HYPEREMESIS GRAVIDARUM: A LETTER TO MIDWIVES [AND DOCTORS. AND CAREGIVERS.]

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Hola possums,

I was asked to write an article for Australian Midwifery News journal on hyperemesis gravidarum.

It’s a letter for midwives (and doctors and caregivers) to help them understand what HG is like for the person who is inside it.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from this article, please do share it along.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for caring.

*

Dearest Midwives,

Next time you see a woman shuffling into the ward, grey shading her face, shaking because she hasn’t drunk water or eaten in days, the look of abject horror in her eyes, all life sucked from her system from relentless, intractable vomiting… may I please ask a favour?

Please know that this woman is suffering. Profoundly. Horrifically. More than any human ever should. She is in the midst of the darkest days of her life, a relentless midnight. She is not herself. She has been subsumed by the hell of her illness. Her life has been taken from her, and all that is left is the constant, chronic, debilitating nausea that she can barely breath beneath. She can barely manage to drink the water and eat the food necessary for her body to not shut down, and even then, she is often not able to accomplish even that.

Not only that, but she is a part of an ecosystem that is now under profound stress. Her income is gone. The cost of Zofran when you don’t have cancer is astronomical. If she already has children, they no longer have a mother. Their mother is writhing, rocking on the bed, praying to every deity under the sun: Please. Please make it stop. I can no longer cope. Another mother must be found – extended family or paid carers. No one able to cover the immense, gaping hole where she was. Her partner is no longer a partner, he is a caregiver. He watches his wife recede into the bedsheets, unable to accomplish even the smallest of daily tasks. They argue. He doesn’t understand. When he does, he feels helpless. His life too, is gone. No cooking in the house. Nothing more to incite the vomiting. She is one vomit away from another trip to emergency to get some water needled through her. Their family life revolves around: bed, the chemist, the emergency ward.

How does this family survive the profound financial, emotional, physical and logistical nightmare that is HG?

I do not know. I have been that shell of a woman – twice – once for five weeks, the second for nine months – and I still do not know fully.

But I do know that you are important. You are critical. You very well can make the difference between whether she becomes one of the estimated 15% of women suffering hyperemesis gravidarum who opt for a therapeutical termination. Please know that almost all of us are considering it. Not because we don’t want our babies – indeed, we deeply do. But we do not know how on earth we can survive the personal hell that HG is.

The support I received – from my husband, midwife, acupuncturist, doctor, chemist – was critical. Without them, I assure you, there would be just the idea, the memory, the grief, the loss of a baby, instead of the strawberry-blonde imp of an 18 month old who is gallivanting around the house with her older sister as I type this.

Support in all forms is required – medical support. Hospital stay support. Childcare support. Most of all, emotional support. I can’t tell you enough just how much compassion, empathy and understanding from people saved me, and saved my baby. Very clearly in my mind, I can recall the difference in care I got from medical professionals. The nurse who casually asked if I’d tried eating ginger as I lay grey, hooked to an IV drip in emergency. The doctor who dismissively asked me if I’d diagnosed myself using the internet when I probably was just experiencing morning sickness. That made me feel like this very real and very serious illness wasn’t being treated as such.

And then there was the doctor who saw me when I needed to talk about termination. He looked at me so gently and said

“This baby is a precious blessing. I know this is hard. Let me make calls. I will get you admitted to hospital tonight to see the best registrar I can. We will get you the support you need.”

And he did. To the midwives and doctors and pharmacists and acupuncturists who all listened, and heard my pain, and took my suffering seriously.

HG is serious. Unmanaged, it can result in the death of baby and mother.

For more support + a personal look into Hyperemesis Gravidarum, I created an illustrated zine.

I offer it for any woman who has ever been through H.G.. Or who is going through it right now. Or anyone with a debilitating illness. Or any woman who wants to understand.

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Depression is a secondary complication of HG. I don’t know how you can experience HG and not feel deeply and doubtlessly into depression. Profound, unrelenting and devastating. Medication is needed. Counselling too. And counselling is the hardest to get to – being bedridden and barely able to speak. Our life is gone, subsumed as we toil at staying alive so we can bring another life into the world.

Can I please put forth a HG Do’s + Don’t List (A Mother’s Perspective):

  • Please DON’T ever utter “morning sickness” to us. “Hey! You have cancer! That’s basically the same as a common cold, right?”
  • Things that don’t cure or in anyway assist with HG: ginger or dry biscuits. “Hey! You have cancer! Have you tried Vitamin C + Echinacea?”
  • Please don’t belittle this illness. Don’t make it smaller than what it is. It is serious, and it is horrific to experience.
  • You can make a very real difference in whether we have a termination or not.

18 months on, my body is still recovering and healing from HG. My teeth will never be the same, my body is still rebuilding itself after nine long, horrific months of malnutrition and muscle waste. It is a trauma to the body and to the soul. Emotionally, I am still learning how to trust a world that would allow HG to happen. Six months ago, I gave myself the gift of knowing I would never, ever experience HG again: a tubal ligation.

Next time you see my HG sisters shuffling into your ward, please remember you are glimpsing a woman in the darkest days of her life. She needs your concern and she needs your support and she needs your empathy in order to make it through, out to the other side, with babe in arms.

All my love,

P.S. More HG reading:

YOU MAY ALSO LOVE…

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HYPEREMESIS GRAVIDARUM: THE ILLUSTRATED ZINE

Cover Image HG Zine

Can’t wait to download?
Click to download “Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Illustrated Zine” here.

Dearests,

A couple of weeks ago, while I was sequestered away in the turquoise cabin by the sea, I had a feeling that something was trying to push its way forth into the world. And it was stuck. How did I know it was stuck?

I was grumpy as all get out. Kvetchy and itchy, feelers out like an octopus, groping and seeking.

I wasn’t at home with myself.

I talked to a friend about it.

I feel a bit like the Velveteen Rabbit,

I said.

Am I real?

They were kind and they listened and they reassured me that I was a Skin Horse.

And then they said:

“You still seem a bit traumatised about your pregnancy with Beth? Can you write about it?”

“No, the words won’t come.”

“Draw it out?”

“Ugh. I could try.”

(Obviously, I was resistant as fuck.)

But I thought:

What harm could there be?

Anything better than feeling like this.

Better than feeling adrift at sea, my boat untethered from the port of my soul.

So I took a black pen, and started. It all begins with a dot, then a line.

And the dripping tap of words became a gushing tsunami

and I wrote and I drew and I wrote and I drew

late at night on the couch by my love
in the bright light afternoons at the cabin by the sea

and I wrote and I drew and I cried

and then I bought an old typewriter

and typed and typed and cried and typed

until all the words were out,
all the stories told,
all the loud roar
was quiet inside me
and my boat
drifted slowly home
into port.

This is the story of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. The story of a pregnancy lived with a debilitating illness. The story of vomit.

It’s not an inspirational story, I don’t think.

I didn’t want to make it one.

I wanted it to be roar. Raw. Angry. Vulnerable. Painful.

Affirmation-less.

I just wanted it to be my story. My story written and told. Wrested down on paper.

I offer it for any woman who has ever been through H.G.. Or who is going through it right now. Or anyone with a debilitating illness. Or any woman who wants to understand.

I just offer it.

Click to download
HYPEREMESIS GRAVIDARUM: THE ILLUSTRATED ZINE

With all my self,

On Doing Pregnancy Differently, Hyperemesis, Suffering + Soul Care

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Hola lovely bugs,

I wanted to give you an update on my pregnancy journey and how I’m travelling this time around.

So many of you have been with me on the journey last time I did it, and I gotta say it’s actually really helpful to me that I wrote + video blogged it all down. So helpful to revisit and see where things are the same and different for me this time!

First and foremost: I’m about 7.5 weeks pregnant now. I’m due approx March 5.

HYPEREMESIS (aka Morning Sickness From Doom)

Let’s get to the nitty gritty: this is the thing that’s most on my mind right now.

I was really, really hoping that I wouldn’t get hyperemesis this time around.

Hypermesis is like morning sickness on speed. It means chronic vomiting and 24/7 nausea.

It means your body has an allergic reaction to being pregnant.

It can mean weight loss, dehydration, hospitalisation.

It happens to between 0.5% and 2.0% but is often not diagnosed because vomiting and nausea occur in over 50% of pregnancies.

Trying to stop hyperemesis with ginger and peppermint tea is like trying to stop a tsunami with a colander.

(This is what Princess Kate had in the early stages of her pregnancy.)

Last time around for me it was 5 weeks of that kind of bullshit. But I didn’t KNOW at the time it was hyperemesis. I thought it was just morning sickness. I didn’t even go see my doctor about it because I thought it was just part of pregnancy.

And to be honest, I really doubted myself. I wondered why it seemed so much harder for me to exist compared to other pregnant women. I had a feeling I must have been a bit soft or weak. Looking back I believe hyperemesis was the catalyst for ante natal depression for me.

It’s kind of been a blessing to experience it again just to see:

Nope, fuck that, I am NOT weak. This shit is just really, really hard.

It started right on the same day as it did last time – right on 5 weeks. Last time, it ended right on 10 weeks. So I’m hoping beyond hope it follows the same (or hello! earlier! I would be totally okay with that!)

I’m very grateful that this time around:

  • I know what I’m experiencing (instead of just thinking it was par for course)
  • I know that if I lost weight I did last time, I actually should go to hospital
  • I have lots of support. I don’t have to turn up to a cubicle everyday and fall asleep under my desk and pray to the vomit gods that I don’t spew all over my desk. I’ve got my husband and parents-in-law at home.
  • I have an amazing amazing team who say “Just give it all over to us. Delegate delegate delegate. We’ll get it all done.”

How I’m doing hyperemesis differently this time around

I’ve made a commitment to myself to do pregnancy differently this time around. Last time I tried to do it all perfectly and it drove me bonkers. Last time I tried to do it all on my own in my head.

This time around, I decided to see what would help, and how I could feel more supported.

  • I decided to take very-safe-for-pregnancy anti-nausea medication prescribed by my (adorable) doctor (last time I was all “ALL WESTERN MEDICINE IS BAD AND I WILL NOT CONSIDER ANY.” This time around I was like “You know what? Tell me the options and risk factors.” And who woulda thunk it? There’s a kind of medicine that’s Category A (aka the safest stuff around). It’s a real relief to not be a freaked out hippy this time around and instead just be an open one.
  • I have fortnightly intuitive healing/therapy sessions with Hiro.

And I took a VERY big leap of self-care capacity, and decided to get daily (5 days a week) acupuncture for the duration of my morning sickness.

I started going to see if I could get some relief from it, and noticed I did.

And after noticing that, I had this whole teary awareness moment in the shower:

You know what? I’m actually going to get as much of this as I possibly can. I deserve to feel supported during this process because it sucks so much. It’s a worthwhile investment to have some relief!

I tell ya, it was really, really big for me to decide that. As I’ve shared before, I’m a slow-comer to the self-care game. As Hiro’s said to me before:

Leonie, the reason that you think any kind of self care is extreme is because you grew up in a family that never took care of themselves. You’ve got to write a new story about support.

So I did. And having that kind of daily support has made a HUGE difference.

So much so I did this ode to it on Instagram:

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So I’ve been getting it daily now for about 1.5 weeks.

Most days I get between 2-20 hours of relief from overwhelming nausea and vombombing. Which is HUGE! LIFE SAVING!

Having moments of feeling almost normal and almost functional has been a real relief. To get respite from the chronic doom makes the big difference between feeling despair and hope.

There’s been a few days when my hormone levels were so high that I didn’t get a huge relief from it – just enough to stave off chronic vomiting, but not the nausea.

Life can feel really, really hard when you are spending every moment of each day trying not to vomit, and trying to force yourself to eat because an empty stomach makes you barf more.

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Hyperemesis thoroughly sucks giant donkey balls. I really want to give major love and high fives to the women who go through it in order to bring a new soul into the world. The women who can go through it for nine months and be in and out of hospital. The women who suffer organ failure and super low blood pressure because of the vomit convulsions. The women who go in and out of hospital. The women who need to terminate their pregnancy because their body will cease to function if it continues. The women who have it for less time or more time or the same time. Hypermesis is french for: that shit’s bad.

And the women who may not have hyperemesis but who still have morning sickness. It’s just not fun at all.

And I really want to say: I’m sorry if you are suffering. My heart goes out to you. I understand, I understand, I understand. And I wish you so much gentleness and healing.

A note on acupuncture

If you have morning sickness (aka not the chronic vom boms), acupuncture CAN cure it. Like fix that shit right up within 3 sessions.

Get someone who is experienced and ask if they can fix morning sickness.

They can cure about 80% of women from it completely by fixing the hormonal imbalance.

If you’ve got the giant-suck-balls-of-hyperemesis, they can’t cure it but they CAN provide temporary relief to help you get through it.

When hyperemesis first began again with me, I noticed that I got covered in a grey cloak of depression almost instantaneously.

I went to my acupuncturist and cried and cried about how lonely and miserable I felt in hyperemesis.

She explained that women who suffer from the voms are highly likely to get it – with all the convulsions around the belly, the pericardium channel which moves along the stomach is thrown out of whack, and the pericardium channel moves up around the heart – it’s the heart’s protector and nourisher. When the pericardium channel is thrown out, the heart feels very tender, alone and sad. It made so much sense to me.

She fixed the pericardium from the first session, and that grey cloak hasn’t been back since.

There have been moments where I’ve felt despair (mostly as I chunder all over myself), but it’s bouyed with more hope and more light-heartedness. Like “ho boy, this is funny, this is going to make a good story!”

Like that time that I puked so hard in the morning that I peed myself. I thought that was quite hilarious and couldn’t wait to tell Chris/Marissa/my acupuncturist about the new level of attractiveness I exuded.

And when I do a really massive puke, I like to tell Chris “Ahhhhhhh, the miracle of new life!”

But of course there are still days when it’s really, really hard and that I don’t find funny at all. Like yesterday which was an acupuncture-free day and a festival of vomit. I ate three dinners before one managed to stay down.

Back to acupuncture again this morning, and I get a few good hours of partial-normal back before hoiking up lunch.

It’s up and down, up and down, but just knowing I can get SOME relief is making all the difference in the world.

I’m not throwing up as much this time and not recording weight loss like I did last time, and I believe that’s a combo of acupuncture/medication/intuitive healing at play.

UPDATE 3 DAYS LATER:

Hahahahahahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAHAHA HA.

Just when I thought I had it under control… nope!

It got worse (HOW! WHY!) and I ended up in hospital for a rehydration drip and stronger anti-nausea medication to help me keep food and water down. Oh what a fun journey hyperemesis is. And when I say “FUN” I mean: “This sucks giant donkey balls.”

Some other things that might possibly help with morning sickness/hyperemesis

The homeopathic remedy Cocculus (hahahahaha, I dirtily thought to myself – like really DOES cure like! That’s what got me sick so this should fix it!) may help. Morning sickness pills of ginger and Vitamin B6 might help.

I don’t really know if they’ve helped me with hyperemesis, but fuck, I’ll give anything a go at this stage of the game. PLACEBO ME UP BABY!

One thing that definitely definitely definitely makes a difference is eating protein.

Try and eat protein for breakfast. And every meal.

I’ve found it can stabilise my blood sugar levels and clear my head. I’ll get nauseous quicker after meals if I don’t have protein.

And I love my doctor to the moon and back for this – instead of the horsepill sized pregnancy multi vitamins, have the tiny i-Folic tablets instead. Last time around I hurled so many horse pills over the kitchen from gagging on them, so tiny ones are like little miracle unicorns in my mouth.

Other things I’ve noticed with pregnancy this time around:

Okay, let’s stop talking about puking for a while, yeah?

Here’s what else is happening:

My tummy has popped earlier this time.

Most preggos find this: if you’ve already had a baby, your ready made pouch inflates at the very hint of pregnancy.

It’s like all the muscles are all:

Yeah, I know this gig. POOF!

(That’s EXACTLY how muscles talk, by the way.)

Last time around I remember inspecting myself every day looking for a bump.

This time around I reckon I look at least six weeks more pregnant than I did last time around.

Cravings/smells/feeling like a human animal

Everything smells overpowering right now. I’m like a sniffer dog. Except every smell makes me want to throw up.

Like dirt. I can smell dirt, people.

And let’s not even talk about cooking food. Oh holy stinkfest, me and my ultra sensitive nose DO NOT LIKE.

The outside world feels very noisy, very loud, very smelly and very hard to be in.

Which makes perfect sense on a biological level: at this stage of pregnancy, nature kinda wants you to just chill in a cave and be hyper aware of what you’re eating.

I have that feeling again of being an animal.

So often we can ignore our body’s needs for hunger, thirst, movement, sleep.

In pregnancy, you can’t.

Your body is your dictator.

I’ve become a champion napper once again – usually I’m a shithouse napper and don’t nap at all. But with first trimester pregnancy: TRY AND STOP ME FROM SLEEPING. There’s been a number of three hour long naps. I guess baby was growing a new organ that day or something. (Yep, I’m supremely grateful that I have extra support around so I can nap while Starry plays endless rounds of skateboard tobogganing down the driveway with her grandparents.)

And again, this time around I don’t get weird cravings (ala pickles on ice cream) but I do get very specific desires of what to eat. As in: THIS IS THE ONLY THING I WANT TO EAT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE EVERYTHING ELSE IS DISGUSTING TO EVEN THINK OF.

Some I’ve had so far: gluten free pumpkin and fetta pizza, lemon squash drinks (for that sharp punch in the mouth), home made marshmallows (must be for the gelatin inside them), red capsicums, red capsicums, red capsicums, full fat milk and coconut ice cream. I’m also quite cognizant of the fact that right now, my major aim of the game is to keep ANYTHING down. ANYTHING at all. So I really don’t judge whatever I’m eating. Salads are a no go zone for my mouth during the festival of barf, and that’s okay.

How I’m feeling

I’m feeling for the most part fairly optimistic.

I have had quite a few panicked moments of:

OMG! I AM PREGNANT AGAIN! FUCK! SHIT! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? WHAT WAS I THINKING! THIS STUFF IS HARD!

I’ve had a few moments of crying in bed to Chris.

I have lots of fears and sadnesses come up for me remembering my experiences last time.

And I also know:

It doesn’t have to be the same again.

I don’t need to suffer the same again.

I also have this very firm vision in my head of Starry with her sibling, and it really warms my heart, and it’s something to move forward into.

I expect that my stuff will keep coming up over the pregnancy, birth and newborn period.

And that I have the support this time around between my acupuncturist, kinesiologist and Hiro.

And my relationship with Chris is even stronger this time around – thanks to already having been through this before and because of our transformative time healing our relationship and learning to communicate with couple’s counselling. Last time around, I think me and Chris were both very naiive and new to the game of parenting last time around – neither of us knew what to expect. He’s got a better handle on these things last time around and I know he’ll be a listening support.

I know I’ll be able to heal whatever comes up. And it will be okay. It will be a different experience.

Prissy Pregnancy Princess Syndrome

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have bouts of “Prissy Pregnancy Princess Syndrome” (that’s what my acupuncturist calls it!)

You know, the special moments when you are completely overrun by hormones and emotions but don’t know it and your love is DOING IT WRONG.

I totally get this time around that my thoughts are not actually necessarily the truth, and the truth is often halfway between what you and your love are both experiencing and arguing about.

As Prissy Pregnant Princess, you may find yourself outraged at your partner’s lack of compassion and understanding, his inability to experience what you are experiencing, his complete ineptness at working out what you need.

Just wanted you to know you’re not alone, and that it’s okay, and that it will pass.

It’s not actually a sign of the worth of your partner or the validity of your relationship.

You are (for very good biological reasons) overrun with hormones and everything feels ridiculous, shit tastic and awful at various times.

Be gentle with you. Be gentle with him (as much as possible).

The other day I was overrun with my fuming sensibilities, and took myself for a little drive down to the village for a solo lunch. Once I had some food in me, and a bit of fresh air, I couldn’t quite remember why I was so pissy with him to begin with.

Feelings change. Hormones come and go. Communicate where possible. Let the rest go. Get the support you need from lots of sources (not just your partner).

Speaking of love…

Chris is writing a book called “101 Things To Not Say To Pregnant Women.”

We both laugh about this of course. It has stemmed out of PPP Syndrome.

He is writing it by trying out different phrases and seeing how I react.

“DON’T SPEW IN THE KITCHEN SINK! I JUST CLEANED IT!”

“Why did you just spew on yourself? Can you do it outside next time?

“You don’t look THAT sick.”

“Everyone goes through this honey.”

“YOU WANT TO STAY INSIDE AGAIN? BUT I’M BORED!”

If steam starts to rise out of my ears, he reckons it’s a shoe-in for the book.

I mostly find him funny (when I’m not steaming and fuming).

And when I am steaming I remember:

Oh that’s right, I got pissed with him last time sometimes too. And it didn’t mean anything was broken. We’re going to be okay.

It’s a real joy to not be a first timer at this shin dig, I tell ya.

It feels less rupturous, less alien and scary.

Even on a body level – that feeling of stretching between the hips, the solid mound of energy around my uterus, the feeling of being host to a new life form – it’s less:

HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS?

and more

Oh yes, this ole feeling. I know this one.

I can relax into it a little more gently.

Last time felt like a complete unknown that I struggled to integrate and understand.

This time around I get it more. It’s more peaceful. I can sit with it a little longer.

Not being lonely

Right now, I’m writing this on our verandah as my hunky love and daughter play soccer in the yard. My two fluffy dogs are by my feet after being banned from the game for being far too ball-bustingly boisterous.

At this point in time, something else I’m noticing is a real feeling of not wanting to be lonely.

Hyperemesis can feel very alienating like I’m doing it all on my own.

I don’t like that feeling of aloneness. I’m usually very comfortable and happy in my own company.

But right now I need to feel like I’m not doing this all on my own.

So I don’t work in my office right now. I want to be around my little family. I get work done in the hours when I’m not sick (usually in the afternoon after acupuncture if it’s worked enough). I need to know that I’ll be witnessed if I’m hurling, and not just doing it like a sad lonely animal in a cave.

I will not be alone. I will not suffer.

Birth plans

At this point in time, we’ve decided to skip the date-testing ultrasound and wait again for the 20 week one. We will find out what we’re having like we did last time. I really loved knowing what we were having earlier in the game. I totes respect when peeps like to keep it a surprise. I just don’t wish to – it’s not in my personal makeup of what makes me happy. I feel more connected when I know what gender we’ll be having. And I don’t actually want another thing to process on birth day – it’s enough for me to process HOLY FUCK I JUST GAVE BIRTH TO A HUMAN. I’d rather emotionally process whatever gender we will have in 13 weeks time. I’ll be delighted with whatever we have of course:

It’s a boy: Oh yay! Something I haven’t done before! That will be really sweet!

It’s a girl! Oh yay! How cute is that! Starry will have a lil sis! That will be really sweet!

For me it’s something I can’t really lose at, ya know?

I’m not considering home birth this time around – it’s not something I am called to do. If all goes to plan, we’ll go to a small country hospital that has a midwife run maternity ward. If I need pain medication, I’ll take it.

We had a doula last time around which was so important to us. I was waiting to see what would arise for the kind of support we’d need this time.

And my lovely angelic acupuncturist Kellie (who is also a wonderful friend) also acts an acupuncturist/doula for many births in that hospital. When she told me I immediately got tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over me – I knew she was exactly what I needed for support. A supportive woman sister who is intuitive and also has needle magic powers to help with pain and labour! WOO!

I’ll be getting acupuncture through most of the pregnancy, with another bout of intensive action in the third trimester to get my body ready for labour. I did use acupuncture last time in pregnancy to turn Starry from being breech twice (which totally worked and was awesome) and to try and induce labour when it stalled. This time I’ll be much more dedicated as using it as a preventative and preparation medicine instead of just “fix what’s fucked”.

In other news, I don’t really have plans as such. Not die hard ones like last time.

More: what will be, will be.

I will not suffer, I will be supported, I will not do this alone.

All my love,

 

july31

P.S. Just a reminder for those who are interested because the deadline is coming up super soon – you’ll need to sign up by July 31st as an Amazing Biz and Life Academy member to join the live coaching call for Six Figure Team System.

By becoming a member, you’ll not only get the Six Figure Team System, but you’ll receive over $3800 of my business, marketing, meditation, creativity, spirituality, health and home programs. It’s an all-round curriculum designed to help every part of your life + biz shine.

And of course, I’ve made it as crazy affordable as possible – less than $200!!!! (there’s even a payment plan!!!!)

I created the Academy to support women in creating their most beautiful, spirited, supported + abundant lives + businesses possible. I’m so honoured to be doing this work.

How to deal with the fear of failure when wanting to write a book

Blossoms,

I’ve been answering questions about the writing process since announcing 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course.

Here’s some of the others I’ve written incase you missed them:

Today, let’s talk about how to deal with the fear of failure when creating.

When it comes to writing, you might find yourself spending a lot of time THINKING about writing, AVOIDING writing, TALKING about writing and feeling BLOCKED when finally sitting down to actually write.

See how time consuming it is already… and there’s STILL no writing being done?

After working with thousands of creatives over the last 15 years or so, I know that one of the biggest reasons for avoiding creativity is that we are being held hostage by fear.

The act of creating can bring up so many fears:

  • “Who am I to write this book?”
  • “Can I REALLY do this?”
  • “I don’t have anything original to say!”
  • “What if it’s terrible? What if I try my hardest and it isn’t good enough?”
  • “What will my parents/partner/children/friends/business colleagues think? What if they think I am untalented or ridiculous? What if they roll their eyes at my book?”
  • “I’m not an expert! I’m an imposter and this book will be evidence of that!”
  • “What if this hurts or negatively affects any of my family/friends?”
  • “There are so many other things I should be doing instead of creating. I’m a terrible person/wife/mother if I spend my time writing instead of taking care of other people!”
  • “I do NOT have time to write. There’s no way I can fit this in!”

And on and on and on…

The excuses seem endless. The fears seem insurmountable.

NO FREAKING WONDER IT TAKES SO LONG TO WRITE A BOOK!

But here’s the thing:

Writing a book actually doesn’t TAKE that long.

The actual writing process can be pretty fast when you’re not spending your time dicking about with fears. It’s why I’ve been able to write books in a month in a couple of hours a day.

So let’s talk about how to get rid of the fear so you can actually get to writing!

Here’s some practical ways to get your fears to shush it so you can become hugely more productive and actually get your book DONE.

#1: Give your fear another job to do.

Write it a letter.

“Possum, I get it. You are trying to keep me safe. I so appreciate how much you care about me. However, you’re not helping me in doing the thing I need and want to do right now. Instead, can you please help by doing this VERY IMPORTANT JOB i.e. guarding my writing time/using my subconscious powers to find the answer to world peace/whispering love songs to my cells as I work. Thank you so much darling. Let’s go make miracles together.”

#2: Give yourself a short, sharp deadline.

Ride that Wild Donkey!

For example, when I wrote the 40,000 word compendium that became my Double Your Biz e-course, I set myself a month to do it.

#3: Give yourself even smaller, sharper daily deadlines in a compressed writing period.

That deadline for my Double Your Biz compendium? My daily goal became very simple: write 3,000 words before sunset. I was sick with hyperemesis gravidarum, and had a short window in the afternoon where I could sit upright. By the time the sunset, I would be ill again. So I needed to write as much as I could in that short time window.

You don’t have to be ill to do the same however. If I was doing it again now, I would set aside 1-2 hours a day with a word limit to have reached.

#4: Fuck the distractions.

I use a Self Control app on my computer to stop me from me being able to access time wasting websites while I’m working. Facebook, Youtube, Buzzfeed, gossip websites are what I tend to find myself visiting when I am avoiding doing something. Using an external boundary to prevent me is a massive time saver. I also don’t keep my phone in my office to prevent the Instagram scroll from happening.

#5: Use the power of accountability.

Find a writing partner or group. Join a writing e-course.

Tell someone – or as many people as you can – that you are writing a book, you want to write # of words and that the deadline is _________. It’s incredibly motivating, and I always get that much more done when I know I’m being watched!

Example Time!

I have a friend who wants to write more poetry. She asked me to be her writing accountability partner. I agreed, and asked her to define what success looked like. Writing more poetry is a really vague goal, and you won’t know if you are being successful at it or not. She had a think and decided her goal was to write poetry for 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Which was awesome – it was something I could hold her accountable to, and it was a very real, concrete action she could take and know she was completing her intention.

#6: Remember it is NOT your job to second guess yourself. Your job is to create.

I deeply believe that our stories need to be heard. That the things that are inside us – our journey, our experience, our wisdom, our gold – are great gifts that are needed in the world. Our stories can heal us as we write them, and they can heal others when they read them.

I believe that when you have an idea for a book, it is a divinely ordained request from the angels. They know that this creation is needed in order to help and heal the world. And so they plant the seed with you, in the hope you will birth it into the world.

With this kind of divine ordinance at play, who are we NOT to create? When the world needs the soul gold that lives inside us, who are we to ignore that mission?

Example Time: This is not about a book. But this is about a divine writing mission.

A few months ago, I had a strange feeling. I knew I was supposed to be writing a letter to someone I barely knew. I knew this person was going through a very difficult time. And I kept having this feeling that if I just opened up a page, and wrote to him, there would be things to say.

I had fears of course: What is this person going to think? Is it going to be the right message? Will I offend their religious beliefs by sharing the message I could hear? And who am I to do this?

But I knew I needed to nonetheless. The angels have blessed me again and again. They have given me so truth and wisdom and creative ideas that have healed me time and time again. Who am I to ignore them on this?

I should say here: I am NOT someone who hears the angels constantly. I only hear them clearly when I am writing. I can take dictation from them. I can occasionally hear them outside of writing – like in a sacred women’s circle, in dreams or in nature. They also came with my daughters’ spirits when both of them wished to be conceived. But that’s by the by. I just wanted to say – I wouldn’t regard myself as being super intuitive, or someone who talks to angels everyday. Reading back over this though, I definitely sound like a MASSIVE HIPPY however. Bahahahaha!

Anyways, the angels had given me a mission. And EVEN THOUGH I was scared, EVEN THOUGH I was not sure how it would be received… I knew I needed to do my job, and turn up, and respond to that divine calling.

I did. I wrote it, sent it, and gave it up to the world. I’d done my job. That was all that was needed.

I got a long email today, months after my mission missive message. It was a beautiful thing, coming full circle. He wrote to tell me what a bad place he had been when he’d received my email, and how my writing him had felt like God was speaking to him, reminding him that he was loved. That it was a touchstone for his healing.

And it was such a blessing, of course, to know that the mission I’d been given had worked as intended. But even if I hadn’t heard from him and hadn’t known the effect it would have, I still would have done the right thing.

The right thing is to create. The right thing is to heed the call of your creative soul and the call of the angels. The feeling you receive from doing it is indescribable. It is the closest to transcendence I have ever come.

The World Needs Us.

It’s time to get out of our own way, and get on with our all important mission.

We need to write our way to our own healing… and let those words free into the world to heal others too.

Fuck the fears. There is too much beauty waiting for us out the other side.

Further writing resources to help:

And most of all… WRITE. Just do the freaking thing already. WRITE like your life depends on it. And being healed by that process.

As I always say:

Let’s go make miracles happen!

Write on,

How I Have Sold Over $1 Million In Books

Blossoms,

Since I’ve launched 40 Days To A Finished Book, I’ve had a bundle of questions and conversations about the why + hows of book writing and publishing.

So I thought I’d take some time and write some posts for you to answer them.

I’ve already written about Why Successful Women Entrepreneurs Choose To Write Books and 7 Ways To Find Your Authentic Voice As A Writer.

Today, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes on how I’ve sold well over $1 million in books.

I’ll share with you both the history and the how-to’s.

History Time!

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a book. If you had asked me when I was four what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said the same thing I was already doing: writing books and making art.

The first book I remember creating was a book called Cyclone Charlie. It was the true story of our cattle farm being hit by a cyclone. I dictated it to my Mum, and illustrated each page. I still remember the page where I described how the rain made small waterfalls down the mountains.

That’s me at about that age, baby sister on hip.

Writing and illustrating books was my destiny, the thing that was sure in my bones. It was just a matter of time before that would be my job.

I started blogging when I was 21, and wrote my first book when I was 22.

That book was like a graphic memoir – I just didn’t realise that was the name for it! I just did it intuitively, combining art and words as I have always done in my journals.

To get that book written, I set myself a really short, sharp deadline: write it and have it available for sale within one month. I was working full time in the public service, so the book was written in lunch hours, on the bus, at night and on weekends.

I think that’s the thing: everybody assumes that to write a book, you need vast swathes of time. You don’t. You just need to apply your energy to the thing and get it donesville.

I know that if I set a more “realistic” deadline of say, six months, I would NEVER get the book done. Too much would come up in the meantime, and the months would go by, and it still wouldn’t be done.

By using the Wild Donkey method, I devote my focus to being immersed in getting one project done and finished as soon as possible.

A month or so later, it was written, and here’s where I announced its release back in 2005.

Here’s a little bit of what it looked like on the inside:

Doing the short, sharp deadline mode of creating doesn’t just work for graphic memoirs either.

I’ve also done a 40,000 word business book in that time as well. (That book was then turned into my Double Your Biz e-course. I’ve retired that now, but will release a new updated business course this year.)

Again – I wrote that 40,000+ word business book when I had a LOT of other things on my plate as well. I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, and horrifically ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. At that point, I spent most of my day bedridden, and got a small reprieve from the debilitating nausea by late afternoon. It was enough to be able to sit upright and be able to think somewhat.

I would set myself a deadline of writing 3,000 words before the sun set over the rainforest. I’d take frequent vomit breaks to run out to my office balcony and vomit over the lawn for the forest animals to eat. I’d keep writing as much as I could before the illness swallowed me whole again and sent me back to bed.

I would like to clarify here:

I am really big on sane, healthy working practices, good self care and great work/life balance. I don’t want to share this story to be a martyr of “Too bad if you’re sick! I was sick too!”

There’s all different kinds of life circumstances. In the earlier stages of my pregnancy illness, I was chronically debilitated and in hospital often, so this kind of project wasn’t going to work for me.

By the time I did take the project on, I was six months into the pregnancy and still fucked up but not AS fucked up. I also desperately needed SOMETHING to think about apart from the misery of my illness. So even though it was still challenging to pull off, it was what I needed.

I’m definitely taking the same Wild Donkey approach with my 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course… but it definitely still can be done whether you are working full-time, parenting or having “life stuff” going on.

Okay, that’s slightly off track.

Now where were we?

Ahh yes! My first book! I released it, and I sold a few hundred copies. At the time I was totally delighted. For me, it was less about profit and more about OMG! I actually DID THE THING! I WROTE THE BOOK!

Sometimes the reward of completing a creative thing is not the revenue or recognition, it’s about the pride and joy of accomplishment. As I always say:

Momentum breeds Momentum.

Completing a project like a book can help you become even more productive and feel even more fulfilled.

Honestly though, I was pretty shithouse when it comes to marketing the book. That was in the early days of my business. Now when I release books, I know the marketing of it is going to be the driving factor for its success.

I kept blogging, and started running retreats, doing coaching and running e-courses.

Come December 2009, I was working part-time at my government job and pregnant with my first child. I knew the coming year would be intense, and that the initiation into motherhood. By that point, I’d also started setting goals and discovering just how powerful that was. So I decided to give myself the gift of setting goals for 2010 to keep me sane and inspired during my first year of motherhood.

I looked around to see if there was any books out there that I could fill out to help me set goals. But everything I found had two major issues:

  • they weren’t comprehensive – I wanted to go deeper than just “set three goals!”
  • they were black and white and corporate and felt really masculine.

I wanted something that was inspiring to fill out and rainbowy AND also helped guide me through setting goals for every area of my life and business.

So I decided to create something FOR ME to use. I spent three days around Christmas time creating my goals workbook, and I loved it so much I thought it would be fun to pop online and sell as a PDF and see if anyone else wanted to use it. I thought it would be super cool if like 10 people bought it.

I went on to sell over 1000 workbook PDFs that year which was SO groovy.

Here’s me and my darling Charlie doggy. Sitting in our backyard, filling out my very first goals workbook.

Since 2010, the workbooks have gone on to:

  • be used by over 350,000 people worldwide (!!!!!!)
  • become international bestsellers
  • hit #1 and #3 bestseller SIMULTANEOUSLY on Amazon AU for ALL FREAKING BOOKS (!!!!)
  • generated well over $1m in revenue (probably over $2m – I need to go back to count all the years!)

In that time, I’ve also gone through different types of publishing:

  • I started out selling as a PDF only
  • A couple of years later, I started selling it as print on demand through Amazon’s self-publishing service
  • A few years after that, I decided to try printing in China instead and using distribution houses in three countries. I hired a lot of staff to try and cope with the increased workload, and realised just how much I hated managing staff and logistics. I wrote about my decision to stop doing that here.
  • I went back to using Amazon’s print-on-demand service while I scouted for a publishing deal for the workbooks.
  • I signed a multi-book publishing deal with BenBella publishing. They now do all the printing and publishing logistics, and I focus on what I’m great at: writing books and marketing them.

Me, stoked at no longer having to manage shipping logistics anymore.

There are pros and cons for all publishing routes, and what’s right for you will change over your business career. I’ll go through the behind-the-scenes details of the pros and cons of all of them in 40 Days To A Finished Book. I’ll talk about what’s more profitable, what’s easiest and what gives you the most credibility, and how to maximise all of these.

Now, let’s talk about what made the difference between selling fuck all books and selling a fuck tonne of books!

When I look back at where I started with book writing and the results I got then to the results I got now, there are some really big things I did differently.

Let me tell you the key pieces of creating book success.

#1: Writing the book is 10% of the job. Marketing is 90%.

That may make you groan, but it’s true. You need to spend WAY LONGER marketing the book than you think you need to.

If you think “if it’s a great book, it will speak for itself! I won’t have to market it at all!”… you’re wrong. Sorry mate, it just doesn’t work like that.

“Just putting it out there” isn’t enough. It’s lazy. And it is not of service to the world.

If you’ve spent all that time in creating something, you need to invest time in making sure that the people who would care about it and find it useful actually HEAR about it in the first place.

I’ll talk more about the how-to’s of book marketing in the course.

#2: The three most important parts of selling: Testimonials. Testimonials. Testimonials.

I once asked a very well-known copywriter what the three most important parts of a sales page were. Her answer? Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials.

The same is true for books.

  • Have testimonials for the book in the first few pages of the book – the more the better!
  • Give advance copies away in exchange for a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Consider giving away books to peeps with a profile who have similar interests as your target market. You can even get a bit polished with it and do it up as a cute package. I’ve sent my books to bloggers with chocolate, tea and pens in wrapping paper – all the supplies they needed to have a gorgeous time with my book!
  • Ask people at the end of your book to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if they love it.
  • Collate all your testimonials and reviews on your sales page.

Speaking of which…

#3: It’s not enough just to give fucking links to Amazon. You need a sales page!

A sales page is a long, comprehensive page giving people EVERYTHING they need to know about in order to BUY!

There’s some REALLY important parts to a sales page including:

  • a sales video
  • who the book is for
  • how the book helps
  • why you are the best person to learn from
  • testimonials
  • benefits and results
  • infographics
  • and a big call to action.

I’ll go into all these in detail in the course, but I really want to reiterate: STOP JUST SENDING PEOPLE TO AMAZON TO BUY. YOU NEED TO SELL THE FUCK OUT OF THE BOOK FIRST SO THEY WILL ACTUALLY BUY IT!

#4: Stay connected with your readers. They’ve got bonza ideas!

It’s part of the reason why I have a 17,000-person-strong Facebook group for goals workbook users!

That way, I get to hear when people are confused by something, LOVE something and want more of it, ask about a certain feature or want another companion product in the future.

Your readers have great ideas. They love your thing, and they can help come up with ways to make it better and write even more books!

#5: Offer it both digital and printed

It’s SO much easier than it was 10 years ago to self-publish books both digitally and in print. I’ve tried a few services, but keep coming back to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They formerly were called Createspace, but it’s all merged into one platform now.

#6: This one tip will make you WAY more money!

This one is SUCH a simple tip, but can hugely increase your $$$ income.

Get your pen and paper out, and write it down!

When you do point to Amazon for people to buy your book, MAKE SURE you are using your own Amazon affiliate link.

You can sign up as an Amazon affiliate here.

This way you get paid TWICE.

Firstly, you get the royalties from when your book is bought.

Secondly, you get the affiliate fees (up to 10%!) for referring people to buy from Amazon. You’ll also get affiliate fees for anything else they buy in that order as well!

Twice the # of checks… JUST for using one link!

#7: Get your bundling smarts on!

You want to motivate peeps to BUY NOW and BUY MORE!

Consider having:

  • pre-order sale/offer
  • early bird discount/offer
  • package discount.

You might offer your book at a discounted rate for either pre-orders or those who order in the first week of launch.

You could also offer BONUSES instead. Here’s some great ideas for bonuses:

  • webinar
  • book club Facebook group
  • companion workbook
  • companion e-course
  • tickets to an event you are running
  • large free bundle offer with other authors and teachers in your space.

You could also offer your book and one of your other paid offerings together at a special rate to drive sales and interest.

So many possibilities!

There are SO many ways you can drive sales for your book… bringing you more income, clients and expert status.

I’ll be going into more details on all of these things + much more in my e-course starting 1 April, so if you’re ready to get your book out in the world making miracles, make sure you jump in.

I’m so happy to help with everything I know and have learned… and want to help make your path easier, more joyful and abundant because of it!

I so hope this has been useful.

And I can’t wait to see your book babies out in the world, making their magic as they are supposed to do!

Big love,