Nobody makes having a child when youíre over forty funnier than popular magazine writer Judith Newman does in her hilarious and brutally honest book, You Make Me Feel Like An Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Older) Mother. For those of us who belong to the growing ranks of ďolder first-time moms,Ē this book will delight, entertain, terrify, enlighten and even empower. Mostly it will terrify (but in a funny way), but bear with it, for the end result is one of total redemption! I absolutely loved it and laughed out loud so much during my late night readings that my husband got mad at me for keeping him awake.
Newman takes us along on her rollercoaster ride through fertility treatments and pregnancy attempts until she finally gives birth to twins who almost donít make it. We suffer along with her as the little preemies cling to life, then we struggle with her as she gets the ropes of new motherhood, and eventually we laugh and cheer with her as she perfects (well, almost) the art of being an older mom. All the while, we want to smack her selfish husband upside the head, throttle her old-fashioned nanny, slap her idiotic friends and neighbors and steal Judith away to be our own new best friend as she learns the hard way that caring for twins is harder than anything she can imagine, especially when those you depend on for help donít always come through. People like her stuffy British husband, John, who never stops complaining about these new children invading his life, or her difficult but treasured nanny, Orma, who makes the author feel like a failure for every little mistake she makes.
But through the twinsí illnesses and struggles and the authorís own coming to terms with her new role as mom first, human being second, we get nothing but the honest truth from the author, which makes her journey our own. She pulls no punches describing her fears, disappointments, angers, anxieties and even her temptations, and her truthfulness is a refreshing look at exactly how much sacrifice goes into being a mom, a sacrifice even more difficult to make for us older gals who lived for so long as independent career creatures with minds, and bodies, of our own.
This chronicle of new family life is written in a diary style, with daily entries from Newmanís chaotic and wacky experiences as she discovers the joys and perils of mommyhood in the fifth decade. We get to watch how these new babies affect her self-esteem, her career, her marriage, her friendships and even her attempts to remodel an upstairs apartment. We see how becoming a mother changes every aspect of the authorís life, from the most personal and intricate to the most obvious and blatant.
I donít care how old a woman is when she gives birth Ė this is her story, from the authorís struggles to rearrange her priorities to her concerns over age and body image to her frustration with her spouse and family when they donít come through for her as she would have wished. Any mom of any age will get so much truth from this book; it should be given out at hospitals when moms and new babies go home!
Ultimately, the author finds love everywhere she looks, including with her stodgy husband, who comes around to his new babies in his own stodgy way (thank God he redeems himself, or many readers like myself would be tempted to track him down and knock him over the head with a baby monitor). The author also comes to accept her fate, and find great excitement and purpose and joy in it. She also realizes that being a mother, especially a late-in-life mother, requires a powerful and totally empowering kind of absolute surrender that brings the greatest possible fulfillment. She surrenders to being a mommy, exhausted and exhilerated and excited and exalted and exasperated.