The Birth Journal that became a book
When I became pregnant with my first child, I had just enrolled in a Masters in Creative Writing program, something I had wanted to do for a long time. I had also wanted to get pregnant for a long time, but after two miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy, it was not a sure thing. Seven years and a BA in English later, I did get pregnant, the winter of my first year in the Master’s program. Now that I was becoming a mother, it seemed like nature had given me a subject for my thesis. I wanted to write about the taboos surrounding the female body in pregnancy, and issues such as masturbation, female sexuality, my relationship to my watermelon belly, as well as my changing relationship with my husband.
After my son’s birth, I continued to write sporadically in my journal, always on the lookout for poems, but also to record the sensation of breastfeeding, the feelings of loneliness and anger brought about by isolation in the house all winter, the new separation of my life in the house and his life at work – my husband being the breadwinner and me being the little wife and mother. After the birth of my daughter, I took a sabbatical for one year, but kept writing. My journal was a life-line, and one day I showed it to my thesis supervisor. I didn’t consider it “poetry”, but she liked it. She thought it captured my voice, the intimate details and rhythms of the life-changing event that was my first pregnancy. So I included it in my thesis, to add to the book of poems.
After I graduated a local publisher was interested in the book, after being rejected a few times because it didn’t fit into either the poetry or prose category, and being told that maybe I should just write prose. My first book, Little Mother explores the taboo issues about my mother’s alcoholism (first written about in a taboo journal), includes my birth journal from the first pregnancy, and poems about breastfeeding, birthing, baby’s bodies and women’s friendships, culled from my journal.
I think every mother should keep a journal of her pregnancy, her hopes and fears for herself and her baby, as a record of that unique time in her life. Now that I am losing my memory at menopause, (only partially!) I am so glad I wrote it all down.