Thursday, May 04, 2006

It's A Girl: Blogging Book Tour

July 2003, and I am sitting in my old-school, no-nonsense therapist's office in a bleary haze and a flowered sundress I am spilling out of--desperately longing for the familiar in the surreal post-partum days.
"I experienced a severe bout of post-partum depression with my first daughter in 1996," I hear myself say to her.
She doesn't take notes or look down at me with great authority over wire-rimmed glasses. This therapist sits relaxed in her chair, regarding me warmly but intently--her hands splayed open in her lap.
"I was fine with my son in 2000--but, I hand an unusual amount of support and he was planned well in advance."
A cloying breeze stirs through the open window and a bead of sweat rolls down my spine,
"Also, my pregnancy with him was plagued with problems. I was just so relieved to get him was Springtime and our friends and family all had kids at the same time. A community."
She smiles, her dark eyes never wavering from my face.
"This time," I pause, willing the words to surge through me, "Well...with this daughter, she was planned and I have support. I'm really in a better place all around...but I feel like I'm sliding a bit and I don't know why."
"No...I don't know and so I'm here to make sure my support system is fully in place."
Pleased with myself, my foresight, and my logic--I fall silent and catalogue the endless varieties of potted plants marching across her window sill.
"Of course, there is that one possibility for why you're here again," she says, running her fingers through her cropped silver hair.
I frown, "Which is?"
"Having daughters," she answers firmly.
When I understand her thread of thought I rebel. A card-carrying Feminist...with a Bachelor's degree in Women's Studies...a deep reader of womyn centered literature, anthropology, and psychology...empowered midwifery-model of birth...female-focused worldview and a borderline obsession with dismantling the patriarchy however I could...Was this therapist actually suggesting I had a problem with having daughters? Before I open my mouth she says,
"Yes...having daughters. Perhaps your fear for your girls' uphill fight against the very things you have struggled with. You self-identify with them in a way you don't with your son. Your task of launching them into the world as strong and secure women feels daunting--and the depression comes."
I couldn't reply. I had no concept of what to say to her--was she right? Was she way off base? Her words were pregnant with meaning for me either way...and I have thought about them ever since.

Andrea J. Buchanan was thinking about gender and childhood when she conceived her essay collections, It's A Boy and It's A Girl. Here, she wanted to explore identity and experiences of diverse mothers united in a common introspection about nature and nurture and the societal roles we play based on our sex. With the newly released It's A Girl, she has compiled the writing of thirty women raising daughters and what that means to them.

Last Thursday, I was fortunate enough to attend a Mother Talk in Philadelphia where I got to hear contributors Kim Fischer and Yvonne Latty read aloud from their brilliant essays, "Shining, Shimmering, Splendid" and "Girl House". Editor Andi Buchanan led a discussion about mothers and daughters, and also shared a piece of her emotional essay, "Learning to Write"--which crystallizes not only how her daughter learned to write, but also how she--as mother to a growing girl, had to learn about letting go. All three women were luminous...their voices ringing true to me though their experiences are so different from my own. Motherhood as "the great equalizer", such a powerful agent for unity or divisiveness...whatever the case may be--as the conversation flowed it was clear, as it usually is, no one is neutral about motherhood.

The It's A Girl collection reveals the same. These mothers come to their daughters with a variety of expectations, assumptions, and fears. Their daughters prove them right, or contradict everything they believed about the mother-daughter relationship. I sit here, wanting to highlight the very best essays...but, find I cannot pick one from the other. Each is beautifully rendered and each treads on such fascinating terrain. I can say only that every mother of a girl will find herself here...

Mothers of "princesses", like Petunia at two...

Mothers of "tough girls", like Rosie at two and a half...

The same combination of parents can produce such wildly different little girls. I once would have said it was "all nurture"--now, I realize how much each child brings with them at birth. It is both, absolutely both. It's A Girl has re-affirmed my delight to celebrate my daughters in all of their unique glory. At the Mother Talk, each of the three writers present signed my copy of the book...Kim's entry a tender, "Good Luck with your girls."...Yvonne's a good-natured, "Princesses Rock"...and Andi's, a message of thanks. These, to me, speak to the essential elements of raising daughters--love and luck, laughter and irreverence, and pure, undeniable gratitude.

In her introduction, Andi writes, "Mothering a girl...makes a woman face herself anew, reliving her own experiences growing up as a girl. The mother of a girl must plumb the depths of the girlhood she'd thought she had safely escaped--but this time through the eyes of her daughter, whose experience is necessarily different. The pain and joy of this reliving, the merging of mother and daughter experience, and the bittersweet, inevitable separation between the two, is at the core of mothering a girl--and at the heart of the essays that make up this book." Like the therapist I had following Rosie's birth who illuminated the complexities and gifts of mothering a daughter, It's A Girl serves as the perfect map through this rugged and breathtaking landscape.


Blogger deirdre said...

Delia, again an honest, aware post. Thanks for sharing the pictures. And happy anniversary too.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I am going to order this book with my amazon order today. It looks like something I could use right now.

As a woman who has been on a life long journey of understanding and breaking uhealthy, and disempowering cycles of generations of women in my family line, I really hear you here. I was greatful that I was first mother to a son, because I wasn't ready for a girl. But Now I have this amazing little girl, both so feminine and full of fire! Am I ready for her? Have I done enough work? Can I send her out into the world without the burdens of these ancestor women? I ask this of myself all the time...

Your blog is a great read. ;)


1:15 PM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

I was so delighted to see your name on my blog comments today (thank you for your kindness). Welcome. I am honored. I frequently read your insightful comments on several of my favorites. So here I am, at your home, reading your entry today with rapt attention and excitement. (I already read so many blogs, I try to curtail searching out new ones - but I am SO glad I came.)

I am the mother of a grown daughter, and the sister of two women who could not be more different if you plotted to make them so. I related to every word here, and like Amber, have implored Amazon to send me a copy of the book immediately!

1:42 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I love your photos. Sounds like a great book. The cover photo is fantastic - reminds me of my girl.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

This was an AMAZING post. The first paragraph was so deep and beautifully written. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you last week at Mother Talk, but at least now I know about your blog and I can get to know you this way, which I actually find fascinating.

Your girls are beautiful. I've always wanted a daughter, but I have two sons (I guess I'm going to be participating in the blog tour for the "wrong" book :)

9:44 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

this was beautiful.

it made me cry. literally, tears are streaming down my face as i type this.

that last picture of your girls was one of the most beautiful sister pictures i have ever seen.

you are blessed...they are blessed.


1:19 AM  
Blogger Endment said...

How I wish I had these kinds of resources when I was young and had children!!!

7:14 AM  
Blogger Bridget said...

That's really interesting- since i grew up in a family of all girls, I feel not quite sure I know what to do with my son. How do I raise him to be whatever he wants to be when there it isn't always socially acceptable to feminine male? You know, what is the male equivalent of a tomboy? So i'm interested to check out A. Buchanan's other book, It's a Boy.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Bella Sultane said...

Wow - this really hits home for me. I don't have kids yet, but every time I think about it, I feel this wave of fear + anticipation. In some ways, I would very much like to have a daughter. But I wonder if I am able to let go enough to not impose my fears on her experience.

Thanks for sharing this. Also, thanks for your very nice comment on our blog some time ago.

6:09 PM  
Blogger art and soul said...

thanks for making me aware of that terrific book. it looks like a must read for my friends and I who all have daughters.
it has been so enjoyable to catch up with all your posts from this week on this one sunny saturday morning.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

the last picture says it all, their faces beam their souls!

5:34 PM  
Blogger AscenderRisesAbove said...

This looks like a great book -- I am going to check it out for sure! (and what cute girls!)

5:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

There are so many issues here and thoughts that I have struggled with or simply considered for so long. I am really grateful for the thoughts and information you provide and for the topic of daughters in general. I actually prayed that I would not have a daughter when I was pregnant because I could not bare the possibility of watching her go through the things I have been through because of my gender. I am blessed to have a little boy. I adore him. But when I have baby dreams, I dream of a little girl. I think I could welcome this now in a way I couldn't have six years ago but STILL I am grateful for the resources and thoughts you provide here. It would be good to consider the many different ways there are to be a daughter, a wonderful daughter, a wonderful female. What you shared creates possibilities I hadn't even considered because of my fear. I am ordering the book today. Thank you so much.

11:32 AM  

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