Book review–Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine

18 January 2011 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Read in a Parenting Magazine, edited by Dani Klein Modisett (St. Martin’s, 2009), is a quick and generally entertaining read. The contributors are a deliberate mix of moms and dads writing about pregnancy, labor, birth, adoption, infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond, all with a self-deprecating sense of humor. If you like Dooce, you’ll love this collection. If you don’t like Dooce, there’s still enough other stuff here that you’ll enjoy it anyway.

My problem with this book is that, like much mainstream writing on these topics, its humor can come off as defensive, antognistic, and generally battle-oriented. There are many off-hand comments about needing “drugs” during labor, and plenty of defensiveness about using formula (mixed in, oddly, with defensiveness about having done harder drugs before pregnancy: from now on, one writer notes, “the only white powder you’ll find on my kitchen counter will be formula”). For me, I just read more quickly through these essays and instead tried to find the more Anne-Lamott-like essays in the group.

Along that latter vein, another writer here concludes her essay by confiding that eventually she came to accept that her child (eight at the time of writing) inherently wakes once a night; by accepting her daughter’s sleep and nighttime needs, instead of trying to reshape her for the sake of parental convenience, the writer “walked away from . . . Ferber . . . [and from] the idea that every child can and must be shaped into the same perfect being.”

Those common-sense, lightbulb-moment essays are joined by a few amazing gems of essays here: for example, there’s a great essay by a father about the joys of the family bed (“Bears don’t make their cubs sleep in caves down the hill from their caves”), and a beautiful, heart-breaking essay–written with almost none of the book’s general characteristic humor–about reactive attachment disorder.

Overall, a mixed bag, but a nice read. (And yes, I realize I’m almost two years late on the review–that’s what having a baby has done to me!)

–Christina

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Thoughts on motherhood, pregnancy, and, oh, yeah, phosphorus Q: Are midwives just for women who want to have natural births?

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