Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Nobody told me

I don't know how it feels to give birth and have my own child and I imagine it's one of those life stages that can't be fully understood unless experienced. But Hollie McNish's Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood creates a genuine picture of what it's like. 

The book is a gathering of diary entries and poems written from the day the pregnancy test announced she was pregnant (on her way to Glastonbury) to her child's first day of preschool and the stream of thoughts throughout those years is both heart-warming and eye-opening.

Heart-warming in the sweet mother-towards- daughter emotions like this from poem You

You are the reason why my heart / skips a beat / every night / Why my laughter lines double/ and/ grow deeper/ each day

You are the smile carved/  like a permanent mark/ on my face/ Every time you wake me up/ at 6 a.m. to play/ Drumming on my belly/ Blowing raspberries on my skin / and I joke that one day I might put you back in / and when I tell you that you lived there/ you tell me it's a fib/ asking me for proof/ like a toddler detective

I point to the place / you lift my top up a little/ then bang on my stretch marks/ and giggle

While  eye-opening in the oh-my-god-society-is-so-frustrating kind of way.
Take, for example, the anger released with Embarrassed. I've never got my head around why breastfeeding in public, especially when done discreetly, is seen as disgusting. Surely what's more disgusting is this:

...after six months of her life spent sitting on lids/ As she sips on her milk, nostrils sniffing up shit,/ Banging her head on toilet-roll dispensers,/ I wonder if these public-loo feeds offend her

...And the more I go out, the more I can't stand it/ I walk into town, feel surrounded by bandits,/ 'Cos in this country of billboards covered in tits/ And family newsagents' magazines full of it/ WHSmith top shelves out for men/ -Why don't you complain about them then?

And the baby product business which Hollie remarks on frequently over the years, in particularly in Marketing Motherhood.

...Business marketing emotions as 'necessary buys' / as grands are spent from guilty feelings, unknown fears and/ cries/ as one hundred heavy bellies walk the isles, bulging with advice/ and tags are placed everything and unborn babies priced.

Trollies filled by worried parents,/ patents push the price, declaring/ products for those 'up the duff,'/ like/ if you don't buy this, you'll fuck your baby up

And the general rudeness of some people on public transport, which includes the disapproving reactions to bringing a toddler on a train journey during rush hour and the account of a woeful tube trip while heavily pregnant: 

'He has definitely seen me. He has looked at my belly. Of course he'd stand if he could. He might have bad knees, I think, might have had an operation last week, bladder issues or any other problems I can't see. So I stand, feeling like the heaviness of my bowling-ball belly pushing on my bladder might make me wee my pants right there, staring into space, trying not to hate humankind, and finally we're there. King's Cross.
The guy stands up and walks across me, out of the Tube, and sprints down the platform to catch his train. There was nothing wrong with his legs.'

It's always interesting getting drawn into the mind of other people via words on a page. It's even more interesting when, as is the case with Nobody Told Me, it's a portrayal of real life.

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