The novel I’ve written is about a student midwife called Chloe hitting rock bottom, even though she loves her training (sound familiar, anyone?).
Something unexpected happens with Chloe’s Dad soon after she gets her place as a student midwife and the challenges that come with those circumstances are immense.
The novel also features termination of pregnancy. There have been times during writing this book that I’ve been in turmoil. I thought I was straightforwardly for women’s choice, no grey areas, and I still am, but the issues that Chloe has to look at in detail made it impossible for me to gloss over any of the implications or emotions. It made me question things that shook me.
New Walk is about birth, addiction and female autonomy. It’s about how midwifery can put coming of age on fast forward and can be a pathway to life lessons. It’s about how hard midwifery is, the bullying, and the privilege of being there for women as their life as a mother is forming. It’s about the friendships you make as a midwife. It’s about how the harder aspects of midwifery are inseparable from the love pouring out of the profession.
I have a very simple question for you. Your answer will help me get this book to you as soon as I can.
But first I thought you might enjoy an extract from Chapter One.
'Chapter One: Family Dinner
I have my UCAS statements to finish, I want all the applications sent by Christmas. I’m applying up North mostly. The midwifery course in Liverpool is supposed to be amazing and the city looks really cool. Of course, it’ll be a wrench to leave but maybe I can do long distance with Christopher.
Helga comes and sits on my bed and stares at me.
'Don’t look at me like that. Dad can feed you. I’ll take you to Nanna’s if he can’t.' She seems okay with that and starts purring and I start writing.
I’m in my flow on holistic care and my experience supporting midwives at the antenatal class when I hear the door slam. By the force of the noise, I know it’s Ali. I brace myself for distraction and she bounds up the stairs and hugs me from behind, kissing the top of my head.
She smells like cold air and musky community centre and plasticy body spray over the top.
'Hey,' I say, 'God, you’re freezing. Are you wet through?'
'We’ve been having a snowball fight, it was great!' she roots through my drawer and pulls out my pyjamas and strips naked, her bouncing white boobs reflecting in the mirror. She throws her wet clothes on the carpet and I pick them up and put them in my washing basket, but she ignores me.
'Have you been shut up here all day?'
'No. I had a shift.'
She flops onto the bed, grabbing Helga who mewls a bit, as she was sleeping. She knows by now there’s no use fighting my big sister.
'How was your class?'
'Great, totally amazing. It’s all about the music choice. Y’know Madonna’s into electronica now, that album is basically the reason why we have a waiting list for that class! Proper little money spinner.'
'On the millennium we’re going to do a strip tease and then head to the Lizard Lounge. You should come, I’ll get you in for free.'
'I only ever understand about ten percent of what you say. What’s going on? You and your class are all going to get naked and dance together for the millennium?'
'Oh God no, that’d be gross. All those old Mums grinding away on the pole... more like your job...did I mention we had a pole? They bring PJs to take off but they have hot pants and stuff on underneath.'
'Mmm, ok, tempting. I’ll think about it. Dad said this class you taught tonight was last minute or something?'
'Yeah, kind of,' she says, looking in the mirror, not meeting my eye.
'Are you going to be around for Christmas?'
'Maybe. Not sure yet.'
She’s all curly red hair and curves and she’s enjoying herself.
Then I look at her properly. She has pupils like saucers.
'Ali. Is that not illegal?'
'I’m not stupid.'
'Oh God, Clo, no-one cares as long as we turn up and teach a good class. This is just left over from last night anyway. Got a freebie.'
'Who’s this guy?'
'You don’t know him. He’s a terrific shag though. I mean when he’s not on e...'
'I hope you’re being safe.'
I regret saying this as soon as the words are out of my mouth. Ali’s like a freight train when she’s taken ecstasy, she’ll do and say anything, faster than you can keep up with, it’s not a time to argue. Helga’s purring is getting louder as Ali is fussing her more.
'You’re so serious, aren’t you. Have a bit of fun Chloe. Speaking of which, how’s Christopher? He’s a patient man, isn’t he?'
I turn back and start writing again, hoping she’ll get the idea.
'What are you doing, homework? Oh. Nice. Uni admissions. Off to be a midwife?'
There are reasons why that question stings. Growing up I thought an older sister might be a helpful thing, that I’d always have someone to turn to, apart from Mum. Then I realised that each time I did talk to her I’d come away confused and hating myself. I don’t know how she does it. She looks over my shoulder.
'Who’s going to look after Dad?'
'Can we not talk about this now? Please?'
She shakes her head.
'I’m just asking. I’m not saying it should be you. We should just talk about this stuff.'
I lose it, a snapping, snarling corkscrew of anger escapes.
'I always want to talk about this stuff. But I hate working this hard and planning dinner around you two and trying to make sure it happens and keep us together. Neither of you cares. So yes, I am thinking about moving away. I’m the only one putting any effort in.'
She looks at me with her wide black pupils.
'Jesus. Get off your high horse.'
Then she dumps Helga on the bed and slams my door.
I breathe and look out at the evening. There are tiny crystals of ice floating in the spectrum of the streetlights, dancing, pushed by the wind.
I hear her downstairs saying, 'Dad, splash round your ciggies.'
I copy out the last few lines of my statement. I have one last choice of Uni to make. It’s between Plymouth and here. From Plymouth you can travel, it has ferries, my time off could be filled with France, Italy, Spain or even further. I’d moonlight as a Health Care Assistant for a year if it meant I could go to Africa.
I can hear Dad downstairs banging on about how Egyptians smoked weed, definitely and they started civilisation.
I sigh. It’s not like Leicester Uni is bad. Mum trained here.'
I hope you enjoyed it, please do let me know. Writing it has been the most amazing experience of my life to date.
My simple question is:
Would you prefer to read this book in kindle form or as a paperback? Comment below!
Huge thanks to the exceptionally talented birth artist Amanda Greavette for letting me use this gorgeous piece of art for this post. This could well be Chloe in the picture catching the baby! I hope to work with Amanda for the book cover...