After Birth, Hardback
3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Sometimes I'm with the baby and I think: you're my heart and my soul, and I would die for you.

Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the fuck alone.

A year has passed since Ari gave birth and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe.

Sleep-deprived, lonely and unprepared, she struggles through the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights.

Her own mother long dead and her girlhood friendships faded, she is a woman in need.

When Mina - older, alone, pregnant - moves to town, Ari sees hope of a comrade-in - arms.

Perhaps the hostile terrain could be more easily navigable together.

With purifying anger and outrageous humour, Elisa Albert unleashes on a culture that turns its new mothers into exiles, and expects them to act like natives. And as she defines the raw experience of motherhood, Albert offers a hilarious and devastatingly honest examination of how we become the women we are.




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After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari's unfiltered thoughts raging across each page. Ari is brutally honest about her experience, but abrasively so. She is angry, bitter and self pitying, however it's fair to say that she is also lost, lonely and deeply conflicted." Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the f**k alone..."It seems likely Ari is experiencing some level of post natal depression, exacerbated by a birth she viewed as traumatic and her difficult relationship with her deceased mother. Motherhood is undoubtedly a huge period of change and adjustment."There's before and there's after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. Or all of the above. A blessed few resist any of these..."There were parts of the novel I connected with, I have four children (three of whom were born in three years) so I can relate somewhat to Ari's experience. New motherhood can be a frustrating, exhausting, frightening and isolating period."Endless need. I did not understand how there could be no break. No rest. There was just no end to it. It went on and one and on. There was no end. And I couldn't relinquish him....because he was mine. There was an agony that bordered on physical when he wasn't in my arms."However I had a hard time dredging up a lot of sustained sympathy for Ari who wallows in negativity. She is so angry, and self-righteous and entitled. I found her rants about c-sections and bottle-feeding particularly off putting."The baby's first birthday. Surgery day, I point out, because I have trouble calling it birth. Anniversary of the great failure."For all of the rage in After Birth, Albert raises some important issues about the experience of modern motherhood. It can be such an isolating experience for many women, especially for those who lack the close support of family and friends and it is often difficult for new mother's to admit, and ask, for help."Two hundred years ago-hell, one hundred years ago- you'd have a child surrounded by other women: your mother, her mother, sisters, cousins, sisters -in-law, mother-in-law.... They'd help you, keep you company, show you how. Then you'd do the same. Not just people to share in the work of raising children, but people to share in the loving of children."Albert also speaks about friendship, and the way women relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Ari has few female friends, and her closest friends essentially abandon her after her son is born. She latches onto to Mina, the pregnant tenant of friends, who offers her much of the validation she craves.We set up camp at my house or hers. We listen to music. I like the music she likes...."We say 'yes', 'exactly', 'poor thing' and 'I know', 'I know that's the whole problem' and 'really, well of course!'"I think the rage in this novel has the potential to both ameliorate and alienate women, I rolled my eyes in derision of what it had to say as often as I nodded my head in agreement. I didn't enjoy After Birth, nor even really like it, but it is a thought provoking and powerful read.

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