Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers

Last Tuesday, I finished reading Laughter & Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers. I got this book last year at a Leader workshop and just now got around to reading it (you should see my "to read" pile. It is ridiculous!) I started out enjoying this book, but found it less and less engaging as it went on. I think there is such a great need for books about postpartum out there--ideally, for women to read before their babies are born. I wish I would have had one available to me when my first baby was born, instead of having to discover the niche quite a bit later. Part of why the book was not engaging is simply because it is geared toward women in the immediate postpartum (and also first time mothers primarily)--I'm not *there* and so my interest in the book waned fairly quickly. I also found a the heavy emphasis on "reclaiming your body" off-putting--there was even a comment like, "now that your baby is a robust two month old, you can begin to reclaim your body by reducing or eliminating feedings at night." Excuse me? "Robust" TWO MONTH OLD? That is practically still a fetus as far as I'm concerned!

Several quotes I marked to share:

"Our society is profoundly ambivalent about children. On one hand, we praise family values, but on the other, we emphasize individual liberty and the rights of women to have as many freedoms as men. We encourage mothers to desire to have it all, but do not guarantee maternity leave, health insurance, or day care. We use babies to sell products, from laundry detergent to automobile tires, but we don't want a mother with a toddler in the seat next to us on an airplane. We question the legality of abortion but threaten to withdraw welfare benefits from disadvantaged children. We celebrate children and praise parents for having them, but we do not provide structures or systems to help nurture them."

"The degree of pleasure you take in your mothering is not the same thing as loving the baby or being an effective parent. Keep in mind there is a distinction between mother love and maternal satisfaction. You may love your baby very much but be dissatisfied with your life circumstances."

"Men are challenged by their attempts to be more involved and more nuturant than the 'traditional' father. Women are challenged not only by developing an identity in the world outside the home, but also by opening up and truly incorporating men into the intimate life of the family. You may have a concept of what a more involved father should be like, but if you are honest with yourself, is your image truly about sharing the love and nurturance? Or is it actually about wanting your partner to help with domestic chores? Are you really imagining a co-parent, or are you thinking of something more like a regular baby-sitter and handyman?"

This book reminded me of how vital postpartum support is for families in our society and reminded me of why I wanted to be a postpartum doula and how called I felt to that work (more about that soon...).

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