Utne Blogs > Literature

Newborns Make the Worst Roommates

by Karen Garcia


Tags: pregnancy, newborns, love, motherhood, Kerry Clare, personal essay, great writing, The New Quarterly, Karen Garcia,

Baby Crying 

Kerry Clare is about as honest as they come. Refusing to impart a narrative of blissful motherhood and other mommy clichés, Clare tells the story of the birth of her daughter Harriet: of the sobbing marathons and wild thoughts of adoption that pervaded her life after the pregnancy. Clare writes in her essay “Love is a Let-Down” appearing in the latest issue of The New Quarterly:

I’m not even talking about postpartum depression. Though no doubt, PPD is a very real affliction, it’s also a label that undermines the very simple fact that living with a newborn is, as writer Ariel Gore describes it, “like suddenly getting the world’s worst roommate, like having Janis Joplin with a bad hangover and PMS come to stay with you.”

Taking a step back from her personal story, Clare explains to the reader (or maybe to herself) her intentions behind penning this piece about her postpartum experience:

I want to write it down though, how it was, because most people don’t ever talk about this. They don’t talk about it because it passes, and because of what you get to show for it, and because if everybody told the truth, pregnant women would start jumping in front of buses in droves.

Clare includes her most powerful memories as a new mother, including leaving the hospital with her baby, crying, and unable to stop crying for months after; waking up to breastfeed every three hours; and conversations with other new mothers who appear so much happier. She realizes how blessed her life is, and yet cannot escape the overwhelming despair and fear at becoming a mom. Clare concludes:

Love is a let-down, I realized, as the weeks went on, and we started measuring the baby’s life in months. Love, though I couldn’t even feel it, had been there beneath the surface all along, doing its job. Love was me not walking out of the house and never coming back. It was throwing out the bathwater but not the baby. And it was persevering through two hour nursing sessions twelve times a day. It was holding her when she cried, even if I was crying too; it was keeping her clean and warm, having her sleep on my chest and learning ingenious ways to provide her with comfort, desperation being the true mother of invention.

Source: The New Quarterly (print only)

Image by tostadophoto.com, licensed under Creative Commons. 

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