Longer than Elephants: Giving Birth

October 18, 2022


It’s been a ten years gestation. (That’s five times as long as elephants.) The story began in 2012, when I moved across the country, returning to the northwestern home of my youth after thirty-six years an expat in the southeast corner of America. Conception happened a few months later when I attended a week-long writing retreat and was persuaded that the time in my mother’s home with her (one year was the plan) would be a story worth telling. And that I could tell it. 


It quickly became clear this was much more than a caregiving story. It’s about living into the last third of life, about mother-daughter relationship and healing, a coming home story (literally and figuratively). Because I need visuals, the working title became “Mother Lode: Finding Myself in My Mother’s Home.”

Everything evolved over the next years. My mother’s health issues, the duration of my sojourn, the title and cover of the book (you can read about that here and here on my website). What did not change was my commitment to seeing both my mother and the book through.


The Concentration of the Month in yoga finally arrived this month to the one I’ve been dreading since Elizabeth became my teacher, when yoga went online then back to in-person: hamstrings. I remember several things about PE class back in the day, and one is that I could never touch my toes. Thanks to years of yoga, I can now, but hamstrings are still tight and scream when I stretch them. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cronedom, though, it’s that perfection is not a goal. And so I’ve faithfully shown up every Monday in October and given my calves a run for their money. Funny how what I’ve dreaded in yoga for two years shows up during publication month.

Like a woman’s body shape makes obvious she is with child, I carry cards about my book in my bag and hand them out when the opportunity presents, making my book known before it arrives. I don’t know what will be the result, it’s none of my business, but I’m planting seeds.

These past few months (elephants labor only days), I have read posts and watched webinars and taken notes about publishing and publicizing. I gathered a core of friends to help and together we rocked social media as we pushed this baby into the world. Thank you, absolute best Street Team, and to all supporters of me and the work.


When I dreamed of publishing a book someday, I gave not a moment’s thought to what would happen after I wrote it. (I would have been too terrified, I would have pooh-poohed my own dream.) Yet, as I write these words, I’m looking at a professionally published book that bears my name as author. It’s surreal.

What have these last months been like as I birth this third child? I have found supporters I never knew I had, some of whom I didn’t even know before. I’ve made lists and collected email addresses for people from all phases and places of my life. (And been sad to recall those I have permanently lost touch with.)

Today I will take the day off, recover from labor and delivery, clean up the gardens before the rains (finally) come. And savor the day. Tomorrow, back to the work of supporting the book in the world.

Raising It Up

One of my sister She Writes Press authors—whom I now call friend—whose pub day was two months ago, is on a solo cross-country road trip with a trunk full of books. (I probably don’t need to tell you how envious I am of the road trip.) She has a weeks-long schedule of giving talks at libraries, Buddhist centers, and quilt guilds.

Leslie’s book*,Threads of Awakening, is part memoir, part art book, part spiritual travelogue. “What if you set out to travel the world and got sidetracked in a Himalayan sewing workshop? What if that sidetrack became your life’s path?” She sends a weekly “Wake-Up” to subscribers. Yesterday’s was perfect for this week in my life.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

John O’Donohue, A Morning Offering

I don’t know how many of the books in Leslie’s trunk she will sell (lots, I hope), but I’m pretty sure her journey is less about selling books and more about encouraging people to courageously find and live the life they love. There is no expiration on a dream. Live courageously!

Will I go on a road trip with books in the back my Rogue? I guess I won’t rule it out. Leslie inspires me; John O’Donohue inspires me. I want to go on a road trip for sure, so why not? Pockets of caregivers in community are not so evident as Buddhists and quilters. Or are they? We are literally everywhere, and we should be in community, we need one another. I have a winter to ponder, and dream.

Today feels a little like the day my mother died: too late to do anything I wish I had done, “should” have done to this point. Everything I wish I had said gets told now at the bench at Staebler Point in the Seminary Hill Natural Area. Everything I didn’t say in the book, gets said in blog posts and story gatherings.

The memoir of another She Writes author, also publishing today, is Enough.** Amelia Zachry reminds readers that we are enough, just as we are, whatever we have done or not done, can do or can’t do. I’m showing up in support of my book, best I can, and—like challenging my hamstrings—it is enough.

The day after today, my work to support my book—and family caregivers–begins a new phase. I don’t know completely what that looks like. Pitching podcasts for one, which I was “supposed” to have done before pub day. I have long followed a different drummer. (Imagine me stomping my little foot and shouting at my exasperated mother that I will “DO IT MY WAY!”) I figure the book isn’t going anywhere, other than out the door and into readers’ hands. And caregiving certainly is here to stay. There is much more to be loved into.

October 18, 1975, was my wedding day. It was the happiest day of my life. That I’m no longer married doesn’t change that. I am overjoyed to have the same date to launch into another new adventure. It feels auspicious.

Your support means everything to me. Thank you from the depths of heart and womb. Connection: it keeps the world on its axis.

* Read more about Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo and Threads of Awakening: An American Woman’s Journey into Tibet’s Sacred Textile Art here.

** Read more about Amelia Zachry and Enough: A Memoir of Mistakes, Mania, and Motherhood here.

And, of course, you can find a plethora of stuff on my website: support for caregivers, caregiving book list, a book trailer, deleted scenes from the book, a book club kit, ordering links (available wherever books are sold), and more. And subscribe to my monthly e-letter!


“She came for a year — she stayed for the end.”

11 thoughts on “Longer than Elephants: Giving Birth

  1. Gretchen, I am giving you the following, in no particular order:
    **** A Standing Ovation****
    **** A Kiss and a Hug that this wonderful books gets spread far and wide***
    **** A wish for peace in your heart, and that this gives you the courage to Never Stop Putting it Out there!!!***

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad I could be along for part of your journey. I have nothing but admiration for your perseverance and allegiance to your creation. You have birthed something wonderful and I hope it finds its niche on every bedside. Where are those communities of caregivers? It seems everyone dwells in their own hearts, their own homes. I’m so glad they have your book and website to bring ease, comfort, and laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this and how you framed it so uniquely. I’ve never given birth to either book or baby but I can appreciate the perseverance, sacrifice and committment of both. You’ve really made something beautiful and I believe it will find deep roots in a community of people we likely all will inevitably become a part of. Congratulations Gretchen, but maybe more … thank you, as always, for writing down the story. It’s beautiful and I’m grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

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