In 2014 I had a baby, and in 2019 I wrote a song about it. It’s called “Tear Me in Two,” referring not just to the physical act of childbirth, but of the feeling I had as a new parent of this second person, an extension of myself and also her own self, suddenly existing as a separate entity from me.
Bait Bag recorded it and filmed a video for it. In a cold, dark tunnel on a Casco Bay island, I found myself talking to my bandmates, our producer, and our videographer about some of the more surprising things my body and mind did after I delivered.
In the song, and in our conversation, I kept returning to the phrase “Nobody told me.”
Nobody told me how anemic I would be.
Nobody told me that nursing could feel like an electrical fire in my nerves.
Nobody told me how to wean and support my mental health.
And several other things too graphic for this venue.
I realized something after that conversation—while there were books galore describing what my body was up to during pregnancy, and an overwhelming number of resources about baby food, baby sleep, and baby brains, there didn’t seem to be a book directed at the person who had the baby after the baby was born.
There didn’t seem to be a book directed at the person who had the baby after the baby was born.
Not too long after I had that epiphany, I decided that I might as well be the one to write it. I started a Google Doc, labeled it “The Postpartum Body Book,” made a short list of things I thought should be in there, and quickly stalled out. I’m an OK writer, if I’m allowed to say so myself, but I have limited knowledge and no expertise in the area of postpartum recovery, just personal experience.
The doc sat there, untouched, and I stayed mad about the injustice of it all, and we won an award for the music video, and a pandemic hit, and about a year later I was chatting with a friend who happens to be a pelvic floor physical therapist and is absolutely an expert in all of the things I wanted to write about and who was my go-to for postpartum questions. I mentioned wanting to write a book and said she should write it with me, and she said OK.
We were off and running, drafting a list of topics, interviewing postpartum people, writing whole chapters. In April I cheekily asked a literary agent friend to look at a proposal for another project, and when she asked what else I was working on, she gave the postpartum project a huge thumbs up.
By October, she was our agent. In November, she submitted our now very polished (thanks to her) proposal and sample chapters to a list of publishers. And in December, we sold the book to Avery.
I’m beyond gobsmacked at the fact that we have a book deal, my dream since I got the writing bug. But I’m even more excited at this opportunity to repair a little bit of the inequity inherent in the health care system, where preventative care is devalued, and the gestational parent is often treated as a vessel for the baby, essentially forgotten after the cursory six-week checkup.
Our book, The Postpartum Human, is for anyone who’s been pregnant past the second trimester: not only women, not only parents, not only recently postpartum people.
We have a lot of writing left to do, joyful and challenging work in response to the problem of “nobody told me.” I’ll still be in this column as well, checking in from North Haven most months as we keep bouncing from crest to trough of each new wave. Right now, though, I feel right on top.
Courtney Naliboff is a wife, mother, teacher, writer, and musician who lives on North Haven. We congratulate her and are confident she’ll produce a valuable book. She may be reached at Courtney.Naliboff@gmail.com.