At the time of writing this review my daughter has just turned four months old. We have survived the eat-sleep-repeat newborn phase and theoretically we know what we’re doing. As a first time mum I thought by now that I’d start to feel and look like my old self. I even had a night out in the diary which called for a new dress. But after a difficult personal shopping experience at a retailer I loved pre-pregnancy (silk shirts, mini skirts, Mom Jeans and a backless jumpsuit!), I realised that I’m not the same person I was before. And the only thing that fit were those Mom Jeans two sizes up.
Feeling flat and flabby I picked up a copy of ‘Nobody Told Me’ by Hollie McNish. Part diary and part poetry collection Hollie shares her experience of pregnancy and parenthood with unflinching honesty, authenticity and insight. She explores the changes that happen in relationships, the body, sex, work and identity. She doesn’t shy away from the pain and the sleep deprivation, but also captures the joy of the newborn bliss and what follows. Her poems are personal and immediate, but also universal and timeless.
Whatever your experience there will be a poem or diary entry that speaks to you – a truth that nobody told you before you were pregnant. And sure enough in a moment of need, I found a poem that spoke to me.
As Hollie’s daughter is ten and a half months old she talks in a diary entry about how after birth she took down the only full-length mirror in her flat. She said: “I didn’t want to see my body. I was totally freaked out by the feel of it, by what it was doing, and I didn’t want to see it.” She talks about the pressure women are under to snap back into shape, bombarded by pictures of toned yummy mummies in celebrity magazines and on social media.
She finally puts the mirror back up and her daughter immediately crawls in front of it naked, marvelling at her reflection for the first time. This moment inspires the poem ‘Wow!’ which I absolutely loved. Hollie explores how her own body has changed, as it tells the story of motherhood in every new line, shadow, roll and dimple. I loved the closing lines: “if my mind and my memory can tell you my tales then why can my body not tell them as well? As our babies stand naked applauding their skin I can’t wait for their lives and their lines to begin.”
Nobody Told Me is the perfect gift for new mums and I’ve already bought copies for friends. It inspired me to be kinder to myself, to accept that I have changed but that is okay. And reader I bought a dress in sunshine yellow for that night out that suited my new shape, and I felt great!
Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish is published by Little Brown
Check out my interview with Hollie, where she chats about the transformation we go through as mothers and why there’s still secrecy surrounding the more challenging realities.
Three other great books:
– The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.
A tense family drama that is the perfect poolside read
– Five Steps to Happy by Ella Dove.
An uplifting debut about a young woman whose life takes an unexpected turn
– Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.
The book everyone is talking about which intimately reveals the sex lives of three very different women
Sam (pictured left) rocking her new yellow
dress at the launch of Five Steps to Happy