Baby Number Two, Or... How to Survive a Difficult Pregnancy
In real life, my first two sons are fourteen months apart. You would think after giving birth once, the next time would be easier. You would be wrong. My second son had the cord wrapped around his neck and was in distress. The obstetrician had to take him quickly. I did not have a Caesarian because he was almost born when he got into trouble. The more he struggled to emerge from the womb, the tighter the cord pulled. I remember being cut and feeling every snap of flesh before I passed out from the gas they were giving me. When I woke up, three days later, my son still had blue lips and a purple face. He was still in the incubator and I had to sign a paper giving permission to operate on his skull in case there was fluid on his brain. Thankfully, he was fine. But it took me a long time to recover from that traumatic experience.
I feel a little bit like that with my second book-baby. I’m long overdue, and this time is not nearly as easy as the first. Of course, being diagnosed with stage 3 uterine cancer last January did not help things. First, I had a radical hysterectomy, followed by chemo and radiation treatments. I had turned in the first draft of the book to my editor, who had many suggestions for improvement. I was determined to get another draft for him, but it has taken eleven months so far. I still have a month’s work to do, at the very least. Luckily, he and my agent have been wonderfully understanding and patient.I supposed chemo treatments might be compared to morning sickness. There is nausea and extreme fatigue. The brain doesn’t work as well as usual. There is the constant fear that something will go wrong. But, just like in pregnancy, there is not much you can do about those things. All you can do is live through them. Thankfully, working on book-baby 2 was good for my spirit, even though it was extremely difficult.
Book-baby 2’s are difficult for other reasons. It’s very common for writers to have a weak second book; publishers refer to it as a ‘sophomore’ book. There are several reasons for this. The first book usually involved a deep passion for the project. After all, there were no guarantees the book would find a publisher, no promises from an agent. The book was written because the writer WANTED to write it. Book 2 is a little different. There is huge pressure to write a better book this go around. If the first book was decent, the pressure is on for book 2 to be even better. And, if the writer can’t produce a better book, she must face the chances of her career being over almost before it gets started. Publishers and agents want writers who can produce on a regular basis, regardless of their insecurities.
There is also pressure to produce a best-seller. With mergers, indie-writers, ebooks and all the flux in the world of publishing, it seems more and more emphasis is being placed on book sales. Where once there was a concern for the state of American letters and a dedication to producing books of quality even if they didn’t sell particularly well, now it’s the bottom line all the way. It’s like expecting your newborn to be a genius from his very first cry. That kind of pressure can’t be good for mother or book-baby.
So, for the past eleven months, I feel like I’ve wrestled my baby to the ground. She is not like her big brother, not in the least. But, as I prepare for the last month of pregnancy and I see her shaping up, I have discovered that I’m rather fond of her, after all. No, she isn’t like my first baby because I’m not the same and neither is this little production. Life happens, and it forms and changes us. These changes are reflected in our writing, for better or worse. I’m just happy to have book-baby 2 and I can’t wait to see her when she makes her way into this world.