As I sit here with my three-year-old playing in the garden and my third novel, No Turning Back, about to be published, it’s hard to believe there was a time when I nearly gave up on achieving the ‘two Bs’ I so desperately wanted: a baby and a book deal.
But a few years ago both dreams seemed impossible.
My husband and I started trying for a baby just after we got married nine years ago. At the same time, I started writing a novel. I remember telling a friend at the time that within a year, I’d have a baby and a book deal.
I wish I hadn’t opened my mouth.
After several months of trying to conceive, nothing had happened. And the novel I’d started writing hadn’t secured me that longed-for deal.
Months turned into years, one IVF round into two, both resulting in nothing.
Then after a series of tests, I learnt that I had a diminished ovarian reserve. The chances of getting pregnant were minimal.
As I drove back to work after that consultation, swallowing my tears away and getting my game face ready, I realised I wasn’t just grieving the possibility I’d never see my belly swell with baby, I was also devastated that I’d never be assigned that sacred label of ‘Mother’.
That grief confused me. I’d never been the type of girl to have ‘Be a mother’ as her main goal in life. Yes, I always knew I wanted children, but there were other roles I wanted to assume too.
So why was I grieving the loss of some label so deeply?
The truth was, I’d been auto-tuned by society to have certain expectations of my life.
So to be told one of those expectations wouldn’t come to fruition… well, it simply didn’t feel right. I felt like crawling into a hole and giving up. And I did for a while.
But then something happened. As I mulled all this over in my mind, an idea for a character came to me, a journalist called Claire who was also trying to find her place in the world as an infertile woman.
Her story drove me to my laptop to batter out words, each of those words like a skin graft sealing over the wound of infertility.
Those hours spent on my laptop were like therapy sessions, channelling all my frustrations and fears into Claire’s character and the story that unfolded around her.
In one passage, Claire says: “It’s how we’re programmed to think. Think of all the books you’ve read, the films you’ve seen. There’s one lesson that usually runs through them: children are the greatest gift of all. Work means nothing. Ambition means nothing. As long as you have children, that’s all that matters.”
You know what I mean, don’t you? Those time-bruised clichés like ‘there’s no greater gift than a child’ or ‘there’s no greater achievement than becoming a parent’ (said the prison guard to the father-of-five serial killer….)
I don’t believe this to be true for everyone. Each person is different and therefore, each person has a particular type of treasured gift or gifts.
Of course, for many, they feel their greatest and only gift is their child / children and that’s wonderful for them.
But why should those without children be made to feel as though they have missed out on the greatest gift of all; that no other gift – a particular talent, a loved one, an awe-inspiring experience – will do?
Writing about all this gave me a fighting spirit.
Instead of giving up, with each chapter I finished, the boxing gloves started to come on: I decided I would try to get the novel I was writing published… and that I’d try one last attempt at IVF too.
It worked! That last-ditch round of IVF resulted in my beautiful longed-for daughter. Then a few weeks after her birth, in the midst of changing her nappy, I received an email from my agent: HarperCollins had offered me a two book deal.
I’d finally achieved those ‘two Bs’ even if it had taken a five-year battle.
I now refuse to look back on those years of ‘chaos’ with anger or sadness.
Without them, I’d have never have come up with the character of Claire, and therefore never written the novel that led to me getting a publishing deal.
I would never have got pregnant either as I truly believe those months writing helped me get my mind ready for IVF.
So here’s to chaos and here’s to writing my way through that chaos.
- Tracy Buchanan’s new book, No Turning Back, is available on Amazon or at your local bookshop.