16 August 2009

It Sucked and Then . . .

I think I have more books out from the library than should be allowed by law. And what do I do after I've stacked my books into neat piles? Buy a book that isn't available at the library and read it first.

I bought Heather Armstong's It Sucked and Then I Cried hoping to find comfort in the great abyss of motherhood I felt was swallowing me. The book is a memoir of Armstrong's pregnancy and first ten months of motherhood and her struggle with postpartum depression. I don't have postpartum depression, I'm sure of that, but I do have times when it feels like I'm trapped inside the vacuum cleaner and everything just sucks. These times often coincide with sleeplessness, something I have struggled with for years that reared its ugly head after Lily started sleeping for ten or more hours through the night. Sometimes I need someone to pat me on the shoulder and tell me it's okay and I'm not alone. And that's why I read this book, because I wanted it to pat me on the shoulder like an old friend.

But I didn't get the pat I was looking for. Armstrong didn't plunge into the depths of her despair so much as gloss over it: she cried a lot and spent four days in a mental hospital. The book, instead, is a series of anecdotes that range from sentimental to outright hilarious. I found myself with tears in my eyes one minute and laughing out loud the next. If you've ever read her blog, Dooce, you know what I mean. Though I'll admit that her writing style and over-the-top jokey-ness wore me down after a while.

If nothing else, Armstrong affirms that it's okay to admit that you need help and that things are more than you can deal with, whether you've just had a baby or not. Getting professional help in the form of therapy or medication is worth it to be a better version of yourself, one that can deal with life without having to throw full gallons of milk at your spouse's head. And I'd agree.

The picture she paints in It Sucked was a little uneven, though, and I think a lot was lost in the over-the-top-ness of her style. But I commend Armstrong, nonetheless, for being brave and candid and unashamed about what happened to her in the process of becoming a mother. I'm sure others have been and will be touched by her story.


kate o. said...

like you, i've loved reading books on mothering and parenting and such. but what i've noticed from a lot of women who aren't christians is that their writings about motherhood tend to be extremely self-focused and all about what their lives used to be like and what they used to do.

on the flip side, some books written by christian women can tend to make me feel like if i'm frustrated or overwhelmed, well, i should just pray, smile, and get on with it. not really what i'm looking for either...

all that to say, i've found it a bit harder to find good books and articles written from a balanced perspective. from the christian vantage point, i've appreciated sally clarkson's writings. perhaps i don't connect with all of her examples and interests, but the heart and focus of what she talks about is wonderful.

Sophia said...

Kate makes some good points!
Mothering, of course can't be self-centered because we aren't mothering ourselves, we are mothering helpless, and totally needy babies.
I agree, that the 'just pray, smile and keep moving' attitude is soooo hard for me to hang on to in the days that I am feeling so frustrated. the days when I feel like every single moment is child-centered; their entertainment, disciplining, feeding, cleaning-up after, etc......

maybe you should write a book; what do you think?

Lindsay said...

Becoming a mother has been so jarring, but I'm finding (by actually talking to people) that it is for everyone and that for a lot of women, it's put them in a dark and/or lonely place. I do find myself reading things, looking for connection or at least someone to affirm that what I feel is not abnormal. I liked Great with Child a lot more than this.

Kate, have you read Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions? A friend is sending me a copy to read.

Sophie, I've often thought I should write a book. Maybe when I can get a better handle on things (whenever that'll be).