My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(I first read this when it came out in 2010 and recently picked it up again. It still makes me laugh and cry and appreciate even the difficult moments with my kids. While organizing my laptop files, I found a fan letter that I wrote but never sent–because yes, I am that lazy–so I am now publishing it as my book review. Maybe Amy will see it, maybe she won’t. In any case, I highly recommend this for any mom who has ever felt like she just hasn’t measured up to the ideal in her head.)
An Open Letter to the Author:
Is it okay if I call you “Amy”? Because after reading your book, I feel like I have known you my whole life. Actually, I feel like you are me (but with better skin and sharper wit). I bought your book as a Mother’s Day present to myself, during a rare afternoon of “alone time”. We really didn’t have the money to spare, but since I just blew $300 on tickets for my husband to see his favorite rock band (thus, why we had no money to spare), I figured $20 wasn’t too much of an indulgence.
I am so glad I didn’t guilt myself out of it; that is my usual M.O., to not treat myself because that money is better spent towards new shoes/clothes/coats/books/etc. for my kids. Reading your book actually was sort of a present to my kids (3 of whom also have Gaelic-inspired names, though by accident not design: Beckett, Finnian, and Moira). I feel a little lighter, a little more joyful, a little more connected to my family. For one simple reason:
YOU GET IT!
I have read dozens of similarly-themed books, starting with The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy when I was expecting my firstborn. Most were funny, poignant, relatable. But after just the first few pages, I knew we were kindred spirits. In fact, I went searching for my journals just to see if somehow you had gotten your hands on them and were using MY life as inspiration.
Your wanting to experience a med-free birth with Connor mirrored my desire for the same with my daughter, Larisa. She was conceived and carried after 5 years and 9 miscarriages, and about 6 months after the fertility specialist told us they didn’t know why I couldn’t carry a baby, just that my eggs seemed to be “bad” (but, for $2800/month they would be happy to shoot me up with hormones until those gosh darned eggs reached peak perfection, cash upfront). I said screw it, and decided to treat myself with some funny-sounding herbs. I figured I couldn’t do any worse than the doctors at that point. So with many a Hail Mary (oh yeah, I’m Catholic, too!) and False Unicorn Root in my OJ, I begat my sweet Larisa. Of course, after all those tribulations, I wanted to feel the pain of motherhood.
My labor and delivery went pretty much like yours. And the shame and disappointment I felt afterwards, that I had “given in”, stayed with me right up until the moment my second child was being stubborn and they asked if I wanted the epidural. I realized that I wanted to be present in that moment when he entered the world, and the epidural was what would help me to do that. They gave me a little too much, so I had to be told when to do what because I felt nothing, but it was still a wonderful experience. Someday, over Mojitos, I will tell you about the (involuntary) med-free birth of my third. Let’s just say, 1hr 12mins from my first pain to his first cry. My husband missed the whole thing while he was parking the car.
When you wrote about your difficulty in connecting with other moms, with losing “Amy” and becoming “Connor’s Mommy”, I cried. I have a wonderful group of online friends that have been with me since we were all the December 2002 Expecting Club. But flesh and bone friends have been hard to come by. I’m fortunate to have a few close friends nearby, though getting together usually revolves around playdates, and it would be really nice to have more kid-free time together. Most of the friends that I do have now are because a few of them took the time to reach out to me at Lara’s pre-K pick-up. I tried to pay that forward with the new moms at Beck’s pre-K pick-up, and I’ll do so again when Finn starts school in the fall. It’s just so hard to find that right connection with another woman. I picked up my husband faster and easier than I have new mom friends, though that might have been because of the tequila. I don’t think Sister Joanne would appreciate me bringing a bottle of Cuervo along to Back to School night, though it might make filling out all those damn forms more exciting.
I, too, often feel like the Hippopotamus. (Yep, a Sandra Boynton freak here, too. I have Philadelphia Chickens loaded on my iPod, and not just on my kids’ playlist.) My husband takes the kids out and does things with them, while I mostly follow behind making sure everyone has what they need and cleaning up in their wake. I’ve seriously forgotten how to just have fun. I love that you ended that chapter with a cannonball into the pool. While I can’t do that, the $15 plastic wading pool just isn’t conducive to diving, I’m going to make it my goal to do more “cannonballs” this summer and become “Yes the Mom”. Thank you for that lesson.
I hope you will continue to write more books. It makes such a big difference knowing there’s someone else out there with these thoughts and feelings.
a.k.a Larisa-Beckett-Finnian-Moira’s Mom