A nonfiction writer offers an account of the devastating physical and emotional consequences a much-desired pregnancy had on her life.
Before the birth of her first daughter, May (The Map of Enough: One Woman's Search for Place, 2014) counted herself fortunate. Her body had come through pregnancy with “no swollen ankles, no blood pressure spike, no low iron, no infections, no complications at all.” But the birth also resulted in a gash that extended from her cervix to her vaginal opening, and she soon began to experience severe incontinence and mood swings that wrought havoc on her life and relationships. At times, she felt “mad,” like a “viper” ready to strike. Yet as distressing as these health changes were, they forced the author into a startling new awareness of her body. The “inconvenience” of menstruation was now something more sacred, an ancient restorative function that purged as it cleansed. It was also the thing that allowed women to go within and “connect with the unknown and unseen world.” Body awareness also caused May to re-evaluate her relationships with the women in her family, including her mother and newborn daughter. “We women carry each other—whether we want to or not, whether we plan to or not,” she writes. A doctor eventually diagnosed May with postpartum thyroiditis, hormone imbalance, pelvic floor disorder, and malfunctioning adrenals. As she struggled to come to terms with bodily limitation and the anger seething at its core, she realized that her experiences, though not unique, existed in a “cultural black hole” that was defined by the empty catchall term “postpartum depression.” In this raw and lyrical book, the author holds nothing back. From the blinding rages to the blackest emotional abysses, she records all with an eloquence that is both powerful and restorative. Ultimately, May came to understand that labor does not end with the birth of a child; it continues long afterward in the way a woman gives birth to herself as a mother and woman.
A searingly eloquent memoir.