I don't have kids. I don't think I want kids. I look at people with kids and I wonder: you gave up your life so that you could have that squalling, selfish, expensive little person?
Why do we procreate? Is it really just because of biological urges? Do we need it to feel complete or completely connected to our partner? Is it a practical choice that will ensure that we are well taken care of when we're older? Or is it really the transformative experience that allows you to understand all of your parents' choices, wipe away your selfish asshole tendencies and experience love, pure unselfish love?
I have many questions about parenthood and I felt secure in my belief that Heather B. Armstrong, creator of the infamous dooce.com, was not going to smother me in guilt nor feed me bullshit about how precious life is with a child. I wanted the real deal.
A little background here: Armstrong, an ex-Mormon and a chronically irresponsible crazy, started her blog to bitch about her job, was fired for writing said blog, and then went on to continue to write about life with her family.
Armstrong's account of having her first child is about as real as it gets. She's not afraid to say exactly how difficult pregnancy and child rearing can be (crushing morning sickness, doubt over her ability, the extreme discomfort of nursing, a variety of bodily functions). She is equally as candid regarding her struggle with depression. Armstrong suffered severe postpartum depression that required hospitalization. She doesn't hesitate in saying that she felt no remorse at weaning her baby in order to go back on the anti-depressives she needed to be a stable mother.
Best of all, she talks about life in Salt Lake City with her deranged Mormon family (best: her Avon Lady mother) that, despite their disappointment over her life choices, also shows real love and support. And yes, Armstrong experiences that same love for her baby. She doesn't beat you over the head with it, though.
A note about style: the book needed the strong hand of an editor. Armstrong is used to writing short blog posts where her hyperbolic style works well to grab the reader's attention. I found it exhausting, though, to follow such extreme hyperbole (that makes CONSTANT use of CAPS, CAPS all the TIME, CAPS are the BEST. CAPS!!!). The book's pacing and readability would have greatly benefited from a degree of restraint.
In the end, I felt that It Sucked and then I Cried was a brilliant, no holds barred account of motherhood - a position where living on your own terms is discouraged, where conformity is encouraged. This is supposedly for 'the good of the child' but is instead a passive aggressive way for women to target other women. Armstrong valiantly resists. Good on her.
It Sucked and Then I Cried/ Heather B. Armstrong / Simon Spotlight Entertainment / HC, 2009