When my son was born fourteen years ago, I loved being a stay at home mom. Truly I did. And yet at the same time, something inside of me felt restless, like my creativity was slowly drying up. I figured out how to nurse with one hand and hold a book in the other and, consequently, read a lot of novels the first year of my baby’s life.
In time, I also rediscovered another longstanding yet neglected love of mine: writing.
One evening I caught a news story on TV about a high school girl who gave birth in the bathroom during a school dance, hid the baby somewhere, and then went out to dance again. The birth experience still fresh in my mind, this startling story prompted a lot of what if questions—a great place to start for a writer:
What if the baby hadn’t died?
What if the baby had been adopted?
What if the birth mother—thinking that her baby was dead—unknowingly met the baby’s adoptive mother? What if the two became friends? What if the truth came out?
And bannered above all other questions was:
Is God’s grace sufficient to remove the guilt of even this sin?
* * *
Head swimming, I naively began to draft out what would become Mother of My Son. While my own baby napped, and while I could have been (should have been?) scrubbing my floors, I poured out my story, and it was so fun, so satisfying, and at the end of about six months I had a…. skeleton. The beginnings of what could be a great story.
After sending out my manuscript to garner a few rejections, I bit the bullet and went to a writer’s conference to “find out what those experts know” where I learned, as far as novel-writing goes (in spite of my English degree) I really had no idea what I was doing. So I went home, reworked scenes, fleshed out characters, asked for honest feedback, prayed for wisdom, got a few articles published, read a ton on the craft, and seriously considered quitting before I was in too deep.
* * *
Ironically, adoption wasn’t even a blink on my radar when I began writing Mother of My Son. But life can be funny. My husband and I encountered secondary infertility and ultimately flew to China to adopt the sweetest baby girl ever. Life was full and wonderful and I set my story aside and didn’t look at it for three years.
But I missed it.
I missed the discovery—what will these half-baked characters of mine do next? I missed creating. Especially now since I was bolstered with experiences to flavor my story, and clarity that only comes with time.
So in the nooks and crannies of motherhood and ministry, I rolled up my sleeves and quietly went back to work, letting our family’s adoption story flavor my work. Mother of My Son is not autobiographical but it does contain a big chunk of my heart. Some of my characters seemed far removed from me, like Amber, who leaves her newborn beside a dumpster. I had not walked in her shoes. So I got really quiet and listened, to her and to women who’d tread similar dark and desperate places. And I prayed and prayed and prayed for understanding and discovered that I was not so far removed from her as I had thought- we’ve all felt desperate at one time or another. We all have things in our past we wish we could undo.
Life carried on. My children grew. I kept writing. I studied my favorite authors. I sought feedback. I quit. A week later I unquit.
And as I plodded on, I realized a hard truth: getting my book published was my goal, not a promise from God. I didn’t want to be consumed with this crazy pipe-dream and get stuck in the what ifs and if only. I didn’t want to miss out on moments of my life while I was pining away for something that might never be. Was I “only” supposed to write for my church, my community, and magazines? And if so, would that be enough?
I did not arrive there easily but yes; it would be enough. If that were what God had for my writing and no more, it would be enough. I pressed in harder to the Author of all grace and unclenched my fist. I learned how to hold the dream loosely and move forward.
And then one day, twelve years after starting, after what felt like a hailstorm of no’s, I got a sweet yes. Yes, Pelican Book Group would like to publish my novel.
It’s delightful to have a long time goal realized, to hold my book in my hands, to hear readers say they, too, love my imaginary friends but all things—even good things this side of heaven—come with a flip side. Even happy endings include complications and frustrations and disappointments. This is life on earth after all and the stuff of this life cannot fill us up. God, The Creator who’s created us to create, is our sole soul satisfier.
Dreams clutched too tightly die and beautiful hands are open hands, open to the surprises in store for us, and to receive and pour out grace upon grace.
Rachel Allord grew up as a pastor’s kid, vowed never to marry a pastor, and has been contentedly married to her husband, a worship pastor, for eighteen years. She holds a B.A. in English education and is privileged to be both a biological and adoptive mother. Her stories and articles have appeared in MomSense, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and various other publications. Mother of My Son, her debut novel, released in May 2013 through Pelican Book Group. She resides in Wisconsin where she avidly consumes coffee, sushi, and novels– preferably at the same time. Connect with her at rachelallord.com.
Here’s a synopsis of Rachel’s novel
Mother of My Son: College student Amber Swansen gives birth alone. In desperation, she abandons the newborn, buries her secret, and attempts to get on with her life. No matter how far she runs, she can’t escape the guilt. Years later and still haunted by her past, Amber meets Beth Dilinger. Friendship blossoms between the two women, but Beth’s son is a constant, painful reminder to Amber of the child she abandoned. When heartache hits, causing Amber to grapple with the answers to life’s deeper questions, Beth stands by her side. Yet just when peace seems to be within Amber’s grasp, the truth of her past and the parentage of Beth’s son comes to light and threatens to shatter not only their worlds, but the life of the teenager they both love.