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It's difficult to understand just how overwhelming, exhilirating, joyous, and lonely becoming a mother can be—until it happens to you. While many aspects of motherhood are universal, the core of each woman's experience is highly individual and deeply personal. Child of Mine is a book of original essays that reveal the many faces of motherhood, and which explore the amazing variety of feelings and changes that women go through in the first year of maternity.
The essays—by writers including Susan Cheever, Mona Simpson, Sarah Bird, Naomi Wolf, Meg Wolitzer, and many more—address a wide range of concerns, from changes in your marriage to delivery experiences to body image, to the mother/child bond, to ambivalence about breastfeeding. We see an African-American mother who's conflicted about hiring a Jamaican babysitter; we see an urban working mom who's delighted to be back to her job after maternity leave; we see a mother's nightmare journey through a year of her son's colic. In one of the most moving pieces in the book, a mother living in dire poverty in the Vermont backwoods tells of raising her daughter, making do with clothing and toys from the Salvation Army. And we see the adoption experience with all its ups and downs.
The book covers an amazing breadth of experience, and readers will recognize themselves as they discover that other mothers have felt the same emotions, cried the same tears, thrilled to similar milestones, and suffered the same indignities and heartaches in the challenging first year of motherhood. Child of Mine will be the perfect book for mothers-to-be and new mothers, as it will prepare them in a way that no guide or manual can for the exciting and challenging times to come.
Pieces by Allegra Goodman, Valerie Sayers, Mona Simpson, Naomi Wolf, and Meg Wolitzer, among others, are divided into three sections—"Anticipation," "Initiation," and "Child of Mine." Those describing their pregnancies in "Anticipation" remember fretting that they lacked the maternal instinct and fearing, as journalist Elissa Schappell put it, that they would join those "other mothers who snacked [on] Cheerios out of tiny plastic bags, [and] smelled faintly of baby vomit." "Initiation" covers childbirth ("doing a marathon without moving an inch," quips novelist Sarah Bird), breastfeeding, and what editor/novelist Alisa Kwitney calls "the eternal now" of living with a baby. The final section touches on the terrors of babysitting, defining one's child's place in the world, and the child's effect on the mother, nicely symbolized by a worn bear in Susan Cheever's essay. Despite misgivings, marital discord, even encounters with violent eruptions of individuality in one's offspring, the writers present a nearly unified vision of hope. An infant may scream, poop, and tyrannize, but as political writer Helen Winternitz says of her son, he "opened up a new continent for me, a territory of emotions as big and inviting and perilous as Africa." There is sadness at initial separations and some regret, but because most of the children discussed are still young, these emotions are largely anticipatory. One exception is novelist Abigail Stone, who raised her now-grown daughter alone and poor, and offers a moving confession of the ways in which poverty and her conflicting needs to be a writer and a mother affected her relationship with her daughter.
For those who find pregnancy books disingenuous and friends with children too knowing, this book offers an alternative community—skeptical, worried, reflective, and grateful. Think of it as you sneak your two-month-old into the cineplex.
|Life Within Life||13|
|In Search of the Maternal Instinct||22|
|Waiting for Brendan||32|
|Pokega, From the Heart||39|
|Most Reluctantly Mother||50|
|Moral Terrors and Motherhood||72|
|A Painless Labor||85|
|Thumbelina: The Complexities of Having a Pretty Little Girl||103|
|Motherhood as Subversive Activity||117|
|A Creation Story||127|
|A Dangerous Thing to Hope For||138|
|Baby Blues: A Journal||155|
|Breastfeeding: The Agony and the Ecstasy||181|
|The Last Nursing Mommy Tells All||192|
|The Eternal Now||211|
|A Family Romance||232|
|Bye Bye Baby: On Mother Guilt and Poverty||243|
|The Hand That Pushes the Stroller||254|
|Confessions of a Lazy Mom||275|
|Making It Work: My Life as a Career-Minded Mother||287|
|The Buddy System||297|
|List of Contributors||327|