Full Disclosure: This book was sent to me as a gift from the author. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
When I was pregnant with my first child I read so many books that it’s kind of comical. Not “how to parent” books, but books about the history of childbirth, about how to have the best natural birthing experience with a midwife, about the detailed technical science of a developing fetus, and about the many drugs that are offered to women in hospitals. I wanted to know everything. But I didn’t really look for personal stories from women who had gone through the experience of birth and infant care.
The thing is, once that little being enters your world everything changes. For me, just a few days after delivery I felt flooded with intense new emotions, while at the same time having to confront my healing body and this crazy milk production and the total giving-over of myself to this beautiful baby. Looking back I see something so clearly now: No matter how much your family, friends, and husband are there for you–in every way possible–you, as a new mother, still feel marooned on a mental island for a while.
And that’s exactly when I could’ve used a book like Sharon’s.
Becoming Mother is not a dreamy rendering of what motherhood might be. It is real and raw and genuine, and doesn’t hide the sticky, scary parts. It’s gritty and messy and imperfect; uplifting, contemplative, and poetic. A detailed and honest account of one woman’s journey through pregnancy, birth, and the ever complex process of infant care. And actually, so much more.
Sharon’s story begins with her pregnancy and hospital delivery. She writes candidly about her interactions with the doctor and nurses, revealing that her experience there was not a wholly peaceful one, although never treading into the territory of blame or anger. She simply tells us what happened. Throughout the rest of the book we get to see how she navigates the joys and challenges of those first days and weeks of motherhood– the nursing, sleep deprivation, meditations on sense of self, the love, the pain– all of it. She doesn’t hide the parts that we, as mothers, most need to hear.
She seems to have an incredible depth of understanding for the many facets of what “motherhood” is, despite having only just recently become a mother herself. She speaks with wisdom in so many realms.
On reconciliation with the postpartum self:
“I had to acknowledge that being a mother isn’t an identity full of weaknesses that I had to overcome. Instead, motherhood is an identity that requires continuous strength and perseverance that largely remains unheralded.“
On women needing to keep hold of our personal, creative lives beyond our children:
“We can choose not to feed that side of ourselves, but it continues to hunger. It eats at us and we loathe the emptiness of the vision left unpursued. The one to which we still haven’t had the time to give birth. Creativity doesn’t die. It might slow or go stagnant as life reaches a stasis. But any time there is change—and a new child is massive change— the creative self hungers. It needs to make meaning of the change.”
On the profound process of life being intertwined with death within a woman’s body:
“Death surrounds new life, but it largely goes unnoticed. It starts in a womb where death, birth, and growth of cells happens every month. A tiny fertilized egg trusts its fate to this volatile environment. Sometimes, it works out. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Thousands of other eggs mature, spring forth, and die unannounced. It is in this fertile soil of death that the roots of the placenta take hold…”
Possibly my favorite part from the entire book is this one:
“Childbirth. Is. Hard. But it’s not important to know how long your labor will last or how much pain you’re going to feel. What is important is that you’ll never doubt the depths of your strength again. Ever.”
I think why I love it so much is because it’s so freaking true.
My other favorite part: When she talks about different “brands of motherhood” and how you care for your own child…
“Read and research, but don’t let what you read speak louder than your own intuition and personal experience. And yes, you do have intuition. Trust it.”
That part made me cry the first time I read it. Why? Because I wish, so so so so badly, that women—mothers— would give themselves more credit for knowing, deep inside, what to do. That we would all trust our own intuitions more.
There were too many sections of this book that had me nodding my head in agreement with her statements. This one about how parenthood is a permanent change was another one of those.
“Parenthood remodels your identity in every facet. Once those renovations are complete, the process is permanent. It cannot be undone. And so parenthood becomes an exercise of faith. Faith that— despite the risk of pain and suffering, be it emotional or physical— it is worth it. All of it.”
I had never viewed parenthood as “an exercise of faith” before having a child. But it is truth spoken from experience– there are some things in life that can’t be explained or reasoned-out. Sometimes faith is all we have.
I find myself compelled to keep writing and writing about this book. There are just so many lovely things about it, so many parts that I’d like to share and discuss with other mothers. And that is exactly what a book of this nature is supposed to inspire, isn’t it? To move you to go out and share it with every person you meet. Because it touched some part of your mind or soul. And it did, for me.
Becoming Mother is Sharon Tjaden-Glass’ first published book. Visit her blog here.
Buy her book, for yourself or as a gift for another mother! 🙂