Tag Archives: Motherhood

It’s Not All About The Nausea: Pregnancy As a Transformative Experience { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my childhood friend Esther }

Before finding out about my pregnancy, I had been speaking with friends a lot about the idea of transformation, something that should “manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly”, and should “affect both its inner life and external conditions.”

Pregnancy, the most literal human example of transformation I could experience, inspired a kind of search. By engaging meaningfully with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to transform. As I clocked the seemingly endless Google searches about pregnancy and thought of my own rite of passage into motherhood, I yearned to read about the spiritual dynamics of this transformation.

I read about the role of “mother”, which I was about to assume, like a candidate for a job might scan the qualifications they would need to bring to it. This beautiful description of motherhood resonated with me: “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.” Like a candidate, I wondered how I might be cut out for training a new soul in all the perfections of humankind.

Another quote from the same source states: “Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet capacity and readiness are requisite…we must develop capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may be revealed in us.”

So I asked myself: how might that capacity be developed?

Clearly there are many material preparations necessary for welcoming a new person into our family, but it was less clear how to make space for the spiritual preparations. In my search, I read chronicles of pregnancy that shared the more internal truths. Among these were Louise Erdrich’s book A Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year and Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Erdrich writes about the dual nature of birth, calling it a physical prayer: “Birth is intensely spiritual and physical all at once. The contractions do not stop. There is no giving up this physical prayer.” In order to become imbued with these new capacities required, sacrifice was in order, some kind of letting go, some kind of pain. This was a recurrent theme for me as I approached the due date.

In one of The Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh writes that we should hasten towards calamity, saying “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.” Early on in the pregnancy, I mused about death and about the nature of the pain and suffering that awaited both me and my child as they would enter this world. I wrote:

A good death. A good trial. Then you know. You know that God’s love is shown in a myriad ways. And that our love for Him is shown through our dedication to walking that stony path and slowly, gently, coaxing ourselves to love the very stones that pierce our feet. What are children but the very best of those stones? That allow us greater strength, perception and understanding? You are not something on my checklist, you are not something to show off or parade around. You are a soul that belongs only to God. You are not bounded or circumscribed by my limited understanding of life, you will go farther than me, you will be stronger than I. You are not a collection of blankets and toys and nappies and contraptions I don’t understand yet for bathing and entertaining you in future any more than I am the lines on my resume or the letters after my name. I never thought I was entitled to the miracle of your existence. And yet, souls enter and exit this world every moment of every day.

Erdrich describes labour beautifully, “thrown down, I rely on animal fierceness, swim back, surface, breathe, and try to stay open, willing. Staying open and willing is difficult. Very often in labor one must fight the instinct to resist pain and instead embrace it, move towards it, work with what hurts the most.” Another passage from The Hidden Words challenges us, “let it now be seen what your endeavours in the path of detachment will bring.”

There is something ominous and exciting about meeting our edge in this way. I wrote:

There is a sense of magic in this process. That something only grows because God wills it to. We move out of the way. We pull the veil from the incoming shaft of light, of life, we scratch at the grime that forms on our hearts. When I wonder and panic at my own limitedness, the smallness of my strength, I am forgetting this.

In The Seven Valleys, we read that the steed of the Valley of Love is pain. Many women describe being unable to recall the pain of labour. Beth Ann Fennelly describes it as having to do with the fact that “during hard labor, you go to a place beyond language. It isn’t so much that there are no good words to describe what you’re going through as there are no words. You’re a white wave in a white sea, without boundaries or cognition…we use the word ‘disembodied’ a lot, but truly it applies here because the body breaks free from the ego.”

After my son’s birth, I wrote the following:

There is no time, just light and dark, sleep and wake, a cycle and the feeling of being right in the very womb of life, a cave where miracles happen, where nothing goes as planned and the rolling rushing waves of pain cast the pearls of pure and goodly issue on the shores of life. And in giving in, we are made new. We are made new.

I’m curious to hear from others who (and I’m sure all of us have in some way!) have gone through moments that were particularly transformative. What were the material conditions and spiritual dynamics that allowed you to engage with that event or time? Is there a particular habit of prayer or creativity that allows you to reflect on this kind of process?

Based on an essay posted by Esther on Baha’i Blog.

Being a Mother – Or, Everything You Do Is Wrong, So You May As Well Do What Suits You { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my lovely friend Emma }

When my son was born, I spent many hours sitting in one place feeding him, pinned to the bed or the couch. It was in these moments that I reached for my smartphone. I remember thinking how did my mother and women of that generation cope with the lack of mobility when they were feeding? What did they do to occupy themselves while they were stuck in a seated position for hours? I felt lucky to have my phone. I could read books on my Kindle app, I could watch videos, take pictures of my son and browse the internet.

Being a new mother, I browsed for hours about everything I had questions about. What I learned really quickly was to be picky about legitimate sources for answers, such as medical studies, accredited journals etc. vs. questions answered in a forum or other mothers’ opinions. While the latter answers had their place, they came from people whose children differed from mine, whose family situations differed from mine and some featured second hand medical or psychological opinions.

The Pitfalls of Online Forums

During what I read online both during my pregnancy and afterwards, I realised that parenting forums were making me extremely frustrated. I remember telling my husband that I had seen a post on a parenting forum asking what stairgate worked for a particular wall. The answers the poster received varied from actual specific answers to her question to comments like she shouldn’t restrict children with a gate. I kept saying, “she just wanted to know about the type of gate. She doesn’t care what you think about using the gate. That wasn’t her question.” Unfortunately, those type of comments to most questions asked tended to follow that direction and so forums were a no-go for me. If a specific answer in a specific forum came up during my general internet search, I would look at it, but not keep reading down the thread.

Contradictions Galore

So I focused on sources I was mostly happy with (not asking for a critique of the ones I’m posting in reference FYI) and looked for the answers to the questions I had. I realised then, that there was a lot of conflicting information out there from respectable sources about the benefits of one action or another.  Co-sleeping is bad, Co-sleeping is not bad. Crying it out is awful, Crying it out is fine. Your kid is smarter if they are breastfed, There is very little difference in intelligence between breastfed and bottlefed children.

Taking a Stand—For My Own Sanity

I decided then that when it came to making a decision about my child, I would decide what course of action I wished to take and then find the evidence to back me up. I laughed with a scientist friend of mine that when it came to any action you wanted to perform, you could find some kind of study to say it was fine.

I guess I have that type of personality that I want to know what I am doing is ‘right’ – but jeez, what is ‘right’ when it comes to parenting – so once I found a study confirming what I was doing, I was happy. And I realised that in the end there are a lot of respectable studies out there confirming one opinion, and a lot either disproving the original opinion or offering a differing version. As a parent, in my unique situation with my unique child I need to do what suits me and my child. And while a study may say X is correct and you need to do X for so many months, it just may not be practical for me, in my situation to put it into practise.

Final Thoughts

When I get advice from someone about parenting (which happens a lot, most of the time when I don’t ask for it or want it) I think to myself, who are they to give the advice? I know how that sounds, I didn’t mean, WHO are THEY to GIVE advice!! What I meant is, is the person giving advice on breastfeeding staying at home fulltime and not returning to work after six months?  Is the person giving advice on potty training 20 or 30 years removed from the process? Is the person giving advice on bedtimes getting home at 5 o’clock every day on the button? If they are, then their situation is different from mine, their family circumstances and children are different from mine. Their advice may not be useful practically to me. I’m not saying don’t ever get advice from people whose circumstances differ from yours. I am saying be aware of who is giving the advice and where they are coming from. Thinking about this makes me feel so much better. And I smile and resist the urge to punch the unwanted or unasked for advice giver. And I’m sure no matter how hard I looked for a study to back up that course of action it would be too hard to find!

Guest Post: Life Lessons From An Ant Infestation, by The Ten Thousand Hour Mama

This is a shortened version of Catherine’s post. To read the full article, or to have access to a large number of great posts, visit her insightful, hilarious, and just plain wonderful blog, The Ten Thousand Hour Mama.

It’s probably a bad sign when a household ant infestation feels like a metaphor for your life.

A few times a year since we moved into our house, tiny sugar ants appear. They swarm on crumbs and march in lines along room perimeters. After a while—and usually more rigorous housecleaning—they go back to whatever outside home they have.

This time is different. I keep fighting the ants, and, predictably, more show up. And they are spreading.

Perhaps it’s not shocking that this particularly bad ant infestation mirrors a time in my life that also feels chaotic.

More tasks than hours

I know this sounds dramatic. And things are fine, really. These are just the musings of an overstretched mom/writer/daughter/grandmother/wife/entrepreneur with a bug problem.

Just so I’m not vaguebooking, suffice to say I’m busy at work, looking into starting a new business and helping my elderly grandmother whom we just moved from Alabama to Oregon. In an ideal world, I would also spend time with my husband, occasionally work out, see friends and—oh, yeah—keep my house somewhat sanitary (and ant-free).

Yet—and yet. My to-do list gets longer, and the ant infestation is now, apparently, permanent.

A less than surprising ant infestation

Anyone who has been to my house will say I am not the most fastidious housecleaner—as long as they’re being honest. Most nights I’m too tired to make sure every dirty dish is out of the sink, and let’s just say that scrubbing the shower is not at the top of my priority list.

So when a few ants find stray crumbs under the kids’ booster seats or behind the toaster, it’s not that surprising.

I’ve stepped up my attempts to June Cleaver my house since the most recent ant situation, though. I wipe down counters. I vacuum every time my toddler upends her plate of Crispix. I rinse out the sink obsessively.

But when I wake up in the morning, I’m inevitably greeted by a pile of ants that have turned the most minuscule of crumbs into an invertebrate rave. That overnight mess reminds me of my running list of responsibilities: My tasks multiply like so many ants on a stray Cheerio.

Ant high-fives

Toward the end of a very long day recently—a day that involved an epic car tantrum from my older daughter and no end to sibling rivalry—I had to use the bathroom. During the five seconds of alone time a potty break bought me, I noticed a stream of ants marching up and down the tub.

I noticed that whenever two ants passed each other, they paused. They touched each other with their feelers. And only then did they go on their merry way.

Every single ant did this. Not a single ant ignored another. No ant’s high-five was left hanging. No ant shunned another for their baby ant’s unbrushed hair or lack of proper rainy day footwear.

Yes, I’m projecting. But I’ve been thinking about those ants constantly.

Life lessons from invertebrates

I should probably be pissed that those ants stop to gently tap each other’s antennae. After all, they’re communicating something along the lines of, “Hey, I just found the motherlode of crushed bunny crackers under the couch. TELL EVERYONE!”

But being the person I am (read: an overanalyzer who has a lot of feelings), I have been thinking about how that constant stream of check-ins might help me, too.

So despite feeling overbooked and overwhelmed, I reach out. I’ve been making a conscious effort to text with friends I don’t see often enough. I invited a friend I know wouldn’t mention the Great 2017 Ant Infestation Situation over for a play date. I send pictures of the girls to family spread across the country.

When I get a text back, even though it’s just a gentle “ping,” it makes me feel a little more connected to my hive. (Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors. Give me a break; I’m hosting close to 100 million ants in my home.)

In this way, I’m trying to be a tad more ant-like. I still will spray the eff out of an ant conga line with my Mrs. Meyer’s counter cleaner, but I’m also taking my lessons where I can get them.

I’m also giving some of those ants a free pass—not because I suddenly feel emotionally connected to them but because there are just more important things in life than sanitizing my house.

As I finish up work, I can hear my kids playing with my husband, dad and grandma upstairs. We’re about to eat a big pile of spaghetti, much of which will probably end up smashed in booster seats and flung under the table. (Hey, ants, more food!) I’ll hold my grandma’s hand, listen to her retell the same stories and tell her that she is loved. I will pretend to be Pluto or Elsa or whatever character my preschooler requests, and I’ll tell my toddler the word for every single snake, lizard and tortoise in her new-favorite reptile book.

Just for tonight, ants, I declare a truce.

————————————

Catherine Ryan Gregory writes about becoming a good mom—or at least a good-enough one—at TenThousandHourMama.com. She shares craft projects, children’s book recommendations and ideas on how to raise a generous, caring and socially conscious family.

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? More Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband.  I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.

During labor, no one took care of my husband.  And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me.  So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.

It remained the same after the birth.  As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.  And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.

Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me.  And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”

To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his.  While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me.  While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me.  While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me.  He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent.  His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.

And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.

I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are.  They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through.  There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.

But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man.  Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these.  The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.

The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.  There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter.  But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.

Don’t forget about the father.

Ask him how he is doing.  Ask him how he is feeling.  Ask him what support he needs.  Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole.  Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.

Human Rights For Everyone—Including Our Babies

I think we can all agree that babies are human beings just like we are—albeit with quite a few developmental accomplishments ahead of them.  However, I find that we have a hard time putting this concept into practice.  Actually, to be blunt: it is amazing to me how disrespectful we are of our little one’s rights.

Now I don’t want you to think that I am someone who believes that parents shouldn’t discipline their kids and that they had the right to make their own decisions about everything from the beginning.  Of course not; that’s what parents are for.  But at the same time, children have certain rights from the very day they are born.  It’s based quite simply on the fact that they are noble, spiritual creatures.

My Baby Isn’t a Doll

While some parents dress their children in outfits that I personally don’t like, because said outfits are basically miniature, cute versions of what their parents wear, I feel that the child as a person is being respected.  But there are cases where the parents’ choices really make me uncomfortable; these are the cases where the child comes off as an over-the-top candy or clown.

But I realised early on that this is a personal choice as well, and that I should respect other parents’ choices.  But by the same token, it means that other individuals should respect my choices.  That means that I will not be dressing my baby up in any outfit that is gifted to us.  On the one hand, I am grateful for the token of love and generosity; but on the other hand, if I don’t feel that the outfit is befitting my baby’s true nature as a noble, spiritual being, then I won’t be using said outfit.

Individuals who are upset at the fact that I don’t use their tokens of love have the right to be disappointed, but I really hope that they understand that my baby is not a doll for them to dress as they please, and that they are happy that my baby has an advocate dedicated to her well-being.

My Baby’s Body Isn’t Yours To Enjoy

I love holding babies and hugging them.  They are so sweet and cute, so innocent and filled with hope of a bright future.  And they smell so sweet!

But just like I don’t go around hugging adults randomly, I wouldn’t pick up a baby randomly, even if the parents give me their OK.  I would make sure that the baby is OK with me picking him up, and that’s because from the very beginning, he has the right to determine what happens to his body.

It is particularly distressing to me that people don’t respect the baby’s right to determine who can hold him.  I’ve been told that babies don’t have an opinion on the matter, that they are too small to know better, and that parents need to chill out.  But time and again I have seen the signs quite clearly when a baby doesn’t want me to hold him.

I can’t help but wonder what we are teaching our babies when, in short, we do not give them the right to determine who can do what to their bodies.  If anyone who wants to is allowed to touch them at that age, what’s to say that this trend won’t continue into the future, however subconsciously?

My Baby Isn’t a Toy

This one is like the doll but more so.  Don’t move my child’s limbs around ridiculously.  I know it’s safe for her physically, but you are insulting her spiritual nature by treating her as a toy for your amusement.

Another thing I noticed a lot of people seem to like doing is to use a baby as a prop or a doll.  They will hold its arms and make ridiculous gestures, they will make them walk around, they will propped them up in a certain way that amuses them, things of the sort.  This one also bothers me because, well, would you do that to an adult?  Isn’t it an insult to her noble, spiritual nature to treat her like a puppet that does silly things?

My Baby Isn’t Totally Helpless

While babies are dependent on their parents for so many things, they are also intelligent human beings who can achieve a lot.  But they are learning; they need more time and don’t do things the same way that we would.  When you see a baby trying to reach for something, don’t give it to them, however kind your intentions.  By doing that, you could be sending the message to the baby that it will not be able to reach the item in question, and so he just might as well not try.  Rather, channel your good intentions into encouragement; cheer babies along as they learn the basics of life.

My Baby Has Moods Just Like You Do

You know how some days, you are not cranky, but you just feel quiet?  Those days during which you would rather listen than talk, observe rather than participate?  It’s the same with babies.  It’s important not to label babies and children, especially with negative labels.  My baby isn’t cranky and antisocial.  My baby is just in a quiet, observant mood.  And ironically enough, she is in that mood more often around people who treat her like a doll, don’t respect her body, see her as a toy, and think of her as helpless.

Final Thoughts

Treat babies like real people and you will be surprised by how well they will respond to you.

The Life of a Parent: Gaining Insight into a Different Kind of Love

The way I understand the Bahá’í Writing, we are created in the image of God, and we can understand Him better by working on the various aspects of our spiritual selves.  I also understand that we are told that one of the main purposes of marriage is to have children.

It makes sense to me that nothing revealed in the Sacred Writings of any religion would counter their main purpose: to put us in touch with our true, spiritual selves.  Therefore, parenthood isn’t just about perpetuating the human race.  It is also about our personal spiritual development.

And boy, do I feel like I am already so different from the person I was a mere couple of months ago, before becoming a parent!

I could go on and on about the various spiritual lessons I feel I have learned since having a baby.  However, I feel there is one encompassing one that rules them all (yes, much like a certain ring): that of love.

Now this might come as blasphemous, so let me begin by saying that in no way so I ever expect to be able to even come close to understanding God.  But I do believe that we can gain smidgens of glimmerings of understanding, tiny atoms of it compared to the greatness of extent of knowledge that exists.

We are told in all Sacred Writings that God loves us.  But many times, we can think that God can’t love us because we are so messed up; or that God doesn’t love us because look at all the horrible things He is letting happen to us.

When I look down at my baby, I don’t feel like I can even not love her.  I went around a wide circle of parents that I know; some of them have been parents only a little longer than my husband and I, while others have grandchildren; some of them have angels for children while others suffer the consequences of the actions of their children daily.  And every single one of them said the same thing: they cannot not love their children.

So if we, limited little humans, are capable of this kind of love, then definitely an all-Mighty and Perfect God can love us, however messed up we may be.

There are some things that I have to allow to happen to my baby that she really doesn’t like—some of which actually make her suffer.  I’m thinking for example about vaccinations.  In her view, the ones who rule her world—her father and I—are allowing a terrible thing to happen to her.  But of course, her father and I know that the vaccines are necessary for her, that in the long run, not vaccinating her could be lead to a much greater deal of pain than the 24 hours of suffering she went through.  Our love has to go beyond her immediate needs, and accept her pain and be there for her as she sobs her way through the afternoon.

God, then, doesn’t allow horrible things to happen to us; rather, there are horrible things we have to go through in the short run so that, in the long run, we don’t suffer even more.  His Love is what allows for these terrible things to continue happening, because He knows that if He swoops in—which He can—the suffering might ease in the very short term, but will be much worse in the long term.

All of this helps me as a parent and a person.  As a parent, it helps me prepare for the pain my baby/child/teenager will go through when I deny them something or put them through another difficult situation.  As a person, it helps me understand that basically, that is what God is doing when things seems to be going irreparably wrong.  And as a blogger, it makes for quite the powerful blog post.

Why I Decided To Take Precious Time Away From My Baby To Start Blogging Again

My blogging journey—an incredible, fulfilling one that has given me so much—started almost nine and a half years ago right here in Sahar’s Blog.  I never intended to stop blogging—that is, until I had a baby.

I had always intended to take a short hiatus when each of my children was born.  When my first one was born last year, I took what I thought would be a short hiatus.  But I love the life with my little one so much that I pushed it back once, then twice, and then again for a third time.  I was seriously considering pushing my return to blogging for another couple of months as my beautiful baby went from adorable newborn to hilarious and charming infant.

Perhaps then it will not come as a surprise that it is for her that I am returning to blogging.  Sahar’s Blog has already wanted to be an attempt to contribute to positive online conversations, the ones that translate into action dedicated to the mental, emotional, and spiritual improvement of each reader as well as to the betterment of their communities.  In light of the recent sharp and significant increase in hateful conversations, both online and in real life, I couldn’t abandon the platform that took me so long to build up.  It seems much more important, both for my little one and all the others of her generation, that I start blogging again, to contribute to the positive conversations that are happening on community building, personal development, sexism, racism, and spirituality.

And so, as we ring in a new year, I’m happy to be returning to a wonderful world where, alongside assiduous readers who send me so many emails (and who hopefully will start sharing at least some of their thoughts in the comments section—you know who you are!), I will be attempting to have uplifting conversations that will inspire thoughtful and consistent action.

To my little girl, who might one day read this: I am going to have a little less time with you from now on, but I am spending it paving the way for a world I hope will be much healthier for you and your friends to grow in.

And Then There Were Three: Taking a Longer Break From Blogging

Back in June, I announced the arrival of a new member of the family.  I had intended to start blogging again in mid-July, but I am enjoying motherhood so much and want to make sure not to miss out on any of these precious moments with our bundle of (mostly) joy.  So while I fully intend on getting back to this blog and already have a pile of post ideas waiting to be written, I will not be getting back to it this summer.  A tentative date of fall 2016 has been set for a full return to blogging.  Until then, a sporadic book review, featured post, music review, or post on something particularly thought-provoking might make an appearance.  Any support for the blog in the form of sharing older posts would be much appreciated.  See you soon!

Planning The Week – Book Recommendation: ‘Pieces Of My Mother’, by Melissa Cistaro

Happy Sunday!  This blogger uses Sundays to plan and prepare for the upcoming week.  I have been asked so many times about the resources that help me plan a full week that I decided to launch the “Planning the Week” feature with three concomitant components: a recommended book to make your commute easier; a healthy recipe to make your week tastier and healthier; and a planning/planner tip to keep it all running smoothly.

—————————

As you ready yourself for another great week, are you wondering what book to take along with you on your commute?  Take a peek at this week’s book recommendation!

‘Pieces Of My Mother’, by Melissa Cistaro

Book Review here.

Author Spotlight here.

Purchase here.

Author website here.

Book Synopsis:

This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents? One summer, Melissa Cistaro’s mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them? Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks. Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman’s quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa’s tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother’s final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents’ choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.

Book Review: ‘The Thread That Binds’ by Alice Hayes

Alice Hayes 'The Thread That Binds'About the author: Originally from Winchester, England, Alice’s plans to read law at a British university were disrupted when she fell deeply in love with Georgia, USA, while studying abroad. After moving all over Georgia, Alice has finally settled in Athens and has no plans to go anywhere else. She is a single mother to a three-year-old girl and a 65 lb hound dog. She likes coffee, wine, and anything edible with the words ‘salted caramel’ in its description. At the time of publication, Alice is a 24-year-old history student working full time in a law office, and writing fiction at every stolen moment. She hasn’t slept in approximately two years. Her first published novel, The Thread That Binds, won third place in World’s Best Story contest.

Alice Hayes 'The Thread That Binds'About the book: Sherice is a new mother, a sonographer, quilter, and wife; an overworked young woman whose elderly mother is slipping away from her. Sylvie is a newlywed and recent immigrant, unemployed and virtually penniless. Her husband’s paycheck can’t even cover prenatal care, let alone a baby, and her due date is only drawing nearer… Joanne’s unconventional pregnancy turns her world upside down, redefining her career and relationships, and even bringing to the surface long-buried demons from her past. Payton is seventeen, pregnant, and on the run. She flees to her uncle in Georgia with the hope of making a fresh start, but discovers making it on her own is harder than she could ever have imagined. Gloria is trapped in an unhappy marriage; in love with someone else. Her life is falling apart. With a baby on the way, would it be selfish to flee?

Five women, once strangers, form bonds. Set in modern day Georgia, this is the story of friendship that blossoms in the land of country music, sweet tea, and secrets kept locked tight behind closed doors. Moving, funny, and at times heartbreaking, The Thread That Binds is a lesson in empathy, strength, and the beauty of love.

Review: A well-written story about love in its many forms and the role of female friendship in overcoming difficulties, The Thread that Binds is long and heavy in content but easy read. The story flows well, making the intertwining plots and their various related details easier to follow. Some important concepts are explored throughout the story, from the importance of family to the importance of respect in a relationship, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.

This is not however a book that digs deep into the concepts and feeds lessons to its reader. Rather, an unaware or uninterested reader might not learn much, if anything, from this book. But a reader wanting to learn to improve their selves and their relationships (romantic and other) stands to be inspired by one, if not more of the main characters.

The buildup of the story does at times come off a little awkwardly, especially with the haphazard introduction of characters. It could be me, but when I know a story is about five women, I don’t want to meet one of them only halfway through the book. Furthermore, some editing is still needed but the quality remains consistently good.

Despite mild sexual content that might bother some readers and a little bit of coarse language, I would still recommend The Thread That Binds as an exploration of sorts of the nature and quality of relationships.