I Just Gave Birth, Then Sent the Baby Away

My hands are shaking.

I just hit “send” on an email, which is not normally cause for excitement. But this email was to my book editor, and it contained the final draft of Parents Need to Eat Too. That’s right, my cookbook is written. There will be tweaks, I’m sure, but the actual oh-god-how-shall-I-put-this work is done. I feel like dancing, and like throwing up.

When I mentioned this sensation on Words to Eat By’s Facebook page, one wise commenter wrote, “I’ve never written a book, but I hear from friends who have that it’s like giving birth and then giving the baby up.” Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like. If you’ve ever been pregnant you probably had a week or two, maybe more, where you just wanted to give birth already, to be done with the discomfort and the uncertainty and the anticipation. Now imagine feeling that way for half a year. This book has been gestating since I first started writing the proposal in March, 2009—more than two years—and for the last few months my mantra has been Please let this end soon. It seemed there was always one more recipe to test, one more headnote to write, and it hurt. Oh, it hurt. Believe me, I’m thrilled and grateful to have the honor of publishing a cookbook, but at a certain point the actual writing of it just became a chore, crossing all those “T”s, dotting all those “I”s.

I thought I’d delivered this baby in March of this year, when I finally submitted the last piece of the puzzle, the book’s Introduction. It was hugely satisfying, but just like post-childbirth, I knew there was still more work to come. My editor’s comments, insightful and generous and immeasurably helpful, had been piling up for the last year—as I sent in each chapter she’d send me feedback, which I’d internalize for the material I’d yet to write, but otherwise set aside to address at some later point. That later point came when I sent in the Introduction. Which, as it turns out, was not my delivery date. It was the beginning of a very accelerated third trimester.

The last six weeks have been an all-out sprint, pulling eleven separate chapters, plus an introduction and a foreword by a dietitian who specializes in pediatric nutrition, into one ginormous document. I addressed all my editor’s queries, and then I went through the manuscript again to address all the dietitian’s queries, too. I made sure the style is consistent throughout—is it “1 can (15 ounces)” or “One 15-ounce can”?—and revised whatever needed revising. I added sidebars, oodles of sidebars. I rearranged the chapters. I tried to make sure I never repeated myself, unless it was to make a point that needed repeating. It required all my OCD tendencies, and in fact it required so much of them that I let a lot of other things slide—things like making dinner for me, Stephen, and Harry, or spending time with Harry after school. It’s been an intense month-and-a-half. Thank god for Stephen, is all I can say. I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten through this without him. It’s fitting, in a way, that I finished the book on our seventh wedding anniversary.

And now it’s done, for real. I’m going to be boastful for a minute, and tell you that I think this book is going to be amazing. I packed so much more than just recipes into those 406 manuscript pages & 124,385 words. There’s advice from other moms who’ve been there. There are sidebars on everything from how to shop with a baby to a nursing mom’s nutritional needs. There are tips on which foods to buy organic, how to chop a butternut squash, and the easiest way to clean a dirty blender. And, of course, there are recipes. Nearly 200 of them, and every single one has been tested by an incredible group of more than 100 new moms. The recipes all work. I’m sure of it. The book is exactly what I set out for it to be: What to Expect to Eat the First Year.

Here’s where that slightly ooky feeling comes in: I finished the book. It’s done, except for some finessing. I delivered my new baby. And this morning, I sent that baby away. It’s in my editor’s hands, and will soon be with a copyeditor, a designer, a marketing team, and a publicity team. I’ll have input into what happens from here, I’m sure, but it’s no longer up to me. I feel a lot like I did the day I came home from the hospital after having Harry: He was jaundiced, so we had to leave him there for an additional night. I knew he was in the best possible hands, and I didn’t for a second think they would actually harm him. But leaving him behind, spending ten hours away from the thing I’d been intimately connected with for so long, was disorienting and almost physically painful. I can’t say it hurts to give up my manuscript, but I’m not exactly sure what to do with myself right now. With Harry, my real-live baby, I knew I’d see him again the next morning, but I won’t see this book again for months. And I’ll never be as immersed in it as I’ve been for the last year and a half.

I’m jittery and queasy, distracted and elated. I think it’s going to be a very long few months. Will you help me be patient?

PS If you’re local and wishing that Parents Need to Eat Too was available right now, come take my cooking class! It starts May 24 at Caribou Baby on Driggs Ave in Greenpoint.