This was a book I should have read whilst pregnant with my first child. When women are pregnant with their first child, all the advice, reading and conversation runs around pregnancy and birth; there it stops. It feels like birth is the penultimate objective of a pregnant woman. Yet now I know of my naivety. Birth is the beginning of an unknown space that we just appear in and Maddie McMahon has tried creatively to describe this unknown space for us all.
Her latest book, Why Mothering Matters from the brilliant Why is Matters series feels like a genuine heart tale. It’s a book that’s most possibly been brewing in Maddie’s head for years. Her observant, poetic prose is very endearing to read and absorb. This book feels like you are talking to a friend in your living room who has been through the very things that are troubling you right now. However, just as we talk to a friend and our conversations jump and skip around, so does this book. There are examples of writing where birth conversations suddenly become breast-feeding ones or hard-hitting facts and evidence starts to morph into personal commentary. This book feels more like a collection of musings rather than a strong coercive, unmistakeable manifesto which the title made me believe it would be. The chapters though creatively named don’t convey a build up into a crescendo of a call to action or a sense of solidarity towards my fellow mothers.
We are in a time where feminism backlash, birth trauma and maternity politics are heightened by their social visibility but there is a lack of progressive dialogue that can bring society together on these seminal topics. I wish the book’s central premise would have stayed on this hard-hitting agenda. The tone of victimising women has always been unappealing to me and with her descriptions of roles, demographics and divisive politics Maddie half-heartedly dips her pen to write on what is really bothering her but settles on an apologetic tone that does both this book and mothers a great disservice. This book had the promise to bring out the importance and nuanced nature of mothering in our social structure, but it is left me feeling that being a mother feels like a drag to most women, which is clearly untrue.
Maddie has a passion towards her fellow mothers and in her writings that is plain to read. I think there are gems in this book even if they are hidden and this a book that needs an audience that has the patience to sift through its beauty. The poetic nature of the book makes it ideal for a cold, wet, dark evening where you will find a warm light of companionship as you ponder on your own mothering journey, but don’t let the doom and gloom get to you.