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on 28 May 2001
Having read the other nine reviews of this book, I can only assume that if we vary between one and five stars then we vary greatly in the way giving birth has affected us. I only wish I could have read this book during the first difficult weeks of having my daughter instead of four months into it, when post natal depression was still affecting me greatly. The book pulls no punches about what motherhood does to you - from a life of complete individualism to one of complete control by a tiny human! This is the only book that tells it like it is FOR SOME WOMEN - not everyone is going to feel the way Kate Figes explains yet I cannot believe that MOST women don't feel some sense of loss when they give themselves up to motherhood. This book is a self-help manual to any woman who experienced a traumatic birth and who is finding motherhood nothing like the romantic image we might have had during our pregnancies - it reassures us that it is not bad to feel negative thoughts about what we have given up and it allows us to weep quietly when we relive the difficult moments of childbirth and the days and weeks afterwards that were very bleak. The positive thoughts we can take from the book is that other women have & will continue to go through what we are experiencing and that we can begin to enjoy our babies eventually - yes, there is life after birth!
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on 20 July 2010
I had a chance to read Life After Birth before my son was born, and I cannot praise it enough. Two things irritate me in most "New Mum" litterature: the sugar-coating of hard facts, probably for fear of upsetting a minority of mothers-to-be, and the dumbing down of conceptual and stylistic complexity, probably to "reach a wider audience". I agree with most of the points mentioned in other reviews, both appreciative and critical, but would add one other salient feature that made this the single most useful ante-natal book I read, (along with the classic "What to Expect" series): the quality of the writing! Finally a book where the author didn't feel compelled to talk down to me! I also really appreciated the references to medical/psychological research, statistics and historical/sociocultural contextualisation, which made her arguments more compelling and were a welcome reprieve from all the lowest-common-denominator "how to" litterature that dominates the parenting section of the book store. As if the fact that I was expecting implied that I no longer had a brain, or an education, or the emotional capacity to handle anything but rose-tinted oversimplifications-- As if overnight my definition of great poetry would shift from Beaudelaire to nursery rhymes!

I am not for a minute belittling the extroardinary joys of motherhood-- it's the best thing that ever happened to me. But Thank God someone prepared me for the intellectual vacuum, periodic loneliness and frequent tedium of the first few years! Thank God someone spelled out clearly some of the less obvious but perniciously recurring symptoms of Post Partem, so I didn't panic or blame the wrong causes. Thank God someone warned me that most women's bodies never go back to working the way they did before, so I didn't feel especially sorry for myself and resentful when that happened to me. I understand why some women were irritated by the negative, "worse case scenario" undertones of the book, but to me it really put things in perspective and was a welcome antidote to all that patronising litterature. At times I would have liked some more prescriptive suggestions addressing what to do about some of the difficult aspects of motherhood, not just an articulate description of the challenges. But overall, this book helped me to manage my expectations, feel more prepared to take those challenges in stride, and be grateful for the extroardinary moments of joy I'm getting to experience along the way.
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on 17 May 2000
This is the book I wish I had read just after the birth of my daughter 10 months ago. Unlike the vast majority of post birth books, this is not a manual. It concentrates on the physical and psychological changes that occur to a woman putting them into context.
It presents an academic approach in an easy to access format, giving historical and sociological perspective to the way that we experience the post-birth period. For example, did you know that the concept of the mother staying home to take care of a child is a construct of the 20th Century? Before that, babies were brought up by nannies or extended family members depending on the social background of the family.
I found the sections on the impact that a baby has on friends of particular relevence. It did explain some surprising things that had been going on in my life.
I was delighted to find an unvarnished account of the problems that can be experienced which also gave full weight to the delights of motherhood and fully supported a range of childcare and lifestyle options, rather than dictating one. I have already given a copy to my best friend and would recommend it to anyone considering having a child, as well as those who have just given birth.
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on 26 October 2000
Despite the happy scene on the cover of this book, the subject matter is about the negative physical and emotional impact of birth and babycare. I was terrified to read it when five months into my pregnancy. Figes is a good writer, and her description of the hardships that new mothers often experience is very evocative.
I had a traumatic birth in an underfunded London hospital, and the first few weeks with the baby were very difficult indeed. In that context I would agree with everything Figes says. However, like most other new mothers I have met, the situation quickly improved and now I am having fun in my new life with a wonderful baby. Figes does not put the lows in context with the highs.
If Figes were to re-write this book and include all the emotions of bliss, adoration and triumph that also come with having a baby then I would give it five stars and recommend it to everyone. As it stands, though, it is best read by health officials and government policy-makers as a way of encouraging better post-natal support.
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on 8 July 2000
I read this book after my third child, wish I had had it before, I will now be passing it on to my eldest daughter who is pregnant now. It explained a lot of the emotional traumas I had gone through during pregnancy and just after the birth, you need to know that some feelings are normal after the birth and this book told me that most other mothers felt the same as I did. It made me understand the meaning of the word mother, I wish that some husbands would read it too.
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on 26 September 2005
As a new first time mother of a gorgeous girl I had no idea how unprepared for life after birth. The unadulterated joy and depth of love is beyond compare.
But none tells you about the fears, stresses and loss of self. I supose had anyone tried to tell me whilst I was pregnant I wouldn't have wanted to hear and wouldn't really have understood, so I think that this is a book to read in the first months after birth. I identified with so much, and didn't feel nearly so 'alone' after reading it.
No, she doesn't talk too much about the 'ups' but that's not what the purpose of the book is. So many of the new mums I have met have perpetuated the myth that all is well after birth, that it is easy with little change to your relationships. This book is real.
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on 19 July 1999
Having really suffered from ups-and-downs after the (rather traumatic) birth of my son, it was fantastic to realise that all my reactions were completely normal and my blues were finite. I was totally unprepared for everything I would experience after the birth (people tend to be prepared up until the event and no further...) and reading Kate Figes' book gave me a lot of courage. If I was in a real 'down' mood, my partner would open the book to the appropriate page (there was always an exact description somewhere in the book about the feelings I had at that moment) and make me read it; I would soon be laughing rather than crying! This is in no way a pessimistic book - it is completely positive and realistic and a must for anyone who feels shaken by the new situation. I am now the happiest mother in the world, by the way.
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on 5 February 2016
Bought this for a friend, as I do for anyone who is about to give birth. They should be issued free at your first scan! Written proof in black and white, that when it all starts, you are not going bonkers!!
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on 7 March 2005
There will always be those who claim that everything about having a baby (from conception, through pregnancy, through birth itself and then breastfeeding and caring for your child for ever more) is absolute heaven. But most of us know that reality is rarely as straightforward or as uniform as that. Like everything else, motherhood has its ups and its downs, its highs and its lows. Figes offers a realistic (and often personal) account of motherhood. Some women may find their own experiences differ but Figes is not saying that we are all the same, she simply reports (very extensively) on the experiences of many women.
I read the book both before and after the birth of my first child, and dipped into it again during and after my second pregnancy. It was essential to my sanity at the time. Reading what Figes wrote about post-pregnancy recovery times, the emotional aspects of having a baby in your life, the changing familial relationships, the realities of going back to work helped me develop realistic expectations for myself. Long before I had the baby, I realised that I wasn't going to just breeze out of the maternity unit and back to a life exactly the same as the old one, but with the difference of a small infant in tow. This knowledge was critical to my surviving the early weeks. I didn't get post-natal depression and I am sure that to a large extent this was due to the honesty of books like Figes' (and to honest friends) who did not shy away from telling it how it is thereby helping me to be better prepared for what lay ahead. By all means read the rosy books too and get excited about what you are experiencing, but read this as well so the dream doesn't all come crashing down around your (rather bloated) feet!
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on 20 February 2007
I agree with all the previous positive reviews....an amazing book.

When my baby was 8 months old I was diagnosed with Post Natal depression. I had felt low for months, was struggling on thinking it was just the stress of being new at this parenting lark. After diagnosis I picked up this book and it has made me feel so positive. The fact is when you feel low about being a mum, you feel so lonely, and books such as this which shatter the myth of motherhood reassure you that you are not the only mother feeling this way, it's just unfortunately still a taboo in our society.

If you are feeling down about being a mummy or your relationship is suffering due to your new arrival I strongly recommend this book. It will make you realise your feelings ARE normal and you WILL feel better.
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