It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita
by Heather B. Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn't expect to enjoy this book much. After what I personally went through with infertility; having a very tiny, sick baby in the NICU for four months; and experiencing four miscarriages, I have no patience for women who complain about the common garden aches, pains, and inconveniences of pregnancy and new motherhood. "Get some perspective, woman!" I want to shout.
I was intrigued by the concept, though, because Armstrong writes a very popular blog, dooce.com, and got fired from her job because she used to rag on her boss in her blog. The book draws heavily from her blog entries during her pregnancy, birth, and the aftermath.
First of all, Armstrong is funny. She makes my blog appear like it is prim and conservative, given the choice language she uses and TOO MUCH INFORMATION she reveals, constantly...for example, pages are devoted to her inability to poop and her daughter's prize pooping, or how much garlic she ate right before birth and the garlic farts that ensued, or about her monster hemorroids. She was raised in a strict Mormon family, as was her husband (although they have both left the fold but still remain close to their families and live in Salt Lake City).
Before getting pregnant and having a baby, Armstrong was on antidepressants. After her daughter Leta was born, she painstakingly made the decision to wean her at 6 months so she could return to medication. It wasn't enough, though, and she ended up in a mental hospital for four days to get the right medication and get herself back together. She writes so openly about her experience, and about her battles with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, that one can't help but feel sympathy for what she was going through.
I liked Armstrong's off-the-wall examples in her writing, such as when she talked about the myth that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt...and everything she'd read about breastfeeding "must have been written by a man with no tits...and the only way to describe it to a man is to suggest that he lay out his naked penis on a chopping block, place a manual stapler on the sacred helmet head, and bang in a couple hundred staples. The first two staples might hurt a little, but after that it just becomes numb, right? And by the 88th staple you're like, AREN'T YOU FULL YET? But then the comparison really fails because a man doesn't have two penises, and after stapling the first boob the baby moves on to the other boob and the happy stapling begins ALL OVER AGAIN."
She describes her book as a love letter to her husband, who truly must have been a saint to not only support and love Armstrong through her darkest days, but also to love her often-screaming-and-fussy daughter so intensely: "When I saw them together in the rocking chair reading stories together, sharing those quiet evening moments, father and daughter, my heart would break into a million pieces."
When Armstrong finally found a psychiatrist who understood the depth of her depression and knew exactly how to treat her, the best thing he offered her was this message: "You poor woman. I am so sorry for what you have been through," proving again that the #1 best thing anyone can do for another person is to LISTEN and try to understand.
Baby Leta had some sensory issues when she was younger, causing her to not want to put pressure on her legs. Although Armstrong was not ashamed that she was not crawling at 9 months, she did get tired of people constantly questioning why she wasn't. I can relate to this--I know that people have good intentions, but it gets very tiresome to hear "he's still not potty trained?", "he's still NURSING?", or "he's not walking?" (All of my sons have been later walkers--the earliest being Nicholas, who walked at 13 months...and he was the only one who talked on schedule.) It got easier with sons #2 and #3, because Chris walked and talked so much later, and I knew that they would get it eventually. After all, at age 10, 20, 30, or 60, who the heck knows or cares at what age someone first sat up, crawled, walked, talked, first used the potty, or even learned to read??? Why are people so fixated on these things?
Baby Leta is now 5 or 6 and is adorable, judging from the photos on dooce.com. And Armstrong went on to have another baby, Marlo.
I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for parents-to-be, but I would recommend it for anyone who's had a baby and realized it was not the rosy, 100% wonderful experience that everyone said it would be.
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