moving toward labor & delivery: the birth of a book
this is the part of book birthing where, on one hand, you’re finally breathing, but on the other hand, your breath is beginning to quicken, and you remember you’ll soon be in the part where you feel dizzy nearly all the time.
what that means is that “the book” is off at the printers. the jacket cover too. there’s not a single mark on any page left for me to make, to fix, to erase. it’s rolling off the presses as i type. and, any week now, a big cardboard box will kerplop on my front stoop. when i lug it in the house, haul out the scissors, cut the tape and peek inside, i’ll see the one book i wanted to leave behind on this holy earth.
it’s called motherprayer: lessons in loving, and it’s the deepest work — to date — of my living, breathing motherheart.
all along — ever since the moment (a quarter century ago) when i found out a tiny heart beat inside of me — i’ve been taking notes, scribbling down the lessons learned, recounting the hours when i’d run out of answers, couldn’t quite find my way. my teachers, time after blessed time, have been those two sweet boys whose lives unfurl right before my eyes. and, nearly as certainly, the flanks of wise-souled motherers all around me.
more often than not, in hours glorious or sorrowful, when i shook with loneliness or wrapped myself in joy, i turned to the one sure thing i knew might steady me, or at least get me through till daybreak: motherprayer. those murmurations of the heart and soul that sometimes find no words. sometimes spill in time with tears. or even rise in holy hallelujah (so sweet and rare those moments are).
because part of the birthing of a book means you must practice being brave, stepping out into winds that might blow cold, blow harsh, i’m going to take a baby step here, and share with you the press release written by my beloved comrade kelly hughes, the publicist for slowing time, and now for motherprayer.
her words made me cry (i wasn’t the only one, i’m told). which is a holy anointing, indeed. here, for your eyes, before anyone beyond the publisher gets a peek, the official press release for the one book i most deeply wanted to birth.
(you can tell i didn’t write it, because kelly types with caps, something i seem so disinclined to do….)
Journalist recounts her “crash course in loving” in new book Motherprayer
Writer Barbara Mahany’s ability to capture the beauty of small moments, honed as a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, captivated readers of her first book, Slowing Time. Now, she turns her attention to the sacred mysteries of mothering in Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving (Abingdon Press, $18.99 hardcover, April 4, 2017), with a hope to apply these lessons to the world beyond our own familial bubbles.
For Mahany, who has two sons, “motherprayer” captures the essence of what mothers do: a way of loving that becomes prayer beyond words. “Mothering was my crash course in love,” she says, teaching her how to “love in the way we yearn to be loved: Without end. Without question. Without giving in to exhaustion. Love with a big and boundless heart. With eyes and ears wide open. Love even when it’s not so easy.”
“No other instruction has so captivated or ignited me,” she writes. “Nor so blessed me.”
Before becoming a journalist, Mahany was a pediatric oncology nurse. “Which means I’d spent a good many years entwined with life and death. Paying attention, asking and pondering sometimes impossible questions. And being left, too often, without the faintest answer.”
“Three threads of me—mother, journalist, once and always a nurse—combined in ways I’d not anticipated,” Mahany says. As she kept watch “on the species I birthed,” she kept field notes, gathered here in the book. The arc begins with her first pregnancy and continues on to the present day, written in real time: on the eve of first grade; the first night her firstborn drove off alone in the family car; while grieving a daughter lost to miscarriage; after a crushing baseball loss that broke a second-grader’s heart. These and other moments are extracted from motherhood “to ask the toughest questions, lay bare essential truths, and seize whatever shards of illumination I might have stumbled upon,” such as:
• “The Most Interesting Things Moms Just Know”: a reflection on mothering as “paying pure attention,” spurred by a question from her youngest son. Kids apparently have no clue that moms “live and breathe to map out his landscape; that as he shovels pasta tubes into his mouth, we are studying his sweet face; no clue that we’re listening intently.”
• Mothering Day: Mahany suggests this as a replacement for Mother’s Day, to honor all who practice mothering: “tender caring, coaxing life, leaving mercy in your wake, the art that knows no gender bounds, that the world needs in mighty thronging masses.”
• Teaching Tenderness: on taking her son out on a worm rescue mission, moving those stranded on the sidewalk after a rain. She instructs her sons in “a curriculum of tenderness toward all things living and even those that aren’t.” Mahany’s boys know their mom to be “on a mission from God, perhaps, to let no winged or multi-limbed thing suffer crushing fate or die in a wad of toilet paper.”
• “The Egg that Wouldn’t Take No for an Answer”: Reflections on a most welcome last-chance baby, “eight pure pounds of Dream Come True, Prayer Answered, birthed against all odds, as I barreled toward 45.”
• Food offerings for heart and soul: “Serving up what amounts to depths of heart, to say in mashed potatoes and Irish butter: I love you dearly, and I’m so sorry I’ve been distracted. The hours of stirring, of simmering, of thinking something through, not whipping it off in the last ten minutes before the hunger sirens screech, doesn’t it all find its way deep down in the deliciousness?”
Mahany is Christian and her husband is Jewish, so her family encounters God in the rituals and idioms of two faith traditions. She writes about this weaving together of traditions in the faith life of her family. Since motherprayer can at times be expressed through food, readers will find recipes “From the Cookery Files” throughout the book, such as “Birthday Mac and Cheese (Or for Any Day When Comfort Is All You Need),” “Height-of-Summer Peach Shortcake,” and “Welcome-Home Brisket.”
“Mothering a child is the most sacred calling of my life,” Mahany writes. “It begs all I am and all I’ve got, and then some. Without prayer—the inside line to angels, saints, and Holy God—I’d not have made it, not even close, to labor and delivery. Nor a single day thereafter.”
let me know what you think.
p.s. you have no idea how much courage it takes to hit the publish button here this morning….
Beautiful! No need for courage – I cannot wait to read your new book and hope to be at one of the bookstores when you read aloud from it!
dear darling, i ALWAYS need courage! and i find it by thinking deep about people i love and promises i’ve made to live as if there’s no tomorrow……(even when it makes me quake…..)
hope to see you in a chicago bookstore!
Love you BAM.
oh, sweet angel, finding you here is as if the clouds opened and down boomed a voice i love. love you back, sweet heart!
As to this wonderful announcement of yours today, I’m not sure whether I’m happiest for you or for me! I cannot wait to hold this treasure, your magnum opus, in my hands and absorb its beauty… xoxo
sweet angel…….my dream is that there might be a road trip to your corner of the land of lincoln, perhaps to bishops hill, perhaps there’s a little book nook you love. and my co-pilot, our beloved nan, will be in charge of the map while i steer the wheel. a reading along the mighty mississippi, non? i’m dreaming……..
I’m in! Let’s go!
Can’t wait for this new “baby” to enter the world! And we need to chat….
P.S. Admire your vulnerability greatly.
i pray that my vulnerability is wrapped in protective layers of love from all those who keep me from wobbling……
email to come. xoxoxo
Oh Bam, opening this email felt like unwrapping a surprise present! Your “pregnant” wording of this post was so apt.
But I am replying especially to amplify the previous commenters words which expressed my own thoughts so well. I thank you always for continuing to spread love (no, I need to change that verb to e-m-i-t love) into and unto our universe.
I raise a glass of today’s wondrous sunshine to toast you. Aah…
bless your heart, sweet laura. i love the toast of sunshine, and i’ll gulp it right down. thank you for your emphatic kindness, and making this just a little bit less scary. xoxoxoxo
Can’t wait for the “hardcover” edition! Love your comforting words ❤️️
Ohhhh, my heart skips finding you here, sweet Hafe! Xoxo
I’m so very proud of you! I adore the concept of Mothering Day and second the notion that it be officially changed. Can’t wait to swaddle your book and give it to all the new mothers I know too.
Of course you are all about the -ing! Thinking of you all week, sweetie. Squeezing your hand. Xox bless you much!
I have pre-ordered this. I am ready for the soul searching, heart full of love book.
Andrea Lavin Solow Sent from my iPad
What oh what would I do without this chorus of whole-hearted souls?!? I adore you. Xox
I. CAN’T. W A I T !!!!! Hope to buy a couple dozen copies at some fun book reading night like the first one. (Yes, will bring the tissues.) Get your Sharpie ready! xoxoxoxoxoxo
i will never forget that night. or all the other nights when i leaned on you to unwobble my knees. and to keep my heart from pounding through my chest……xoxox
Wonderful, bam! I am so excited to read and to buy for a few new moms. Would love to attend a book reading. You are high on my amazing women list ! xoxoxo
bless your heart, beautiful elaine. it would be SO marvelous to look into your beaming smiling eyes! gives me courage just thinking about it…..xoxo
Mesmerizing. Awaiting April 4th
just looked up the date: it’s the birth date of maya angelou. and the anniversary of MLK, Jr.’s assassination.
sobering. but a good day to try again to spread hope in the name of love.
It was more than a pleasure — it was an essential in my life — to go through mothering together starting not in Spring of 1993, but nine months earlier, when we each found out we were pregnant again.
I can’t wait to revisit mothering with you, this time with the benefit of your years of reflection and your mighty power with words, when Motherprayer hits the stands. Huge congratulations on this massive feat, both of talent and courage. It has been as much an honor to have been on the sidelines for these book births as it was for the boy births.
Breathe, my friend. A Bradley Method for book labor might be handy now.
wow. i’m guessing that might be a fairly intriguing vantage point. so much of what’s written is from the silent spaces in between the events. so it will be as if you’ve seen the movie but now you are hearing a new soundtrack. although we spent our years more often than not parsing over the ripple effects as much as the pebble that stirred it all.
i know that as i was writing i was OFTEN picturing a phone call to you, or a hearing again a phone call with you, in which you were there to steady me.
the book is dedicated “to every blessed mother and motherfriend who has put flight to my every hope and dream and whispered prayer.” and you know you are emphatically and forever my motherfriend, a truly rare bond and one without which i cannot imagine.
for every steadiness, for every insight, for every laugh-out-loud hilarity, thank you and thank you and thank you……xoxoxoxo
bring on the bradley indeed!
So often in Julia’s first years I thought that more than pediatricians and baby books, it was other mothers who carried me.
Looking forward to the new soundtrack. Slowing Time was my holiday gift to people in 2014. Motherprayer will be for Mothering Day, 2017.
Waiting with baited breathe for this release. Please keep me informed with any book signings!!! XOXO , Jeanine Ruffolo
bless your heart!!!! soon as we know, we will make sure you do too! i would love to come back to the place where we began last time around. that was unforgettable. and those are among the biggest hearted souls on the planet!
Love the preview. Awaiting the arrival. So much joy in words and thoughts.
Bless your heart, dear Tom!!!
[…] Source: moving toward labor & delivery: the birth of a book […]
Congratulations, Barbara!! ” i’ve been taking notes, scribbling down the lessons learned, recounting the hours when i’d run out of answers, couldn’t quite find my way.” Love this wisdom! and I love the press release!!!
thank you, dear lou. the release melted my heart because kelly found all the ideas that matter so much to me…..she’s a treasure….
Maybe I could hire her!! I don’t like marketing my book, one single bit. I’d rather be my introverted self, and write!! 🙂
Barbara, I think you’ll appreciate this site in praise of poets!! I had to post it to FB this week – it so affirmed my love of writing poetry!! http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/pay-attention-poet
First time reading ur blog. When ur bulging box containing MOTHERPRAYER arrives, gingerly carry it to the arrival room. Ur readers gathered around 4 the grand opening. Be careful my dears cuz one of those teeny blue eggs mite tweet open to let u know im here! Felicia sue kaplan, chicago
bless your heart! the big box DID arrive, and i pulled my back out lifting it from the stoop. i need to unveil it soon as i can get myself a pair of safety scissors!!!!! welcome to the chair, by the way!
I am currently reading your book & I absolutely love it.
dear rachel, bless your heart!!! you have no idea what a shimmering marvel it is to find a note like this, “left on the table.” my heart skips a beat every time. i consider it a truly blessed blessing when somehow someone finds my little slip of a book, opens it, and feels deeply welcomed. that’s what i wanted from those pages, that they would draw in the hearts of readers and whisper, “kindred spirit….”
Yes I was very happy to see your book at the library..it speaks to my mama’s heart as I am wading into this new and uncertain season that is preschool.
oh, i do recall that uncertain season….i wish for you and your little one a hundred thousand blessings. may the days there be filled with gentleness, the joy of discovery, and may the partings be without heartache (on all hearts involved)!
Thank-you! 🙂 I hope so too.