Heather B. Armstrong's memoir about pregnancy, delivery, postpartum depression, and finding her way out of the dark and back into the light was an exception. I may have mentioned that I've recently become a huge blog follower. I don't follow a large quantity of blogs, but those that I do follow, I try to catch up on daily. After reading an article on CNN about anonymous bloggers being revealed, I found Armstrong's blog and I've been hooked ever since.
On the surface, it doesn't really make sense. Armstrong is a mommy blogger, a specific category of blog writer whose blogs are centered around her family and children. As someone who doesn't have any kids (save a not-quite-stepson), it seems strange for me to read blogs about breastfeeding and birthing babies. However, Armstrong brings a lot more to the table in both her blog and her memoir It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, A Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita.
For one thing, she has a wry sense of humor that resonates throughout the book. Her approach to mothering is loving, yet real. In one of her monthly letters to Leta, her firstborn daughter about whom the book is based, Armstrong writes:
Dear Leta,In order to find that passage, which I think is both witty and still communicates BIG HUGE LOVE to her daughter, all I had to do is flip to the middle of the book. In fact, if you flipped to almost any page in the book, you would find a similarly-clever passage which you could in turn share with other friends!
I have fed you twice a night every night for the past eighty-four days, and I have to ask you: aren't you full yet?
This week you turn three months old, and your father and I can't believe we have made it this far. The past few weeks have seemed like some sort of hazy acid trip, not that we would know what an acid trip feels like because . . . . Drugs are bad and you should say no to drugs, but Advil is totally okay, and can I tell you how happy I am that I get to take Advil again? When I was pregnant with you I wasn't allowed to take Advil, and whenever I had a headache or a sore muscle your father would take a handful of Advil and stand close to me in hopes that his nearness would soothe me. Now I just sprinkle a few capsules in my breakfast in the morning. . . .
Armstrong is funny in an understated way (not a big, over-the-top way like Kathy Griffin, whose memoir I have also recently written about), but she also is glaringly honest about a not-so-funny part of having a baby -- postpartum depression. Yes, this is the disease that Brooke Shields also wrote and spoke frankly about, the same disease which (the mentally ill in his own right) Tom Cruise discredited days later on national television. You can read Brook Shields answering article to Cruise's claim if you're interested, or you can read her book Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression. I can't speak for it, as I haven't read it (yet), but I can speak for Armstrong's book, and I say READ IT. As a woman who might one day have a baby and experience postpartum depression, you should read it. As a man who might one day be a husband to a wife who has just had a baby and experiences postpartum depression, read it. As someone who might one day know someone who has a baby and experiences postpartum depression, READ IT.
In addition to her bluntly honest account of what being a depressed person feels like, Armstrong's writing strength also lies in her ability to convincingly describe her relationship with her husband and fellow blogger, Jon. In an age when reality television's Jon & Kate renew their vows on a sunset beach and then months later go through a very public divorce, it can seem that "true love" is something only seen on a Hollywood set. Armstrong tells us differently. You can feel the emotion dripping from the page when she writes: "In him I'd found the person whom I knew I would never get tired of, even in the most monotonous of times, even in the routine of being together every single day. I never thought I would find that." She thanks him in her ending acknowledgments as "[her] soul mate, he who did not leave [her] when he had every reason to do so. This book is a love letter to him."
Enough of my singing her praises. Go get the book and READ IT!