“Ungrateful and pathetic” – the bad book review

I’ve had a stinker of a review on Amazon. I am officially on the naughty step for pretty much every aspect of my book (except for the grudging acknowledgement that it is “not terribly badly written” – why, thank you, I think).

I always knew the book wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, as it were, and yes, as the reviewer points out, it is very sweary (the word fuck makes its debut in the very first paragraph). If you don’t like swearing this is not the book for you. Perhaps it should come with an “explicit lyrics” sticker like you get on CDs. But hey, we’re all adults.

I actually don’t mind criticism. I’m pretty used to it, and when you’re writing about controversial things, you expect to stir up, um, controversy. This lady is as entitled to her views as I am mine – I do respect that. Hell, I wrote a whole book about mine. She managed 12 paragraphs of relentless negativity, which I have to admit is pretty good going. At least I can tell she actually read the book.

So, here are her views. This particular reader thinks I am “ungrateful”, “pathetic” and “damaged”.

Let’s start with the first one. I’m not sure what I am supposed to be “grateful” for – I think it might have been that I was able to stay in a delivery room at the hospital, for six whole days, by myself, while a team of women came into my room every three hours, night and day, to alternately squeeze me, poke me, hook me up to machines and then berate me for not being able to breastfeed. Yes – thanks folks, that was definitely a highlight of early motherhood.

“Pathetic” because I didn’t just shut my mouth and accept that this is something all new mothers have to go through and WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT. Sorry – not playing that game either. I wish I could show the reviewer the 600+ emails I’ve had from women saying thank you for speaking out, that they also had bad times and hadn’t realised there were others out there. She also seems to think the only reason I got my book published is because of my professional contacts. Erm… it’s a self-published book, love. You don’t need “contacts” to do that. You just need an email address and a pdf.

“Damaged” – well I’ve scratched my head a lot over this one. Am I damaged? Certainly, I would say the experience itself was damaging. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a miserable failure, a desperately bad mother, a disappointment to everybody including myself. Maybe I am damaged. Writing the book was definitely cathartic. Talking to other women, and experts, was both heartbreaking and heartening, I suppose, in the sense that I realised I wasn’t alone in wondering what the hell was going on when it comes to the breastfeeding mantra.

I’ve just popped in to look at my sleeping baby, who is now a bouncing toddler (when he’s awake). He doesn’t look damaged. And that makes me feel um, un-damaged by default (the book is better written than this, I promise. What? it’s late).

So I don’t actually think it did any lasting harm (thank you for your concern though). But that’s precisely because I was able to put a bad experience to good use – to unite a fragmented community of unhappy women left outside of the breastfeeding fold. One lady emailed me recently to say she was not allowed to sit in the “feeding circle” at her local new mums group because she was unable to breastfeed. She had to sit on her own, on a stool, in the corner with her baby and bottle. She has emigrated to have her second child because she couldn’t face going through that again here.

Or how about Zoe, who didn’t want to have a second child at all because of her ordeal? She was told the reason she couldn’t breastfeed was because she was lazy.

Now that is damaging. It’s bloody awful. I think it would be far worse NOT to talk about this stuff. Seriously.

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