Australian story-tellers share their experiences of motherhood in a beautiful collection about love and loss, and all that it means when a woman becomes ‘mum’.
Published by Melbourne University Press
Paperback and e-book
RRP $27.99 (paperback) 240 PP
I’ve always been a conscientious nerd. When there’s an exam, I study for it. Hard.
So, when the ultimate test loomed – motherhood – I studied really hard. As my belly grew, I swallowed books on pregnancy and parenting, determined that my child would be a creature of routine and all-round perfection.
Oh, what a moron I was!
Of course, my baby never behaved remotely in the way ‘the book’ said she would, leaving me feeling a complete failure.
After child number two, I swore off parenting books, finally understanding that (d’uh), ‘the book’ did not know my kid, and my kid hadn’t read ‘the book’, so it was all a massive waste of time.
So, when I heard about Mothermorphosis, I must confess to being sceptical. Did the world really need another book about mothering?
Turns out – I was wrong. Again! The world really does need this book. Mothers need it. Dads should read it too, if they want to understand the transformation that occurs when a lady has a baby. (In fact, I hope there’s a Fathermorphosis, at some point)
The problem with most writing on motherhood, is that it comes across as either diactic, or judgy-McJudgey.
Not this one.
What Mothermorphosis does is bring together 17 women with very different stories about their experiences of motherhood.
For a start, there’s the pun-tastic, Kathy Lette, on the ups and downs of motherhood, like the boredom that comes with the territory – ‘Sometimes I was so bored doing Creative Things with Playdough that I could actually see my plants engaging in photosynthesis. I once grew a yeast infection just for a change of pace.’
But from here, the collection moves into much deeper and darker territory, with some profoundly moving stories of home births and difficult births, single parenting, IVF and terrible loss.
Hilary Harper writes with extraordinary honesty and rawness about the still-births of her two sons, Edwyn and Arthur, and the way it changed her relationship with her body. ‘It ceased to give me any pleasure, and was only a place where death had happened. Not only had it failed to make me a mother, it had betrayed my children in the most horrific way.’
This disconnect between the body and the mind is a thread the re-emerges throughout the collection. It is as if the act of child bearing gives birth to an internal struggle between who we are, and who society now expects us to be.
As Jane Caro explains – ‘I was murderously angry with the world. My whole life had turned upside down but I was expected to suck it up and get on with being a life support system for another human being without complaint. Worse, not only was I supposed to be delighted by my new role, the slightest dereliction of duty on my part would be judged harshly. My husband’s life had hardly changed but if he so much as lifted a finger people wanted to give him a medal. I started to feel as if the ‘me’ I had been was shrivelling up and dying.’
‘Diversity’ is a key word for Mothermorphosis. There is such a wide range of experience on offer here; no two stories are the same. But these stories do have something in common – and that’s the powerful resonance of truth. No one is trying to impress, or tell you what to do – they are just sharing what happened to them.
As editor, Monica Dux, points out, ‘It is only in hearing different stories that we can give coherence and context to what we’ve personally experienced, as our pre-baby lives are turned upside down and shaken out.’
I wish I had read this book, instead of the others when I was ‘studying’ for my baby. Then, I might have realised that there is no, one ‘right’ way to raise a child. Mothering is loving – and how you chose to express that love is entirely up to you.
PS A percentage of sales of the book goes to PANDA, the Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc.
Visit Melbourne University Press for more information, or to purchase
*My ARC copy provided courtesy of Net Galley