I am thrilled to introduce Jodie Miller to you today. I worked with Jodie on her memoir at the start of 2019 and I was thrilled to hear it’s being published after she worked hard to turn it into the story we both knew it could be.
What Does it Feel Like Being Born: A memoir of maternity activism, is a very personal and sometimes raw retelling of how Jodie became involved in the movement and the influence of her own birthing experiences. It will be out in the world on 20th November 2020. But I will let Jodie tell you about her story in her own words.
Over to you, Jodie.
Wind back the clock to the new millennium. I was having babies and caring for small children.
My husband worked FIFO, which is hectic enough, but I also ran a community group attached to the birth centre at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, where my babies were born.
With a group of thoughtful, committed citizens, I fell into advocacy and activism. We staged demonstrations with baby clothes on clothes lines, we infiltrated a Labour Women’s dinner wearing Suffragette costumes, and we protested in an inflatable pool outside Queensland Health. Our momentum obtained birth centres for regional hospitals, and eventually, gave Medicare to midwives. I knew that an incredible story was unfolding before us, but who would write it? For years it gnawed at me, until I committed to writing it myself.
If my messy manuscript was a story quilt, there’d be several patches dedicated to NaNoWriMo: unselfconscious, with incomplete ideas, and occasional moments of insight. The self-taught patches, a good number of those, I can attribute to Patti Miller’s Writing Your Life. There’d be a mess more patches adapted from my old parenting blog. But the majority of the quilt is dedicated to my writing group. We met through the Queensland Writers’ Centre in 2008 and are now life-long friends. I stitched my quilt together using old emails, journal scribblings and the subjective, cobwebby stuff of memory. But the story wasn’t working. I felt blocked.
Early in 2019, I presented my unfinished quilt to Leisl. She recommended a structural edit for a very reasonable fee. She shared her own motherhood story, opposite to mine. It was a welcome perspective. We were a good fit.
Leisl’s feedback was encouraging and kind. She urged me to dive deep and flesh out the key scenes. She identified every passage I knew didn’t work. I did the hardest thing a novice writer can do – kill my darlings – including a whole chapter that didn’t belong.
The whole became clear. The narrative began to flow. Slowly and sensitively, I finished my quilt.
I’m impatient by nature. I followed the protocol: submitted to agents and traditional publishers and entered a handful of prizes. I received lovely feedback, but the great pandemic of 2020 pushed the finish line impossibly out of reach. My book has a niche readership, and the topic is timely this year, so I published with Shawline Publishing in Melbourne. A hybrid publisher relieves me of having to promote the book wholly myself, so I can continue to operate my family business.
This memoir has been ten years in the making and everything in it is true. Without Leisl’s pro-tips and advice, my writer’s block could well have won. But now I can share my story with the world.
Thanks Jodie. It’s wonderful to see your memoir go out into the world and I really appreciate the shout-out. It was a true pleasure to work with you on your incredible story.
What Does It Feel Like Being Born? A memoir of maternity activism, by Jodie Miller
It’s 1999 and Jodie doesn’t want children. When her husband threatens, baby or bust, she resists. But 30 is approaching and her eggs aren’t getting younger.
By chance, Jodie gets access to the only public Birth Centre in South East Queensland, one of two in the entire state. She is profoundly changed by her baby’s beautiful birth and becomes an advocate at the hospital while a larger, national campaign for birth reform is growing.
Having babies herself and supporting others in birth, Jodie uncovers the secret women’s business that conservative obstetricians deny and resist.
In Australia, one-third of all births are caesarean and one in ten women experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If reproduction is a feminist issue, welcome to the forgotten women’s movement.
Midwives weren’t able to force change alone. Jodie’s devotion and dedication are commendable. The midwifery world needs more like her – Beth McRae, author of ‘Outback Midwife’.
Brisbane can catch Jodie at the Independent Australian Authors Symposium:
When: November 14, 2020
Where: Victoria Park Golf Club, 309 Herston Rd, Herston.
Book Online – https://www.shawlinepublishing.com.au/iaa-symposium