I'm not a mother yet, but my sister and two of my best friends have fairly recently become mothers, and its been enlightening to hear what childbirth and motherhood are like from people who are close enough to give all the untarnished, gory details, instead of just saying 'Oh it's great, and the pain is absolutely nothing when you hold the baby in your arms!' Don't get me wrong, they love their children very much and wouldn't change what they have for the world, but motherhood is not the easy breezy cakewalk that TV adverts and hippy earth mothers would have you believe.
This is why I was intrigued by the synopsis of After Birth, by Elisa Albert. Ari is a young woman who gave birth to her baby boy a year before the book takes place. Although a year has passed, she still feels out of place and disconnected to everyone she knows, including her husband. Finally Mina moves to town, who's a bit older, a bit different from the norm and pregnant, and she slowly becomes a friend to Ari, which helps her start to become more comfortable in her role as a mother.
Although a fairly short book, this is not an easy read. Some of the words that came to mind while I was reading were searing, visceral and stark. However, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, as I think that the themes addressed in the book are vitally important. Ari clearly loves her child, but also finds him at times to be a burden, irritating and a thief of her time (she's attempting to complete a PhD in Women's Studies while raising her son). There's a great scene where Ari describes attending mother/baby groups and finding that she just doesn't fit in with the mothers there. Another big theme in the book relates to identity, as Ari feels that she has lost her own identity and personality in being a mum to Walker and a wife to Paul.
Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives
I personally feel that there is a lot of pressure on new mums to 'fit in', and I don't believe that it is ever really made socially acceptable for a new mum (or an any mum) to put her hands up and admit that she's struggling or feeling a bit down, which is terrible! Part of the blurb states that Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives, which I think is very apt. I believe that this book would resonate with a lot of parents, and would heartily recommend to them, even if just so that they would know that its OK to sometimes feel overwhelmed. Parenthood is hard, and everyone has an opinion, down to strangers on the bus.
It sounds strange for me to say that this book rang very true to me, considering that I haven't had any children, but in a way, it's nice to know that motherhood isn't sunshine and rainbows for everyone. I really enjoyed this, and it stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading it. The writing is sharp and clever, and I believe i'll be thinking about it for a long time in the future.