When my first baby was born, I thought she was more beautiful than Lynda Carter in the TV series Wonder Woman, my previous standard for “most beautiful thing on Earth.” Other than a little birthmark on her temple from trying to squeeze herself outta my chute, there literally were no flaws. I was helplessly, foolishly, blindly enamored with her. I wouldn’t have changed one thing about her– not that high-pitched cry or her inability to sleep more than 3 hours. Nothing. I loved her; she was mine; we weren’t changing a thing.
And everyone agreed with me because that’s what you do with a new mother who has breast milk dribbling down her rotund stomach, and one eye shut from fatigue poisoning.
When I look back at pictures from that time and that tiny baby, I see that same newborn and admit that in a certain light, Lynda Carter had her beat in the looks department, mostly because in a lot of lights, newborn babies, including mine, don’t look very … human. Other people who were more human-looking than my newborn daughter: Steve Buscemi, Jared from Subway, and Yoda. But as a new mother, I only saw perfection. I had no idea how much better it would all get: She’d get more “normal” looking, I’d calm the fuck down, and eventually, we’d find a little family rhythm that allowed us to hum along in relative peace most of the time.
That’s how I feel about the book I’m writing.
That first draft was a newborn. Those hunky, wordy, messy pages. Sure, I knew they needed work, but I still thought they were beautiful. Maybe not Lynda Carter, but at least Linda Evans or Linda McNeal, my mom’s friend from the bowling league circa 1977. I had the same helpless, foolish, blindness vision about the state of the draft and its beauty.
My first draft looked about as much like a “real book” as my daughter looked like a “real kid.”
Now I know that books start out about as beautiful as brand-spanking new babies, which is to say, they are definitely beautiful in their own weirdly wrinkled and scrawny way, but they get so much more accessible and gorgeous as they grow.
Like my daughter, my book had (and has) a lot of growing up to do. So many changes and so much development still needs to happen.
I happened to look back at my early manuscript– handwritten pages of the opening scene written in April 2012. Not so long ago, but long before half my characters were even born. Before I knew about story arcs or plot points. All I knew then was that this thing was crowning, and I had to get it out. Messy, bloody, uncomfortable. Births are generally like that. And while my children’s births were surgical, my book’s birth is vaginal– lots of pushing, sweating, swearing, pleas to be delivered. It’s raw and it’s unmedicated (but only because I can’t find the epidural that lasts as long as it takes me to write a book) and it requires strength and stamina that I just can’t believe I have within me.
Those pages from the beginning, they started it all. Almost all the words from that scene have been cut or changed (also, I’m not sure it’s actually a “scene”), but the seed is there. Just like how I can see in those pictures of my daughter’s first days of life, the flicker of her spirit that I know and love today. She was in there; she always was. She just needed time and space to grow up.
Just like my book.