This book hooked me immediately. I found both Delphi and Leilani fascinating, and the writing pulled me right in. All of the characters had a warmth and depth that left me loving them.
This is the second book I’ve read that deals directly with a parent wishing for more alone time, and then getting what she wished for. The first book was Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One, and I cried through that book. This book is different –while the loss is sad, Leilani’s behavior is so self-destructive that you feel a stronger connection to her survival of the loss than the loss itself.
When Emma was a toddler, my life-long, low-level, anxiety ratcheted up to panic attacks. They were very specific –any time Emma so much as coughed, my gut was sure she was going to die. I couldn’t do anything about that stomach clenching, it didn’t matter how much self-soothing I did, or how many rational statements Rob made concerning her health. Eventually the panic attacks leaked over to Rob –he forgot to pick Emma up from pre-school one time? I was sure he was dead on the side of the road. He was at a meeting a half-hour longer than he’d said? Again, dead on the side of the road. A very good friend finally intervened and got me to see someone, and eventually a low dose of meds made a huge difference.
What I only just recently admitted to Rob was that during those panic attacks about Emma, I would sometimes tell myself “Well, if she dies from this you won’t ever have to experience this panic again. The problem will be over.” I could never admit I thought that back then because it is so incredibly horrible. But I did.
Mary Petrie’s book is a good reminder that I’m not the only mother who sometimes wishes that having a child wasn’t so hard. That it didn’t require me to give up so much of myself during those early years, in order to feel that I was doing an okay job. Like Leilani, I left my baby crying with her dad sometimes as I went to work, and I longed for Mondays, when I could drop her off at daycare and enjoy the peace of adult colleagues and work I love.
Once I had Emma, of course, it never occurred to me to do less than the best I could --for me, having a child was a commitment. And I’m happy to say that parenting Emma has become more and more rewarding as she has gotten older. I love the adolescent she has become, and I love spending time with her now. I love our family of three --we have a wonderful time, and she has brought so much into my life. Plus, of course, she has developed her own life and often gives me long spans of uninterrupted time :-)
Reading Mary Petrie’s book was not only a wonderful experience because of the excellent writing and story, but also reassuring. I know there are plenty of women in the world who love being a mother, but for me it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I feel really lucky to have made it through those early years, and my reward is the pleasure of knowing the person my daughter is becoming. But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make the same decision again if I had to start over (hence the name of my blog --I don't think I'm a bad mom, but I am pretty bad at being a mom). It's nice to encounter stories that make me feel like I'm not the only woman who has felt this way.
This was a wonderful reading experience and I would highly recommend this book. I'm so glad that this book came out of a closet and saw the light of day.