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A Life's Work
Date: November 2002
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is a painfully honest exploration of her extreme feelings, positive and negative,
on encountering the shock of motherhood.'
life's work: On becoming a mother
by Rachel Cusk
Fourth Estate £6.99
Review Veronica Zundel
'The let-down reflex: that sinking feeling
you experience when, having breastfed your baby for an hour, he still downs a
full bottle.' That isn't from Rachel Cusk's book; it's from the Alternative Dictionary
of Childbirth which I was going to write after experiencing my initiation into
motherhood. Little did I know how hard it is to mix books and babies.
Novelist Cusk has miraculously managed it, even after carelessly becoming pregnant
again when her daughter was six months old (how can you be organised enough to
write a book in your baby's infancy and still be disorganised enough to... oh,
If you are looking for 'the lighter side of parenthood',
as per my unwritten dictionary, this is not the place to find it. Cusk's
book is a writer's painfully honest exploration of her extreme feelings, positive
and negative, on encountering the shock of motherhood. Amongst her own experiences
she slips extracts from classic novels which illuminate the dilemma further.
Some may say, 'What's all the fuss? She only had a baby!' However if like
me you were or are an 'elderly primigravida', in the midst of a career, with little
experience of children to prepare you, you will recognize an agony and an ecstasy
on every page. Her experiences of the loss of identity, the fog of exhaustion,
the seemingly endless demands, and yet the almost terrifying love and attachment,
bring it all back to me with great vividness. I almost got contractions reading
Not that there is a lack of the belly laughs a new mother needs now
and then to keep her going. She is hilarious on the 'safety and hygiene culture'
and the guilt it induces in less than perfect mothers (ie all of us), the fearsomeness
of health visitors (' "You risk damaging her brain. Do you want to have a
brain-damaged baby?" I feel it unnecessary to answer this question'), and
the baby books the making of which there is no end.
This is not an easy
read, but for the professional woman and amateur mother it is a richly rewarding
one. I laughed, I cried, I had to do pelvic floor exercises. It might just be
educational for fathers too.
For practical parenting support try:
For a Christian-based UK site, try the ubiquitous Steve
Or if you need a laugh, go to US-based ABC
will give you a link to 'A Christian approach to bedwetting' (saves baptism?).
This does also have many less pious links.