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Thursday, August 4, 2011

book - Mother Shock

Mother Shock - Tales from the First Year and Beyond, Loving Every (Other) Minute of It by Andrea J. Buchanan

(image from Google)

This was an awesome book! It reminded me of my favorite mom book that I read last month, The Second Nine Months by Vicki Glembocki. It is written in the same style - very blunt and honest and offering up the truth about what it's like to be a new mother. I liked this book because it gave more info about what it's like to be a mom of a toddler.

Written in an easy-to-skim format with short essays about various topics, this was definitely a good choice for a mom on the go with a toddler and with little time to stay awake at night reading before bed.

The mother shock
Buchanan starts the book by describing how crazy new motherhood can be. She refers to it as the mother shock, this strange territory that you enter and have no idea about before going there. On the opening introduction page she writes, "Imagine you have just moved to a foreign country. You have the worst case of jet lag ever. The guidebook you bought, which seemed so comprehensive before you left home, does not tell you everything you need to know. You do not yet speak the language, and everything is confusing. Your spouse or traveling companion either hasn't come with you or gets to go back home each morning, coming to visit you only at the end of the day. In this new place, the customs are very different. Your natural ways of behaving and interacting are no longer appropriate. Despite the newness of everything, in this particular country you are expected to adapt immediately. But the rhythms of life are different here, and you are constantly sleep-deprived. You miss your old life, where everything was familiar. You miss your friends back home, who only imagine the excitement of your travels and are unable to fully understand the difficulties you describe.

"This is what it feels like for many of us when we become mothers: we find we have entered into a strange new world with a language, culture, time zone, and set of customs all its own. Until we become acclimiated to this new, seemingly unfathomable territory, we exist in a state of culture shock. We are in mother shock."

It's so true, what she wrote. Many aspects of being a new mom are shocking, overwhelming and just not what you expected. Some of those things are definitely positive, others not so much.

Buchanan refers to the mother shock as the transition period a mother goes through during the phases of the first year of her child's life. I definitely related to this concept. I recall various stages of my son's life the first year where I felt confused and like nobody gave me the manual all other mothers seemed to have, and then other times where I felt so confident in what I was doing as a parent that I looked at moms with infants with pity and thoughtfulness, thinking, "I was there once, too, you will survive, I swear."

Take it all in

On page 37, she explains what it's like to first feel your baby in your arms. Definitely an amazing thing, just like how you picture it to be now while pregnant, only ten times more amazing. I like how she put it though: "When I finally held my daughter, the sense of simultaneous panic and relief was overwhelming. For until I physically touched her, I hadn't fully realized the enormity of what we both had accomplished: she had been born, I had birthed her. There was so much that could have gone wrong but didn't..." So true. If you stop to think about what you just did after giving birth to your child and after being pregnant for those 10 long months... wow. That is pretty much a miracle. I encourage those of you still pregnant to remember this on that busy birthing day. Just like I encourage brides on their wedding day to stop for a moment and look around the room with their new husband and really see everything, take it all in, enjoy watching people laughing and being happy for them and look at the flowers and what people are wearing - just take it all in because it won't ever come again... I also encourage you to do the same on the day of your child's birth.

Letting go

On page 50, Buchanan accurately describes what it feels like to watch your little one grow up. This is just one passage of many that I really loved in this book, as it was the first real book that I've read that included what it is like to be a new mom of a toddler, which is precisely the stage I'm in now. She wrote about dropping her child off at pre-school, "This is only the beginning. I know. I will feel the pang of separation when she is two, when she is twelve, when she is twenty. My daughter will tackle other more important milestones, other more difficult accomplishments that she must achieve on her own. And I, who once shared a blood supply with her, who once had her all to myself, must wait and watch and smile, and continue this exploration of motherhood, this bittersweet experience of maternal love, this continual process of bravely saying goodbye."

Well, first of all, that makes me want to cry. Secondly, it makes me regret basically pushing my mother out the door and waving my dad off when leaving for college, blind to how hard that must have been for them, to watch their first daughter, their baby girl leave the nest for the first time. OK, more tears... Seriously, it's hard watching our babies grow. And yet it's rewarding and amazing, thinking that yes, we are doing this right, this parenting and teaching thing, they are learning. Still, it's difficult. And I'm sure it does not get easier.

DEFINITELY a great, easy, short book about the reality of being a new mom. Some of what she wrote I did not relate to (like not instantly feeling like I was meant to be a mom, I totally thought I was and loved being a mom from the start), but most things I knew just what she meant. I definitely recommend this one.

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