Feb 23, 2011

Great with Child

Reflections on faith, fullness, and becoming a mother
by Debra Rienstra

Contemplative, thoughtful writing on the inner changes that take place in a mother's soul, that's how I think of this book. Great with Child was written during and just after the author's pregnancy with her third child, and she chronicles with tender insightfulness all the impacts that bringing a new life into the world can have on a woman. Not just the physical changes- although those are addressed- the hormonal upheavals, pains and fatigue, wonders of first feeling the baby move- but more specifically the emotional territory and how being pregnant (and later, a new mom) alters her outlook on everything in life. Cultural norms, gender roles, shifting relationships with her parents and in-laws, body image, the nature of work, learning patience... More than any other this book is so honest about what's hard in becoming a mother (even though this is her third time)- painful breastfeeding sessions, severe lack of sleep (I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who falls to pieces on less than four hours!) the feeling of loosing your sense of self when all attention and energy must be focused on this helpless, demanding little infant- and what little is left divided among your other children and spouse. There is also great beauty here, love that unfolds, depth of character that grows through the trials of motherhood.

This is the kind of book you want to read slowly, to think over every passage. Although I have to admit I did quite a bit of skipping. Her writing is very faith-orientated, and sometimes the musings on God just did not resonate with me. Eventually I found myself glossing over every paragraph that started quoting scripture. I did appreciate more the metaphors and examples she drew from literature and art. Still, I don't feel like I missed much. I love how she writes about the inner workings childbearing can have on a woman's soul, so much that I'm contemplating adding this book to my personal collection.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 295 pages, 2002


Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed by how authors can take the time to contemplate their thoughts and feelings, especially when dealing with a new baby.

Susan said...

I think I'm going to look for this one. You make it sound very interesting and thoughtful (in spite of the scriptures and musings on God, which I will probably skip over too). I have three children, and each pregnancy was very different, and each one changed me. Lovely review, Jeanne. Thanks. - with the last two, we ended up napping all together in the afternoons, the 2 year old lying on one side, the baby on the other or in his car seat, and me. It was the only way I could get through the day!

Jeane said...

Carolsnotebook- I think I quit keeping a journal when my first baby was born, and never got back into it! I don't know how she did it; was very impressed myself.

Susan- I think you'll like this book. I wish I could make the afternoons family naptime, it sounds wonderful. Sadly, my daughter hasn't napped since she was two (six now) so there's not much hope of that!