And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell
Maturity Level: 5
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Meaghan O’Connell always felt totally alienated by the cutesy, sanctimonious, sentimental tone of most writing about motherhood. After getting accidentally pregnant in her twenties, she realized that the book she needed–a brutally honest, agenda-less take on the emotional and existential impact of motherhood–didn’t exist. So she decided to write it herself.
And Now We Have Everything is O’Connell’s brave exploration of transitioning into motherhood as a fledgling young adult. With her dark humor and hair-trigger B.S. detector, O’Connell addresses the pervasive impostor syndrome that comes with unplanned pregnancy, the second adolescence of a changing postpartum body, the problem of sex post-baby, the weird push to make “mom friends,” and the fascinating strangeness of stepping into a new, not-yet-comfortable identity.
I’m having a really hard time rating this book, because I felt three different ways about the three different sections: pregnancy, childbirth, and new-mom. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very cohesive, and O’Connell wrote with the same voice and dark humor throughout, but I just connected with her three different parts of her story in different ways.
The first fifty pages or so of And Now We Have Everything are about O’Connell discovering she is unexpectedly pregnant, figuring out what to do about it, and the difficulties of being pregnant. I outright hated this part. I couldn’t connect with O’Connell or her partner, nor any of their decisions or arguments. The lifestyle they live together was not one I could relate to on any level. His expectation that she was just going to get an abortion was infuriating, and her refusal to talk about her decision maybe more so. While it was nice seeing them get excited about the baby, I found O’Connell’s obsession with how fat she looked to get more aggravating as time went on. I just didn’t like them as people. Sorry.
O’Connell’s birth story was … not as uncomfortable to read about as it should have been? First of all, if you read this book, know going in that what she experienced is NOT NORMAL. Don’t let it scare you off of childbirth! But I did appreciate how she looked at the myth that a “natural birth” is somehow some goal we should all be striving towards and are capable of achieving, for reasons that we don’t know or understand. I liked that she acknowledged how freaky an epidural is, because I was terrified of it both times. Needles are not my friend. And her birth story went on for a good 50 pages because it was an epically difficult and unusual one. However, I just didn’t find myself upset for her. Maybe because I spent the first quarter of the book disliking her so thoroughly.
However, the last half of the book, the part about actually being a new mother, I related to intensely. While O’Connell’s insecurities will never be endearing, I was able to accept them a little better because the whole thing is so difficult. I thought it was brave of her to address the negative aspects of being a mom. I finally connected with her when she explored how after six weeks she just wanted some time AWAY. Away from her baby, away from her apartment, away from breastfeeding. But then once you step away, even just down the street, the intense feelings of guilt for not being with your kid every second. What if something happens? I think it’s something all breastfeeding moms have experienced, but it’s scary to talk about. Who wants to admit that they want to spend a few minutes away from their child?
On the whole, this book was heavy on the TMI, so if that’s not for you stay away. TMI about her sex life, TMI about her birth story, TMI about breast feeding. Just waaaaay to much information. Which is fine, it’s a memoir, it was kind of refreshing to read that kind of honestly. Though, frankly, I found it ironic the levels to which she protected her son’s privacy (not even sharing his name) considering his conception and birth were shared in rather too much detail.
I think there are things about this book that are important, though I worry the most important things won’t get talked about. The things I’m too afraid to put on the internet for fear of being ostracized. But there’s a lot in here that questions the way we do pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing in America. Questions we should all be asking ourselves.
In the end I guess I’m choosing three stars. I enjoyed this book, but there was enough that really upset me and made me angry (and y’all, I hardly ever get angry), that I can’t give it more. I think this book is important, but I didn’t love it. I would recommend it to women who are expecting or who think they might want to be moms in the future, mostly because I think you should ask yourselves some of the questions O’Connell brought up before. I wish I had been able to. But maybe skip the birthing section if that’s not for you. I won’t judge.