Friday, April 3, 2015

Review: After Birth

After Birth
By Elisa Albert
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt February 2015
208 pages
From the library

After Birth

Ari is a new mom and her son Walker is about to reach his first birthday. Motherhood has been very difficult for her, ever since the actual birth went against every plan she ever had for it. Ari is angry and depressed and very. very lonely. When very pregnant Mina moves to the neighborhood, Ari sees a chance for connection, a possibility that someone could understand the things that she is feeling. The two women begin to bond over motherhood, but will it be enough?

After Birth is going to be a very divisive book. If you are the kind of parent who had a beautiful birth that went exactly as expected and now spends their days in perfect bliss with your kiddos, this is not a book for you. But for the rest of us? This is the story for the woman whose birth experience was nothing like she imagined. This is for the mom who was terrified when she didn't adore her new baby right away. It's for the stay at home dad who feels devastatingly lonely. It's for the woman who tried to keep a brave face while battling postpartum depression. This is a battle cry for the mothers who wonder why we don't talk about the difficult and painful side of birth and motherhood.

Our protagonist Ari will fall squarely in the column of "unlikable characters." (Feel free to research the problems with that category just about anywhere on the internet.) She adores her son and her husband, but neither of them can help her through her depression or the monotony of caring for a small child. She doesn't know how to get past the emotional pain and loss of control that resulted from her c-section. Ari is angry and lonely. She has no one to teach her how to be a mother, since her own mother is long dead and only visits her as a very nasty ghost to mock her decisions. Her loneliness is probably due, in some great part, to her abrasive nature towards other women. She encounter them already on the defensive, in spite of desperately hoping for connection. But she is in a self-destructive cycle where she hurts other women and then feels abandoned when they leave her behind.

I read posts like this one from Training Mummy and I fear that we are not helping each other prepare for what birth and those first tough years are really like. I worry that we downplay women's very real fear, anger, and disappointment in an effort to make motherhood seem like constant butterflies and rainbows. We need to be having a conversation about just how difficult parenthood can be for some of us, probably for all of us at one time or another. Books like After Birth are not fun to read, but they can open our eyes to the realities of parenting - it can be painfully hard for us to give up control over our bodies and then spend years of our lives caring for others. "Anyone who says differently is selling something." 


  1. Love your viewpoint here, and I agree with you completely. Yes, parenthood can be wonderful but I think we need to realize that they weren't parents before their kids were born. It's a growing process, and I think it's okay for them to be that fearful and angry. We just need to be more empathetic, understanding, a lot more compassionate.

  2. Wonderful post! I especially love the last paragraph, and the last line is perfect. :-)

  3. This sounds like a really interesting book - I'll have to check it out!
    Life’s Open Pages

  4. I'm not interested in having children, but that makes this interesting to me as a way to get some insight into an experience I'm not likely to have. Also, having read a humorous book about parenting in order to judge a humorous nonfiction contest, I agree with you that women may be given too rosy an idea of what motherhood "should" be like. Also, as a feminist issue, I think it's a huge problem that women are held to much higher standards than men when it comes to parenting. Anyway, that's really just a long way of saying that this sounds fascinating :) Great review!