Shop local, they say. Support the arts. Feed the mind.
Yet here I am shopping the big box stores days before Christmas, looking to buy as many things for as many people for as little as possible. I’m sad I didn’t have my act together sooner. I could have done my holiday shopping sooner, certainly. But, mostly, I wish I’d told you about this gem of a book when it was first released in the early spring — or at least earlier this holiday season.
The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood is a collection of essays, poems and illustrations by Canadian women, edited by local book blogger Kerry Clare and published by the New Brunswick press, Goose Lane Editions. It’ll put a check mark in most of your feel-good boxes.
Of course, that’s not why you should buy the book. You should buy it because it’s a damn good anthology. The M Word holds motherhood up and then turns it this way and that, exploring it from all different angles. The act of becoming a mother is one of the most identity-shaking experiences for most women. It is rivaled only by the decision to not become a mother. And Clare sets it all out for us here, giving voice to motherhood (or the lack thereof) in many of its myriad forms.
Urban geographer and author, Amy Lavender Harris, relied on the help of fertility drugs to overcome infertility due to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and give birth to a daughter at age 36. She writes:
It’s a myth, of course, that motherhood cures infertility. Apart from needing to repeat the entire emotionally exhausting, financially draining process with any subsequent attempt to conceive, infertility complicates not only your identity as a mother but your worth as a woman.
In this post-feminist era of “natural” mothering, in which “fertility awareness” conception planning, drug-free vaginal delivery, extended breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and attachment parenting have become what amount to a new morality, women who resort to technological means to conceive and carry a pregnancy are deeply suspect.
Author and photographer, Myrl Coulter, writes about getting pregnant right out of high school and giving her baby up for adoption in 1967:
While I was still in the hospital, a photographer visited all the mothers offering to take baby pictures. The day he came to our ward, he somehow knew not to stop at my bed. In an unusually assertive moment, I followed him down the hall and convinced him to take a picture of my baby. I gave him all the money I had — I think it was about $1.25 — and my home address.
I knew that my parents would not have wanted me to have such a painful reminder of this period in my life, so I remained on watch for the postman after I returned home. The day it arrived, I was at home babysitting my little sister and got to the mail before anyone else. The picture is a beautiful photo of my infant son with his eyes wide open. After staring at it for a very long time, I put it and the two identification bracelets I’d worn in the hospital — one for me, one for him — in the envelope the picture came in and placed it in my night-table drawer. As I write this, it’s still there, in a different night table, but the same small envelope, somewhat yellowed by now, my old Winnipeg address handwritten in a casual scrawl across the centre, a cancelled pink four-cent stamp in the top right-hand corner.
Carrie Snyder is a writer with a four children in a more traditional marriage. She writes:
Yet wanted is not a strong enough word to capture my desire to be a mother.
I do not think or myself as a careless person, but my path to motherhood didn’t follow even the semblance of a thoughtful, detailed plan. Every stage was enacted on an emotional level, with unconscious urgency. Act fist, analyze later (or never). To be frank, until asked to write on the subject, I’d never given more than half a thought to why I have four children. I might have answered that it was quite possibly this simple: I have four children because I kept on wanting to have more, even after the first, the second, and then the third.
Why four? Why stop there? I can only say that when I was done, I knew and then I was as certain as I’d been all those years before, when I knew I would do everything in my power to be a mother.
And there is so much more.
My recommendation may be a little late in coming, but the good news is that it’s not too late to order a copy of the book. Who else has a few out-of-town gifts yet to be ordered and shipped? Right? You may have a birthday gift to shop for. Hell, Mother’s Day is practically around the corner.
Better yet, buy it for yourself.