Behind the Curtain…Recording My Audiobook

Recording Audiobook

This blog is for those of you interested in the deeper truth and more personal sharing about my experience recording the audio version of my book. If that interests you, keep reading.

The audiobook recording room.

The audiobook recording room.

I’m at the airport in Denver about to catch my flight home from an intense five days in Colorado. I came to record my audiobook with my publisher, Sounds True, which I did accomplish, but how that happened isn’t conveyed in the simple statement of my intended purpose. To do that, I need to share more.

I flew into Denver on Friday evening. The experience of this powerful week started from the moment I was picked up from the airport by my audiobook producer, Jeff. This dear man went out of his way to make this whole experience more comfortable for me and a better finished product for you. In so many ways, Jeff and the other amazing people of Sounds True are the heroes of this story.

After a lovely dinner, Jeff dropped me off at my quaint hotel in the heart of Boulder, so I could get a good night’s sleep before our first day of recording.

I had been surprised in the days leading up to my trip to Colorado by just how nervous and anxious I found I was about the recording. Yes, I had auditioned and worked hard to make the possibility of me reading my own book a reality. Back then in that process of manifestation, it was about making sure I would be the one to read my personal stories, bring life to the mythology within my book, and share the practices so profoundly meaningful to me personally. But as the day of recording neared, I was flooded with doubt. Suddenly, I was more the little girl in second grade with sweaty palms as we went around the classroom taking turns reading out loud in front of everyone (or so it felt).

That night over dinner, I shared my nervous voices with Jeff and he acknowledged the normal nature of such feelings.

The threshold into Sounds True.

Walking into Sounds True on the first morning.

Saturday, he picked me up and we headed to the studio.

Being a Saturday, it was quiet there and with the exception of me, Jeff, and the audio tech, Matt, we were alone in the large building. But the size of the building didn’t have much impact on us as our world revolved around a cozy recording room and attached sound booth. Walking into the room was exciting and I felt ready to dive in! Finally, this would be the chance to bring my work to life. For me, anticipation is often the worst part.

It took some getting used to…reading with energy, but not too much, reading the words while simultaneously finding the cadence of each sentence, and feeling connected with the material emotionally in the artificial setting of a windowless room with a microphone.

The words of my book are MY words. They are my attempt to put into written form the depth of my work with parents. And, they are written down, firm, and, at this point, unchangeable. They are not the fluid dance I normally feel when I work with parents. That dance is not a solo one, but one flowing and changing in the moment according to the dancers. I am enlivened by working with parents. Capturing that energy in a room by myself with a microphone and two men listening to every word with a critical ear in another room, required more than even my anxiety anticipated.

And, that first day of recording, brought doubt.

Loads of it. I found so many elements I wanted to update to how I work now, edits I wanted to make, and additions I wanted to add. Words I know and speak on a regular basis had me stumbling and second-guessing myself. I got stuck on the word “empathetic” my brain unable to make sense of the letters on the page and transmute them into spoken word (not that I don’t know this word!). This may sound strange, but until you’ve done something of this sort, I ask you to trust me regarding the unexpected weirdness of the English language and the brain! All of these experiences combined so that by the time we were back from lunch, I was pretty much in a vulnerability spiral.

I kept going. I had to. I felt the feelings and made as much space for them as I could. I sucked on a lot of apples (something they have there to help reduce the sound of popping and with a secondary benefit of inserting a pause to help calm reader’s nerves). I drank a LOT of tea loaded with more honey than I have ingested in my entire lifetime.

I was reading my book about birth and giving birth to my audiobook at the same time. The two experiences felt closely linked. I was laboring…in the process of birthing something wildly important to me. The tenderness, vulnerability, and power of birth were reverberating through my whole system. I felt my desire for perfection and control, and my belief I should be able to do it great without much help from others, even though, I’ve never done anything like this before. I read my guidance to parents in the face of these same feeling and tendencies in birth. I was speaking to parents everywhere, and to myself at the same time.

It was hard. It was powerful. And by the end of the day, I was totally, entirely, and completely COOKED!

With my audiobook recording doula, Jeff.

With my audiobook recording doula, Jeff.

Jeff drove me to the studio each morning and back each evening. He would help ready me for the day and support me in unpacking the experience at the end.

On the way back that first day, I leaned on him as a laboring person would a doula. “Am I doing OK?” “Is it working?” “Can I do this?” “How do I keep going?” “This is too hard.”

He was a skilled audiobook doula (a name I started calling him directly after that first day). Of course as someone reading a book about birth, I needed a doula. He spoke to me soothingly and with understanding, normalizing my experience as one who has seen it many times. He calmed the outer doubt in the best possible ways. The inner doubt…that needed me to speak kindly to it directly. Outer validation could only do so much. My inner voice had to love me even while the demons of doubt roared. The inner doubt needed space to be felt as it was, without needing it to go away.

Back in my room, I couldn’t do anything, or at least not much. I was spent—body, mind, and soul. I collapsed on my bed and texted my friend, Seane Corn (fellow Sounds True author who has recently completed this whole process herself), and asked for some perspective. Then, I debated the possibilities of acquiring food. Leftovers from the night before were the only real option and completely sufficient. I was asleep before 9pm.

Day two dawned as a fresh day.

I found my way into the material with greater ease and renewed passion. That day, I read chapters six through nine, the core of my book and the content for which I am most excited and connected. I also got to read the myth of Inanna’s Descent…a story I share in classes and bring to life with vigor. When I told this story, I sat forward, on the edge of my seat, the way I teach (which is also how I sat for the rest of the recordings finding that doing so connected me to my inner “mentor/teacher” better). These elements helped make the day flow with greater ease, more energy, and with a far quieter inner judge.

This by no means should be read as it was easy or without doubt. No, there was doubt. On occasion, Jeff or I would look up the pronunciation of a word to make sure I was saying it correctly as I still found myself doubting the way even familiar words sounded exiting my mouth. I’m quite sure there are mispronunciations in my book. PhD and all, I’m human and words can mess us up when we least expect it.

Filming the videos with the amazing crew.

Some of the amazing people of Sounds True.

Monday began with two additional chapters, wrapping up the prenatal part of my book and heading into the postpartum journey. I also had the privilege of having lunch with the Associate Publisher, Jamie. We shared a truly lovely time connecting about birth, motherhood, the labor/birth of book publishing and more. The afternoon brought the additional challenge of facing filming promotion videos—four of them. Under normal circumstances, this sort of thing might feel easier to me as they were to be more extemporaneous and in teacher mode. Except, in this case, I was to “teach” to a camera lens about two feet directly in front of my face, had to make sure I said a powerful “hook” sentence to begin, and end strongly!

It was yet another threshold to cross in this overall experience of deep stretching and profound professional (and personal) growth.

Thanks to the remarkable support of the video team who held me lovingly through the filming process with grace, tenderness, and just the right amount of encouragement, I got through the four videos in the allotted time.

In the front lobby of Sounds True with Jeff and Matt.

With Jeff and Matt after we finished recording the whole audiobook.

I have to pause here and speak to the people of Sounds True.

I’ve known of Sounds True for decades. I’ve been a customer from the days of cassettes, then moved to CD sets, and now to digital downloads and many actual books after they added book publishing to their already well established audio repertoire. They specialize in content that is focused on depth, growth, personal practice, and transformation. For these reasons and more, partnering with Sounds True was a natural fit for me and my book.

What I have found over the course of working with them this past year is, they walk their talk. The past five days showed me that more than anything. Every single person I encountered during my time there is grounded, profoundly present, and doing their own work. On top of that, I could feel their desire to help me and my book succeed in reaching as many people as possible to impact the largest number of people. Their mission (and mine) is to help transform lives.

Throughout my time over the past week, I kept saying to myself, “Wow! This is my publisher!”

Jeff, Matt, and the whole Sounds True team got me through to the final day of recording. On Tuesday, I woke knowing this was it. We were wrapping up and coming to the end of the book. We got started quickly, having established habits and familiarity with each other and the process. I read chapters 12, 13, and most of 14 without much issue. I had good energy and decided to record without more than bio-breaks. My voice was tired and required more tea, honey, and moments to clear the growing frog.

But after the first several pages, even that mostly cleared. It was when I got to the part of chapter 14 where I start sharing a particular metaphor. That metaphor, I knew, was how I began to end my book. Without warning, I started to get choked up while reading it. I felt it fully. The message deeply mattered to me and I felt the listeners with me deeply in those final sections. Then, I started the epilogue.

Without realizing I had done so, the epilogue is written like a prayer, my wishes for those who read or listen to my book. The epilogue is what I want for all parents.

As I read those final paragraphs, the thousands of parents I have worked with and known flooded through my heart. I felt the parents I wrote the book for and who I might never meet in person. I felt and I read, felt and read. In all that feeling, I cried. Tears filled my eyes and cracked my voice. I got to the end in a puddle. I had to re-do the last two sentences several times as the emotion made the final word of the book unintelligible! After several tries, still filled with love, deep tenderness, and hope, I finished those final lines, and with them, the book.

Feeling satisfied at the end of the recording.

Shortly after reading the final words.

I rode the emotional waves of changing emotions doing my best to make space for each of them. I rested when I could, kept going in the face of doubt, and surrendered to the help of others, most of them strangers, who showed up to help me with care, depth, and wisdom born from experience and personal practice.

It was a birth. I made it through. And, regardless of what happens next, I’m better having gone through the experience.

About Dr. Britta Bushnell

is a writer, teacher, storyteller, and mentor who blends her eclectic training, years of experience, and areas of study into a unique offering for individuals, couples, professionals, and groups. Britta is currently deep at work writing her forthcoming book, Transformed by Birth: Illuminating cultural ideals to enhance the experience of childbirth.