After Birth by Elisa Albert
I finished After Birth by Elisa Albert a few weeks ago, and it’s the kind of book I thought about for a while. The premise really caught my interest: a new mom, still reeling from her difficult birth experience a year later, trying to make sense of her new life. I’ve been there.
From the beginning, it’s obvious that Ari, the main character, is angry and definitely depressed; but she’s also refreshingly honest and open about the parts of motherhood that women still don’t talk about. Her days are spent alone in a run-down upstate New York town, while she cares for her son (whom she loves deeply), and struggles to find herself again. It’s definitely a common experience among new mothers, but one that few writers seem to examine. To read a novel about this topic was incredibly interesting to me.
Albert writes with a candidness that is raw at times, but also extremely conversational, as if she’s sitting across from you and narrating Ari’s story. The inspiration for After Birth came, according to Albert (see the article at the bottom of the page), after re-reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Albert, also a mother, recognized the issue of postpartum depression (or perhaps psychosis) in Gilman’s character, and examined it herself within After Birth. She noticed a lack of women’s literature examining birth and motherhood, in comparison to the many war stories revered as rites of passage for men. It’s a really interesting concept, and one I agree with completely.
After Birth is not a light read, or even that much fun at times, but it is insightful and entertaining, and discusses issues that need to be addressed more openly.