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Pickle Me This

February 15, 2011

More on the motherhood narrative

Lately, reading Susan Olding’s book Pathologies (and in particular, her essays about infertility and her daughter’s adoption) and Charlene Diehl’s Out of Grief, Singing (as recommended by Alison Pick), I was struck by how various is the motherhood narrative. And yet the universality of these stories– these women, with their extraordinary experiences of motherhood, managed to articulate so much that I’ve only been gesturing toward since I became pregnant two and a half years ago. Partly because the writing here is so remarkable. This might also be because I’m self-absorbed, and project myself onto everything. But still, how these stories resonated, and also taught me new things about the motherhood experience, added the possibility of additional dimensions to my journey.

I also can’t help thinking about how I would critique Diehl’s memoir if it were a novel– during most of her daughter’s brief life in the NICU, Diehl was suffering from a variety of post-birth complications and hardly saw her before she died. In a stupid workshop, I would insist on moments of connections, on the impossibility of these parallel storylines (mother and baby both in physical trauma), it doesn’t unfold like a story (but then, from what I’ve heard, death rarely does). We have to bend life a certain way to make it work in fiction, but real life doesn’t bend, does it. And how Diehl makes something so beautiful of it still, the unbendingness of real life. There is such generosity in her story, such grace, and though I’ve sobbed off and on today as I’ve read her book, so often I’ve been crying because of the joy.

One thought on “More on the motherhood narrative”

  1. Nathalie says:

    _Pathologies_ is one of my favourite collections of essays ever. The final lines of the title essay made me gasp. “Name it.” Will go add Diehl to my wish list now.

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