Like a true first-time author, I had publication month all mapped out in my mind. As the date got closer, my anxieties and excitement mounted. The moment I’d been working for years toward was almost here, and nothing was going to get in my way.
There would be travel for a book tour, of course; there would be flights to Austin and Seattle and Portland for talks and signings. There would be press and great bylines and buzz. And oh, there would be festivities too! What author isn’t most excited about the parties?
I booked an evening launch party at my local wine bar. I hadn’t gone shopping yet, but I’d be lying if I hadn’t thought about what I’d wear. It would hit that perfect note between sexy and demure. I’d be 10 pounds lighter than I am now because my future self is always 10 pounds lighter than my current self. This time, however, I was going to make it a reality with very sloppy dieting and sporadic workouts!
And then, on a cloudy day in May, less than five months from publication, I stared at the double pink line in the bathroom. My vision went blurry and my heart pounded. It must be a mistake, I told myself. I had an IUD. Aren’t those essentially foolproof? And yet suddenly things started to fall into place: the fatigue, the mood wings, the nausea.
In all my fantasizing about book launch, I hadn’t once pictured a giant pregnant belly.
I tried to re-envision what book launch would look like as a mother late in her third pregnancy. I re-examined what travel I could commit to. I grieved the loss of alcohol as a crutch to get me through the anxiety of launching a very personal and raw memoir into the world. I talked to my doctor about weaning from my antidepressants. And possibly the most tragic of all, that sexy but demure outfit would now be purchased at Motherhood Maternity.
All the plans I made over the last year felt rickety at best, and impossible at worst. The moment a woman learns she is pregnant, her life is out of her control. She is exhausted, her body is changing, and there’s a huge list of things she’s not allowed to do. There is a countdown to her life changing in a forever way. It is a joyous thing for me, but also an exercise in grief. It a special kind of grief, one that many people won’t recognize. It is a grief for the loss of an imagined reality.
If I squint, I can see that this is a wonderful lesson in letting go. Regardless of all our plans and fantasies, we authors have little control over how our book is received in the big scary world. We can prepare and be proactive and do every little thing right, but when it comes down to it, there are so many factors outside our control. In this way, launching a book is a bit like sending a child off to college.
You poured your heart into them and raised them right. You now hope they make friends and get good grades and thrive outside your watch, but there are too many factors outside your control to ensure that will happen. You have to loosen your grip. You have to adjust your expectations. You have to let go.
Acceptance is key. My name may not be on a marquee anywhere and my ankles may be disturbingly swollen at my launch party and That. Is. Okay.
I am using this very shocking pregnancy to help ground me regarding book launch. Trust me, I’ll be hustling as much as I can with my big belly, but I also will try not to be too disappointed if things don’t go how I hope. No matter what, a book is coming out this October. And a baby is coming out in January. I do not have the final say of how these events transpire. I am only the vessel. If I take a step back, I can see that the timing is actually perfect in all its unplanned glory.
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Carly Gelsinger’s memoir Once You Go In: A Memoir of Radical Faith will be available to purchase October 16th.