A Visit from the Gift Fairy: Birthing that Tricky First Draft

After 12 hours of relatively uneventful, drug-free labor, I gave birth to my fourth child, my first son, 10 years ago. The nurse placed him in my arms then flopped dramatically into the chair by my bed, exhausted. 


“Wow,” she said. “I’ve never seen anyone take pain like that, so calmly, without any drugs.
 That must be your gift,” she continued, but I didn’t hear anything else she said. 


My gift? Are you kidding me? If I only got one gift, I sure as hell didn’t want it to be childbirth. I wanted to be a gifted writer. I would also accept singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument. But childbirth? No way. 


Only two days before I pushed out that perfect baby boy, I squeezed out my Master’s thesis and a collection of short stories. I kissed the final proofs tenderly, sent them off to the publisher, and packed my bag to go to the hospital 48 hours later. I like to think I gave birth twice that week. 


As I lay in that hospital bed with my heroically birthed baby boy, it occurred to me that there must have been a mix up. Maybe I was supposed to be a gifted writer, but the Gift Fairy got confused. Maybe she sprinkled fairy dust on the wrong day.


Did I mention that I submitted my thesis and the story collection on April 1? April Fools Day. Perhaps the fairy thought she was being clever, cute. There must be an appeals process or a complaint box about the misappropriation of gifts.


Truthfully, I haven’t done much in the past 10 years worthy of a gifted writer, but I’m not sure if that is a cause or an effect of the Gift Fairy’s cruel April Fool’s Day joke. I’ve published a poem here and there, a few essays, short stories, and newspaper articles. I’ve done lots of pro-bono work for non profits. But nothing amazing.


Raising four exquisitely birthed kids while running a farm is complicated, not a lot of time to indulge my non-gift of writing fiction. But I haven’t given up. I started writing my first novel about five years ago. It has been slow, painful. Kind of like labor, but without a birth plan. No one cheering for me, no, “Come on, Julie, your novel is 9 cm dilated, you can do it, just breathe!” 


No. I’m on my own. 


Or at least I was, until I found the Novel Generator at GrubStreet, taught by Lisa Borders. The Generator is a nine-month class broken down into three trimesters. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I realized that this was a format in which I excel: I could absolutely do this!


The class gave me just the right amount of support and encouragement. A balance of instruction, critique, inspiration, and camaraderie. I found a group of writers I trust, and I finished the first draft of my novel. But there’s still so much to do. And I’m getting tired.


I have a vague memory from each of my four childbirth experiences of hitting a wall. And hitting it hard. The pain spiked and I thought I couldn’t take it another second. All four times I considered asking for drugs (even though I had made all the doctors swear they wouldn’t administer any). But the exact minute the pain became unbearable, I always heard the same thing: “Push!” And it was over.


I’m hitting the wall with this book. It has been growing inside me too long. I’m ready. I even have a really cute name picked out. It’s starting to hurt and I want the drugs (ok, the wine). I am ready to push. 


For the first time in five years, I really think I can do this. I am, after all, gifted at this part.


And, even more importantly, I have my Grubbies by my side, reminding me to breathe.


Thank you, Lisa Borders. You have been a most excellent Lamaze coach.


Since earning a BA in Journalism in 1992, Julie Carrick Dalton has written for numerous publications including The Boston Globe, Inc. Magazine, Business Week, The Hollywood Reporter, Baby Talk and many others. She earned a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and Literature in 2005. Her short fiction has appeared in the MacGuffin and The Charles River Review.When she isn’t writing, Julie spends most of her time shuttling her four children around and running a family farm. She is currently editing the first draft of her first novel, and, thanks to support from GrubStreet’s Novel Generator class, she is confident she can finally finish it.
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