Oh, dear readers, you would be so proud of me! Some of you are even here, which is the coolest experience ever. (*Enthusiastic wave* to Kate aka @littlelegal, the only person so far to recognize me as “Do Not Faint” and call me that! Sounded pretty good…) There are 5,000 people at this conference. Nothing could have prepared me for what that looks like. Loosely organized chaos. Twice today I thought I was going to just sit on the floor and have a panic attack from claustrophobia, but sitting on the floor is really hard at 28 weeks pregnant anyway, so I’m glad I found other coping strategies.
I’m really proud of myself for a few reasons. Let’s break them down, as an exercise in me being awesome and in coping with anxiety in fast-paced environments.
- I say “yes.” I said yes to coming, even though it was expensive and a long weekend away from my husband Nathan, which is always hard. Now that I’m here, I am saying yes to meeting new people, learning new skills, hearing new ideas. I said yes to rooming in a hotel with a stranger! (We’re friends now already. I think we talked about 10 topics most people never talk about within hours of meeting each other. Also, check out her amazing photography. Oh, and she’s Canadian. I love Canada, so that’s points for her.) Anxiety often tells me to say NO WAY! to things like talking to new people or going to places where there will be a lot of people. So, take that! Ha! Anne-Marie 1, Anxiety 0!
- I take breaks. During the day today, which was the first day all 5,000 attendees were here, I just stepped away during the crowded times, put my back to a wall a few feet away from others, and took a time out. Once, I had been in a super warm room feeling dizzy, so I got myself a beverage and some ice, too, and sat on a windowsill for a little bit, just watching people go by. Listening to myself when I need those little breaks? That, my friends, is SELF CARE. I get on my own case a lot for sucking at self care (yes, I see the irony), but I have been awesome at it this week.
- I ask for what I want or need. I asked the hotel clerk for directions to a drugstore when I got blisters from wearing shoes without socks in the heat–I had forgotten about how much humid, hot Manhattan sucks in August. I have been going up to representatives from the conference sponsors I like and asking them for samples and information. I am tweeting or texting people I previously knew only online and making an extra effort to connect. It feels awesome! In our amazing HynoBirthing class this weeks, our instructor talked to us about saying “Thank you,” and letting that practice tell you “I’m worth whatever this other person just did for me.” So when I met Diana from Onya and she gave me an amazing Onya Outback baby carrier (the best “buckles and straps” carrier EVER!) I said “Thank you” a bunch and I felt both gratitude and pride. I am grateful, and I deserve this gift. When I thanked Kate for reading or when I have thanked people for showing an interest, asking for my card, etc., I have felt gratitude at the way they value my voice and pride that my voice is worth listening to.
- I do things by myself when I could tag along with some new friends (or old friends I just met in person for the first time!) because I am interested in “Blogging for the Love of It” or “Bootstrapping Your Book Promotion.” I feel 100% ok being into something that doesn’t apply to the people I’ve gotten to know. And then I meet new people who are interested! It’s a little scary every time, I won’t lie, but so worthwhile.
- I have spent a lot of time and energy absorbing information about writing and promoting a book, because I want to write a book. I own that. I want to write a book so that something in print finds women in need the way this blog has found many of you. When I say “in need,” I mean that we are breaking ground here talking about planning to have a family while knowing in advance that mental health is going to be a factor. I have heard over and over again at this conference that I am right–no one can think of any book or blog that really talks about this. I don’t want to write a book to make a lot of money (apparently, that’s a rather dim prospect for any author). I’d like to be compensated for my time with an advance or something. But my book is a labor of love and a love letter to all the women out there who need to know that we can have babies, too. We may make different decisions or face different risks, but we absolutely deserve respect. And advice. And the advice that’s out there? Most of it is pretty crappy. It’s been really rewarding to attend so many events (all day yesterday and a couple hours today) about getting a book out there–it’s helped me “own it.” I am going to write this book and do my darndest to make sure it reaches as many people as possible. That’s not naive or silly. It’s real and important and MINE.
I want to share one more thing with you all before I try and sleep again after an accidentally-five-hours-long nap: over 10% of the people at this conference are here because they want to start blogging. They don’t have blogs yet! You don’t need to come to a conference, but many of you have written email to me or left comments, and I know you have more to say. Start a blog. Add your voice. If, in this crowd of 5,000, my voice can matter and even help a few people, then your voice matters, too. Please don’t worry about writing well or getting famous. I have met so many people with fabulous blogs and almost no followers. And if their writing just stopped? Those few readers would feel sad and miss them. So please, if you’ve even thought about it for one second, give it a try. Use a pseudonym if you want to. Don’t tell a soul, if you don’t want anyone to know about it. Just start writing. Speak up. I’d love to read anything you write.