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As I begin the novel, I thought I’d introduce the first four characters you will meet ahead of time. You will get to know them well in the months to come. I already feel as though they sit beside me, looking over my shoulder, reading along, acquaintances sure to become my most intimate friends. 

Melinda is 34 with no children, married to Jake, a lawyer who has two children from his first marriage. They are high society Houston although Melinda is still finding her way with the full-time volunteerism of the women in the River Oaks area of Houston where they live. She gave up her law practice when she married Jake because they did not need the money and because she wanted to focus on having a family. Jake’s ex-wife Sarah is haughty and mean to Melinda, treating her like a babysitter and ridiculing her efforts to fit into society. Melinda’s miscarriage will open the book.

Stella is 44 and has run the pregnancy loss group for ten years, since her second loss. She is Jewish, funny, boisterous, and opinionated. She has a horror story to outdo most any horror story, and she leads women through the group with a sensitive but firm hand. She experienced secondary infertility after her second miscarriage and did four rounds of IVF before giving up. She makes jewelry now, and owns a small shop where she sells her pieces, which are solely made from gentle purple amethyst and vivid green peridot, the colors of the would-have-been birthstones of her two babies. She has been married to Dane, a construction worker, for 20 years.

Dot is 29 and has five children with her truck driver husband Buster. He has dropped in and out of her life since they married when she was 17. After each departure, she tends to end up pregnant. He was only present for one of the kids’ births. She makes ends meet by running a little store in the trailer park where they live. Buster has been gone for an unprecedented 18 months when she meets Barry and falls desperately in love for the first time. When an accidental pregnancy with Barry ends in miscarriage, she feels God is punishing her and vows never to see him again, and to make amends with her philandering husband.

Tina is 17 and in high school. She and her boyfriend had finally gotten through the hard parts of telling their parents, rearranging their futures, and working out who they will be to each other when she goes into labor at 19 weeks. The death of their baby three hours after his premature birth alters her new life yet again–the boyfriend breaks away in relief, her parents insist she return to regular high school from her alternative school for pregnant teens, and in her desperation, she harms herself. She enters the pregnancy loss group as part of her therapy but resolves to get pregnant again as soon as possible to fill the emptiness.

Other women will come along as the story progresses until a serious twist to the story will take a controversial but necessary slant.

I will begin writing the novel at midnight tomorrow night as the clock switches to November. I plan to post the first scenes of the book by 4 a.m. Central Time, GMT -6.

I can’t wait!

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To answer a few questions–

Yes, I will still be reading and thinking and using comments throughout the writing of the book, so still leave your stories! Women will be joining the fictional pregnancy loss group throughout the novel, and they will all need a history of some sort.

I have outlined the first five chapters or so and developed seven characters.

Yes, I will be putting scenes from the book here on the blog throughout November. The first bit will go up around 3 a.m. November 1! I can safely put up the entire first chapter and quite a few other scenes without harming my chances of publishing it later.

And no, I will not be looking for an agent until I am close to done. I have to make sure I know where the story is going for sure before I can write an accurate synopsis for a query letter. That is my plan for January. I should have the book at least half written by Dec. 1, then I will work on it more slowly in December and January, then seek representation for it. It will be important to keep the blog stats high, though, to show support for the book and a market for the initial print run. That’s where you guys help!

Can you believe that I’ve had 36,000 words posted here in the comments? I have compiled each and every one in a Word file for my reference. That’s incredible!

I love you ladies. I really truly do.

I’ve been told many amazing stories on this blog in this last month. I have made a database of the ideas, moments, and scenes that seem to fit with the direction the book is going. I may not use them all, and certainly as I build an entire scene with fictional characters in fictional situations, the details will change. In that process, you might see a seed of your story but it will certainly be altered to no longer sound like your story anymore.

However, this is your opportunity to email me and say–please don’t even use the idea I gave you.

I will honor it, although realize that some things in the novel might end up sounding like something that happened to you even if I totally made it up out of my head. But if it’s here in this list, and you would like to avoid seeing anything that triggers your past in my book, please say it here, now. You may do so via email rather than publicly, of course, as with any concern.

If there is an asterisk by the story, it is already in the first section of the novel outline, so it is likely to be used.

Aftermath

  • Women gets call from a nurse months after lost baby to check on her pregnancy.
  • *Went camping after loss and passed clots. Wasn’t sure what to do so burned it in a clump of sage brush.
  • *Jumped in car after leaving hospital as if trying to outrun something.

Obsessions

  • Feels like she can still see the spot on the floor where baby fell out and landed on tile.
  • When a family member with five kids had her tubes tied, she had a party
  • Read medical bills over and over.
  • Opened Bible randomly to pages to see if God had a message for her.
  • Thinks of baby as an adult and examines young men to see if they look as he might have.
  • *Kept placenta in freezer for two years.
  • Unable to even watch a movie with a baby in it without walking out.

Insensitivity

  • When asked for progesterone, doctor told her flat out–baby is dead.
  • Close friend named her living baby the name she had chosen for her angel.
  • Minister came from vacation with a vial of gold and told her God was purifying her with pain like the gold, and that God had told him to tell her that.

Kindnesses

  • Sister sent mother’s day card from two babies.

Scenes

  • Incompetent cervix, when got to hospital, baby’s foot already descended into canal.
  • Mother’s Day church is awkward when they call moms to stand or receive gifts. Wasn’t sure if she was considered a mother or not.
  • Her friends got to choose the moment their baby died, as it had a genetic problem and was dying already. Heard the heartbeat until it stopped.
  • A temporary worker came 5 months after loss and patted her belly and asked how the baby was. Thought her overweight was the baby.
  • Had to go to abortion clinic for late term removal of Turner’s. Had a hard time getting into stirrups and doctor chose that moment to tell her she needed to get in shape as she was overweight.
  • Lit a spiral of tea candles for her babies. They all went out one by one except for two, which burned longer than the other ones, but when they went out she cried and cried for her two babies.
  • *Lost baby at friend’s house. Friend brought a grocery bag to put it in the garbage. A few days later, she became obsessed with the sac. Convinced it was not empty, but baby in there. In middle of night wanted to go garbage and dig it out even though it was summer.
  • Took a bath to relieve cramps and baby came out and floated in the water. Saw spongy outer chorion and inside a curved pinkish baby.

Family

  • *Ex wife cheated on husband and left, they had two kids. Ex wife treats her like a babysitter. Felt inferior after lost baby. Ex wife heartless bringing up topic of babies at kid activities. Became jealous and hateful toward husband because he had kids. Misplaced anger on stepdaughter, who is 6, saw evil mother in her, then realized little girl was hurting over loss of baby. They ended up making scrapbook together.
  • *Felt bitter about stepdaughter, wondered if her baby would have looked as much like the father as this one did. People would say at least they had the stepdaughter.
  • Husband felt his lack of religion caused the baby’s loss and decided to go to church more.

I appreciate so much the insight and information you have given me. In my next entry I will introduce the characters–especially the main ones Melinda, Dot, Stella, and Tina– and at midnight Halloween, as the date switches to November, I will start writing the novel. I am committed to writing the first 50,000 words, about 2/3 of the book, in the next 30 days.

Thank you for coming along for the ride!

We are nearing the end of my questions, and I will compile the situations I will try to weave into the narrative shortly. Writing begins in seven days!

The pregnancy loss group itself needs structure. Those of you who go to them–how was yours run? Do you have monthly programs with speakers? Do people just talk about their experiences? How long do people tend to stay in it before they move on? Are pregnant people still coming? Do they stay even after they’ve had their next baby?

Once we see the gamut of real life experiences, we’ll figure out how this one will go. I think it will need to meet more than once a month, but I’m not sure yet.

I’m getting excited!

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus indeed.

I certainly knew my husband and I weren’t feeling the same way in the weeks following the baby’s death.

I was obsessive, moody, charged with emotion. He was calm, steady, maddening okay. Sometimes I just wanted to make him feel worse, pick a fight, increase the drama so we could stay upset, like we ought to be. Later I realized that relationships often work this way–only one person can fall apart at a time. Once I understood that it was more like a teeter totter than an unbalanced scale, I managed better.

How did you and the baby’s father manage in the days after the loss? Who grieved more? Did it cause friction, or did you find a deeper more meaningful place together?

Not everyone was insensitive, thankfully, after my loss. Many people at work or at church would call or email and tell me their stories of miscarriage. I ended up with friends in the most unexpected places.

Shortly after Emily was born, a woman I only barely knew brought me a candle she had made. The glass holder was hand painted with Emily’s name and encased in pink netting.

Then she pulled a second one out of the bag. “I couldn’t forget Casey,” she said.

My knees buckled a little as I looked at the second candle, this one with blue netting and Casey’s name. I’d thought everyone had forgotten about him in the joy of our finally having a baby, but not this one woman. She knew how important it was to not forget.

What wonderful things happened to you? What surprises?

Okay, I admit it. I’m not hanging in here too well

When did the weeping start again? A few days ago, I guess. Now I’m crying every day, many times a day. It’s been eight years, a web site, several versions of a bulletin board, e-cards and surely several thousand emails, and yet here I am, practically at square one, like it all just happened yesterday.

Tonight I expected some upset. I’ve been printing out the emails and comments in batches, then every few days  I read them all at once, highlighting things that strike a chord. This often upsets me, reading so many sad stories. It’s okay, I roll with the grief. I manage it okay. It’s important to feel it all, take it in, so I can draw it out again when I start writing the book.

I found mention of pregnancy loss bracelets, so I googled them, and found a site where a woman had lost her baby around the same time as I lost Casey.

But she had a lovely framed copy of her baby’s tiny hand and footprints.

That was it. I couldn’t take it.

Jealousy surged. The misery spouted through me like a geyser. I could have had those too! I made a stupid mistake! I didn’t get to see my baby! I didn’t get those footprints! I didn’t even get to find out the sex! If only I could go back, do it again, make different choices.

But I can’t. And it’s awful.

Well, ladies, one thing I’ve learned tonight is that precious little of this pain eases. Eight years and I still get overwhelmed with remorse and grief.

Yep. This is going to be a long road. I better duck my head and start weathering the waves.

Not everyone knows how to act around a woman who has just lost her baby. Actually, hardly anyone does.

I remember my husband got in an argument with one of our friends about the score of a Fantasy Football game. His wife had just had a baby, only a month or so after we should have had ours. The two men disagreed about some rules or some other minor issue. The wife somehow joined the fray and emailed my husband saying, “If you had a new baby to take care of, you’d understand we don’t have time to worry about stupid football rules!”

Ouch.

Yes, you’re right. We don’t have a new baby to take care of. We lost ours. And we also don’t have thoughtless friends like you any more.

Did other people say things to you that really really were insensitive or awful? Did you ever see them again? Or did you have to, as they were coworkers or family members?

Life goes on even if your pregnancy doesn’t. I had to go back to work, face all those students, deal with questions.

I was in a bunko group, and four of us were pregnant. We all joked we’d have to forego the dice game for several meetings to have baby showers instead!

After losing Casey, I decided to quit the group. Some things I just couldn’t handle. I didn’t go to any of their baby showers either. I had no desire to torture myself.

Still, I couldn’t always be protected. A few months after the loss we went to a bar–a BAR–to meet up with some old college friends for homecoming. I felt it would be safe. No one brings babies to bars! (Remember Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama? That’s a good movie about pregnancy loss, by the way, and how the couple didn’t cope, then figure things out…)

We’re standing in the parking lot just outside the patio as it is so crowded with UT alum. Everyone is laughing and talking. No one knows about the baby–these are people we haven’t seen in years, so I could escape a bit. We’re having fun!

Then up walks one of my bunko friends with her baby! I couldn’t believe it! Here was an infant, the same age as mine should have been, all gurgly and cooing and dressed up. They were showing him off!

I promptly began this horrible hysterical crying, sobs and hiccups and dry heaves, then threw up behind a car.

Let everyone think I was drunk. Fine by me. Stupid people bringing a baby to a bar.

Okay; still have some latent hostility. Deep breaths.

So, there are all sorts of these kinds of things that might happen in the weeks and months following a loss. I’m going to try in include as many of them in the book as I can, such as:

  • Baby shower invite
  • Going back to work
  • Seeing ex with a baby or pregnant new love
  • Sister is pregnant
  • Around pregnant women not taking care of themselves
  • Around parents who mistreat children
  • Baptisms at church

Did anything happen to you that you could share? Or can you think of other social situations I should include?

Everything for weeks seemed directly related to my loss. Friends who didn’t call me back were avoiding me. Flowers that died were because I was a bad nurturer–no wonder the baby didn’t want to come. A simple question about how I was doing held the weight of an epic tragedy. I couldn’t hear what people were really saying–I just reacted out of anger and despair. For a time I thought my husband and I were not even going to stay together. We picked fights; I cried a lot.

Sometimes my moods would swing so fast even I couldn’t keep up with them. I would grow angry and throw any remembrances of the pregnancy in a box, then five minutes later I’d pull it all out, crying and hysterical. We planted a tree in the yard for Casey and I found myself out there all the time, wrapping my arms around the slender trunk. My neighbors must have thought I was nuts.

I’ve known women who got addicted to taking HPTs and would buy stashes online. Others obsessed over people who let their babies cry too long, or smoked while pregnant, or complained about their children. Many feel intense jealousy of pregnant women. Baby shower invitations are like hate mail.

Did you do anything that you thought was over the edge? If you aren’t comfortable putting it in the comments, you can email me.

My strangest moment came when I felt sure, I mean positive, that my baby was visiting me every night. One time he came all proud because he had learned to fly and wanted to show me. I lay in the bed, crying with pride and joy.

It didn’t make sense, but I didn’t care. Still don’t. My baby learned to fly!