05 January 2009

Baby Love - Choosing Motherhood after a Lifetime of Ambivalence by Rebecca Walker

Baby Love is a memoir in diary form, written mostly during Rebecca Walker's pregnancy with her first child. She writes about the ambivalence she's been dealing with, the worry that she would lose herself and that it would complicate her already complex relationship with her mother (more about that relationship in this book).
"With a few small power plays—a skeptical comment, the withholding of approval or praise—a mother can devastate a daughter. Decades of subtle undermining can stunt a daughter, or so monopolize her energy that she in effect stunts herself. Muted, fearful, riddled with self-doubt, she can remain trapped in daughterhood forever, the one place she feels confident she knows the rules."

"It seemed that these mothers did not realize that they had to give adulthood to their daughters by stepping down, stepping back, stepping away, and letting the daughter take center stage. These mothers did not seem to know, with all their potions and philosophies, their desires to rehabilitate ancient scripts of gender and identity, that there is a natural order, and that natural order involves passing the scepter to offspring with unconditional love and pride.

Or pay the price."

To protect her unborn child, Walker decides to not have too much to do with her seemingly indifferent mother.
"I can see the importance of making decisions that enable your child to be not just physically safe in an environment, but emotionally and logically safe as well. If the well-being of my own child doesn't inspire me to break through my ambivalence about a person or situation and act more decisively, I have no idea what will."

She also recalls her mother telling her as an adult that she had had to decide to, choose to love her as a child. After Walker's own son is born, she finds that there is absolutely no choice for her loving him. And that bringing him up finally might help her heal her own painful childhood - the divorced parents, the moving all over the US every other year...

It is a quite wonderful book. Read the first chapters here and an interview here. Lastly:

"Human beings create narrative because we glimpse the universal through the specific and feel less alone."