe my next book will be similar—imperfectly perfect.)
As I mentioned in number 6, things have not always gone according to my publishing plan either. I don’t know yet how the first book birth day will be because I am in the early stage of labor. As it launches, I will be wearing my luckiest of lucky Halloween socks, but there may be more surprises.
Hopefully I won’t throw up or scream in a demon voice, but there is still time, so we can only hope.
(I would’ve inserted a clip of “six funny movie birth scenes” here, but there was no way to avoid also seeing graphic home videos of women giving birth. TMI for me. Search at your own risk people.)