Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother by Anna Prushinkaya

I leave the house for the first time as a mother and I get coffee. I see a pregnant woman in the coffee shop. I realize that I no longer have the marker. Strangers won't ask me when I'm due. I am disappointed. The feeling is roughly that everyone should know what happened, that I just gave birth, this should be obvious from my body, the way that the pregnancy was. I want to tell the strangers: "I gave birth eight days ago! I was pregnant very recently! He came early! He came fast and at home!"
I read Prushinskaya's essays in the last few days of my own pregnancy, and I was immediately impressed. She charts the territory from pregnancy to motherhood, drawing on everyone from Alice Walker to Anna Akhmatova to Anne Lamott. We hear about her maternal experiences as well as her mother's and grandmother's.

As evidenced by these reviews, I've been reading a lot about motherhood recently (a trend I assume will continue into the next few years), and these essays resonated with a lot of the ambivalence and confusion I've been feeling. I don't know how relevant or poignant they would feel to a non-mother (or a less recent recruit), but to the extent that lyrical personal essays are worth reading regardless of common ground, these are worth your time. Prushinskaya is witty and incisive, and her prose is eminently readable.

In general, I think more of us should be writing and reading about the liminal space between womanhood and motherhood; I felt utterly unprepared for almost everything I've experienced so far (I can only assume that actual motherhood will be even more blindsiding), and if reflections like Prushinskayas were more commonplace, if we valued the experience of becoming a mother as the nuanced and often difficult journey that it is, then perhaps women would feel more supported and validated as they move across into parenthood.

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