…on learning to write, and being edited

This entry is drawn from a guest blog written for Leisl Leighton. https://www.leislleighton.com/

Wind back the clock to the new millennium. I was having babies and caring for small children.

My husband worked FIFO, which is hectic enough, but I also ran a community group attached to the birth centre at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, where my babies were born.

With a group of thoughtful, committed citizens, I fell into advocacy and activism. We staged demonstrations with baby clothes on clothes lines, we infiltrated a Labour Women’s dinner wearing Suffragette costumes, and we protested in an inflatable pool outside Queensland Health. Our momentum obtained birth centres for regional hospitals, and eventually, gave Medicare to midwives. I knew that an incredible story was unfolding before us, but who would write it? For years it gnawed at me, until I committed to writing it myself.

If my messy manuscript was a story quilt, there’d be several patches dedicated to NaNoWriMo: unselfconscious, with incomplete ideas, and occasional moments of insight. The self-taught patches, a good number of those, I can attribute to Patti Miller’s Writing Your Life. There’d be a mess more patches adapted from my old parenting blog. But the majority of the quilt is dedicated to my writing group. We met through the Queensland Writers’ Centre in 2008 and are now life-long friends. I stitched my quilt together using old emails, journal scribblings and the subjective, cobwebby stuff of memory. But the story wasn’t working. I felt blocked.

Early in 2019, I presented my unfinished quilt to Leisl. She recommended a structural edit for a very reasonable fee. She shared her own motherhood story, opposite to mine. It was a welcome perspective. We were a good fit.

Leisl’s feedback was encouraging and kind. She urged me to dive deep and flesh out the key scenes. She identified every passage I knew didn’t work. I did the hardest thing a novice writer can do – kill my darlings – including a whole chapter that didn’t belong.

The whole became clear. The narrative began to flow. Slowly and sensitively, I finished my quilt.

This memoir has been ten years in the making and everything in it is true. Without Leisl’s pro-tips and advice, my writer’s block could well have won. But now I can share my story with the world.


It’s 1999 and Jodie doesn’t want children. When her husband threatens, baby or bust, she resists. But 30 is approaching and her eggs aren’t getting younger.

By chance, Jodie gets access to the only public Birth Centre in South East Queensland, one of two in the entire state. She is profoundly changed by her baby’s beautiful birth and becomes an advocate at the hospital while a larger, national campaign for birth reform is growing.

Having babies herself and supporting others in birth, Jodie uncovers the secret women’s business that conservative obstetricians deny and resist.

In Australia, one-third of all births are caesarean and one in ten women experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If reproduction is a feminist issue, welcome to the forgotten women’s movement.

Midwives weren’t able to force change alone. Jodie’s devotion and dedication are commendable. The midwifery world needs more like her – Beth McRae, author of ‘Outback Midwife’.


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