Birth Pangs

As Mother’s Day came and went, I was reminded of another Mother’s Day, 31 years ago, when I was eight months pregnant and spending my weekend on the maternity ward of a women’s hospital–without a baby. It was not a pleasant experience, as the television was filled with everything from Rosemary’s Baby to the Bugs Bunny Mother’s Day Special and I was awaiting test results to determine whether there were problems with my pregnancy. (It turned out there weren’t.)

It has also reminded me that I’m now entering the final weeks of a gestation period that has stretched for six years rather than merely nine months. And I’m struck by the similarities between publishing a book and giving birth. I’ve had the latter experience once and the former experience twice. I’ve decided that one tends to repress the pains associated with both–or there might never be a second child or a second book.

There is, of course, a great sense of expectation associated with both, and joy when the baby or the book is finally delivered and can be held in your hands. A birth may have been easy, or it may have followed years of miscarriages, stillbirths or fertility treatments. Similarly, a book may have seemed to have “written itself,” or it may have been preceded by years of staring at a blank screen and dozens of rejection letters.

“No one,” a mother thinks as she holds her newborn, “will ever love you the same way I do.”  And no one, it occurs to me, will ever love a book the same way its author does. But looking back more than three decades after giving birth–and nearly that long after first getting published, I know that the joys will naturally be mixed with disappointments, and dreams and fantasies replaced by a somewhat different reality.

But for now, at least, a girl can dream. . . .

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