Longreads on Motherhood: A Reading List

Looking for something to read this Mother’s Day weekend? These four longreads reflect on various aspects of motherhood, from a personal essay on the challenges of breastfeeding to a writer’s exploration of her mother’s life as an immigrant.

“A Certain Kind of Mammal,” Meaghan O’Connell, Longreads

In an excerpt from her book, And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell writes about the joy, the triumph, and the prison of breastfeeding:

As soon as the baby latched on, I burst into tears — of relief, of rage. I’d had this idea of what breastfeeding would be like. Not the physical experience, but the lived reality, the timing, the way it was supposed to fit between other things. I thought it would be something happening in the background while I went about my actual life. How else would it be tolerable? The faint sucking sound of a breast pump during a conference call, a shirt lifted up on the subway, so seamlessly nobody really notices it. Baby legs kicking in the aisle of an airplane, his head and my tits hidden under a gauzy blanket. I wanted to be one of those women who, without missing a beat, pull out a boob at a restaurant, mid-conversation. That’s how they sell it to you: It’s so convenient! Always with you. Natural. Completely free!

Read the excerpt

“My Mother Is Not This Blanket,” Daisy Alpert Florin, Full Grown People

At Full Grown People, Daisy Alpert Florin reflects on an unfinished blanket that her mother was making when she died — and that she doesn’t know how to complete:

But the blanket will never be finished because I will never finish it. Maybe my mother never taught me because she thought we’d have more time. Or maybe — and this seems more likely — she didn’t teach me because she thought it was something I’d never need to know. Maybe that’s what immigrants do — what mothers do — imagine worlds for their children that are bigger, vaster, and more electric than their own.

Read the essay

“SuperBabies Don’t Cry,” Heather Kirn Lanier, Vela

In “SuperBabies Don’t Cry,” Heather Kirn Lanier admits to striving for a “perfect” pregnancy and birth when she was carrying her daughter Fiona, and explores a thread of ableism in her life and our society:

But after a shift change, when a new nurse entered my room (someone who hadn’t just seen me squeeze a person from my vagina without medication), she asked a question that felt like a slap: “Did you take drugs while pregnant?”

No, nurse, I wanted to say. I took superfoods. I took reiki. I took electronica chords and affirmations.

This is the moment when I realized perhaps I hadn’t made a SuperBaby after all. And this, looking back five years later, was a good failure, the very best of my many failures to date.

Read the essay

“Between Mom and Stepmom,” Sarah Menkedick, Longreads

At Longreads, Sarah Menkedick describes the different but complementary ways in which her mother and her stepmother have nurtured her:

The familiar narrative is that Meg and Mom must be inherently at odds with one another, that the task of motherhood is a solitary one performed by one woman in one household. Mom would thus be forever faulted and guilty for having left, for not being the one shaping my everyday; Meg had stepped into Mom’s presumed role, though she couldn’t fill it completely because she’d always be tagged with the stigma of “step.” They were culturally defined, as mothers often are, more by their lack than by their substance.

Read the essay

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