Strangely, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I became a writer. It was March 30, 1964, in a darkened bedroom in a little Cape Cod home in South Jersey. Let me explain.
I was overdue with our second baby, positive I would never deliver, when I awakened to full-scale, no-nonsense labor. My husband called our obstetrician, who told what he assumed was one more hysterical husband not to worry – we’d make it to the hospital.
Except this time, the doctor was wrong. This time, in that little bedroom, I gave birth to our daughter Amy. My husband, a lawyer by profession, became an instant obstetrician.
It was scary, crazy and wonderful to greet our daughter that way. And the obstetrician did ultimately arrive, along with a pediatrician and a couple of policemen who somehow had gotten word that some crazy couple had a baby at home.
For a few days, we became local celebrities. The local paper ran a headline that read “Lawyer turns doctor.”
Then Vic went back to his law office, and I was left with a toddler, a new baby and all those feelings…
One afternoon when both girls were sleeping at the same time – a small miracle – I reached for a yellow legal tablet and decided to “tell” the story of Amy’s wild birth. I’ll never know what made me reach for that tablet. But it was almost as if the words were being channeled.
Then Amy, our newborn, needed attention, and so did her 2-year-old sister. That chronicle of Amy’s birth got stashed in a drawer and was promptly forgotten.
Weeks later, I rediscovered those pages and took a leap of faith. I took that longhand narrative and sent it to a very prestigious publication. It was the magazine that came with our diaper service.
One morning, when I was dusting the living room coffee table, a voice on the phone asked for Sally Friedman, the writer. I was positive the guy had the wrong number.
But it turned out the magazine had liked my account of Amy’s birth and offered to pay $12.50 for it or give me the equivalent in diapers. I’m a practical woman. I took the diapers.
So there was actually another birth that year in our little house. A writer was born, only I was the last to know it.
That birth experience has never left me. It was so profound, powerful and life-changing that the obstetrician was pretty clear that when and if I became pregnant again, he would see to it that the birth of, yes, a third daughter, would be in a hospital delivery room. Not much drama that time, which was fine with me, and even more so with Vic.
Then one morning, I marched little Nancy, the last of the Friedman daughters, to “Big School,” dropped her off at the kindergarten gate and wondered what in the world I’d do with the rest of my life.
Then I remembered. I would open wide my life. It was amazing to me – and habit-forming. I tried another personal essay. Then another.
Yes, it’s been a long run. It has changed my life forever, this writing thing. And doing it in this magazine has allowed me to do what wonderful writer Anna Quindlen used to call “Living Out Loud.” And that’s what it is.
My daughters and my seven grandchildren have come to understand that they are fodder for me. My husband, a man who instinctively loves privacy, has been generous beyond belief because he, too, is out there in my jottings. I have loved opening the door to my kitchen, my soul, and letting strangers in.
Writing for this magazine, especially, has allowed me to share my life with others and to remind them they’re not crazy or lost or alone. When I write about my fears, my joys, my tiniest and grandest moments, I often hear from them. “Me too!” is what they say. And that is such a precious reward.
People often ask me “Will you ever retire?” And for now, the answer is a resounding no.
For now, writing what I live is as natural as breathing. It’s a little like taking your arm in mine and saying, “Let’s walk together.” And what a journey we share.
Sally Friedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.