Monday, March 8, 2010

Post-partum Reading List


( pay no attention to the laundry in the corner. . .  :)

The first 2 months after having a baby are generally an excellent time for me to get in some heavy-duty reading. I know that sounds strange, but if you are spending hours and hours day and night nursing a sweet baby, and you don't feel well enough to be doing much of anything else, well, reading is a great thing to do with your mind in the meantime!

Incidentally, now that my body is physically recovered, and Rosebud and I are out and about more, the reading has dropped to almost a complete standstill. :)

But here are some of the worlds I "visited" during Rosebud's first two months, along with a few informal thoughts about them. . . . 

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas - I read the 1200+ pages of this in about 8 DAYS. (My babies tend to be marathon nursers from the very beginning. :) I liked it much better than the Three Musketeers, although the ending didn't quite satisfy as much I as had hoped. There are great themes in here about handling adversity, and making use of our talents. It is a book about serious revenge, and it made me wonder if it is ever okay to take revenge into our own hands. The protagonist is a very likable person, although during the second half of the book you are no longer in his head, and that's pretty disconcerting at first. All in all, a very enjoyable read, if you're in the mood for a classic with a very interesting storyline and not terribly difficult to read.

The Actor and the Housewife, Shannon Hale - wow. This was really interesting. It was great for beating post-partum blues, as it made me laugh with almost every page. Shannon Hale takes on some pretty tough themes, like whether or not it's okay to have a serious platonic relationship with the opposite sex when you're married, and what constitutes a strong enough attraction for marriage. I'm not quite sure I agree with her, but it was certainly an entertaining ride. I'm very curious to hear what others of you think that have read this, especially what you thought of the ending! I do think this novel is MUCH BETTER than Austenland (I hated that one), and probably Hale's best writing yet.


The Magician's Elephant, Kate DiCamillo - Absolutely beautiful. I only wish it were longer. DiCamillo's writing is so poetic and strikes so directly to my heart. It's not often such a short book can make me cry. I would like to read this one again. Exacto also enjoyed this one. Themes are honesty, consequences to choices, and the power of hope.


Enthusiasm, Polly Shulman - I almost put this one down after the first chapter. It seemed too teenie-bopperish. (Aren't you impressed with my very academic style of reviewing these? :) But it's hard to get to the library when you have a newborn, and I was desperate to keep my brain active, and so I kept reading. It ended up being a really fun book. I do need to offer a warning about a little bit of language, and also verbal suggestiveness, but not worse than a PG-level. You will enjoy this book if you're can't get enough Jane Austen spinoffs and just want some escapist-type reading.



Emily Climbs, L.M. Montgomery - I've lost track of how many times I've read the Emily series. Reading Montgomery's books again now that I'm "all grown up" (sort of) has been sheer joy. Yes, I am more aware now of little faults in the writing, but I also "get" things now that I didn't before, especially some of the humorous things. Reading these is like getting all cozy again in my little twin canopy bed in the house I grew up in, with saguaros and palo verde trees outside my window. Makes me forget how many years have passed since I was a little girl. :)



The Good Earth, Pearl Buck - I was SO MAD at this book. First the author completely draws me in to this amazing little Chinese family, in a world I had never visited before, China on the cusp of revolution. I loved the uneducated but hardworking Wang Lung, and I especially loved his wife O-Lan, who is amazing in her ability to create a comfortable home for her family out of almost nothing but sheer talent. This was becoming one of my most inspiring reads in years, until Wang Lung's little downfall. Unfortunately (or FORTUNATELY, rather) my desire for catharsis does not extend to following the protagonist into vivid depictions of adultery. If Wang Lung were a real person, I think I would slap him. So anyway, I couldn't finish the book, although I'm sure it is very good according to the academic world. (This would have to be rated PG13 or even R)



Currently reading (very slowly). . . .

Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens - I am LOVING this. Dickens is so amazing, and I can't get enough of him. After I finish this one, I think I lack only 2-3 until I've read all of his books. His writing is so satisfying to me, like Brahms and really dark chocolate. :) Who else could pull off so beautifully a main character who is mentally disabled? Barnaby seems like a prophet--I can't wait to see what happens to him. And I love, love, love Grip, his ever-present pet raven, who is so hilarious that I laugh out loud whenever Dickens brings him onstage. Add the historical background of the Catholic-Protestant riots in 1780 London, and many other very interesting characters, and you've got a delightfully fascinating world to visit for hundreds of pages.

Getting Things Done, David Allen - ha. This is kind of a joke for me now. I thought it would help me capitalize on Rosebud's naps. Instead it makes me feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Not a good post-partum read, although I may come back to it in the future.


The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer - This book is amazing! Why didn't anyone tell me about it before? I plan to buy this one, and set off on her self-directed course for gaining a classical education. Very slowly. :)Anyone want to join me?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 47 - {arms filled again}

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One of the difficult symptoms of my grief after Benjamin died was painfully Empty Arms. It is strange. I don't know if I could really understand it without having lost a baby myself, but even though I held him for only one day, my arms seemed to think that he was still there. For literally months afterward, it felt like there was a huge empty chasm between them almost all the time.

At night it was the most torturous. I would sleep with the blanket that he had been wrapped in, only that didn't feel substantial enough, so sometimes it was a pillow, too. Maybe it's kind of like an amputee's phantom limb pain, only less physical and more emotional.

Church could be agonizingly difficult. My arms and lap stretched so terribly wide open. The only thing that helped was to hold one of my other sons. Luckily Hummer was up to that, so I would hold his huge 4- and then 5-year-old self on my lap and squeeze, trying to make the pain go away.

Even though I never heard Benjamin cry, I kept thinking I could hear him crying. With the boys home from school making all kinds of noise, and me trying to fix dinner, I would often pause suddenly because I thought I heard Benjamin and needed to go take care of him. (Incidentally, even now that Rosebud is here, I can be sitting in the recliner with her and Exacto, Fluffy, and Hummer all around me, and still have this sense of, "Where's Benjamin? I need to go make sure he's okay.")

When Rosebud was first placed in those aching arms of mine, the relief that swelled over me was like a tidal wave mixed with love specific to her. I couldn't stand to let her go to anyone else. But my blood pressure was so haywire from the recent surgery and epidural that I was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, so that did kind of make it necessary for me to allow, say, DC to hold her.
And my parents, I guess. :)

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I imagine the nurses who took care of me afterwards thought I was a nutcase. I literally held my new baby all night long most of the nights we were in the hospital. I groaned where the nursery came to get her. It was slightly ridiculous. But how could they understand the relief and gratitude I was finally feeling? From pain that had yawned open like a grand canyon I was finally delivered!

The relief of this seems to be quite separate from the grief of missing my youngest son. I have actually been a little surprised at how strong the sadness still is when I think of never seeing him again in this life--I still cry over his absence.

I would give absolutely anything to have Benjamin still here. Every time I take a picture of my boys with their new baby sister I yearn to see what that picture would have looked like with all of my children. I hate it when people look at our family and say, "Wow, three boys and now a girl finally!", never knowing that actually we have four sons. For the rest of my life, it will never be "the whole family" anywhere we go. That hurts and always will.

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But at least I don't have that horrible emptiness in my arms anymore.
100 days of gratitude tag


Oh, how grateful I am to be toting around a 9-pound-6-ounce baby all day! Yes, all day. :) I still am ravenous almost all the time to hold her. I have been known to hold her through a 2-hour nap or longer. We sleep most of the night with one of my arms around her.

I Thank Thee with all my heart, Heavenly Father, for filling my arms again!

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