February 14, 2011
So, after I finalized my participant roster, talked with each woman, and set up some processes for the project, I began the meticulous work of collecting, organizing and editing the narratives. The skills I had honed in my consulting business—qualitative research, interviewing, report and grant writing, authorship and oral presentations, curriculum development—all served me well.
I gently but firmly shepherded each author into telling her life story, crafting and re-crafting each one to be accessible and interesting to a mainstream readership. I hired Max Regan, my literary midwife, who mentored and assisted me in the process of refining and editing the anthology, and after four years of concentrated effort it all came together in a cohesive package. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The hardest thing for the contributing authors—and I also wrote my own memoir for the anthology, so I knew—was beginning to write. So it took a great deal of effort to coax them into telling their tales, thus the gestational period for this book was longer than an elephant’s. Much longer. I had to comfort and cajole—just like we do at births—to help them let go and bring forth what needed to be born. I remember their comments, their insecurities, their complaints that, “I don’t have time for this.” But eventually each midwife went to that interior and solitary space where our memories live, and wrote her life story. In the end each woman expressed gratitude that she was pushed past her comfort level and that—after helping so many other women in the birthing process—she was able to give birth to herself. And that, they said, was a gift beyond compare.
2 thoughts on “The Long Gestation of Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives”
It was indeed a challenge to fit one more project into a life already filled with a busy midwifery practice, a farm and other commitments; that trying to manage all at the same time makes one wish for more than just 24 hours in a day! But you were patient and encouraging and managed to “coach” results with lots of positive reinforcement. Of all of the writing projects which I have been involved with, this one will always stand out as one of the most enjoyable. You made it fun, and that means a lot!
I am so happy to hear you say that this project was enjoyable, as a writing project. I felt like I pushed all of the contributing authors very hard to get it done, edit, revise. It was a HUGE project and now that it is done I can say one that was well worth it. Our herstory needs to be told and preserved. And in this book, a good portion of it is!