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Leila's Latest News
If you want Leila's Latest News straight into your inbox, sign up here. I don't spam and this "latest news" is more like "seasonal news."
In exactly one week, I will be 35! I don't know if that's considered middle age.... don't huff, I seriously don't know!
I had an anxiety attack last night when it hit me that people will be reading my words. These words were written with tears and desperation, and I thought what if someone I know reads them? Would I still be able to look them in the eyes?
And then I remember a quote a saw on Twitter from Realistic Poetry International......
"Your poetry can be the reason someone else survives something you already have."
Words have power. Words can build legacies or swat them away with insistence until they crumble. I don't know how much of my words will translate to someone who isn't a mom, or a preeclampsia survivor or walked in my shoes.... but if we listen to our neighbors or strangers around us, we find that our stories aren't at all that different. Some fights aren't unique to us and our situation. So, while I inhale and exhale and fight the urge to hit unpublish over here, I hope that my words find comfort in someone like me.
~ Happy Friday, friends. Writers, write your story. Readers, I hope you find some solace and see a semblance of yourself in a book
Two years ago, I didn't know that blog book tours existed. I was sent an invite to participate for a fellow Limitless Publishing author and decided to spend a few dollars on getting my own tour. The biggest problem I faced was my category. I was too "Christian" for my secular marketing sites that hosted tours and too "secular" for my Christian market. This line I had tiptoed was not doing me any favors and I happened upon Lola's blog tours. She and I communicated back and forth. She was always patient and accommodating to a newbie and as a result, I had a "best new release" on Amazon for Love, Defined.
Soooo when I started to look for marketing my second book, of course, I knew who I wanted to work with. Over the years, you pick up networks left and right. My problem again was my category. Storm of Hope is a memoir first, and a poetry collection second. I needed to find marketing companies that handled nonfiction and poetry, specifically. I learned that Lola just started doing nonfiction recently. I signed up Storm of Hope for a book blitz and hopefully get in the hands of people that can relate to my story. I feel so blessed to be working with Lola's blog tours again! If you feature nonfiction in your book blogs, please kindly think of me and sign up here:
Naturally I am way too excited about this image and went against everything "they" tell you about waiting, and teasing, and doing a giveaway. Here is my cover from the very talented @faridislam
I just booked a cover reveal with @Lolasblogtours and I am so excited to show you all the final product.
So to catch up: I finished my manuscript on May 11th. I sent it to an editor @poetfida for her to look through the poetry section and give the rest a look. I received amazing feedback, as well as a title from her! We went back and forth a little bit on the edits and I took her words of advice to heart.
I then sent it to a copy editor, @pencitedits, who looked at grammar, pacing, word usage and she too, offered amazing feedback.
Together, these two cost me $500 in edits.
I didn't shop around for a cover design artist. I looked at my fellow poets' books and loved their covers. They got me in touch with Farid Islam through upwork.com. He took my concepts and turned it into something physical.....which you'll see in the next coming weeks!
For now, I am waiting on Createspace to review both the interior and cover changes that I made. Once that is finalized, I can order a proof of the book!! Once I get the proof, I will continue to look for mistakes and offer a few files to "beta readers" to read before the book is out.
My hope is that it comes out on my birthday, July 21st!! I'm looking for a venue to launch this book baby and I will probably be doing that in the next few days while I wait for both the physical proof and cover reveal to take place.
In the meantime, I wish you well on your self publishing journey!
Before I start getting lost promoting my memoir, I wanted to do a few more things with Love, Defined. After all, this book is my first book baby and I have learned so much from "her" during the writing and editing, and publishing, and promoting phases. I'm excited to do a giveaway for a signed paperback copy of Love, Defined AND a $10 Starbucks giftcard.
Special thanks to Juniper Grove Book Solutions for doing my blitz. Click here for a chance to win!!
I've been sleeping on this for a few days and I really appreciate @poetfida for her help w this title!! 😍 !!!Cover reveal with giveaway coming soon!!!
What is a storm of hope?
It's clouds of doubts,
a calming center.
It's thundering madness,
and a lightning of beauty
across the dark expanse of the sky.
It feeds the soul with rain
and offer up a rainbow after the gloom passes.
It is in me.
It is in you.
This storm that passes by in bursts throughout our seasons.
This storm that gives way to prayers,
This storm that rages on
and gives our life new meaning,
and hope is found in the eye of the storm.
“Preeclampsia can suck it.” I remember saying this online at a Preeclampsia Support group and could almost hear the nods of other mothers in the form of “likes.”
We supported each other through the first scary diagnosis, or while we’re being triaged and about to have a premature baby. There are tears shed, prayers offered, and baby pictures shared of miracle babies. I don’t know where I would be without these group of strangers, brought together by this diagnosis.
There are moments where I go online and offer comfort and humor. I sometimes alternate my hashtags to either “Preeclampsia sucks,” or “Preeclampsia can SUCK it.”
But then there are days where I am angry at myself for receiving this awful diagnosis and there are days where I, somehow, believe I deserved it. Those days, I avoid social media interactions because my pride tells me that pity is not something I want to experience.
The truth cuts me in bursts throughout my daily routine and it took a long time to realize that my usually upbeat self was beating myself up.
In 2012, I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia, a condition that only affects mothers, when I was 26 weeks pregnant. I researched the mess out of preeclampsia and concluded that I needed to lay off salt, stay hydrated, and “take it as easy as possible.”
I had my daughter, Ellie, at 31 weeks on March 3rd, 2012. She weighed 3 pounds 4 ounces and would spend 6 weeks at a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The days during the NICU stay was a blur and I remember being on autopilot most of the time. There was the rigorous schedule of pumping breast milk, 15 to 20 minutes, and every 3 hours; the constant questions from well-meaning friends and relatives asking, “when is she coming home?” And the constant worry about what life would be like with a premature baby.
That worry would dissipate over time but remnants of grief and guilt stayed behind. I was haunted by the ‘what-ifs’ and what different things I could have done. I found myself crying a little more as these two assaulted me when I wasn’t paying attention.
In 2015, I found out I was pregnant, and already I was prepared for the impending diagnosis. Per the doctor’s advice, I began a daily aspirin regimen. I walked as often as I could and learned that salt didn’t automatically mean preeclampsia. Preeclampsia was once called “a disease of theories” (1). I’m not in the medical field, so I’ll leave that to the doctors. I will say, that because of my experience with preeclampsia, I felt confident in talking to my doctor and being an advocate for myself and my baby. When you’re a first time mom, you’re not really sure about what to expect and you rely on the doctors and the knowledge of the people in your medical team. And when something like excessive swelling, or throbbing headaches occur, you think it’s just part of the pregnancy, and may feel like the doctor won’t take you seriously.
Listen to your bodies. I’d rather be called paranoid and wrong, then be proven right. Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year (2).
Back to my story. So, at around my 20thweek, I packed my bags. But this time, I left a box behind. I left a box of goodbye letters for my daughter to have just in case I didn’t make it.
My mind clung onto the guilt and grief and the “what ifs” and deduced that I wasn’t supposed to “make it” the first time around.
Somewhere in my anxious self, this small voice started to whisper that I got lucky the first time. I was caught up in making sure I had everything “in order” that the idea of a goodbye letter didn’t raise a red flag in my system.
I worked my 40 hours at work. I came home to my family. I hugged my little girl goodnight. And I would find myself awake at 2 or 3 in the morning from these nightmares.
Maybe it was the stress at work. Maybe it was this diagnosis that was ticking louder and louder as each week passed by. I kept throwing excuses around until I found the one that seemed to fit me best. I was afraid of preeclampsia. This diagnosis became almost demon-like in my thoughts and I was possessed with fear.
I had my son at 34 weeks, 5 days on April 28th, 2016. He was a whopping 5 pounds and 5 ounces! The day before that, I went to work with a throbbing headache and knew that my drive to the hospital was inevitable and I would meet my little one soon.
Just like with my daughter, I poured my heart out to my support group. The women whose names I won’t remember but whose words I treasured and needed to hear.
I assumed that I would be “fine” by the time he came home. I was for a time. I hugged and cuddled next to my newborn and felt peace. But I felt “off.” Something wasn’t clicking.
I remember thinking that when I was at the hospital and latched him on for the first time. With my daughter and her frailty, I was so afraid of “breaking her” but when she latched on, I was in awe at that beautiful breastfeeding moment.
When my son latched, I felt nothing. At first, I thought, it was just exhaustion and then I thought, the mood or the setting was never right. Even when we were home, in the quiet nursing chair, I started to expect that feeling of bonding. I taught breastfeeding as a Women, Infant, Child (WIC) Nutritionist and I told moms about this feeling.
Not feeling anything with him drove me further away from him. I started to think that maybe I wasn’t even here anymore and I had died at the operating room. I can’t feel him and he can’t feel me.
These thoughts would come at me in waves and sometimes, I felt the power of the clash. I went to work when he was only eleven weeks old and I wanted to drive as far away from my life as possible. For the next few weeks, I would make the commute, pull over and sob over these numbing, yet crushing emotions, take a breath and show up at work or at home like nothing happened.
I didn’t think anyone would notice. On social media, I try to put some honest sides of me but admitting this helplessness meant it was real.
I carried on pretending that none of it was real. I hashtag breastfeeding photos on Instagram. I posted only smiling pictures of me holding my baby boy. I didn’t want to post that I barely heard him crying in the crib next to me, or that I was starting to believe that I wasn’t meant to exist anymore. After all, I already wrote out my goodbyes.
It was my boss – now my ex-boss – who told me that I needed to go home. She said I needed to take care of myself and to find help. I remember sitting at her office asking about schedules and travel time, when she asked me, “are you happy?”
Do you know it took a few minutes to say, “That’s a loaded question.” It was that moment that I acknowledge for the first time that I was not happy, and that I needed help.
I left my position in September 2016. Shortly thereafter, I sought help and researched the mess out of postpartum depression. I found a few more support groups where no one says, “Postpartum depression can suck it.”
I’ve started to write out my truths and I’ve been touched and humbled by the support that I have gotten.
The truth is that I have good days and bad days. I have moments that feel like I’m drowning in rage and sorrow, and I’m not sure if I want to come up for air. This tug and pull stays with me but I want to keep fighting for my son and my daughter. They don’t need my goodbyes. They need my hellos and my hugs and kisses.
SO while Preeclampsia can SUCK it, the truth is that postpartum depression was the one that sucker punched me. And one day, I’ll be ready to knock out my postpartum depression.
*This will appear in the memoir I am working on. It first appeared on my blog: Life after Preeclampsia. If you have any thoughts, or opinions about the piece, I welcome them!!
As always, pray!
1, 2 www.preeclampsia.org
We look (and judge) at the cover of a book and already form our own assumptions on what the book is about based on the title.
I need a title! I've been wracking my brain for the past few days because I thought I was "done," with my title. As I continue to look over it and keep adding to it......the more the title no longer "fits."
"Beliefs of the Brokenhearted" was my first title....and then I put so much more anger about Preeclampsia that I changed it to, "Preeclampsia can SUCK it." And then I kept writing and eventually, I realized that I was "stuck in a forest" of all these feelings of hurt, anger, fear and so the title became, "My Postpartum Forest."
And now I just wrote a poem, my 44th in this mismash memoir....and it's called "beliefs of the brokenhearted." And so now we're back to the beginning....except I haven't quite settled on it.
Ironically, picking out titles came easy for me. It was one of the first things that I write down. What about you, my friend? How's your work coming along? Have you picked and settled on a title?
I wish I had taken the time to document the road to publication with my first book. Or even the work that I did for the recently released anthology. But, oh well. This is me "documenting" this book - that has gone through so many titles and changes now. For now, it is a mishmash of journal entries and a mini short story and 41 total poems.
So what happens when you "think" you are done? Well, first you celebrate. Wahoo!!! And then you go into google search mode. The next few days, I will continue to fine tune what I can but at the same time, I'll be on the hunt for an Editor. The editor will tell me if my manuscript is
2.) makes sense
3.) will edit grammar, spelling, etc.
4.) offer up any and all constructive criticism to make this manuscript "good."
BUT, while I'm on the hunt, I'll be doing just a couple of research on the side. I've never self published before and I know next to nothing about what it all entails. (My first novel was picked up by a small traditional indie press, Limitless Publishing). So, I picked up a book to help me. I chose this one because I decided to join a local writer's guild, and if I have any questions, I can always ask the author at the meeting! Score.
Speaking of guilds, I'll eventually have to show up and ask for their critiques on this manuscript. Maybe they'll get a sense of what I'm hoping for and what I need to change.
Hello there, friendMay is tough for me. May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month and I am reminded of both my birth stories. I am reminded of my premature babies and their first days (and weeks) spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). May is also Mental Health Awareness Month and again, I remember both my weaknesses and strengths as a mother dealing with tiny babies, and the internal fight that no one else saw.
I am humbled and grateful for the experiences, but everyday I have to remind myself to take care of me at some point throughout the day. One way I "self care" is by writing. I write and cry. Then write some more. Eventually, I believe that my pain will just transfer itself to words on pages. I did this a few weeks ago and submitted a couple of letters to this particular anthology called, Letters of May. It is a collection of letters from different pains and different heartaches, but with the hopes that you understand what someone is going through in the pits of their depression or chains of their psychosis, and fight with mental illness. It's available for free now but eventually, all proceeds will go to a mental health charity. And as soon as I know, I'll be sure to update you on my site!
So this month is a little different. This month, I'd like to spread a little bit of awareness for these two causes dear to my heart.
For information about preeclampsia, please visit www.preeclampsia.org
I'll be doing a virtual walk this month to raise money for Preeclampsia. If you feel it in your heart to donate, visit the link above and look for the donate button. If you want to follow my blog, go to www.tuallaleila.blogspot.com for Life after Preeclampsia.
As far as Letters of May, here is a link for you:
~ Until next time, friend! Take care of yourself. Read a book to escape, go on an adventure, learn something and fall in love. ~
Read, pray, write and live. And above all, love, always.