As they paint the nursery and shop for babygros, she plans for the joy that motherhood will bring. But Jessica's experience is far from joyous. Why isn't she transformed by maternal feelings? Where is the all-consuming love she's supposed to feel for her child?
No-one told her that being a mum was so lonely and terrifying. No-one told her you don't always love your baby. Perhaps it’s best if Jessica keeps that dark secret to herself for now..."
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This book is utterly heart-breaking, yet you can't stop reading it. I know that's a pretty powerful thing to start off my review with, but it is entirely true of this book. I didn't really know a lot about it going into the book, but I knew once I was a few pages in, I wouldn't be able to put it down, no matter how hard it got. I didn't bank on it making me sit there in floods of tears, almost unable to read on because I just didn't want to know what was coming next, or how simply heartbroken I would be left at the end of the story. But, despite all this, it is an utterly brilliantly written novel exploring an issue that is by far too taboo in our society, and I commend Amanda Prowse for tackling this within her book.
The book is the story of Jessica. She's recently gotten married to Matthew, and feels like she is living the dream. They have the perfect home, the perfect marriage and Jessica wants everything to stay how it is. When she falls unexpectedly pregnant, the pair excitedly prepare for their new arrival - painting the nursery, buying baby clothes, and enjoying their last few months as just a married couple. When their daughter arrives, Jessica isn't exactly feeling how she thought a new mother should feel. A traumatic delivery has left her doubting everything, and she continues these feelings as she leaves hospital and is left home along with her new baby. But Jessica is terrified - she can't cope alone with her daughter but doesn't know where to turn. She perhaps wishes that her and Matthew had never had their daughter... but she knows this is something she has to keep to herself...
You can probably tell where the theme of this book is going from the blurb of the book, which is of course the subject of post-natal depression. Sadly, it is something that isn't widely talked about in our society, and too many mothers are afraid to admit that there is a problem which is how things are allowed to escalate as they do for poor Jessica. I felt so sorry for her, hiding away her feelings because she knows that what she is feeling isn't "right" or "normal" for a new mum, but doesn't know where to turn. Even when her family confronts her, she's keen to put on a brave face and act tired, not allowing any in to help with her problems. It's actually quite frightening how quickly things turn back for Jessica, and I was almost fearful to read one, scared of how she would act next, knowing that no one was coming to help her because they simply couldn't see what was happening.
The marriage between Jessica and Matthew is explored in the book too, and it's interesting to read the rapid changes that occur between them from when they are newly weds to when they become new parents. You can see how Jessica feels pushed out, resentful of how her daughter is now taking her husband's attention, but feels awful that she feels that way. Matthew almost seems blinded to his wife's struggles, but again, is perhaps blinded by his love for his new daughter, and assumes Jessica will soon fall into motherhood. I was desperate for him to notice her struggle, to not push her away because of it, and parts of the book were utterly heart-breaking to read. Jessica wasn't at all to blame for her feelings, but I still felt shocked that she could feel this way.
The narrative of the book is very interesting to read. The story of Jessica's marriage and new motherhood are interspersed with a separate narrative from the present day, of Jessica's time in a psychiatric hospital following the incidents that happen later in the book. You can tell her despair and anguish from these parts, they are incredibly hard to read at times, and you have to wonder how desperate someone can be to act as Jessica did, and not be able to cope with the reality of what she did. As the book goes on, and we get closer to the crux of the novel, knowing something terrible is going to happen, I was fearful of what was coming, but Prowse does it such justice, it is fantastically written, and I was left emotionally bereft as everything came to a massive, emotional climax.
While it was an incredibly draining experience to read this book, it was also a complete privilege because it highlights something we need to understand more, and the fact that we need to be able to talk to women suffering PND and not make them feel wrong for their feelings. Jessica couldn't help how she felt, and couldn't rationalise it either - nor should she have to. It is a terribly misunderstood illness, and if reading this book helps just one woman with PND recognise her symptoms, or even that a friend or family member is struggling with a new baby, then it is worth it. It is incredibly emotional, very tough to read at times, but entirely gripping, and I was hooked by these characters, wondering exactly how these catastrophic events would turn out by the end. An outstanding, courageous book that I can heartily recommend, but please be aware of the subject matter before you begin, as it is at times an incredibly tough read.