COMING TO TERMS by Roberta Israeloff
Kirkus Star


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Pregnancy is like adolescence--a circumscribed, transitional period riddled with ambivalence. . . ."" The emotional drama of childbearing, as experienced by new mothers today, is beautifully captured in Israeloff's ruminative, whole-truth record of her mood swings before and after having Ben. She and husband David, both N.Y.C. college teachers, expected difficulties in conceiving and weren't ""pushing"" when, to David's ""shock, incredulity, and wonder,"" she learned she was pregnant. She had kept a diary of her battle-scarred adolescence (""yet the family had survived""); now she would keep a journal, on which the narrative is based. (Israeloff is also a writer, with little-magazine honors.) Even as childless friends seek assurances that ""nothing will change,"" pregnancy confers responsibility and celebrity. Roberta is edgy, passive, anxious--constantly worried about fetal demise and birth defects, overwhelmed by having to choose an obstetrician. ""Maybe the negative feelings were easier to dwell on because to admit this excitement was to expose new depths of potential disappointment and hurt."" Reassuring a more-recently pregnant friend, the mood lifts: she is contented and ""intact."" She and David spend a ""horny"" week on Cape Cod, a placid, looking-ahead August at his parents' in the Berkshires. The baby--Lanugo (after the vestigial body hair, lost after birth)--kicks. In the third trimester, the year rushes to its end--with Lamaze classes, household preparations, the ""extinction"" of life-with-David. . . and of oneness with Lanugo. Childbirth is late, unexpectedly fast and painful; Ben has jaundice, has to be rehospitalized. And then, with Ben's homecoming, there begins three months of desperation--sleep problems and ""Ben's crankiness,"" feelings of ignorance and incompetence, anger at Ben and David--alleviated when she links up with another distraught new mother (""I wish someone would nurse me. Or just let me take a nap"") and has her first laughing interchange with Ben (""A synapse in his brain hooked up. . . . He knew we were playing a game""). Israeloff carties the story through dual working-and-parenting, successful separation (""Mama, you came back""), and inter-generational recognitions. A reassuring 'fess-up for new and prospective mothers, of course--but also an entree for uncomprehending others.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1984
Publisher: Knopf