When my son was born, I experienced a traumatic childbirth during which I almost died. A lengthy struggle with postpartum depression followed. For nearly a decade, I couldn’t talk about “it” or the first year of my son’s life. Then I came across a birth-story contest by the Doula Support Foundation on the Federation of BC Writers Facebook page.
I hadn’t written in many years but had always hoped to get back to it. It was a dream of mine that I had roundhouse kicked aside out of a lack of time and an abundance of insecurity.
Initially, I had only intended to write about my daughter’s simpler, safer birth. But after I’d written her story, I knew I needed to write my son’s. I hadn’t planned on submitting it, as I didn’t think that the Doula Support Foundation would be interested in sharing what could go horribly wrong in the delivery room.
Starting with research, I ordered my hospital records. My memories were in and out—as my consciousness had been. The documents confirmed everything I remembered, had been told, and more. I’d had no clue that my son’s life had been at risk too. I cried for days. Different tears than in the past. These were tears of acceptance. Out of those records and grief came strength.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. Inspired by a contest with a two-thousand-word limit, I wrote an entry three times as long. Whereas I’d submitted my daughter’s story comfortably, I agonized over my son’s—every single word. I flip-flopped right up until twenty minutes before the deadline, and in one bold and terrifying moment, I hit Send.
Several weeks later, when I learned that I’d gotten an honourable mention for my birth story, wet joy gushed off my face as I ran to tell my husband. I assumed it was for my daughter’s story. As I read the mention out loud to him, I discovered that it was for my son’s instead. I cried again—validated. Maybe I was good enough to pursue my passion.
In a short-lived burst of confidence, I agreed to read my story when they asked. Days before the event, I realized I just couldn’t do it. While practising, I cracked and lost my voice after just three paragraphs. Rather than remove me from the line-up of readers, one of the women at the foundation offered to read it for me.
During the event, I turned my camera off, listened, and appreciated it more than I could say. She doesn’t know how many times I have rewatched her carefully and kindly honour my heartache with such exactness. Each time it is easier to watch.
This process has been healing and motivational. Since then, I have won mentions or prizes in two more contests and regularly write and enter them. I tend to submit lighter material now, for the most part. This experience also inspired a career change that allows me more time to write. I am working on my first novel and have written several other “therapeutic” pieces that are just for me and will never see the light of day.
Write your stories and enter those contests; you never know what the outcome may be.
Angela Douglas loves to write creative non-fiction, especially travel stories. When she isn’t working or chasing her children, she is ripping her hair out at her desk as she tries to edit her first novel. Find Angela at angeladouglas.ca or @anglynndouglas on social media.
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