By: Catherine Newman
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Publication Date: March 2005
Reviewer: Pamela Victor
Review Date: July 2008
If you’re ten pages in to Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family and you have not laughed out loud, then just go ahead and put the book away. You probably haven’t creased it too much, and you can probably successfully re-gift it. But chances are you will be chuckling, snickering and even snorting in delight all the way through Catherine Newman’s hysterically honest-to-the-bone memoir of her pregnancy with her second child.
Newman relates the magical, green-tinged, anxious year before her second child’s birth, as she shares her wildly contradictory feelings of motherhood (“a disorienting blur of love and crushing anxiety”) and the guilt familiar to most parents that she surely is ruining her firstborn’s life by having another baby. Newman’s stream of consciousness writing style has a comfortable, easy effect on the reader. It’s like talking to your lovingly kooky best-friend-since-childhood over tea and chocolate chip cookies (or, more likely, margaritas and, well, more margaritas). Newman is refreshingly real about the mixed bag of motherhood, warts, runny noses, sleepless nights and all. She writes, “I didn’t understand that having a baby would feel like falling in love, but like falling in love on a bad acid trip. With an alarm clock – a pooping alarm clock.”
Newman’s humor appeals to any parent who has woken with a start in the middle of the night, engaged in an internal struggle over whether it’s necessary to check if the baby is breathing, decided she’s crazy and should go back to sleep, and then gotten up anyway to just take one quick peek at the baby. But Newman takes checking on the baby to a whole new level as her unbridled paranoia about aneurisms, Coxsackie viruses, and the barfing flu runs rampant in a strangely self-satisfying way that makes one murmur, “At least I’m not that crazy.” Yes, Newman is a worrier of the first order. She worries about leaving her son to go to the movies with her husband, she worries about her pregnancy, she worries about lackluster libidos and toxoplasmosis and fleshy arms and deadly pathogens. In other words, she is a completely typical mother.
After all too many picture perfect images of mothers – from Mrs. Brady to anyone ever photographed for the magazine “Fit Pregnancy” – Newman’s confessions are authentic, honest and reassuring. Throughout the seasons of her pregnancy, Newman holds up the mirror and shows us Everymother...and we just have to laugh.
Quill says: Buy two copies because the person sitting next to you will want to know what’s so funny!