Tag Archives: birth

Labor Pains

In my writing space

I’ve never actually given birth (my daughter is adopted) but from what I’ve heard and read, there are some similarities to writing a book—which I have done.  Of course, there are many huge differences. Discounting cramped hands and a neck and shoulders locked in “flight or fight” position despite ergonomic equipment and regular massages, giving birth to a book doesn’t usually bring much in the way of physical pain.  And true, your book, once delivered, doesn’t require regular diaper changes, and won’t eventually cast withering glances at you when you do something uncool. But just like a child,    your book only truly belongs to you so long as it is not yet in the world.  Once it has left your body, after a long process of struggle and labor during which you have alternatively cursed and cried and, perhaps, required some numbing anesthesia (pimento cheese and “Dance Moms” worked best for me), your literary baby is no longer yours to dream about.  What will she look like?  What will her future be?  Will others embrace her warmly or handle her roughly?  Will others love her the way that I do?  The time for fantasy is over.  Like a real baby, your literary child has become a separate being and will have a life of its own—a life that you cannot bend to your will, no matter how hard you try.

Of course, the timetables for gestation and early infant development are hugely different. The Creation of Anne Boleyn took six years for the DNA to become fully formed flesh, and the birth itself is taking over a year.  Of course, this is because I’m doing it the old-fashioned way—with a press rather than a home-birth and straight to an e-book—and like other methods of birthing, may eventually become obsolete.  I hope not—for reasons that I’ll save for an editorial some day.  But the old-fashioned way certainly requires patience!!  You may be told, mid-way through the pregnancy, that you need more exercise (my original editor, an inspired midwife, packed me off to England to do interviews.) You may think you are about to give birth several times, only to be sent back home and told it was a false labor.  During the last stages, you are cranky and temperamental, you eat too much, you cry easily, you get into fights with your loved ones.  And finally, when the baby emerges—at first only seen by those close to you–she is still a mess, covered with your blood and requiring a good clean up before she can go out in public.

And then, even though she is all tidy, you have to wait a long time before you can present her to the world.  And there’s still so much work to do!!! Permissions to obtain, author questionnaires to fill out, proposed outfits (covers) to decide among, and birth announcements (blurbs) to be arranged (a process during which you try not to think about how many such requests you have turned down yourself).  And then there will be copy-editing (largely a matter of making sure the child learns to speak in grammatical sentences) which can be tedious and contentious if you are attached to your own odd ways of putting things.  Page proofs!! Public Relations!  What to do when the rights to the illustration you really, really want can’t be obtained!  Decisions about this, decisions about that.  And most difficult: continuing about your business while you wait…. and wait…. and wait.

It’s the waiting—where I am at now, with a March 2013 pub date–that’s the killer.  As when you are expecting a baby (or awaiting an adoption, as I was when Cassie was born), it’s hard to think about anything else, or DO anything else.  This stupendous event is on the horizon, and they expect you to continue to go to work? To have normal social interchange (i.e. not about your baby/book) with friends?  To brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed occasionally? And worst of all, to WRITE ANYTHING ELSE? I don’t wanna!!! I can’t!!!! I won’t!!! And so, the articles that I am committed to write stare at me accusingly, glowering in their pre-conception state: “So you think now that this baby is coming, we can just be ignored?”

My daughter, Cassie

I’m struggling to concentrate on anything except my two babies: the book one and the human one (now thirteen) to whom I remain faithful.  She will always be more important.  As for my husband, he’s fine with my state of distraction; the Tour de France is on the television.

And, as with many pregnancies, although just a few months ago I couldn’t imagine ever going through this again, the idea for my next book is already beginning to gestate.  She’s just a little bubble of thought at this point, a “hmmmm…” more than a plan.  Even so, it startles me to think that I actually am imagining bringing another book into being.

Socrates/Plato believed that some of us get pregnant in body, and others in mind.  The ancient duality is false, of course, for pregnancy is not mindless and many women manage, quite successfully, to birth both kinds of babies.  I once mourned the fact that I was not able to be one of them.  Not anymore.  I have my wonderful Cassie, and a new book baby soon to jump out of my arms and into the world.  May the world treat both of them warmly!!

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Susan's Writer's Journal

Anne and Elizabeth: The Role of the Ladies Who Attended Anne

By Natalie Sweet

On August 19th, 1533, George Tayllour wrote to the Lady Lisle that,

“The King and Queen are in good health and merry. On Thursday next they will come by water from Windsor to Westminster, and on Tuesday following to Greenwich, where the Queen intends to take her chamber.” (Letters and Papers, Henry VIII)

The 19th being a Tuesday, Tayllour believed that Anne would begin her lying-in period on Tuesday, August 26th. The following weeks will be dedicated to the activities and decisions made concerning Elizabeth, but for now, let us consider the role that Anne’s ladies played, when after she “took her chamber,” the moment of Elizabeth’s birth arrived. For help in understanding a 16th century birth, I once again turn to Jacob Reuff’s (1500-1558) The Expert Midwife.

From The Expert Midwife

“…Midwives and other women which are present with pregnant and Laboring women, may mark and observe the true and proper pains, passions, and throngs of child birth, which indeed are no other thing, but the violence and strugglings of the Infant being come to perfection, with which he is driven, tossed and rolled hither and thither and cometh downward to the lower parts, that me might have passage to come forth into the light…

…let the Midwife know the time, and observe the true pains and dolours, also let her comfort and cheer up the laboring woman, and let her cheerfully exhort her to obey her Precepts and admonitions. Likewise let her give good exhortations to other women being present, especially to pour forth devout prayers to God, afterward to do their duties at once, as well as they are able…”

“the Midwife shall place one woman behind her back which may gently hold the laboring woman, taking her by both the arms, and if need be, the pains waxing grievous, and the woman laboring, may stroke and press down the womb, and may somewhat drive and depress the Infant downward. But let her place other two by her sides, which may both with good words encourage and comfort the laboring-woman, and also may be ready to help and put to their hand at any time…”

“Lastly, all these things thus prepared, let the Midwife instruct and encourage the party to her labor, to abide her pains with patience, and then gently apply her hand to the works as she ought…

Leave a comment

Filed under Anne and Elizabeth, Life in 16th century England

Anne and Elizabeth: Consulting the Stars for Elizabeth’s Birth

By: Natalie Sweet

As September 1533 approached, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn expected that a prince would soon be born. Announcements of a prince’s arrival were drawn up ahead of time, but an extra “s” had to be added to Elizabeth’s birth announcement to proclaim the birth of a princess. Henry’s confidence was based on no less than an astrologer’s prediction that Anne would, in fact, give birth to a male child. Would either Henry or Anne have had any reason to doubt such a prediction?

Then, as now, astrologers were proven wrong. Fast-forward to daughter Elizabeth’s reign, and we can see how predictions by Nostradamus failed. Although he is popularly featured on History Channel documentaries today, many of Nostradamus’s predictions concerning Elizabeth failed to come true. His predictions, however, served a purpose: as Catherine de Medici’s astrologer, it was his job to develop predictions that suggested the downfall of her Tudor rival. Obviously, none of the dire predictions came true, but an early modern astrologer was as much a propagandist as he was a predictor of the future. Oftentimes, propaganda was more useful than a correct prediction, as it inspired well-timed fear in the enemy and hope amongst allies. Of course, the more accurate one’s astrologer was at making predictions, the more useful the propaganda was, but the creation of fear was a tremendous boon on its own account.

This is not to say that monarchs did not take their astrologer’s predictions to heart. That would be a mistake, and one that is easy to make in a modern era where astrology is often viewed as trickery. Astrology was not a con, nor was it incompatible with religion in the 16th century. Indeed, it was considered to be a way to understand God’s divine plan, and was viewed to be as grounded in science as that of the study of the changing seasons. For Henry and Anne, the astrologer’s prediction of a male child was one they could look favorably on.

That the astrologer predicted a boy should not have surprised Henry, Anne, or us – beyond the fact that the royal couple hoped for this prediction, the months that Henry persisted in the belief that a boy would be born was enough to buy him time and leverage with those he dealt with. It gave his proceedings against Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne justification – any male (and the majority of females, too) in the early modern era would tell you that it was better to have a boy than it was to have a girl. They understood the urgency that accompanied the Tudor dynasty’s need for a male heir- and it was an urgency that had been granted a favorable verdict to the male party for generations before Henry VIII hit the scene. Read Chapuy’s or any other enemy’s report of Elizabeth’s arrival and the relief seems to drip from the pages – Henry has had another girl. Sure, the kid is healthy and this could indicate future healthy children will follow, but for now, it should be back to business as usual. Predictions could be made, but immediate results needed to follow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anne and Elizabeth, Anne and Gender, Life in 16th century England

Anne and Elizabeth: August 7, 1533

The following post was originally shared on Susan Bordo’s Facebook page, The Creation of Anne Boleyn. By Natalie Sweet

On August 7, 1533, Anne Boleyn was a month away from giving birth to her first child, Elizabeth. While not the sought-after-prince Henry desired, Elizabeth would eventually become one of the most recognized monarchs in world history, the Queen for whom an entire era was named after.  What were Anne Boleyn’s thoughts concerning her daughter? What did she hope for her? These thoughts are somewhat easy to guess. Obviously, Anne felt a mother’s love for her daughter. Anne greatly loved her own mother, and surely hoped for a replication of the relationship with her own firstborn. Given her royal status, she would not have been allowed to be the hands-on parent that many women of lower stations in life were allowed to be at the time period. However, she undoubtedly would have looked to Elizabeth’s education, overseen her upbringing, and made important decisions about how she was to be raised. Her requests for frequent updates on Elizabeth indicate her loving concern and, had she lived, we can imagine her occupying the later role that Catherine Parr filled in Elizabeth’s life:  a willing nurturer who oversaw her young charge with fierce pride.

Anne, though, did not live to claim her motherly right.  She died before Elizabeth was three, and as a result the little girl’s life took on a hard edge that she need never have experienced. Declared a bastard, made contemptible for being the offspring of a whore and a witch, Elizabeth quickly learned the unforgiving nature of 16th century politics. How would this have affected her views of her mother? Would she have viewed Anne as a victim? Would she have believed the rumors and blamed her for her fate? Who surrounded the child to influence her opinion of her mother, and when she was Queen, what were her thoughts?

The above questions are just a few of the topics I will cover in the month-long lead-up to Elizabeth’s birthday. While Susan puts the finishing touches on her book, we will explore…

Elizabeth’s thoughts on Anne

Views of Elizabeth and Anne through the centuries

Preparing for Elizabeth’s birth

Pregnancy in the 16th century

The arrival of Elizabeth

Leave a comment

Filed under Anne and Elizabeth