01 May 2017
letters to a young mother
When I was pregnant, I read a wonderful collection called Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother. It's a series of letters from the author Beth Ann Fennelly to her newly pregnant friend, and they are exactly the type of letters that a pregnant woman needs. She writes about the mundane, the ridiculous, the serious and the beautiful. She shares the heartbreak of her miscarriage and the experience of her daughter's birth and first days with such jaw-dropping perfection that, on more than one occasion, I had to set the book down and walk away in tears, with laughter, or both.
Here are a few of my favorite passages, excluding her wonderful rallying cry for mamas going into labor that I won't ruin for you.
On becoming a mother
"You'll exchange independence for the benefits of community, the needing and being needed. Fo you will be needed as well; a new mother and child are a powerful renewing force."
On feeling deeply
"You feel more deeply. You become capable of a raw, scary fullness of emotion that tenderizes the hardened muscles of the heart. And it endangers you. Because you feel for other people's suffering more than you used to, especially for the suffering of children, as if the love you bear for your child is so outsized that it can't be contained but splashes out into the world, your salty tears brimming the salty oceans... Your new sensitivity is a strength, and you should see it that way."
On babies and the passage of time
"Truly, babies are hyphenated-- they are endearing-exasperating; they are amusing-annoying. But the phases go so quickly that nothing is unbearably bad (or good) for long. That's why every phase is so bittersweet..
...so their infancy passes in a wave of nostalgia that swells and swells but never crests, never recedes."
Goodness, that last quote is exactly right, isn't it? If you're pregnant, or have a young child, please read this book. You can borrow my dog-eared copy with underlines and exclamation points in the margin, if you'd like.