Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mail Delivery: It Gets Easier! ...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers Review

Recently I was emailing with a new friend about her quest to have a baby. I sympathized with her frustration, while also subtly trying to get across the point that, although babies are great, she really needed to NOT take the free time that she has now for granted.

Alas, I knew that no matter what I said, she wouldn't understand. There just aren't words that can get prepare future moms for the monumental changes that will occur in their life when their first child is born. There are stories, there are classes, there are television shows... none of it can really give a glimpse into what life will REALLY be like after the baby has arrived.

I'm somebody's MOTHER. Now what?

Aside from actually giving birth, I have never done anything as difficult as motherhood.

When I was pregnant, I knew being a mom was going to be hard because, sure, of course it will be, but I had no idea just HOW HARD.

As many other women do, I approached motherhood with my own expectations about the kind of mom I was going to be. I was pretty sure I knew both my strengths and my weaknesses when it came to children. I had a degree in elementary education, had run camps and after-school programs and babysat and, most important of all, was desperately ready to have children of my own. What else could I need or do to prepare?

As soon as the shock and excitement of actually being pregnant (it took a full year, a DEPRESSING YEAR, to conceive Big Sister E) began to settle down, I started to read all of the baby books and focus on doing research. My baby would have to have the best of the best, of course. The cribs all looked the same to me, so I had better find out which is the top-ranked one for my precious baby to little one to sleep in. Strollers? They all had a seat and some wheels, so how was I to know which would provide the best ride unless an "expert" had deemed that it would?

Aside from the gear, I read all of the baby books. You know the ones. They range from informational to personal, dishing out either facts or tales or here's-what-might-go-wrong stories. Some of these books are helpful, some are not. Did they aid in preparing me for motherhood? I wouldn't say no, but I wouldn't exactly say yes, either.

Where was It Gets Easier! ...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers: A Fun Practical Guide To Becoming A Mom when I needed it?

The author, Claudine Wolk, puts it best in her own words: "Of course, one of the most common sources of information on the subject of pregnancy and childrearing is books. I, too, read books in preparation for pregnancy and found their information useful; I still do. What I felt these books were lacking and what I have tried to provide for you is the uncensored advice."

That's EXACTLY what is missing from most of the other books. The stuff that, now that I am a veteran mother, just isn't talked about. Instead of telling women the things that have already been said about labor, postpartum and beyond, Wolk interviewed hundreds of women and put her findings, together with her own experiences from her three children, into a book using two important techniques: humor and honesty. Instead of being another bland read, her book is both entertaining and useful.

Only pages into It Gets Easier! and I didn't feel as though I was reading a book. It was as if a friend turned to me and said, "You know all those things that you don't know about until after you have kids? Wouldn't you have liked to have been briefed on them BEFORE you had a baby? Sit back and let me tell you." As I continued reading, I found myself agreeing with SO many of Wolk's points that I was almost continually nodding along while laughing.

Even though I have talked about motherhood with friends over the past three years, I was still amazed Wolk hit upon some of the things that aren't ever mentioned in conversations. Little things, like, "You start to think you're the only person in the world not sleeping. I can remember looking out our front window and cursing the dark windows of my neighbors." I could have written this, WORD-FOR-WORD. It wasn't so many months ago that Little Sister B wasn't sleeping through the night and this sums up exactly how I was feeling. Every night when I was nearing the wonderful time when I was heading back to bed after being up with her, I would glance out my window and look up and down the block at all of the unlit windows thinking there wasn't another person out there anywhere that was awake with me. I couldn't help but curse them.

This book is written for all mothers. Whether pregnant and looking for insight into what may lie ahead or a seasoned mom interested in hearing motherhood talked about REALISTICALLY, this book is great. Wolk provides new moms with actual ideas to try to (hopefully) make life with a newborn a little bit easier and tips for surviving those early months. She warns about fluctuating emotions, sleeplessness and the kind of company that you WANT to have once the baby has arrived.

For all of us with children already, she does something else that's very important. She allows her readers the ability to let go of some of the "Mommy Guilt" that we all feel, even if it isn't always talked about. In her chapter titled How Did I Get into This Mess?! she states, "There is no question that you love your child, all mothers do. It's just that you may not have realized the enormity of motherhood."

Being fully responsible for the well-being of a tiny human is a gigantic responsibility and it doesn't stop there. Watching their own individual personalities develop and flourish is amazing... but very difficult. I've often wondered if I'm the only one who has been baffled by the fact that someone I love SO MUCH can frustrate me more than anything I've ever imagined. Thank you, Claudine Wolk, for letting me know that I'm not alone in sorting through the highs and lows and crazy mixed feelings that come with motherhood. The line, " what's a mother to do? I try to get some sleep, pick myself up, and try a little harder next time," is what I needed to hear.

Shucks, Mom, we all make mistakes. All anybody can do is try their best, right?

To learn more about It Gets Easier! ...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers: A Fun Practical Guide To Becoming A Mom, visit Wolk's website. As well as information on ordering the book and the heaps of praise it has received, there are links to her blog, downloading a baby schedule and answers to some major help questions ("What are those first few days like after having a baby?" and "Why are mothers so critical of each other?" are two of my favorites).

Thanks, AMACOM, for providing this book for me to read, I'm planning on recommending it to all the mothers I know. And, for tilting the padded envelope just right to fit neatly into the mailbox, thanks, Mail Carrier.

(Other than the copy of It Gets Easier! ...And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way. This review is solely my opinion of this funny book.)


Molly said...

what a great sounding book. I knew I would be tired as a new mom, but didn't have a clue as to how tired I would be with a newborn. It used to piss me off when co-workers without kids would moan into their coffee about how tired they were. I would be like, "shut up, I can't even have coffee because I'm breastfeeding!"

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Deb said...

Now that my kids are older, new frazzled, moms of young kids look to me with pleading eyes and ask, "It gets easier, doesn't it?"

My frazzled voice always truthfully replies, "No, it just gets harder and different."

Glad that there's a book that embraces some of the reality...we can't all be taking valium with cocktails telling ourselves it must be easier for everyone else :)

Janie B said...

That book sounds great. Wish I'd written it!

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Theta Mom said...

Oh why couldn't I have known about a book like this when I was having a baby for the first time?! This is EXACTLY what I stand for as a Theta Mom....why didn't they tell us the real deal? Looks like an AWESOME read for first time mommies! :)

HautePinkCloset said...

Being a first time mom wasn't so bad for me, I was in such shock that I was actually becoming a mother that I walked around in a dream all the time. My son woke up every two hours like clock work but I didn't mind because I was to scared to sleep anyway.

It was the second and third that made me feel like a first time mom, tired all the time, stressed, and very short tempered.

This book sounds great! My good friend is expecting her first I think I will pick up a copy for her.

Unknown said...

would have loved to read that book as a FTM