Friday, October 09, 2009

Book Tour: It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong

Time for another Book Tour (see the end of this post for more information):

I did not know about Heather Armstrong before I read this book. I did not know she has a popular mommy blog. I really try not to follow the so-called "Mommy Bloggers", partially out of time issues, partially out of irritation issues.

However, I did find some common ground with sections of this book, and I even did find myself sometimes chuckling along with her over the many absurdities of being a first time parent.

I admit that I really was interested in her struggle with Post Partum Depression, as this is still a somewhat a taboo subject. I feel that she was very brave in showing her readers (both on her blog and in her book) this often unspoken part of pregnancy/child birth.

While in the end, I found this book somewhat dissatisfying, I would recommend it for any first time mother.

While there were times that I laughed as hard as I did reading Dan Savage’s The Kid, I felt the humor in her case served to distance the reader from the subject rather than bring them closer to it as it did with Savage’s book. In other words, I was laughing with Armstrong and then realized that she had distracted me from asking my internal questions and hoped that I would notice that she hadn’t told me anything of substance whereas with Savage’s book, I laughed and came to a deeper understanding of a situation. Two examples of humor, but only one truly working on illuminating a situation. Do you agree or disagree? What did you think of Armstrong’s use of humor?

Actually, I found myself having a hard time getting through this book. At first I couldn't put my finger on why. I too would have a chuckle every so often, but yet I could not really feel any empathy towards the author. Sometimes I took her as being a bit "snooty" and sometimes I took her as being very naive (which she admits to). I agree that her humor serves as a distancing mechanism. By the end of the book, I felt that I had not really learned anything that I did not already know and while I knew her better than before I picked up the book, I really did not know her at all. I guess would could say her humor was not constructive.

If you had postpartum depression to the degree Heather describes, would you have the courage to check yourself into a psychiatric ward? (It’s hard to say when it’s not actually happening in your own life, but I’d be curious to know if there are some people who are completely against it, some who would do it if they felt there was no other way, etc.)

I did not have PPD to the degree that Heather had. But I did have it. The first time was over 10 years ago when my son was born. I had no idea what to do. There were not as many resources available to women concerning PPD. Mental health is a slippery, messy and often unspoken health issue. The only reason why I knew it was not just the "newborn blues" is because my husband struggles with clinical depression. For the first time in my life, I could relate to his illness. When you are depressed, no amount of picking yourself up and "just cheering up" works. I struggled through my Post Partum Depression feeling like I was supposed to "deal with it". Vaguely, I knew I needed help. But I was a first time mother and had no idea where to turn. Some how I got through it. But I swore that, come the next time, I would get help if I felt anything like I did before.

In a way, it was a blessing in disguise for me to have had such a long time between children. Almost 10 years later, the medical establishment has become more aware of PPD and I found a lot of information out there. My OB office was particularly helpful and open with me. So when I did start feeling depression creeping in, I was able to go to my doctors office. They did set me up with medication and therapy. They even talked to us about hospitalization. In fact, the doctors did call my husband, and informed him that, at least for the next week or two, I should not be left alone. For the next couple weeks, my husband took a few more days off from work, our friends made sure to come by. I was never left alone, I went to therapy, I had meds. And I slowly crawled through. I am glad people were there for me. And I am glad there were options out there, including hospitalization. While there is a stigma concerning mental health, it was more important that I be healthy for myself and for my children.

If you are in a relationship right now, do you relate to how Heather talks about her husband, Jon, and what a great father and life partner he is? From what she described about Jon, what qualities do you have or want in your life partner?

The parts where she was talking about her husband dealing with her moods and her depression resonated with me. My husband understood more than others what depression can be like. He was there for me and was the most understanding person. He took time off to be there for me, more time than he was intending to, more time than he was supposed to. He normally works long hours, but, when I needed him the most, he shortened his hours just so I was not alone.

He is my partner in so many ways. We have a lot in common, science fiction, our warped sense of humor, etc. And we share in the parenting duties. He loves being a father, and understands that often I am shouldered with more of the domestic burden, so often times he "picks up the slack" on the weekends...for example, right now he is with Willow for her gym class while I type away.

He has all the qualities I want in a life partner: sense of humor, sense of obligation, unconditional love, intelligence.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.


Martha said...

Thanks for the review, I really appreciate your insights about PPD which I also struggled with. You and your Dh sound like a wonderful team.
Mommy bloggers irritate me too, but I guess TECHNICALLY I am one, but I think I know what you mean.

Kristin said...

Interesting take on the book. I haven't read it yet so I don't know how I would react to her use of humor. Thanks for sharing your struggles with PPD.

Sheri said...

I also participated in the Book Tour and appreciate your comments.

I really liked your quote, "Mental health is a slippery, messy and often unspoken health issue."

As I shared in my book review, someone close to me was depressed and committed suicide last it is very fresh for me.

I also liked your description of your DH. He sounds wonderful!

Thank you for your insights and openness.

loribeth said...

I can see how some people might find Heather's humour irritating. She did seem rather naive about some things.

I'm glad you got the help you needed with your own PPD! My dh also has some anxiety/depression issues, & after having my own problems with anxiety, I found it much easier to recognize when he was having a rough time.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

As much as it was brave of Heather to write about PPD, I have to applaud you for stepping forward with your story.

And I have to agree with this: "By the end of the book, I felt that I had not really learned anything that I did not already know and while I knew her better than before I picked up the book, I really did not know her at all." I also felt like the humour held the reader at bay rather than drawing them closer.

Rebecca said...

I really appreciate your review. There were parts which made me feel so validated as a first-time mother, which I loved, but there were other times I definitely felt distanced from the author. I felt like her admitting in the beginning how she was fired from her job because of her website was almost an apology or warning for the rest of her book. While I can understand her holding back, I was ready to read so much more!

Kate said...

Great review! I'll have to check it out....

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

I think this may be an instance in which reading the blog first sets you up better for the book -- the empathy was already there for me because of reading her blog for a long time, plus her humor is a big part of why I read her blog. Even though the balance of humor and content was different in the book than on the blog, the book worked for me more than it did for you.

But, I'm glad you got something out of the book anyway! :)