Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest Kelly K. Damron author of Tiny Toes: A Couple's Journey Through Infertility, Prematurity, and Depression.
Good day Kelly and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you decide you were ready to write Tiny Toes and please briefly tell us about the book?
Norm, this is kind of a funny story. In one of my networking groups there were a few authors in the mix. After they heard the story about my infertility journey they encouraged me to write a book. One of the main reasons why they thought my story was so compelling is because of how much I grew from the experience. My marriage survived the infertility, barely, and then we contemplated divorce again shortly after our twins were born. It was this amazing process of moving past all of the bad stuff that had happened to create what is now a happy marriage and a happy family that my friends encouraged me to share. I truly didn't consider myself a writer and didn't know that I was any good at it until I started writing Tiny Toes.
Tiny Toes is a story of one couple's journey from infertility to parenthood. The book jumps right in when we found out we were diagnosed with male factor infertility. I was very open about how this diagnosis strained my marriage and how relationships with friends and family members suffered too. I describe the in vitro fertilization procedure using both medical terminology as well as my feelings through-out the process in hopes that other women will feel validated by their fears, confusion, and stress as they navigate fertility treatments. My pregnancy complications and the subsequent premature birth of my twin daughters follows the same informational format within the personal story. My husband contributed a chapter too so that other men could relate to how they feel during this time in their lives. The book is full of dos and don'ts to help other couples manage their journey better than we did.
Before you wrote your book did you read any special books on how to write? As a follow up, did you work from an outline?
Before I started to write my book I read a few books on the topic of infertility to see what was out there and how my story would be different. I actually didn't read any books on how to write until I had started doing so. Again, as I mentioned earlier I never intended to become an author. However, I did attend a few writing workshops and learned some tips that helped me along the way. And, yes, I created an outline from which I used to generate the chapters. This was my guide for what to write about, even though I do so totally out of order. My favourite tip was to write freehand, not on the computer. I purchased a huge 11x14 tablet and wrote almost the entire book using that tablet and a trusty pen or two. Once I finished, I read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King and Writing Creative Nonfiction edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard. Even though the Self-Editing book is meant for fiction writers, I gained a lot of good ideas from the information they provided. Things like dialogue mechanics and breaking up topics/paragraphs were simple techniques that I applied to my book during the editing process.
What do you want your book to do?
I want my book to raise awareness and dollars for charity. I have a promotional partnership with the March of Dimes where I donate a portion of the proceeds from each book I sell to this great organization. As far as awareness goes, I see my book helping the friends and relatives of the couples struggling with infertility or who have just had a premature baby. Sometimes the friends and family members don't know much about the topic and offer advice when what they really should do is provide a shoulder to cry on. The stress from family members can really hurt the relationship of the couple who is already struggling with these personal matters. In addition, I want my book to help the millions of couples who are in the midst of infertility. By reading my book I think they'll learn a lot about the process, but also I want them to consider how they are handling the situation and determine what changes they can make or how they can communicate more effectively with their spouse, friends, relatives, and doctors.
What was the most difficult thing for you about being a writer and in particular writing Tiny Toes?
Truthfully, the most difficult thing about being a writer is promotion. Sometimes I don't tell people about my book, website or blog because I think it will seem like I'm all about me. I don't always feel comfortable with shameless self-promotion. The most difficult aspect of Tiny Toes was breaking it to the in-laws. Before I went to print I made my husband read the book to make sure he was okay with our story, since he's obviously a big part of it, and how I portrayed our in-law issues. The in-laws were a big part of conflict for my husband and me so I decided they needed to be in the story. To leave them out would have left the reader wondering if something was missing. Many couples have strained relationships with their in-laws, for whatever reasons, and sometimes everyone is oblivious how these relationships impact each other, especially in times of crisis. This aspect alone is why my book is great for relatives of the infertile couple.
In your book you talk about postpartum depression. Could you explain what this is, what are the symptoms and how did you overcome it?
Postpartum depression is an interesting disorder. Often times we use expressions to describe how we feel, such as sad, angry, grumpy, tired, but rarely do we say, "I'm depressed," or "I'm feeling down, I wonder if I have the Baby Blues." Being a new mom is exhausting with the continuous feedings and lack of sleep. There are many symptoms of postpartum depression and sometimes women have it without realizing it because some of the symptoms are common to the realities of having a new baby. For example, lacking energy, hard time falling or staying asleep, sleeping more than usual (which is a sign of depression in general), increased tearfulness can be caused by just being tired. It's the feeling that you want to hurt yourself or your baby that most people equate to postpartum depression. Not all women who have postpartum depression will feel like they want to hurt themselves or their baby.
Everyone would tell me to take a nap and I would get so irritated. I was tired, but I was also depressed and no one noticed or said anything until I did. I noticed that I wasn’t happy, but I was unwilling to do anything about it for the first few months of my daughters' lives. I was so thankful that I finally had children. I took every opportunity to hold and bond with my daughters. It wasn't my daughters that I wanted to hurt; it was the adults in my life - just kidding. Truly, I was having a hard time getting along with many people in my life. My husband would say, "I wish you would stop yelling at me," or "I wish you would be nice again." I tried some herbal remedies, but they must not have been strong enough as I didn't notice any improvement with them. At this point I still had not admitted to myself that I was depressed.
One day it was like I was seeing myself from the outside and realized there was something wrong with me. I was this horrible person that I didn't like and I wanted her to go away. I admitted to my therapist that I thought I was depressed and she agreed (she had already told me so, just not in those words). Although it is not for everyone, I opted to try anti-depressants. This was a tough decision because I was still nursing my twins and didn't plan on weaning them. The doctor worked with me and prescribed a safe breastfeeding medication at a low dose. Within 24 hours I was a new person. It was really a matter of mindset. I decided that I was tired of being angry and I wanted to be happy again so it was so. But I had to really watch myself as I could easily slip back to that mean person my husband had become afraid of. Awareness can do amazing things and it was the key for me as I conquered this depression.
Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found sources for your book?
Most of the time I knew exactly what I was looking for or at least had some ideas where to find it. For example, I wanted to get the latest infertility statistics and I knew that Reproductive Endocrinologists report this information. I visited a few of their websites and found something called the Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates report. This report has everything you've ever wanted to know about infertility treatments such as birth outcomes, age groups, race, etc. A lot of information I use in the book is from the March of Dimes, the Center for Disease Control, or medically based websites. I mainly looked for articles, especially about postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder, to lead me to medical websites.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
This is a great question. While writing Tiny Toes I was slowly letting go of all the anger that had consumed me (at this time I was also weaning myself off of the anti-depressants). I had no idea that putting words on paper would be so healing. After I had finished writing Tiny Toes I was in awe at all that had happened in my life in such a short period of time. And I decided to put the past where it belonged and move forward. Since then, have I acknowledged that my past plays a part in who I am, but it does not determine who I will become. Writing is a true therapy, one I didn't fully understand or utilize before.
Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections? Did you self-publish?
Norm, I went straight to self-publishing based on the recommendation of a former Time Warner executive. I've heard through the grapevine that infertility books are often a hard sell to agents and publishers because the market isn't big enough. It's hard to believe that a market of 7.3 million people is small. Self publishing can be expensive and is not for the faint of heart because it takes a lot of work. Sometimes I wish I would have tried to find representation because I think that would have given me more insights about the industry and the potential for my book. My book doesn't read like a self-published book, though. It received a 5-Star rating from the Midwest Book Review and was a Finalist in the Arizona Book Publishing Associations 2008 Glyph Awards.
What is next for Kelly Damron?
Well, I have a few passions. One is reaching out to women and helping them during infertility or the premature birth of their baby. My second passion is teaching and my third is business consulting. I've created a way to bring those three passions together. I hope to be touring the United States within the next 12 months teaching hospitals how to create provider and patient relationships that work. My husband and I firmly believe that the relationships we created with our daughters' doctors and nurses is the main reason why our daughter Kaley is alive today. We worked as a team while our twins where in the NICU. I believe collaboration is something that can be taught and applied with the right tools. I have workshops designed for hospitals, especially Antepartum units and Neonatal Intensive Care Units. The frameworks that I present can be easily incorporated into the daily routines of the medical staff.
How can our readers find out more about you and your book Tiny Toes?
They can visit my website at www.twinpeas.com to learn more about me and my book. I also have a blog at www.twinpeas.com/wordpress where I combine information with my personal story - a similar format to my book, I guess. My book is available at Amazon.com and BN.com too.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
Real quick. Infertility is a disease that is often misunderstood. It can be challenging for people to show compassion to a person who is unable to have a child because they consider the decision to have a baby a life-style choice. Infertility is, in fact, a disease of the reproductive system. Studies have compared the despair of an infertile woman to one diagnosed with cancer. Although that may seem silly and unrealistic to some, infertile women often say that even though their infertility won't kill them, the often feel like they've died inside.
Norm, thank you so much for your time.
Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.
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