Barren Bitches Book Brigade: It Sucked, and Then I Cried

October 13, 2009

Barren Bitches Book BrigadeWelcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring It Sucked, and Then I Cried by Heather Armstrong of dooce.com.

(Note: pregnancy and children mentioned.)

If you are in a relationship right now, do you relate to how Heather talks about her husband, Jon, and what a great father and life partner he is? From what she described about Jon, what qualities do you have or want in your life partner?
I truly have the best husband ever, in a thousand ways that I don’t currently have the mental wherewithal to enumerate.

Here is an exchange we had today which illustrates why he is so fantastic. Before this conversation, I was very grumpy from spending the day with an unpleasant NICU nurse plus physical pain.

DH, cheerfully: The babies would have been 35 weeks today.
Me, zombie-like: Oh, I forgot it’s Tuesday. Tuesday used to be the special day. Now Saturday is the special day, because they were born on a Saturday.
DH, almost jumping up and down with enthusiasm: Now that we have babies, every day is the special day!

And then I burst out crying. And then he hugged me, while driving.

I have only watched him as a father for a week and a half, but already he has surprised me so much, all in good ways. I need to write a separate post about the changes I have seen in him — stay tuned.

Heather obviously has a very distinctive writing style that comes across in both her blog and her book. What do you think has made Heather such a famous blogger? Her writing style, honesty, or something else? Do you write with the same passion and honesty that Heather does?

Dooce is many things to many people. My husband mostly cares about the pictures of Chuck and Coco, her dogs. I often enjoy her Daily Style feature and her photography, but the big draws for me are her humor and her posts about parenting. Our personalities are clearly very different, but I think I write with as much passion and honesty as I have to give.

If you had postpartum depression to the degree Heather describes, would you have the courage to check yourself into a psychiatric ward? (It’s hard to say when it’s not actually happening in your own life, but I’d be curious to know if there are some people who are completely against it, some who would do it if they felt there was no other way, etc.)
I’d like to think so. I’d also like to think that I would nip it in the bud more, rather than letting the problem get that severe. In the past week and a half, when I’ve been more emotional than usual because of post-birth hormone changes, my husband has been quick to point out the contrast between that and my usual logical self. If I were to develop severe depression, the further I got from myself, the more I think he’d try to help me pull myself back in.

Heather Armstrong writes candidly and unapologetically about all aspects of her life – the good, the bad and the ugly. What, if anything, in your life that would you like to be as unapologetic about? What’s the first step you could take? What’s holding you back?
Infertility, of course. I’ve already taken the first step: since giving birth, I have straightforwardly explained the babies’ origins whenever anyone has asked whether twins run in the family (which is surprisingly often, given that I haven’t talked to anyone outside the hospital). Strangers are becoming easy, but telling the truth about infertility to friends and family is another hurdle entirely. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get over feeling like it’s just none of their business.

The author’s blog is well-known for her biting sense of humor, interspersed with expressions of deep emotion toward her children and husband. Although there was plenty of humor, I found the book to be much heavier on emotion than I expected based on reading her blog. On your own blog, how much emotion do you express? Is that more or less than you tend to express in real life?
This was one of the questions that I wrote. Heather Armstrong offers such an unusual combination of sarcasm and raw emotion. In real life, I am very guarded with emotional expression. On BabySmiling, I am considerably more expressive.

For years I have enjoyed Dooce’s monthly newsletters about her daughter. They combine snapshots of Leta’s growth, snarky humor, and pure love. I think that I will be comfortable expressing emotion directly to my children, but it feels strange to think of writing emotional public newsletters under my real name for friends and family (and strangers) to read. Do I save the emotion for BabySmiling, even though it goes against the mandate of the blog as an infertility blog? Do I write the letters privately? Do I remain guarded and let the emotions go undocumented? Probably not the latter, but I’m still figuring this one out.

Whatever I do, I certainly appreciate the precedent that Dooce has set, in terms of non-maudlin emotional expression as well as acknowledging the hard work of belonging to a family.

The author talks about how she imagined her future children before becoming pregnant:

When you’re childless and young and hopeful, you have this idea of what your children are going to be like, and you make mental notes when you see other kids in public. You say to yourself, “My kid will be cute like that,” or “My kid won’t ever throw a tantrum in public like that little demon.” I had always envisioned a sweet little princess who looked just like me sitting quietly in a high chair, her pressed velvet petticoat creased perfectly as she sat and waited to be handed things in a timely manner. And then you grow up and have kids and realize that YOU HAVE NO SAY…

Before starting to try to conceive, how did you imagine your future children? If you now have children, how did your expectations fit reality?
This was the other question that I contributed. When I wrote it I had not yet given birth, and now I have. I don’t know much about my babies yet, but I certainly know more than I knew a couple of weeks ago. I really had no idea how they would look; it turns out that one of them looks so much like my husband, and one of them rather looks like me. One has hair color and features that I didn’t think could happen on a child of mine. One seems to have their father’s temperament, and one mine. Between looks and temperament, each of them has some of him and some of me. As for the rest of it, I’ll have to get back to you in a few years.

In terms of imaginings, I’ve mostly envisioned my children having the kinds of traits that would enable me to engage in activities like museums and world travel with them at a young age: intelligence, patience, curiosity, gentle demeanors. DH likes to say that it will depend on whether they are “his” children or “my” children. If they take after me as a child, by age 7 they will be leading the way through the Louvre, floor plan and guidebook in hand. If they take after him as a child, they will never make it inside the Louvre and instead will gather a crowd of Parisian children into impromptu game of tackle football in the Jardin des Tuileries. Hey, either way, Paris is Paris, right?

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

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5 Responses to “Barren Bitches Book Brigade: It Sucked, and Then I Cried”

  1. Kristin Says:

    Great review. The more of these I read, the more I realize I need to go get this book.

  2. Quiet Dreams Says:

    OT, but I’ve got something for you on my blog.

  3. wishing4one Says:

    Sounds like an inetresting book. I am not a regular Dooce reader but the few times I have visited, I leave laughing.

  4. Rebecca Says:

    Thanks for your comments. I remember my emotions being all over the place – what you’re going through is so normal. Also, I can’t believe you’re participating in the book club already!
    I love your exchange with DH. My hubby and I used to look at our twins and say “Are there really two of them? Is that what’s going on?”.
    I just read your birth story open-mouthed. I did not have such a crazy or dangerous experience, but Baby B was breech (and I had a vaginal birth- DON’T ASK), my blood was all over the room (I was transfused the next day), and I passed out in the neonatal unit (but I managed to scream that I was about to pass out- totally embarrasing).
    We got through the early weeks by running on adrenaline. And even though physical movement was difficult it really helped that I had to get up and get dressed and go to the hospital every day. After being on bed rest my muscles were so floppy and out of shape, being on the move helped me regain my strength.
    We followed the exact routine of the NICU in terms of eating, changing, bathing and the transition home was really seemless. It was almost easier than most first time moms who are discharged from the hospital and have no idea what they’re doing.
    I’m so happy for you and your delicious babies.

  5. loribeth Says:

    That’s so cute about your dh. But really — I can’t believe you just gave birth — to TWINS — and still had time to think about this book, let alone post!! Kudos to you, my dear!!


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