I went through a stage where I was addicted to ‘mummy memoirs’. Because being up at 2am feeding a baby wasn’t enough – I had to read about it too.
By and large, I’ve moved on from mummy memoirs but a copy of Welcome to Your New Life by Anna Goldsworthy came my way and I read the first chapter. And then I read the whole book in one sitting. I enjoyed this book immensely from the very first page when a newly pregnant Goldsworthy, having been a vegetarian for 14 years, suddenly craves a sausage. And eats one.
“I do not just crave any old sausage, I crave this sausage: a stocky turd-like cevapi. Years of abstinence vanish, as my mouth remembers, my tongue remembers. The sausage’s loud clang against the tastebuds, of spice and flesh and fat.”
And then she tells her family she’s pregnant. I obviously don’t know Goldsworthy’s sister, Sash, but if I had a sister I’d like one like Sash. Sash gets a few scenes in the book but her opener, on hearing about Anna’s pregnancy is “Fuck off!” (presumably said with a “Get outta here” spin).
The story essentially follows Goldsworthy’s pregnancy, the labour and the first few years of her son’s life. There are no particularly remarkable experiences or challenges, it’s all very normal. I’m sure some readers will want to fire up a debate about natural birth versus medical intervention or working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers. Goldsworthy gives you a little material if you really want to go there but quite frankly, I’m over those debates. Make the choices that are right for you (and shut up about it).
So back to the book. Goldsworthy is frank, funny, observant and beautifully succinct.
“Now that you have been here for two weeks, you are becoming wordly. Every day you reveal new accomplishments: That pleased noise you make after you sneeze: ‘Ahhh.’ I am not sure what it says about you, but it must be something special. Your quick karate chops, spasmodic and strobe-lit.”
Honestly, newborn wasn’t my favourite phase but I do love the randomness of a brand new baby – their crazy legs, their mad arms.
I suspect that I enjoyed much of this book because Goldsworthy and my experiences were remarkably similar – from the horror of being fitted for a maternity bra to the fact that her maternal health nurse was a militant Fran. Bizarrely, I had not one but two maternal health nurses called Fran. The first one was a total nightmare and, much to the combined horror and high-fives from my mother’s group, I ditched her and went to another (who fires their health nurse?). The second, also called Fran, was useless but not a nightmare. Is being named Fran on the job description for maternal health nurses?
Goldsworthy balances the funny with the deeper truths –
“…we spend fugitive days together… spotting diggers, sharing a rapture of the mechanical world. You have taught me a new way of looking: ‘Fwut!’ you declare, upon spotting a truck, so that even when I’m alone I feel a small flare of delight upon seeing one.”
Yes, I felt the same way about wah-wahs (ducks). Then this –
“I remember what Fiona told me, when she brought Matilda home: I will never be happy again.”
Interesting and surprisingly accurate – I had never felt a responsibility so great as when I stepped out of the hospital with my first-born. And then funny and true –
“There is always one pincher at playgroup, Fiona has told me, and the greatest shame is when that pincher is your child.”
And finally, just to prove Goldsworthy can really paint the picture for her readers, there’s this recount of a breastfeeding demonstration class –
“It is a peculiar item of clothing, comprising two white pouches, each cradling a large load of breast. It is not quite a bra, and yet somehow familiar. “Not a glamorous item, perhaps, but extremely practical. Constructed, quite simply, from two pairs of plus-sized underpants.” There seems to be a loud whoosh from the room: the collective evaporation of libido. Gone – perhaps forever? It is not enough to wear gigantic underpants that look like nappies: you must now wear them on your breasts. She shrugs off the underpants-bra and passes it around the room for closer study. The man in front of us makes a detailed sketch, with schematic safety pins at key structural points.”
4/5 Is it all a little too slick? Perhaps. But I laughed, cringed and nodded my head in agreement in all the right bits.
I loved the scene where Anna and Nicholas have their first dinner out after the baby is born, bolting down a creamy leek risotto but really, it’s all about the cevapi.