Friday, August 5, 2011

It Sucked and Then I Cried (2009)

by DionysusPsyche

When you out to accomplish a first time task, a variety of options present itself. You can "watch and learn," learn by doing, or read a how-to book. There's the action itself--"furniture building," for example--then a series of sub genres. Maybe you don't want to just make furniture, you want to make authentic looking antique furniture or you want to rebuild antique furniture. In this day and age, people have endless options, so when I bought a hair dryer, I didn't buy a black, beige, or gray one but a bright pink one. Why? Because it was an option. Also, so I could find it around all the other colors in the bath room that blend together when I'm not wearing glasses.

Heather Armstrong's book It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita chronicles the life of the creator of as she battles from going from newly married to pregnant to new mom. Of course, there are lots of books about babies and postpartum out there. I mean, isn't that what Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise fought about publicly? Yeah, yeah, heard it. Also, Armstrong checks herself into a mental institution temporarily.

Wait, what?

Armstrong and her husband, Jon, moved just after their marriage, to be closer to both their families. She leads us through the first year and a half of change but not in a boring "I heart babies" t-shirt way. In a guffawing, gasp-inducing, and amusing way. Armstrong speaks out about her difficulty battling with her already problematic depression. Off depression medication in order to conceive and carry, Armstrong is a bought of emotional roller coaster, anxiety, and morning sickness. Yet her humor fails to fade and is often at its best when Armstrong herself is at her weakest.

"Another inconvenient side effect of having a six-pound critter fighting for space in my belly was being constantly reunited with the taste and texture of things I'd just eaten. Everything caused heartburn, including water, ice cubes, and air. If I ate a handful of Tums, I'd burp Tums for the next three hours...Chuck was constantly smelling my breath and licking my face, searching for bits of the burrito I'd eaten last week. I could never have comprehended how magical it was to be a ripe pregnant woman, belly widening inches per day, grumpy and irritable from sleep deprivation, burping acidic salsa into my dog's face. Don't ever let anyone ever tell you that this isn't an exquisitely beautiful experience." (p. 62) 

The novel is not What to Expect When You're Expecting, and more than occasionally reads more like a horror novel. It is insightful and incredibly useful for those wishing to gain expertise or find sympathy. However, her wacky narrative on the ride of peril awaiting all parents and to-be parents is more along the lines of Go the F*@# to Sleep, a bedtime story for adults.

Armstrong is an ex-Mormon living in Utah, which alone makes the book fun (although, occasionally over the top). Devout Mormons will probably not be fans as the author throws in snippets of examples of what makes Utah it's own special place. Armstrong is also a blue sheep in a red state which makes for even more giggles, although her more often than not jibes are directed towards Salt Lake in general. Dog lovers will also enjoy this book as Armstrong's dog, Chuck, makes many the cameo and always elicits a laugh.

The author's use of examples and voice are also shouts of accolades for the book. She compares her dilation when about to go into labor in terms of the sizes of donuts and her husband's constant support throughout the whole thing. During her breathing exercises in lamaze class, Armstrong scares the other expectant mothers by jokingly asking when they can start drinking again, thus endearing her to women who feel a little bit unlike their June Cleaver counterparts.

In addition to being funny (if David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, or Chuck Klosterman were married women), Armstrong spends a good deal of time speaking openly about the pain of postpartum depression and loving your family despite a crippling dark cloud around you. She speaks about the guilt induced by books and other mothers about breast feeding and the worry that somehow she isn't good enough.

I would recommend this book to any woman who someday would like to be a mother or just after having a child or even someone trying to understand a pregnant friend. Most of the excerpts from the book are usually are prefaced by the phrase "no one ever told me about this," and like I said, might potentially be too terrifying to read for a currently pregnant woman (and especially a to-be father).

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