Saturday, May 14, 2011

it sucked and then I cried - reading the almighty Dooce

Heather B. Armstrong. it sucked and then I cried: how I had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.

Okay. So I really want to hate her. She's like that wildly popular girl from high school, makes over $40 000 in ad revenue a month, her blogs have been published by a major publishing company and made the NY Times bestseller list, and she's probably the one blogger everyone thinks of when they hear the term 'Mommy Blogger.'  I know - annoying right?  Why is her nervous breakdown so much sexier than mine, mmmm?!  (Likely largely because she's not, you know, me.  Also perhaps because I'm not actually having a nervous breakdown.  Just, erm, some growing pains or something.  And someone should kick my ass for being so dramatic).   Anyways.  It turns out she's freaking hard to hate.  For real.

Armstrong is a witty, engaging and often funny writer, who takes you along on a journey of soul-crushing post-partum depression in a way that doesn't make you feel, well, crushed.   This book sucked me in.  I started and finished it two nights ago in the bath (which was mighty fucking cold by the time I was done, believe you-me).  I love that Armstrong has the capacity to take you through the highs and lows of a given aspect of mothering.   I laughed with her.  (She has a warped sense of humour - possibly stemming from her Mormon upbringing - long since rejected, which I really appreciated).  Like when she talks about breastfeeding dogma: "They will tell you that it is easy. . . . And they will be lying to you.  SHOVING A BLUNT PENCIL INTO YOUR EYE IS EASY, TOO" (84).   Mmmmhmmmmm.  And then I cried with her.  (Not, like out of control cried.  But if you can forgive the Oprah term,  I 'pretty' cried, in the eyes-welling-up-little-tears-trickling-down-the-cheek way).  Especially when she wrote about having to wean her daughter in order to go on some pretty serious anti-depressants, which of course seems to have coincided with the weaning of my own Ms. Girlio:
I have been bound to this child for six months without any break, and that morning as she snuggled in my arms and ate her last boob-delivered breakfast I sobbed  and gushed tears onto her porcelain soft cheeks.  And when she full I held her close a few extra minutes so that she could lift her arm to my face and pinch my nose.  And the a put her whole hand in my mouth to nibble on her fat fingers and to muffle my weeping. (175)
And there were also the many requisite, -hey! me too!- moments at things both humourous, and less so.  Her extreme dismay at losing power in her home, thus disconnecting her from the voices and faces keeping her company from the television is eerily similar to the discomfort (read: panic) felt by yours truly every time she loses power and cannot check her facebook.   And the following passage describes a feeling I have encountered, acutely, many times in my own at-home tenure:
Some days I stared eternity in the face and thought about how many diapers I would change that would only get dirty again, towels I would wash that would only become soiled, dishes I would load into the dishwasher that we would use to eat again and again, and I felt useless, as if I were fighting a battle that could not be won. (137)
I'm not going to lie.  I bought the book because of the title.  It's a good title.  I'm not sure I was actually expecting such a frank, bare depiction of the tumult of new parenthood.   But Armstrong's waters run deeper than I thought they would.  She probably attributes a bit more of her depression to chemicals in brain, and a bit less of it to concrete material and social factors than I might. (Like, I dunno, the fact that her husband could only take three days off post-birth, said baby had what can only be described as horrific colic, and there are virtually no social supports for mothers out there and immense pressures to be supernatural creatures... and I could go on and on with this list, but won't, cause you've heard it from me before and I'm going to start sounding like the Charlie Brown trombones again.  And because noteveryone has to be as obsessed about this business as me, right?)  She gets to make those calls.  Not my journey.

So - it`s probably fairly clear that she doesn`t need the revenue from my recommendation.  (But neither does J.K. Rowling, and I`m all about HP).  And for any mom that has struggled - or anyone who wants to understand more clearly some of the struggles that mom`s can face - it`s worth a late night bathtub read - if you don`t mind the water getting a bit chilly.

No comments:

Post a Comment