Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Category: The Birth of this Book

“My Gift to You, First-Time Mothers”

Here we are, dear readers.

I’m allowing myself to be seen in all moments, not just ones in which I had overwhelming gratitude and joy for motherhood. Not just ones in which people would see me as “a good mother.” I showed myself being ungrateful and whiny and vain.

Because that is real motherhood, especially new motherhood.

You are constantly caught between who you once were and who you are not quite yet. And in that tension, we feel shame over and over again that we are not good mothers. That we fail. That we feel ungrateful and selfish.

And that is not okay. It is not okay to feel shame so often in those first months of motherhood. You have enough to deal with. You should never feel ashamed that you are not further down the road than where you are at that moment.

You are where you are. You are not where everyone else is. And you know what? Everyone else isn’t all gathered together in the same place either.

We are all scattered around different points on this rugged terrain. But when you’re on the top of the mountain, looking down, it’s easy to push a few stones off onto the climbers below you when you’re just flexing a bit of muscle and clout. It’s easy to forget how easily new mothers bruise from being hit by these stones. It’s easy to lose all perspective and empathy for new mothers after you’ve emerged from its grueling initiation.

But don’t.

Don’t lose your empathy for what they are going through.

Don’t lose your ability to cry with them when they desperately tell you that they haven’t slept well in eight months. (That desperation is so real!)

Don’t lose your ability to listen without offering advice. They don’t want your advice, damn it. Unless they pointedly ask you for advice, you know what they want?

A hug. A freaking hug. That’s what they want.

To be heard and to be loved.

The last thing they need is to be shamed (“Well, I never had that problem”) or to be belittled (“Oh, wait until they’re 2! They’re hellions!”) or to be ignored. What they need is for you to tell them 1) that they’re doing a good job, 2) that they are strong, and 3) that you’ll come over and give them a break so they can do something that they want for once.

I wrote this book because I want so much for new mothers to feel understood, loved, heard, and championed. I want them to know that what makes them good mothers is simply getting through that first year—no matter how they get through it. I want them to know that someone out there respects and appreciates how unbelievably hard that first year of motherhood is.

Our government and our jobs may not care. And our partners may not completely understand. But other women who have been down this road can completely empathize. They’ve felt the frustration of having no weekends or holidays “off” for months and months. They know what it’s like to have your existence reduced to nothing but caretaker.

They know. Oh, they know.

So, here is my gift to you first-time moms.


Let me take you into moments that new mothers don’t like to talk about—but that we should. Not to scare you—but to help you feel less alone if you find yourself in similar situations.

We all crave connection, especially in times of uncertainty. So let’s go on a journey together. Let’s tell each other our stories.

I’ll go first.

“Why the cover?” a.k.a. “The Birth of This Book, Part 4”

So why is my face covered?


Two reasons.

  • I want the reader to be able to see herself in that situation.

But perhaps more important…

  • This picture represents that loss of identity that new mothers experience.

When you are hanging in that transitional space between who you once were and who you are not quite yet, you experience a profound loss of self. All of the tasks of caring for a newborn remind you hourly of your shifting priorities—baby first, then tend to your aching body, then feed your hungry stomach, and if you have time, allow your tired self to sleep.

I am faceless because this is no longer about me. It is the final humbling that new motherhood imposes on a woman. After the birth, attention suddenly shifts away from you and to the baby.

Certainly, part of you is happy to see so many people coo over this tiny new life that came from you. This is the sacrificial part of motherhood that everyone reveres and respects.  It says, “Don’t worry about me… I just care that my baby is okay.”

But what about that other voice?

The voice of the tired woman in you whose body was just ravaged by a baby being pushed out or pulled from you. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that suddenly screams out, “Hey! HEY! I’ve just been put through the wringer here! How about a hug or some kind words? No? Then, get the hell out of my house so I can get some decent sleep! I’m exhausted! Do you know that I haven’t slept in 48 hours?”

That is the voice we don’t want to acknowledge. It exists, but we don’t like it to speak because it challenges that notion of what it means to be a good mother. We think it makes us bad mothers. So we shut it up. We tell it to be quiet. We tell it that it is not allowed to exist.

Or worse, we deny that it’s there.

Through this shift in attention and society’s expectations of new mothers, we are humbled.

This humbling serves a purpose. It crushes and grinds the borders of your identity into fertile soil so that a new identity can take root and grow. Pieces of you may remain the same, but they are now rearranged and reordered according to your new roles and responsibilities.

And why the title? Why “Becoming Mother?”

It’s a reference to the common experience that all new mothers go through. “Becoming a Mother” doesn’t connect with the reader and tell them that there is any reason to care about this book. If I were that reader, I would immediately think, “Who cares about you becoming a mother? Good for you. I’ve got my own story, thank you very much.”

But the title “Becoming Mother” refers to the common experience of identity shift that all mothers go through. The identity of mother transcends cultures, countries, and time itself. It is why I was able to so easily chat with a Qatari mother at a conference this past May. It is why I have something to say to the mother in the chairs across from me in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. It is why I now have different reasons for crying about anytime I yelled at my mother when I was a teenager—I can now empathize with how much those words probably hurt her.

Continue reading My Gift to You, First-Time Mothers

“Becoming Mother” is now available for purchase. Get your print copy ($12.99) here or a Kindle copy ($6.99) here.

“The picture that said more than I ever could” a.k.a “The Birth of This Book, Part 3”

Just an hour and a half after I gave birth, my husband took this picture.


We didn’t plan it. I just asked him to take some pictures. He took three. This is the second one.

When we looked at this picture on his computer, somewhere between four and seven days postpartum, I couldn’t help but stare and stare and stare at this picture.

My God… I kept thinking. This moment is… is…


I didn’t know what to call it. I still don’t have a word for it. But let me try to explain what I see when I look at this picture.

I see my former self. She’s not a mom yet. She doesn’t really know what that means. She’s a career-driven, goal-oriented, academic, hard-working woman for whom grace was a nice idea, but not something on which she could hang her hopes. But now, this unexpected moment of grace has descended on her–and she’s choosing to accept it.

I see my daughter. She doesn’t understand anything around her–with the exception of me. She understands no other sounds, save the sound of my heartbeat. No other voices, save the sound of my voice and her father’s voice. No other smells, save the scent of my skin.

I see that we are tagged, claimed, and wrapped up by the hospital. The gown and diaper generalize us into “patient” and “baby.” What would be private in our own home is public in this room. I even wear some of my blood on the outside, peeking through the backed-up IV.

And yet…

I don’t feel owned or degraded in this moment. I remember feeling like nothing else existed in the world except me and her. When I see this picture now, I distinctly feel that this moment happened even though we were surrounded by policies and protocol. In fact, maybe it happened despite all of the policies and protocol.

In this picture, I see that we are still untouched by the world and all of its noise. We don’t have anyone telling us how to be yet—no advice, no comparisons. Nothing to tell us if we’re “doing it right.” We are not worried about where we’re going or how to get there. We are just two halves of a whole.

We just are. And that’s enough. Just being is enough.

I see the simple beauty of living in the present moment.

Labor forced me to live in the present moment, but here I see myself finally applying it of my own free will. Instead of plunging into the trap of worrying about how I’ll ever take care of a newborn, I’m choosing to be grateful in this moment. All I’m thinking about is this tiny person who needs me. And because I am grateful, I don’t feel overwhelmed by this.

This is the purest form of motherhood that I can imagine.

And I’m never going to get back to this moment.

This moment is beautiful because it was so temporary. But I don’t mourn the loss of it. I only feel tremendous gratitude that we were able to exist together in this space, however short it was.

I thought about this picture a lot as I worked through the concept of this book. When I finally decided to write this book as a memoir, I kept circling back to this picture. I see this picture as the turning point in this journey. Becoming a mother isn’t a switch that you turn on—it’s a direction. It’s a turn toward your child. Everything else settles around you in this new position.

I wanted readers to see this moment right away. It evokes so many questions, “When was it taken?” “Where was it taken?” “How were you feeling?”

Yes, these are superficial questions.

But as you travel with me in this book, you begin to realize the magnitude of this moment and your appreciation for it grows.

Continue reading “The Birth of This Book: Part 4”

Order a copy of “Becoming Mother” here

Book Update: Five days to go, CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES!

Still on target for making “Becoming Mother” available for purchase on Saturday, August 1st! Right now, you can pre-order the Kindle version ($6.99), but the printed book will be available (hopefully!) by the end of the week.

Recently accomplished:

  • Became a Goodreads author and added my book to Goodreads. You can now follow me as an author and post a review of the book on Goodreads.
  • Wrote a four-part series on “The Birth of This Book,” in which I explore the complex question of “How did you write this book?” In Part 1, I tackled the questions of what and why. In Part 2, I addressed the who and how. Later this week, Part 3 will address how I created the title and cover, and Part 4 will address first-time mothers directly.
  • Followed up with book reviewers and queried new potential book reviewers. Which reminds me–If you read this book, I would greatly appreciate your Amazon review! Just navigate to the book’s page and type in your review.

What’s going on this week:

  • Sending press releases: I’m reaching out to local publications like Dayton Daily News, The City Paper, and Ohio Magazine, as well as university publications (Miami University, Wright State University, and University of Dayton). If you have a suggestion about where I should send a press release, please let me know!
  • Approving the proof for the printed book: I got the first printed proof of the book on Saturday. What a great moment! There were just a few adjustments in the placement of text on the cover that we needed to change, but the interior looks great. I’m expecting the final proof to be absolutely beautiful.
  • CEEEE-le-BRATE good times COME ON!: i.e., going to a fancy-pants dinner at Rue Dumaine to commemorate a job well done.

    Me, 6 days pregnant–totally unaware that I was pregnant or that I would someday write a book about it, November 2012.

“What to do about the postpartum period?” a.k.a. “The Birth of This Book: Part 2”

I sat at my desk from July to August 2014 writing and writing and writing the narrative portions of Becoming Mother. With my daughter in all-day daycare, I wrote like a fiend. I ate at my desk. When my back and shoulders ached, I stopped to do some stretches, and then I plowed ahead.


Felicity flips through a draft of the book (February 2015). She is unimpressed.

So did I just sit there trying to remember everything that happened during pregnancy and the first year?

Well, yes and no.

I started by jotting down key moments that had to be in the book—turning points and epiphanies. And then I pulled out a pregnancy journal I kept for the baby (yeah… I’m that kind of first-time mom) and a pregnancy food and exercise journal (here’s the one I used, if you’re interested) in which I kept track of my weight.

When I was thinking about how to give the book structure, it made sense to use weight gain and loss as a plot arc. In addition, tracking the week of the pregnancy seemed useful to reaching pregnant readers. In fact, the physical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth could carry me lock-step for quite a while. We have ritualized pregnancy and childbirth so much that it’s not hard to imagine how to structure a book about it…

Until you get to the postpartum period.

And then, holy shit, what do you do?

How do you connect with readers when the postpartum period is so messy and so uniquely individualized? Any time I talked to other new mothers, I found that we were all having incredibly different experiences. Okay, sure we probably also had different experiences in pregnancy, but the prenatal appointments and baby showers and gift registries helped to unite us under the umbrella of “the pregnancy experience”—even if that common experience were just an illusion.

I had to make a decision about how to connect with my readers in the postpartum section in a way that wouldn’t make them feel ashamed if their experiences were different than mine.

So I decided to tell the truth—that I was confused and frustrated, humbled and broken. But also that I was so happy that I was sad, and so in love that I was terrified. I decided that the confusing and conflicting emotions that drive every new mother’s experience would build those connections. I knew that I could count on readers to identify with those emotions, regardless of the other ways that their postpartum lives take shape.

However, I still needed plot arcs for the postpartum experience.

As I reflected on that year, I saw that the plot arcs divided into two categories: physical changes in the baby (related to sleeping, feeding, and growth) and mental and physical changes in me (related to identity and body changes). Then, I could see that these plot arcs worked together to contribute to an overarching theme of “separation.”

I visualized this process as cells dividing from each other. Before one cell breaks off into two cells, there are two nucleuses within one membrane. And only through much stretching and straining do the cells finally divide into two. I think our society traditionally believes that this division happens at birth, but I wholeheartedly disagree with this assumption after having experienced those first weeks of motherhood. I wanted to show that this division into two entities is much more gradual and requires both mother and baby to start to move away from each other.

And that is how I came to the decision that this book would also need to have reflective sections in which I analyze and interpret the experience of identity shift from woman to mother. If I only included narrative sections in this book, I wouldn’t be able to dig deeply into the whole experience—which is what I think new mothers desperately want to hear in those first weeks and months. I think they are hungry for someone to acknowledge that what they’re going through is such a deep and hard-to-articulate metamorphosis.

I also drew on some outside research to inform these reflective sections, particularly from books and journal articles that helped me make sense of my experience. Because my goal was no longer to write an academic book, I felt free from having to include all of the research that I read. Instead, I only included the most influential pieces that helped me make sense of this identity shift.

Continue reading “The Birth of This Book: Part 3”

Order your copy of “Becoming Mother” here.

“Coming to Grips with Self-Exposure” a.k.a. “The Birth of this Book, Part 1”

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

This is the question that DARPA director Regina Dugan asks the audience in her viral TED talk on innovation in engineering. I watched this video a year or so ago while I was eating my microwaved lunch from a Rubbermaid container while sitting at my desk and procrastinating on grading student tests. I immediately had an answer.

I would publish a book that I would have wanted to read as a first-time mom.

I was in a funk.

I had just returned to work after my maternity leave. I was struggling to find a new teaching persona that worked for me. (Who would have thought that motherhood would also change my teaching too? I was a bit shocked by this.) I was also trudging through what turned out to be an eight-week onslaught of daycare viruses. (So. Many. Viruses!) I remember so many days when I would just stare at my desk, pop in another cough drop, and think, Man, I suck at this now. What am I doing with my life?

I kept trying to go back to this teacher that I had once been—a mildly sarcastic (but always encouraging) chatty Mc-Chatterton who didn’t mind going above and beyond. All day. Every day. All year.

But she was gone.

It’s funny that returning to work brought on this realization. Maybe it was how my internal dialogue had changed when I looked at my to-do list. Before the baby, I would think, Oh, my God! I have so much stuff to do that I won’t be done until 9 tonight! After the baby, I would think, Oh, my God! I have so much stuff to do… I just won’t get it all done today.

So when I heard Dugan’s question, What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail, I was primed for an answer. I was chomping at the bit to admit it to myself.

I would publish a book that I would have wanted to read as a first-time mom.

Why was this so important to me, you might ask.

After I gave birth, I was knee-deep in trying to process the whole experience. That’s what I do with huge life changes—I process. Some people take up a hobby. Well, I analyze the shit out of the experience until I’ve seen it from all sides. Then, I contextualize it. And then, I step back to derive meaning and figure out how to go forward.

It’s exhausting, but so, so necessary for me to live happily inside this mind. And I truly had trouble processing the experience of giving birth and becoming a mother.

So what did I do?

I put on my academic armor. Then, I stepped far enough away from the experience so that it didn’t hurt when I talked about it. Then, I ordered a pile of books from the library, and between feedings and changings and all through nap times, I read. And read. And read.

Some of the many books and journal articles I read: September to November 2013

Some of the many books and journal articles I read: September to November 2013

Then I wrote and wrote and wrote.

What did I write? I tried to find academic research to support why birth affects women’s self-identification so much. I looked for research on troubles with breastfeeding to try to alleviate the shame that I felt from formula feeding my newborn. And of course, because I was reading academic research, I wrote with an academic voice.

But as I reread the seventy pages or so that I had hammered out, I thought, “Hmmm… What exactly am I writing?”

It took a while for me to eventually have the courage to write the book that is now available for the world to read . I went through several major conceptual shifts.

  1. Write an academic book.
  2. Not just an academic book, but one informed by other mothers’ stories along with mine.

(This is the point when I saw Regina Dugan’s talk on innovation.)

  1. Okay, not an academic book. Write a more personal book. But include others. Your story is too narrow to gain a wide audience. And you’re a nobody. People don’t buy books from nobodies.
  2. Okay, so it’s hard to get a lot of other contributors to commit…

And then the truly bold thoughts emerged.

What? Publish a book that only has my story in it?

Egotistical. Self-centered. Oh, everyone look at me! I’m so amazing that I’m writing a book about myself! That’s how people would see me.

Well, sure, that’s how they would see if you if you don’t tell them the truth.

Oh, God. The truth. I can’t expose myself like that.

But… what if I tried?

My first step toward writing Becoming Mother happened when I sat at my computer on a July afternoon during my “summer break.” (I use quotes because a summer break to me is never a break. In this season of my life, it is my only time of the year to write like there’s no tomorrow. So I do.) I told myself to just write out the one God-awful scene that I would never tell anyone else about.

And I did.

And, oh man, when I reread it, I thought, Whoa… this is it. This is what I need to write. This is exactly what I would have wanted to read when I was pregnant.


Not just scary truth, but joyous truth. Desperate truth. So-many-emotions-colliding truth. Stephen King writes in his book On Writing, these words: “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

I needed to find my passion. I needed to find those places in my story where I reveal all those shades of my truest self. Not the faces that my self-esteem wants everyone else to see—but the faces that I hide away. The ones where I am broken, insecure, doubtful, embarrassed, frustrated, angry, and just downright sad. Motherhood isn’t all rainbows and breezy summer days with you sitting in a rocking chair, contentedly nursing your newborn (although that was a nice feeling). If we don’t give voice to those other faces of motherhood, we risk setting future first-time mothers up for incredible alienation.

So I wrote in this way—as if I were reaching back in time and handing myself a book that would help me understand that all the painful and soul-testing moments that awaited me would transform me into someone that I couldn’t have ever imagined.

And she is pretty awesome.

Read “What to do about the postpartum period?” a.k.a. “The Birth of This Book, Part 2”

You can now pre-order a Kindle version Becoming Mother!

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