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I think all of us find ourselves riddled with self-doubt at times. Sometimes I wonder if I am any sort of spokesperson on this issue. Regularly I fear I’ve gone too far, or not far enough. I examine the outline of the book, review the situations, struggle with whether or not I covered everything. If I got things right.

Conceiving an idea is such great fun. There is so much joy in it, such hope. You can believe in something when the concept is broad and bright and entirely in the future. The execution of it is all together different. There are potholes, gaps, chasms, gorges between your dream and its fruition. You wonder if you fail, how many people will watch you go down.

Baby Dust is with six readers right now from various demographics. Women who’ve lost babies, women who haven’t. Doctors and editors and just writer friends who have no idea what darkness I’ve laid in their hands. I will listen to what they have to say about it, make my adjustments where need be.

For the people who read it who’ve never been through a miscarriage, I find they don’t believe some of it. “Of course you have to go to the hospital!” they say, and refuse to accept that this might not be the best course.

“No one would say that!” they exclaim when they see what comments are made to women fresh from their losses. They can’t imagine they might be told “It wasn’t really a baby anyway,” or “Just try again and you’ll be fine.” Or our favorite, “It was all in God’s plan.”

Initially I think–exactly, and that’s why you need to read this book. And learn. Then I think, what if they still don’t believe it? What if these scenarios do more harm than good? What if people think it’s gratuitous? Or disingenuous? Or manipulative? Or just bad?

Today I grapple with both anxiety and hope, much like we do when we learn we are pregnant again after a loss. Yes, it could turn terrible, and we might face awful devastation. But it could also be wonderful.

I take solace in Winston Churchill.

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.

I sure do hope he’s right.

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Today, having sent Baby Dust to a few novel-writing friends to take a look at, I decided to focus on the rest of my to-do list and get my 2006 receipts entered for taxes.

On top was a pile of medical things, because I’ve been monitored for cervical cancer since last January. (Next biopsy–Feb. 12. Ick.)

I figured with everything going on, I’d better start a new folder for medical records, so I went to the file cabinet to see what already existed. Under medical, I found a packet rather unusually titled “old stuff.” So I pulled out this folder to see what might be inside.

A medical bill. Several, in fact. I scanned the list to see what they were for.

  • Prenatal 1-3
  • Antepartum Care
  • Mycoplasma Culture
  • Prolactin
  • TSH

Right about here I realized what I was looking at but read on, much as someone might rubber-neck a car accident.

  • Lupus Anticoagulant
  • Prothrombine time
  • Thromboplastin

I knew the date I would see. May 1998. These were the tests they ran to try and figure out why my baby had died. They didn’t figure it out then; I’d be pregnant with Emily before we understood the reason. If there should ever be a reason for something like that.

Strange I would come across this bill the same day I set Baby Dust aside, the first draft done, a whole trove of stories just like mine contained within its pages. Maybe Casey needed me to remember that they were little people, not just graphic incidents, or maybe he wanted to remind me why I was qualified to write it at all. Or maybe he just wanted to drop in, to show me he knew it was a big day, and to sprinkle me with luck as I start to send it out to agents.

Doesn’t matter. I can make it anything I want to be. And I choose to get dusted with hope.

I’m saying it here first, before I tell another living soul.

Baby Dust is done. I wrote the last sentence two minutes ago.

I’ll update you all more on what is going to happen next later, but I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out and the ending worked out better than I thought it could, as if someone or something else told me exactly what to say, and how to say it.

Now, I’m going to go to bed and sleep.

I’m going to make a little push to write another big chunk of the book by midnight Tuesday. We’re all off work; I’m not leaving town until Wednesday, and I can stay up as late as I want.

I’ve added a new character, Constance, and I’ll see how she’ll work out. She’s married, has two kids, and works in a day care–a painful place after her miscarriage, especially when she feels some of the mothers mistreat their children. She comes home to find her husband fired from his job (again!) and insisting–no more babies. She can’t bear to end her reproductive years on a loss. So the conflict begins.

I hope to have a finished draft of the novel by Feb. 7.

I did finish NaNoWriMo last Thursday, and I did make the 50,000 words. Hooray!

As always happens, once NaNo is over, I take a few days away from my novel to catch up with the rest of my life–mopping floors, playing with rugrats, working!

Last night I took the novel up again and added a new character, Constance, who has two children and works in a day care. I’ll post another scene soon. Stella has begun to flashback and relate her loss ten years ago. It’s very tough, enough that I really want it to settle before I can read it again myself. Also in this chapter she will reveal the secret why they could never adopt.

It’s exciting!

I have been so struggling with this.

I’ve played with babies and angels and mothers and wombs and sorrow and birth and all sort of words. I have pages of combinations but they all came off as too television drama, or nonfiction sounding, or just plain overblown.

This morning I lay in bed, stressing over this, trying again to put together a set of words that would both let people know the topic but also not be too melodramatic. I thought of all the terms that are unique to these women–being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, losing babies, stuck in reproduction woes. I ran down the list of the abbreviations and terms on the site and then I saw it. I knew immediately this was the title.

Baby Dust.

What term could both embody the loss (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) and also the hope (we sprinkle each other with baby dust to encourage a new pregnancy.)

It’s perfect. And I’m very happy about it. I checked Books in Print and it doesn’t yet exist as a title. Joy!

I’ll change the blog name shortly.

I am about halfway through my outline. I will push hard each week night until the end of NaNo to see if I can get closer to the end. There are many surprises yet in store!

I will put a new excerpt up soon, hopefully tonight. I cranked out another 20 pages yesterday and have propelled to chapter six. I am approximately 1/3 of the way through the novel.

I spun out Dot and Barry’s entire story of their love affair last night, and Dot surprised me by revealing more than I thought would be in the book. She lives in a trailer, has been deserted by her husband, and Barry comes along as her first true love at age 26. She already has five kids.

But she gets pregnant, and the baby ends up with anencephaly, and in a pair of very difficult scenes, a happy sonogram goes very wrong, and eventually she is forced to terminate the pregnancy to avoid endangering her own life in delivery.

I didn’t plan to write the termination sequence into the book, but when one of you ladies posted mentioned a family who got to hear their baby’s  heartbeat on the monitors until the very last one, well, I had to write it. Along the way I mentioned another troubling story when the doctor commented on a woman’s weight as he put her in the stirrups, as well as a rather awful comment from my own nurse (I had to go to an abortion clinic like many of us do when we are in the second trimester before the baby dies) during my D&E warning me “not to cry or it would interfere with the anesthesia gas.”

Yeah, don’t cry as they take your baby from your body.

While I doubt a lot of caregivers will read the book–and even if they did they probably wouldn’t recognize insensitivity as it might apply to things they sometimes do or say–I do want people to be shocked by what has happened to people and hopefully speak up. Most of us, in these traumatic moments, don’t say anything at all. I didn’t. And while many wonderful ob/gyns and nurses (my regular ob/gyn and staff are certainly among them) are amazing and kind and help us through the process with sensitivity and compassion, many–so many–make our experiences even harder than they have to be.

I will post the excerpt when I get a chance to read over it (right now I am eleven orders behind on my photo work) and we can all feel what is like to see the heartbeat go from 180 to zero in the space of a lifetime.

It’s been a hard day or two of writing, and most everyone in the Austin NaNoWriMo group is prepared with Kleenex when I come to a write in.

But I’m doing okay.

I’m 11 days into National Novel Writing Month and have finished two chapters of the book. I am considerably behind at this point, having left town for the funeral and trying to catch up on photo shoots.

I have, however, written the section where we introduce the woman who runs the Pregnancy Loss Support Group, Stella.

Stella is big, loud, Jewish, opinionated, and funny. She has lost two babies, gone through six rounds of IVF, and at 44, has finally decided cats will be her only kids. Later in the book you will learn the devastating reason why she and her husband Dane can never adopt. When things get far too serious in the book, Stella will step up and remember that we can laugh at anything. We just need some perspective and to fill what we do have in our life with love and joy.

I have written some 40 pages of the miscarriage book. I am pleased with how it is going.

From here on out I will just post introductions to important characters and scenes that I think are interesting on their own.

Everyone’s support means so much. I’ve had a couple of breakdowns, an especially bad one at the end of chapter one when Tina asks her doctor not to let her premature baby hurt. In the novel I have specifically avoided situations too similiar to my own, but as we all do, I still spot those seeds of my own sorrow in the stories of others. Fortunately my fellow NaNo writers know it’s a tough book and are kind and understanding when I suddenly drop my head to a tabletop in the middle of a coffee shop and sob.

If you haven’t read chapter one yet, I have put it all together on one page.

Today I leave you with the link to George Canyon’s song, which was banned in some places due to its subject matter, which is crazy to me, but it is about a woman who, in death, is reunited with a baby she lost decades before.

This is the video for My Name.

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!