Years ago, I answered a call to submit a sweet, clean Christian novella. I wrote Letters to Lenora in a month. It would have been my second attempt at a novel but falling short - by thousands of words. I had just finished writing Storm of Hope and was in the midst of my postpartum depression healing. I don't know what I was aiming to write about exactly, but I like stories that have realistic endings and I've always gravitated towards the faithful.
I remember thinking about this girl who were on the cusps of leaving the nest and suddenly being given the chance to get to know her mother.
My own story bleed into the pages. In the storm of pregnancy anxiety and ptsd, I had, at the time, written 'goodbye' letters to my sweet girl. I was that afraid of Preeclampsia, and while the fear would spiral into something else later, I truly believed (and to a certain extent) that if lightning missed you the first time, it would not miss the second.
I remember wrestling with the what-ifs. And then of course, we were living in our nightmare. A second preeclampsia that hit me suddenly. Another stint at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and a mama writer unable to discern her jumbled thoughts.
What if my girl found my letters years later? What would she think of me? Of these words that is supposed to bring comfort, but instead brings more heartache. While I get to wrap my arms around my babies, Lenora has to settle on words written by a mother who was afraid...who was in pain and in fear.....
So this novella, Letters to Lenora, was indeed published in this anthology. I forget since its' been a while, but the general consensus was that after 6 months of publication, we collectively unpublished this anthology.
And friends, let me tell you, I had forgotten all about this particular story. I went on to write poetry, 'not your token,' and began submitting to different literature magazines and presses.
The other day, I was cleaning up my google drive (as one does on a Wednesday) and happened upon this story. I read it. I cried. I remembered the pain and fear.
But I loved the hug and hope it brought me. I loved reading about Lenora's mom and her faith. I loved reading about Lenora's outlook on her future. If I could glimpse into my children's futures, I would hope they follow the path they forged and hope that they leave a trail of kindness and goodness in their wake.
Anyway, this is my book news! Letters to Lenora will be published very soon. I'm hoping for an early/mid June release!! I'm waiting on my cover, currently, and will be doing a cover real soon!!
For her 18th birthday, Lenora Grace Williams is given a box. Aside from trinkets and photographs, there are three handwritten letters from her mother, written before she died. While reading the letters, Lenora wrestles with finding her faith, following her heart, and forgiving the secrets and heartache her mother left behind.
The story of ours began like most; I heard your heartbeat and joy propelled me from dreamlike stupor to scheduling baby shower and maternity photography sessions, deciding on nursery decor and what names would match you.
When I received my preeclampsia diagnosis, my heart sank and everything on my carefully crafted to-do list dissipated, along with the idea that this story of ours would be easy.
Motherhood welcomed us at 31 weeks.
It also welcomed strength, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. There would be no crying at our reality or our missed bonding time as you were wheeled away into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) over an hour away. Instead, I had to summon whatever will and adrenaline coursing through my body and demanded it heal so I can be closer to my heart. Tears would come later. And as I sadly learned, tears would come in waves that crippled and made me wonder where that strength went all those days and weeks I spent by your isolate in the NICU.
The story of ours paralyzed me.
I don’t know for sure how I lived to see you celebrate your first birthday, when every image I’d see, you were surrounded by tubes and wires and your heart monitor constantly beeping.
Somehow I did learn to move freely. I learned to save my tears in the shower. I learned to whisper prayers of gratitude every night as I watched you sleep.
As I started to accept the idea that there would only be the three of us - you, me and your dad - I learned I was again expecting.
This did not bring me joy. I met this news with anger and I tried for a long time to be happy. You were a beautiful four year old. I survived our first year and I was becoming less afraid of your future.
When I heard the heartbeat, I didn’t want to know the sex. I couldn’t give this heart a name.
I didn’t want to write to-do lists and there was no dream like stupor, either. I was a mom on a mission and my mission was to live so I could go home to you and our life.
A history of preeclampsia could mean I was a ticking time bomb again.
A history of premature birth meant I would be revisiting my nightmare in an enclosed NICU space.
A history of traumatic birth meant the possibility of not surviving.
And history usually repeated itself.
I packed my bags at 30 weeks and waited anxiously for 31 weeks.
It came and went. I wept and almost believed we were going to make it to ‘full term,’ at 38 weeks.
When I woke up with a headache and felt nauseous at 34 weeks, I knew it was time. My vision blurred and my blood pressure was elevated. My heart had already shattered when I was told I’d be welcoming another bundle in a few hours.
I thought I welcomed him in my arms. I thought I kissed his head as he was wheeled to the NICU. I thought I was doing okay until I wasn’t.
Until I didn’t hear him crying even when he was next to me.
Until suddenly, the idea of leaving you and him seemed like a rational action.
Motherhood has defined me in ways I never knew I'd be defined by.
While I knew motherhood gives you a different identity and purpose. Mine came with a two time Preeclampsia survivor, a parent to premature babies, and NICU graduates. I also had to include on postpartum depression survivor - an identity that I didn’t know I’d endure and survive.
And while the story of ours is still writing itself, I am hopeful that you and your brother can overcome any obstacles in life. After all, the strength I had to push through my storms were reflected in your eyes. You gave me courage. I choose to live bravely because of you. My purpose isn’t to understand why the story of ours began the way it did but how our story could give a voice and comfort to another.
My purpose in advocating for maternal mental health came because of the way our story began.
For more of my preeclampsia and postpartum depression story, please see here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073MVG4R4/
I sometimes wonder why I keep hitting the send button to these press/lit mags when I know that rejections are more common than acceptances. But such is life, I suppose.
After months of rejections, it was wonderful to get a 'yes.' I submitted a poem that Marias at Sampaguitas were holding for National Poetry Month and my once rejected poem, "this is how I'm surviving," came in 3rd place!
Claustrophobia comes at me in moments between
dusk and nightfall. The world closes in, and when the last light goes,
so too, does mine; ... for more, click here.
I don't do this but I'm torn between continuing with my YA paranormal/folktale retelling OR rearranging them to make it as a novel in verse. Hmmm, what do you think? Here is the first part.
It is 2:30 am when I am jolted awake.
I cannot tell whether it was the nightmare or the
turbulence that woke me. I blink rapidly a few times to adjust
to the dimness of the cabin. The low hum of whispers, the
soft snores from the family next to me seemed to settle
the apprehension I felt.
This uneasiness that something wasn’t quite
right with me.
With my family.
The situation I find myself in.
2:30 am. I am only 15 hours of my 19 hour flight,
from the home I’ve ever known to California.
United States of America;
a place where I, with black curls and brown skin
will never be welcomed.
I wonder if they already know what I am?
I drink too much coffee, read too many books, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.