Raise your hand if the minute your first baby was born you knew exactly what to do?
Tell me the truth.
Did you know how how to hold her? Did he latch or suck down a bottle like pro? Did she burp when you held her over your shoulder and gently pressed her back? Did he stop crying when you picked him up?
(Anyone who says yes to all of the above is either lying or has chosen to forget just how hard it is to get to know your newborn.)
Let's be real: Babies can be freaking scary. Yeah, obviously, they're perfect and beautiful, too. But let me tell you this: when I held my first born -- a baby girl with ten fingers and ten toes -- I didn't have a clue what to do with her. She was so fragile, and so foreign.
It's interesting that we hire birth coaches, and doulas. Our partners go to birth class with us. Sometimes we invite our friends and family into the delivery room. But then when the baby's born, asking for help gets more complicated.
And as the hours bled seamlessly (and sleeplessly) into days, while I learned to tell time by when my daughter's daily colic fit would start (precisely 4:15 every afternoon) while I forgot how to hold a conversation with my partner, but could describe in great detail the color and texture of my daughter's spitup (and more) to the pediatrician, I realized this: Motherhood can be freaking scary.
Where'd I go? What happened to the girl who wore high heels, and read books and listened to NPR? What happened to the girl who knew how to twerk and put on mascara and wrote an honors thesis, who called her friends on their birthdays, and kissed her partner goodnight?
And I felt so everlastingly alone. And sometimes, stuck in a new identity that didn't quite fit. Other mothers seemed to have it down -- they knew how to cradle their newborns, and burp them and change them and rock them to sleep. They knew how to get their babes to latch or take a bottle, or sleep through the night.
And while I paged through baby book after baby book, while I found vaguely reassuring platitudes from doctors and other experts, nothing really eased the crisis or made me feel less alone. Because as it turns out, giving birth to a baby is the easy part: Hell, give me 20 hours of back labor with a capricious epidural that stops working at the 5 cm mark, over the agony that comes from giving birth to my inner mother any day.
Yeah, eventually I got there, but the journey sucked.
Anyway, there's a book out that I wish to GOD had been written before I became a first time mother because it would have made a difference -- it would have made the process a whole lot easier.
This book would have been my spiritual, emotional, and intellectual doula -- nurturing me, comforting me, telling me that I can do the seemingly impossible.
Purple Leaves, Red Cherries by Tania Elfersy and Andrea Katzman is a book that inspires and supports new mothers. In the early years of motherhood, Purple Leaves, Red Cherries helps them feel less alone.
There are real stories -- raw details that evoke such poignant truth. For example:
"I couldn't figure out how to get to the bathroom with an eight pound baby attached to my breast. I began sobbing."
(That was so me for the first three months of my daughter's life.)
"When the most sophisticated thing I've done all week is eat dark chocolate"
(Heck. Some days this still applies.)
"I would forever feel that pull, the tension between the woman I am and the mother I had become."
(Every. Single. Day.)
Author Tania Elfersy understands the complexities firsthand: She self-published this book while navigating her return to the work force. She gets it, and it's profoundly apparent in the stories she chooses to share. It's an honest and passionate work. This surely helped the hardback book pick up its four book prizes.
Purple Leaves, Red Cherries is available for free for a limited time on Kindle. It's a concise version of the hardback book, containing 48 short stories that reveal how motherhood impacts women's lives -- their relationships, expectations, work, bodies and more. I think it's important -- no, strike that, I think it's crucial -- to keep it real and to tell the truth about parenting. There are wonderful, beautiful moments, but by pretending not to see the scaly underbelly, we do ourselves and other mothers an incredible disservice. And this book finds that balance in a meaningful and comforting way.