Monday, December 04, 2006

Hillbilly Gothic

In Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, Adrienne Martini takes us down the dark path of postpartum psychosis and through to the other side. This is not exactly a cheerful place to go, and it took me a little bit to warm to Martini and her story. But Martini is a smart and likeable woman with a wicked sense of humor, even as we meet her bawling her eyes out as she’s driving herself to the mental hospital. Martini had started out with the best of intentions, quitting her meds when she got pregnant, hiring a doula, and buying a supply of nursing bras. But the birth is bloody and traumatic, her milk doesn’t come in, and she finds herself unable to sleep or to stop crying. Interwoven through the story of her own nightmare experience is the secret family history that she dug up afterwards in a quest for understanding. It takes a lot of courage to be this honest in the face of family disapproval and society’s discomfort with craziness. I left this book with a deep respect for Martini, and the many mothers who keep on going even when their heads are telling them that they’ve already failed.


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