For those of you who have read past posts know, I have felt a direct link between my writer's block and my fertility issues the last five years. Five years. Yes, that's right. Or four and a half years if I'm getting technical, but I feel like rounding up.
During the first two years of trying to have a baby, I was still writing almost every day. I took up writing fiction for the first time (after primarily being a playwright), was in a thriving writer's group that I started, and launched BookHive. Somewhere in the third year after I had an ectopic pregnancy after my first try with IVF, the flow of writing started to peter out. I remember being pregnant and going to this new writer's group in Astoria where we met at a public eatery. One time I asked the woman behind the counter about the cheese that was in the soup. (Was it safe? I was pregnant, you know). After the pregnancy was discovered to be ectopic at six weeks and I had emergency surgery, a few weeks later I went back to the writer's group. Unlike previous writer's groups, these people weren't my friends, but fantastic writers with a shared goal to write. No one knew what had happened. It was liberating for them not to know. I ordered that soup again with the cheese in it. Of course by then, I no longer had a concern about it.
This all happened in September. While I did continue to revise the piece that I was working on until early April, somewhere in May I stopped writing. Nothing dramatic happened. It could have been that the trauma of it all was sinking in. I did another round of IVF during this time. It didn't work. Each month was met with a set of expectations and disappointments. I didn't realize how long the break would end up being. At first it was a month, then two, then...a year?
In the period I wasn't writing, I did a third round of IVF in October and it didn't work. We had one embryo left. We tried again with our last embryo in January and this time I had a lengthy miscarriage. The doctors wanted to hope that maybe that spec on the screen would turn out all right. So we waited. But it wasn't all right. I had my second D&C and was so blown out emotionally, I can't really put it into words.
But wait, you're like, this is supposed to be a happy post, isn't it? OK, yes, here it is. I should have made the announcement earlier:
I'M PREGNANT NOW! 28 WEEKS!!!
Here's the obligatory iPhone selfie in the mirror.
QueenBee Jennifer Bowen - pregnant, yo!
I'd like to first acknowledge how lucky I was to do IVF. We started at a clinic that offered grants based on income, so the first few rounds were affordable in the scheme of things. I also think if you want a child, no matter what you look like or where you come from, the inability to get there is a universal pain that can level anyone.
Having the ectopic pregnancy really changed who I am. In general, I am an optimistic person. Still am for the most part. If anything, it shaped my current world view that there is a lot of beauty and synchronicity in the world, but also a lot of randomness and pain. Before the ectopic, I saw life more as the former. I don't feel bad that I am different. If anything, it has opened my eyes to be grateful for everything I do have. It also makes me more sensitive to the many different ways people suffer.
It's a strange experience to have emergency surgery. We live in New York City. So for us it was being told to take a cab, not the subway, to the emergency room. We made horrible phone calls to loved ones who had been so happy for us a few weeks earlier. They kept checking on my internal bleeding to ensure it wasn't going too awry. I had eaten that morning (before I knew) so they wanted my food to digest a few hours before putting me under. There were at least fifteen people in the room where I had the surgery. I wear contacts and they make you take them out before surgery. I remember laying on my back, not able to really see anything, and as they started the anesthesia, I thought of the ocean in my hometown of Half Moon Bay, California. A shimmering endless sea, something bigger than me, was what I concentrated on as I closed my eyes. It was my version of a prayer.
After the last embryo didn't work, I wrote a blog about how to beat writer's block. That kickstarted my writing. I took one last stab at the project I abandoned a year back. I noticed then that my writing process had changed. I no longer had an endless, daily free flow of words. It came in fits and starts. I pushed through. By summers end I re-tested my book through BookHive and received pretty positive results. Something though was telling me to put it aside.
During that summer we were trying to decide what the hell to do on the baby front. I think I cried almost every day the month of June after my miscarriage finally ended. By July, we decided to try a new fertility clinic and give it one more try. By October, everything was on the right path and it seemed this time we might just succeed. That same month I started a fiction class at Sackett Street Writers in Brooklyn. Something in me wanted to write a brand new piece.
I wrote a play a few years back that I really loved and spent two years developing through my theater company InViolet. The story of it was inspired after I watched the film Stoker by director Park Chan-wook. I thought there was more to mine there and that it could be a book. My previous fiction piece had been Young Adult, and this was definitely not going to be that (based on some of the themes). In the eight week class, I worked on the first two chapters.
The class ended and I remember my teacher walking me out of the funky art class room where we met and she said something encouraging and that I should really keep going. It meant a lot to me.
A week later we had an embryo transfer.
A few weeks later, I was told I was pregnant, two weeks before Christmas.
From the get go, all signs appeared to say that this was going to work. My hcg numbers were high, the little sucker was in the right place (my uterus!) and I felt a distinct sensation when she was settling into my body like a needle being thread and pulled.
Yes, I am having a girl.
Again, it's hard to explain what it's like for doctors visits to go well vs. not going well after being at it for years. We chose to tell people slowly, one on one, and the reaction was always pretty incredible. This was a hard process on many of our friends and family, especially my parents. As their only child, I know it was heart wrenching to see us go through this year after year.
I am now 28 weeks pregnant and due in early August. I kept working on what I started in the fiction class and am up to 65,000 words, aiming for 80,000 (a first draft) before the birth.
First draft in progress: My Grief is Golden and True
My psyche shifted when I became pregnant. I still had my fits and starts with writing this new piece, but didn't sweat it. I don't think creativity should always be easy. Sometimes it can be, of course. Then sometimes you need to face the terror of not knowing how to take the next step forward. That's what opened my imagination to the next character turn, next scene. When I felt I was going too long between writing sessions, I'd tell myself: Just write something. Anything. Even if it's bad. Just try. This pushed me over the hump many times.
Before I go any further, I need to acknowledge my stellar husband Garrett. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. We've been together almost ten years. When I look at pictures of us when we first met, we look so young! There's a mystery to a life shared. To say I love him, or that he loves me doesn't quite cut it. Again, some things you can't put into words.
Everything my husband and I have been through has changed us, changed me, and as a result, changed my writing. I fully embrace that life is messy. I also think it takes work to keep yourself balanced and aligned. The last five years knocked me off my center at times, but I learned how to find my way back. My mother remarked that I am very resilient. That's one of the best compliments I've ever received.
The writing is going well. In a month or so I should have my first draft. I've never had more fun writing something or felt more connected to a source which kept the story going (if you believe in such things). For me having a baby is a radical life change and we can't wait for it. We'll see where the book lands eventually. I have a few dedications in mind already (my parents, Garrett) and of course to the little girl inside me who was with me almost the whole time I conceived it.
Jennifer Bowen, Queen Bee (more fun than CEO), of BookHive Corp.
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors with Fiction (all kinds),
YA/Middle Grade, Children's Books & Memoir manuscripts.
$699 for 8-10 beta readers, $1,099 for 16-18 beta readers.
The results are a 35+ page report full of quantitative and qualitative feedback.