The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Fini; Or On Whether You Should Write That Book

Children mentioned in this post about writing...

The night I finished the book, the Wolvog threw a tantrum during tuck-in and we had to follow through with the consequences which meant that I didn't sing his goodnight song. This has only happened maybe once or twice before and it was terrible timing to have it happen on a night where my heart felt so raw.

I finished the final chapter edit and wrote the epilogue. I've never liked the last page of a book. I'm really not a fan of having a book end. So I wrote the last page to be an open moment, where the reader and the writer (who is who? Truly--since so many readers contributed to the book and were the writer and I felt like I learned just as much as someone reading the book) can sit together indefinitely on a final thought that needs to be considered in every moment of every day.

I went downstairs to get Josh to read the epilogue and then slipped into the twins' room, intending just to give the Wolvog a kiss. But he was still awake, silently watching me while I stroked his head.

We climbed into the glider and he rested his head against my shoulder and we both closed our eyes. And my heart broke into 1000 thousand tiny shards. It literally exploded inside my chest. Because the glider felt like a boat and I had just written all of these pages about this fictive island--the Land of If--and it felt like by writing that epilogue, I was somehow rowing away even if not really. At least I was sailing around the island, sea monsters be damned, even if my plan is to remain on this island for longer.

Whether we get to add to our family or not, this is my home.

I had a long cry in the glider and then returned him to his bed and had a longer cry with Josh. I have been living in these two hard lands--the Land of If and the Land of Not Write (oh, you know this place--where you're not writing because everyone is saying "not right, not right" about your work)--for so long. And they both suck. The Land of If sucks a little harder, but suckage is suckage.

Josh and I are both writers so we often get the question whether we think the twins will grow up to be writers. And, on one hand, how can I tell them not to aim for this when I know the highs are so high? Signing the agency agreement, selling the book, turning in the final page--it feels so good. It feels good in a way that I could never get from teaching. But the lows? The rejection letters and the unreturned emails and the "not rights"? Those lows are so low. They are so incredibly painful because they are not just a rejection of your work, but they are a little rejection of you.

Both lands not only share a play-on-words (not write/not right or infertility (IF)/what if) but also a lot of failure and rejection and hope and ecstasy and despair and frustration and anger and love. We all spend time wondering why we live where we figuratively live.

Am I glad that I kept at it with treatments to get the twins? Of course, from a place of success, I can say the journey was worth it. I could not imagine my life without them specifically. I could not imagine my life without parenthood. But what if we weren't here because truly, you and I both know that it's "there but for the grace of G-d go I." It is too easy in the Land of If to not see your hard work pay off. And I certainly don't think emotionally I could have written the book before they arrived. The advice I give in the book is all the advice I wish I had followed and didn't. It's what I wish I had known then so I didn't lose myself so deeply. I really lost myself in the process.

Am I glad that I kept at it with writing and submitting to publish the book? Of course, from a place of success, I can say the journey was worth it. I could not imagine my life without writing. I didn't have writing for years while we did treatments the first time and it's hard to deny this huge part of myself. But what if the book hadn't been published because you and I both know that it's "there but for the grace of G-d go I." It is too easy with publishing and the Land of Not Write to not see your hard work pay off. I have tossed around this thought of what if I had given up. And just not kept at it. And not plugged away. And not taken the rejections on the cheek. Would things have been better overall? How would I feel to live my life in the middle--without the low lows, but also, without the high highs?

For me, writing and infertility are so intertwined. I stopped writing when we started trying to have a child. I started writing after we were successful. And I wrote the book for them. So they can one day understand what the Land of If feels like--what we went through to have them or how we felt or what we thought.

For me, I can say that it is worth living in both places simply because of the people I meet. In the Land of Not Write, there are all these bizarre nooks and crannies where different people wave out--some who helped me along the way and stepped back and some who are these huge presences who have influenced my life or certain projects greatly.

It was worth plugging away at this because I got to meet these incredible women at Seal and forge this friendship (I hope?) with Wendy, my editor (I hope we stay in touch because she has this fantastic ability to put into words exactly what she needs or wants and that translates out not only to being a great editor able to structure a book, but also a great communicator for debating the upcoming election or simply discussing the fine qualities of the Wonder Pets), and connect with my agent who is brilliant and comforting (and knows how to handle my anxious ass). It was worth plugging away simply to meet them and have our lives bump into one another. Once I write it, you will see this crazy path of choices that brought me here. And the roads not taken, they could have been equally cool. But I doubt that. Meeting the women I just mentioned were well worth the choices (and this does not even touch upon the incredible writers that this project has connected me with through the last two years).

And, of course, some of those choices brought me to Josh. Would he have fallen in love with me if we hadn't shared an intense love of the Long Room at Trinity College? And would we have shared that intense love if we weren't both writers? I cannot imagine my life without him so I guess the answer is that dealing with the low lows is worth it. He gave me this writing space--he created this writing space for me so I could feel the high highs that he had already felt from writing--and maintained this writing space. I don't know if I can properly thank him with words and I hope that he can see from the expression on my face when I look at him the intense gratitude I feel to be married to him.

Of course, if not for writing, I would not have Josh and if not for infertility, I would not have the twins. I would have had other children...older children...but not these children. And those roads not taken (as well as the ones taken from me), would they have filled my heart the same way? I'll never know. I think what is amazing about life is the way our hearts come to peace and fit around the choices we make (if not instantly, then with time). We can find the good in our individual choices. I am thankful that each of us will find the right path out of the Land of If. This one worked for me, and I'm well aware that it would not have worked for everyone.

Trying to walk someone else's path is just about the most dangerous thing you can do; only behind not walking your own path.

Simultaneously, not taking time to try to understand someone else's path is just about the most dangerous thing you can do; only behind not honouring and accepting your own path.

By all this I mean that I could have had a fantastic life very different from this one if I had not kept going on the paths that brought me here. But I only know the one I have and I am grateful not only for the choices I made but for the people who helped me get to those choices. And, at the same time, I have only the deepest respect for the other paths people have chosen that I have seen--both in honouring themselves in the Land of Not Write and in honouring themselves in the Land of If. I can see the peace that exists for others in the other choices.

It is strange to feel gratitude towards the hard paths. Towards paths that have such deep rejection and disappointment embedded in each stone. But I am grateful for writing and I am also grateful (in a strange way by which I mean grateful may not be the right term) for infertility.

If not for infertility, I would have never met all of you in the Land of If.

I thanked all of you in the acknowledgments page, but since the book won't be out for a bit, I want to thank you here and now. This book was literary stone soup. I brought this rock--this idea--and dropped it in the pot. And everyone added this and that to the pot until we had this really amazing soup that is emotionally nourishing and strengthening. I didn't want to write a book any other way. Stone soup is who I am--for me, it is always about community. Taking care of community and drawing strength from community.

Therefore, thank you. For being my community and for letting me be yours. I took care of your stories--I was so grateful to be entrusted with them that I carried them through the book as if they were porcelain. My only sadness is that a lot of quotations were cut due to space. But what can you do?

I am trying to get my life back on track (I am so sorry about sucking so hardcore with email. And seriously, I am debating whether or not to take pictures of my front hall) and then jumping into the next book. Again, about infertility/adoption/loss. So nothing is really going to change around here. I built the website I wanted back when we were trying the first time, and I wrote the book I wanted to read when I was trying the first time, and now, I will attempt to write the other book I wished existed. I hope you'll throw in your carrots and cabbage again.

And now, with so much time on my hands again, I plan on driving you insane with all sorts of projects.

Please stick around.

Still coming up: thoughts on the twins starting school for the first time, how I came to wear the turkey cutlet to my friend's wedding, and the bizarre path that brought me from a box of tampons to the book that contains all of your stories. But for now, breathe.


Jendeis said...

As ever, such a beautiful post - it takes my breath away. I'm still nodding in agreement. :)

emma said...

I'm grateful to have found you along my own path. You help me on a daily basis and have connected me with so many wonderful people. Thank you and congratulations on your book!

MrsSpock said...

I've been wanting to write a novel for years, and it's the "not right, not right" that makes it harder to face the blank page every morning. The bright spot in the realm of IF for me is that writing for an audience on my blog has jump-started everything again- and I can actually see myself writing for a living.

I am finding it ironic that , as I have dreamed of being able to write something for OBOS since I was a teenager, I always figured it could only happen through the crunchy earth mother route I planned- lots of kids, extended BF, midwifery school, birth advocacy. Now I have done it, and it's come about only through everything going miserably wrong. Who would have thunk?

Maybe there is a benevolent spirit in the universe.

Anonymous said...

Wow Mel, that post brought me to tears. You struck such a chord with me about the highest highs and the lowest lows. And you've inspired me to want to be a writer (after of course I become an Olympic gymnast).

Congratulations on being Fini!

Cassandra said...

Oh, Mel, now you've gone and made me cry into my oatmeal.

I've never before thought of non-IF pursuits that are difficult to accomplish as being comparable to IF. The other stuff I could choose to accomplish if I want it enough, which sometimes I do and sometimes I don't quite. But for me, no amount of wanting has been enough to bring a baby into being. I am a go-getter, and when I want something to happen I make it happen, and so IF has been my only true failure in life. But I certainly hear where you are coming from with writing and IF being parallel in your life, and I congratulate you on your achievements with both.

Mel, you have taught me so much about the meaning of community and about connectedness. In Tipping Point language, you are simultaneously a Connector, a Maven, and a Salesman. You are a superstar. You are a mensch. You are a wonderful writer. Brava!

Anonymous said...

This post is a precious jewel, Mel. You've managed to put it all in here - all the reasons why I adore you, all the reasons why I knew I had found my people as soon as I found your blog, all the reasons why I'm working so hard to honour myself in the midst of this IF journey and this life journey.

Absolutely beautiful. From the bottom of my awed and humbled heart, thank you.

josh said...

It goes without saying that I am very very proud of you.

But there, I said it anyway.

Jen J said...

That was just beautiful!

God bless you Mel. I've learned so much from finding you and I'm so glad to get to read along with your journey as I try to figure out where the road is taking me on mine.

Lyrehca said...

Mazel tov on finishing the manuscript!

luna said...

what a gorgeous post. I hope getting that one out helps ease the transition a little bit. I am also so proud of you.

thanks for creating yet another special space to tell our stories.

Rebecca said...

CONGRATS on being Fini!!! There's so much more I want to write, but for right now it seems more fitting to just sit here with you, to abide with you, and BREATHE.

Very proud of you Mel, and can't wait to read the book!

LJ said...

I don't know what I'd do if I'd never found you. I definitely understand about the highs and the lows and the intertwining...

Lori said...

"By all this I mean that I could have had a fantastic life very different from this one..."

This is such a profound statement. You only get one path. Other doors close behind you. You don't get the chance to compare possibilities, just to appreciate your choices and your reality.

(This is a big thing as my daughter gains the cognitive abilities to imagine the live she might have had if not for her adoption.)

It has been a pleasure to make soup with you, my dear friend.

I have a stone of my own.

Dora said...

Thank you. Simply, thank you.

And when can I pre-order the book?

"But for now, breathe."

Thanks for the reminder. It's hard today. After my 3rd cancelled cycle I had a ring made with 3 words inscribed around it: "conceive - grow - breathe" What I want those cells to do. The ring arrived in the mail the day I started stims for this cycle. I will probably be cancelled tomorrow after 7 days of stims. Today I have the ring turned so I can see the word "breathe" when I look down at my hand. I need these reminders today.

chicklet said...

Congrats on finishing, and maybe bigger congrats on wanting to move into a second book! You are a crazy overachiever, and I say that in the kindest most flattering way:-)

bleu said...

Yes breathe and honor yourself. You have done such an amazing thing and I am so in awe of you Mel. Thank you so much for sharing your life with me.

C said...

Congratulations, and thank you for using your beautiful words to say the things that are in all of our hearts.

Anonymous said...

What an incredibly beautiful post! Congrats on finishing your book. We'll all still be here reading, contributing and lurking (okay, so I lurk more than I contribute...)

JamieD said...

What a beautiful, inspiring post.

Thank you, Mel, for being a part of this community. The cornerstone of this community. The Land of IF is not a place I would have chosen to reside, if given the option, but the people I have met here mean so much to me. They make the Land of IF feel safer and not quite so lonely. They educate me and make me stronger. I don't want to think of what my life would be like without the support I find here.

I look forward to reading your book!

Anjali said...

There are just way too many beautiful things in this post to mention.

Can't wait for the book.

AnotherDreamer said...

How awesome. I hope to one day be a hard core writer, I just lack the motivation at this point in my life.

All the things you said in your post, beautiful and lovely.

Rock on, I can't wait to one day get my hands on your book!

Betty M said...

Congratulations on finishing the book. I can't wait to see what it looks like and then to read it.

Lisa said...

Breathe have earned it!!

CappyPrincess said...

Congratulations on the completion of your book.

And thank you for your voice that gives voice to so many.

Io said...

Congratulations on writing that page. I don't think you really wrote the end though - as you said, it is a story that many have thrown a few ingredients into. And their stories go on and grow and evolve, so the book will never really end. I am so proud of you and so thrilled I found you and really freaking impatient for the book to come out so I can buy it!

loribeth said...

Needless to say, all your talk about different paths and roads not taken resonated deeply with me. ; ) I can't wait to read your book! And I'm looking forward to the next one... and all those promised future posts.

Paz said...

Congratulations! Now we are all waiting, waiting for the book. The Book.

I often think of how happy I am that I became connected to people who write such great blogs, the twitter fun, the list servs—I just wish the initiation for me wasn't repeated miscarriages. Now I am finally a mom and yet I still prefer to lurk about in the Land of IF. I guess once a member, always a member?

Enjoy this time, Mel. We are all proud of you...congrats!

More Beans Please said...

What a fantastic post. Congratulations on finishing he book and continually processing so eloquently all that is going on in and around you. Thank you for the reminder that the pauses in the journey are part of the destination :)

More Beans Please said...

What a fantastic post. Congratulations on finishing he book and continually processing so eloquently all that is going on in and around you. Thank you for the reminder that the pauses in the journey are part of the destination :)

Jess said...

Gratz Mel!!

It is odd being happy for the sad tins, too, but I know what you mean! :)

Stephanie said...

Congratulations on finishing the book. That is such a huge accomplishment, I hope you take the time to enjoy it.

I look forward to reading it one day and knowing that you wrote it for yourself and us, your friends in the world of IF.

orodemniades said...

Please let us know the publishing date, I'm going to order a heap for the store!

Anyone planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Fertilized said...

Congratulations, Thank you, Bless you, Good Luck, Best Wishes ..Et al.

Mel- You do such a great service for many. You truly are blessing others.

Ms Heathen said...

"For me, writing and infertility are so intertwined." There is so much I want to say in response to this one statement...

...but instead, I'm simply going to congratulate you on having finished the book. Thank you so much for this profound and beautiful post, and for all you do for our little community.

Barb said...

teary eyed... love you back.

Bea said...

Congrats on the book. Well done. And your point about the highs and lows? Well made.


Cara said...

Mel- thanks for that post. I found your blog only recently, but feel like it was exactly what I needed. You are so right about the low lows and high highs.

I didn't walk the road of infertility, but I do walk the road of living with stillbirth. Knowing the two paths are somehow parallel is of comfort and expands my support circle!

I also thank you profusely for the lines about the writing highs! I am halfway through that journey and loving every minute. I have signed the agency agreement and adore my agent. I can't wait for the day I get the call to sell the book and create a similar relationship with my editor.

Reaching the masses with a message of hope is such a motivating force and your success inspires me.