How I survived post natal deprivation

My guest blog post for the SJWF.  I think it’s OK to publish this for you now.

Four years ago my firstborn was born

What an awesome, heaven-inspired moment to be cradling this miniature descendent of the Priestly Tribe of the Kohanim – 3.385 grams of perfect miracle and blessing. Giddy with joy and high on adrenalin I had no idea of what was to become of me. 

Then, when my baby was two weeks old, and all the whiskey from the bris had finally worn off, the post-natal deprivation set in. I was never, ever going to have time to read again.

Before I became a mother I could cope with the concept of pre-natal deprivation – depriving myself of my favourite kosher delicacies – soft cheeses, Kosher Rose’ wine and the Jewish staple of smoked salmon.

Pre-natal deprivation is of course slightly palatable, because it’s a pretty compact period of your life (no more than 9 and 3/4 months unless you have the gestation period of an elephant or other fairly large mammal).  Also, it’s a means to an end, G-d willing.   

But the post-natal deprivation – now that’s a topic that’s more hush-hush than Joan Rivers’ real age.

Of course I knew that there’d be certain depriving aspects of motherhood – like post-natal depression, the baby blues, the lack of sleep, limited adult conversation, not to mention getting around in clean clothes most days.

But during my entire pregnancy, no-one gave me the heads-up about a fairly rare form of post-natal deprivation that affects avid readers/un-maternal types – No more reading, ever – total literary deprivation. What a shock to the system that I would never read a book post-natally.

I started to wonder why post-natal deprivation is not widely documented.

Perhaps, because there is no real evidence to suggest that new mothers will never be able to read again after giving birth.  That sort of statement would surely be absurd, because there’s absolutely no reason why becoming a mother precludes you from enjoying the written word from time to time. 

No, after having a baby, there’s tons of stuff you can still read, like:

  • the Kashrut Authority Kosher List every time you’re at the supermarket
  • Mothers’ self-help / parenting books, which chart your kid’s developmental milestones against a bunch of statistics based on obese newborns from another country in the 1980s who were weaned on Coca Cola and started solids at 4 months  old, and were written by 1950s-minded mothers who think you’re doing a rubbish job because you’ve let your baby cry in the pram while you scull your third coffee of the day, right before a breastfeed
  • street signs (that is, if you’re not too tired to get behind the wheel to brave a journey from A to B), and
  • text messages from anyone who still contacts you, because G-d knows you don’t have time to speak on the telephone anymore!

Clearly, a treasure trove of stuff to read for new mothers, just forget reading entire books that don’t relate to a new baby and/or how to raise it. 

For me – my descent into post-natal literary deprivation left me pining for a Tudor fix of historical fiction books.  I yearned for just a taste of brief escapism into the luxuriously glamorous Golden Ages, not to mention the handsome, bad-boy King Henry VIII (who, by the way, would have completely adored the likes of me, not only for my acerbic wit to rival Anne Boleyn any day, but also because I am genetically prone to producing male heirs!)

BfBut forget of reading whole, entire books, because I’m not the greedy type.  Since having babies, I couldn’t remember the last time I read a real newspaper, cover-to-cover or even paged through the Sunday Magazine.  In fact, the last thing I could actually recall reading were the jokes on the back of the Libra Maternity Pad tear-off slips!

I realised my dire situation and decided to start the process of self-recover from my post-natal deprivation.  One book at a time.

So – I booked a babysitter (read – husband), did something to make myself feel better (read – dropped the new-mothers’ guilt trip and left the house, alone) and bravely went in search of some real books for myself.  I had to remind myself that I was not looking for books that fit in a baby’s nappy bag or mouth, require you to scratch, sniff, feel and lift tags, or books with chewed corners that only have 4 pages made of board. 

No, to dig myself out of this post-natal deprivation I needed proper books. Grown-up books with at least 400 pages, gold-embossed writing on the cover and a fresco of a real life Tudor royal on the cover.

At the time of this post being published, I’m proud to say that I’ve made a near-complete recovery from my post-natal literary deprivation. But the healing is in the reading.  Simple as that. 

So, every Shabbas afternoon I try to make it my business to make myself scarce and get stuck into a good old tale about one of King Henry’s wives and their escapades.  And what’s more, by over-coming my post-natal deprivation, I think my boys will turn out all the better for it and hopefully, they’ll learn a love of reading from me too.

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