After Birth by Elisa Albert
Read: February 2017
(DNF'd on first attempt in 2015)
Disclaimer: A complimentary copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.Synopsis:
Sometimes I'm with the baby and I think: you're my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the fuck alone.
A year has passed since Ari gave birth and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Sleep-deprived, lonely and unprepared, she struggles through the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights. Her own mother long dead and her girlhood friendships faded, she is a woman in need.
When Mina - older, alone, pregnant - moves to town, Ari sees hope of a comrade-in-arms. Perhaps the hostile terrain could be more easily navigable together.
With purifying anger and outrageous humour, Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives. And as she defines the raw experience of motherhood, Albert offers a hilarious and devastatingly honest examination of how we become the women we are.
"An edgy, raw 'of the moment', anger rant about pregnancy, birth and motherhood"'After Birth' is a hard hitting, revelatory tale about 'life after birth', and motherhood told with brutally honest portrayals of its character's and their unforgiving, often outrageous hilarious and irrational observations. With the exception of the lesbianism, drugs and some other scenarios, specifically the 'milk mother' relationship (an unselfish act practiced within certain social/religious groups), it was as if I were reading a close encounter of 'my' life 'After Birth'. Decidedly the most traumatic experience I've had to date, I felt utterly humiliated and devastated as the fairytale promised me fractured and disintegrated. You know, the one about 'the most beautiful rewarding experience a woman should have is giving birth'. I felt betrayed...It certainly wasn't meant to be the way it played out for me...was it ?
Ari the central character feels similarly... “the baby books said nothing about this,” ... and again about her cesarean section: ...“They cut me in half, pulled the baby from my numb, gaping cauterized center...Sewn back up again by a team of people I didn’t even know...Severed from hip to hip iced, brutalized, catheterized, tethered to a bed, the tiny bird’s heartfelt shrieks as they carted him off somewhere hell itself.”...
On one of her home visits it was obvious to my health visitor that things were a little off when after weeks of sleep deprivation, and still unable to stand upright from my emergency c-section op, and subsequent emergency op to repair the reopening of the aforementioned, I told her that I didn't want my baby, he didn't want me, and to take him away. Fortunately she didn't believe me and immediately telephoned the doctor who prescribed antidepressants. Why did I let things take such a hold? Well, at the time I 'knew' that I couldn't tell anyone because 'they' would take my baby into care as I was such a bad mum, and then section me for being mentally ill...but they did neither.
Ok so not everyone has such an awful time of it but some mothers do, and although a fictional account 'After Birth' was a revelation and potentially a 'self help' book in my opinion. Reading about these character's experiences dredged up such powerful emotions from deep down, but ultimately it brought about an acceptance and exorcism 'of sorts' to that period in my life.
My experience was nearly 19 years ago and If this book said anything to me...NO, IT SCREAMED OUT AT ME...that sometimes we need help... that we're not alone...that we'll probably get over it and be okay in the end...that we should not be afraid to ask for help! I went on two years later to have another baby, by elective c-section, and had the polar opposite experience.
After Birth is not a fluffy tale of motherhood, it does not paint a pretty picture of talcum powder smelling newborns, and reading it may destroy the cutesy image. What it does, is give the reader an insight into the frightful nightmare that the experience can be like, at least for some.
The tone of anguish, and despair of the characters was right on the button and the book truly resonated with me. This is a personal emotional account of my thoughts rather than an actual review and other readers will take more, or less from it but essentially it is an harsh story with tender moments narrated by well written colourful characters, some likeable and others not so much, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
I wouldn't say that all mothers should read it especially if going through a first pregnancy but I'd definitely suggest giving it a try. It may not be the right moment, but it's worth giving it a chance.
A narrative of pure emotion and highly emotive, I wholeheartedly recommend 'After Birth' for it's entertaining value and stark honesty. Perfect for the new wave feminism happening now, and guaranteed to whip up some frank and excitable debate in book reading groups.