Surprised by Motherhood, Book Review

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SURPRISED BY MOTHERHOOD, Everything I Never expected about being a mum, by Lisa-Jo Baker

I was excited to start reading this book. While reading the title, I was glad I had found it.  The cover promised to tell me everything which had been missing from my naive knowledge.  I hoped that it would offer information, insight and inspiration for the journey ahead.  I believed I was about to be let in on a wonderful secret.

Instead, I was immediately disappointed by both the tone and content of the book.  It is both too religous and too ordinary to be the kind of book I would recommend to others.  The author is quick to take up a position of the ethereal mother goddess.  Her description of walking into the gym after giving birth is ridiculous.

‘I had done something that none of the men in that room could imagine, let alone replicate.’

Per-lease!  Um, I’m pretty sure that men are capable of empathy and bravery.  It is this position, of smugly disregarding men’s understanding of childbirth that I find too hard to handle.  It is simply a representation of how the writer see’s her own partner and not anything to do with men as a gender.

What I was hoping for in a book about motherhood was an author with wisdom, insight and knowledge to share.  Instead, this author sounds kind of hopeless and unwilling to learn or ask for help.  Even while entering the gym or a hardware store she does not think to learn or ask or challenge herself.

pregnancy calculator, pregnancy, spotting during pregnancy, pregnant woman, pregnancy symptoms, symptoms of pregnancy, morning sickness, There are many gross assumptions made based on her own experience of bearing and raising three child.  The book is limited to a single, very privileged white experience of motherhood.

Lots of sentences in the first half of the book begin with, Parenting is this..!  Motherhood is that..!  She seems mad at people in pregnancy books telling her what parenting will be like, and yet that is all she does throughout this book.

There is nothing French about this writer who gives her husband a romance killing blow by blow commentary of the ins and outs of her gastrointestinal tract.  The birth of their first child involved a battle to gain her partner’s attention who was watching a basketball game?

During the first half of this novel, I couldn’t understand what the book was for.  It doesn’t seem to be for other pregnant women to read, it is kind of more of a memoir.  Or just angry ranting perhaps?

Her lack of ever wanting kids seems to be used as a focus of interest, like tension in the story as to how the kids will eventually turn out in the face of such an obstacle.  But before you even get there, one thing is a given.  Having kids is a choice and she must have chosen to have them, the end.  No mystery.

I skipped over a lot of the first few chapters, picking it up again at about Chapter 7, when Baker returned to what it was like to have a newborn.  I was interested again.

At her birthday, it seemed everyone celebrated but her.  I can’t imagine being with a partner who did not even notice I hadn’t had any food, at all.  No one noticed.  Call me smug but that is a basic kindness. I wondered what on earth was going on in their relationship.

My partner and I would have had a fight about that.  But it also wouldn’t never happen.  And, no amount of complimenting me while I’m on the toilet would make me forgive my partner for not simply getting the fuck out and handling our child for just 5 minutes on his own.  Yikes!  This story is too ordinary to be the kind of book I could learn anything from.  There is very little aspirational drive or motivation in the book.  It is not inspiring at all.

I have to believe that something better is possible.  Even if it turns out to not be true, I need to start with high hopes of motherhood and then work back from there.

I must begin by expecting for more from pregnancy, labor and motherhood, where my partner and I come together for an epic love fest and where he is capable of handling our baby while I am busy.  If I continue to read this book, where the parents have no plan, no money, no structure and no clue, then that is all I will ever achieve.  These guys didn’t even want to attend a birthing class.  No wonder they were surprised by motherhood.

This book is a very narrow and very singular reflection of motherhood.   I would not recommend it to a first time mother or a pregnant friend.

Having a baby, baby books, pregnancy books, what to expect when your expecting, parenting books, books about mothersThis sentence will be the most important thing I end up taking from this book.  ‘You are so much braver than you think’.  The thing I took from this book was an extreme love and appreciation for my real life partner who is nothing like the husband in this story.

Surprised by motherhood indeed - of course you would be if you did absolutely no preparation at all!

Lisa-Jo Baker

SURPRISED BY MOTHERHOOD was published in 2014 by Tyndale House Publishers in North America.  She is currently blogging and writing about her experience as a mother.

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