Is there a limit to what a mother should or shouldn’t say about her family, her thoughts, her life? Clover Stroud explores out to the edges of this enquiry in her memoir of motherhood.
Straight in, we’re met by her hugely pregnant belly and the heartbeat of a yet-to-be-born child. The first stage of this baby’s life is to be documented by his mother to bring us this bold reflection on the messy, exciting and exhausting world of growing a family.
This isn’t any kind of how-to manual, rather the opposite in some ways. Stroud’s brutal honesty questions and challenges, rather than offering guidance.
This is a deeply personal view on the overwhelming complexity of being a mother and the consuming physicality of the care of small children.
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In the face of bringing a fifth child into the world and the impact of this choice on her whole family’s life, Stroud is writing through a single intense year, pinning down the experience on the page, opening her inner world to the public gaze.
Continuing, perhaps, the experience of later pregnancy when there’s no place to hide that bump and no privacy from a stranger’s scrutiny.
“And I think of the way people react when they see I’m pregnant with a fifth child. Usually what they say is: ‘You’re brave! Are you mad?’”
Stroud is certainly brave. Being a mother is a role loaded with expectations and requirements, but she wades past them and opens up the possibility of also continuing to be an independent person, with flaws and frustrations of her very own. There’s a beautiful sense of the changing internal rhythms of wanting and not wanting everything she’s brought upon herself.
It’s fun getting to know all these individual children and being drawn into their interwoven relationships.
They do those crazy things that children do. Family life is such a rich source of dynamic change and simple pleasures. Why leave it to fiction when the real story is so compelling in its own right?