Opening up: So, birthing my first book was a bit like the real thing

Birthing Ivy and the Rock hasn’t been an entirely different experience from the real thing. Until it happened, there was certainly no way I could have been prepared as a first-time parent (author) for what was to come.

The book hit my doormat late morning and that same evening I was on BBC Radio Wales talking about bereavement in the pandemic. The next day – publication – a piece went out on TV with me talking about my reasons for writing Ivy and the Rock. The following day BBC Online also ran the story and over the coming days I would come to feature in a handful of newspapers local to where I grew up near Hay on Wye and to where I live now, near Caerphilly.

The culmination was a piece with Wales Online and, as I write this, I’m looking at a large front-page picture of me on the national newspaper for Wales, the Western Mail.

As labours go, I’d say it was a steady grower with some painful pinch points and a bit of a sprint finish – which means infinitely better than my first, but nowhere near as smooth as my second (elected c-section, so no brainer really). And just like labour, the last few days have been nerve-wracking, exhilarating, but also more painful than I realised it would be.

The effort was worth it, of course. I had anticipated a largely silent entrance into this world for Ivy and the Rock, and I can honestly say what came out was probably twice the size and screamed infinitely louder than I ever thought it would.

And yet, just like when they put that brand new baby in your arms, all the pain and effort has also resulted in the arrival of something I find unquestioningly beautiful but also slightly unnerving, in that now I have the sole responsibility of nurturing it.

Since I knew the book was going to be published, I’ve been so focused on doing the things required of me to make it into print, I didn’t have time to think about what it’s arrival would actually mean – not just to me but to others too. I’ve had messages from fellow survivors of bereavement, of suicide, and of other kinds of loss to say how worthwhile they feel the book is – people I don’t even know. I’ve had contact from child bereavement organisations and even had some of my first meetings with a few of them too.

And I’ve had the most amazing support from those closest to me, urging me to keep going, to keep telling the story, if it’s something I feel I must do – and particularly if it can help others in doing to too.

But now the fuss has died down a bit and I am ‘home again’, the pain of what it took to get my brand-new literary baby out into the world is still niggling at me. I’ve still got to take care of my stitches and make sure they heal the right way, all whilst taking care and making sure my tiny little foundling continues to prosper and ultimately reach its full potential.

I hadn’t talked about the way my dad died for a long time, for example, and bringing it up again so publicly brought back memories which had been nice and neatly filed away, not just by myself but those closest to me too, in the intervening years. Some of the way Mum’s passing was reported affected others who knew and loved her in a way I had never intended or foreseen, bringing with it pain and conflict too.

It shook me a bit mid-launch when, in media terms, everything was going better than I could ever have imagined. It reminded me that as human beings if we are to love then it is inevitable that we must hurt too. It reminded me that if we were without pain then we would be without love too.

It reminded me that we really do owe it to our children to help them understand this and prepare them for it too. It reminded me why I wrote Ivy and the Rock and other titles I’ve developed in the first place. It reminded me that, when it comes to, I really do feel like I have to keep on going.