I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME  

A REALISTIC GUIDE TO EARLY MOTHERHOOD 

BY NINA BARRETT

I wish someone had told me and I wish this book had been around when I had my babies! 

It serves as an essential antidote to dispel the Superwoman myth, which so many women intellectually reject but emotionally still judge themselves by. 

Nina Barrett approaches the topic of motherhood with humour (a survival need essential for all mothers) and above all a really pragmatic philosophy. She deals with the reality of being a mother and why it does not always meet our expectations. 

She highlights the "intimidation" we all feel by consulting the numerous child "experts" from the medical fields and the child care authors who all tell us what to do or not to do that helps increase our self doubts and erodes our self confidence little by little.

She highlights most importantly, perhaps, that what she discovered was that she was not, as she had imagined  she would be, always in control.

In short, how many of us can testify to this fact that after giving birth to a baby, we were in fact having to give birth to a new self, and that the process, like labour, was longer, more complicated, and much more painful than any of the books indicated or the so-called experts told. The secret discovered while researching the book, which was as a result of interviewing 63 new mothers in their first year of motherhood, is that "no one knows the secret: we are each putting our motherhood together from scratch"!

The book has twelve entertaining chapters each highlighted and headed with Ideal and Fact. 

E.g. 

Chapter One:

IDEAL: Labour should be painless, natural and emotionally fulfilling.

FACT: Labour can be unbearably painful, medically assisted, and emotionally traumatic.

Chapter Twelve:

IDEAL: There is such a thing as a GOOD MOTHER and if you try hard enough and make all the right choices you can become one.

FACT: It is possible to be a good mother if by "good" you don't really mean "perfect" which many women do. The chapter takes a closer look at where our images of ideal mothers come from: Mythical Mothers, Memory Mothers and Media Mothers. 

The author highlights the extreme isolation that new mothers can experience and how networking and groups can help mothers to stay in touch and provide support for each other. She also provides 

" Four Marital Survival Skills" so very necessary for new Mums and Dads!

This is not a book about 'shoulds' but a down to earth look at how women really handle the extremely onerous task of mothering. A book by mothers for mothers that will instil confidence.

Well I hope I have given you a taste of what this book is about. I enjoyed it and strongly recommend for all new mothers.

Published in 1997 by Academy Chicago Publishers.

ROSEMARY DUNCAN

Social Worker

SLEEPLESS DAYS:

One Woman’s Journey Through Postpartum Depression

By SUSAN KUSHNER RESNICK

When Susan Kushner Resnick developed postpartum depression, she searched for a book that would relate a personal account by a survivor – to give her hope.  She could not find one. 

Now that she, herself, has come through it, and has survived, she has written an account of her own experience, in the hope of helping others.  

She gives the reader a vivid, absorbing, and unsentimental picture of her journey from the birth of her second child, through what she was told would be a temporary experience, but felt interminable, to an outcome that she felt was life changing. 

She incorporates an overview of current thinking about PND, with an account of her thoughts, anxieties and fluctuating moods, as her depression unfolds and then encapsulates her.  She describes the bubble around her that made her feel cut off from her family and friends, but particularly her children.

She cannot tolerate being with her baby, but anyone else caring for him makes her feel inadequate.   The result is isolation, and feelings of shame about not coping and feeling like a “bad” mother.  Her relentless insomnia becomes a constant fear from which there is no refuge, as she struggles to maintain order and control.  She details her attempts to withstand the hours of every day, as they weighed down before her.

After struggling with denial that she was suffering from PND, and attempting several self-soothing remedies, she finally admits to herself and those around her that she needs help.  She then begins her period of recovery, with psychotherapy, and eventually medication, and just a few group sessions.

She forms an important new friendship with someone who had suffered in a different way, and learns that there are times that she can ask for help, and her friends will respond if they can.  She reflects on the effect of her illness on her husband and children, and her relationship with them in the short- and long-term.  

This is not a depressing account of one woman’s experience of PND.  While Susan Kushner Resnick is candid about the extent of her feelings of hatred, and, at times, thoughts of suicide, her message is one of courage and hope and solidarity.

I would recommend this book not only to women suffering from PND, as a suggestion of light at the end of the tunnel, but also to their partners, who may come to understand some of the things that cannot yet be said, and who may gain some support for their own struggle. 

Resnick offers  “an arm around your shoulder” for women, by sharing her own experience.  I also think it would be of interest to therapists and health professionals who are working with women with PND, for it highlights the development of her symptoms, and shows what the world of a woman with PND is really like.

Sleepless Days by Susan Kushner Resdick (Published by St. Martin’s Press, New York)

Reviewed by CHERYL BAKER

Clinical Psychologist

NEW BOOKS

William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.  THE DISCIPLINE BOOK

William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.  THE BABY BOOK

Tiffany Field: TOUCH THERAPY

Katie Allison Granju with Betsy Kennedy, R.N., M.S.N.  ATTACHMENT PARENTING

Robin Barker: BABY LOVE

PNDSA IS FAST BUILDING UP THE BEST (THE ONLY?) LIBRARY IN SOUTH AFRICA THAT FOCUSES SPECIFICALLY ON MOOD DISORDERS AND CHILDBIRTH, AND RELATED ISSUES.

CONTACT THE OFFICE FOR DETAILS ABOUT USE OF THE LIBRARY, WHICH IS OPEN TO MEMBERS OF PNDSA ONLY