Reality of an altered state

2009-08-19 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

The Book of Jacob – a journey into parenthood

Lisa Lazarus and Greg Fried

Struik

IF I had the power, I’d make this book mandatory reading for anyone ­contemplating having a child. They wouldn’t be allowed to procreate until they’d passed a stringent comprehension test on its contents.

Like many new parents, Lisa ­Lazarus and Greg Fried were completely unprepared for the tsunami that engulfed them when they had their son, Jacob. No one told them about the consequences of becoming parents, and even more, parents of a “colicky” ­baby. No one warned them their life as they knew it was over: “Ploeps, just like that”.

Antenatal classes are full of sage advice about breathing during labour and breast-feeding, but never come close to telling you about the altered reality you enter by becoming parents. A baby changes everything: you, your partner, your bank balance, your marriage and all the other relationships and activities that make up your life as you know it.

I suspect that what creates such ­upheaval for many parents is that they no longer have the ability to choose. Their lives become controlled by the needs of a completely helpless but absolutely all-powerful infant. Having a baby also seems to effectively deconstruct your identity and shine an unforgiving spotlight on any ­“issues” and baggage you have in yourself, your marriage, childhood or family.

Reading this book was a painful but cathartic experience. As an older mother of twins, I went through many of the trials that Jacob’s parents experienced, and more. Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. My children bring me great joy, as I hope Jacob will bring his parents, in time — he is now almost two.

This is a courageous, sometimes achingly honest work that has been a long time coming. At times it is bleak, with the distinctive darkness that psychic pain produces, but very funny in places too. As one reviewer pointed out, it’s also unusual for a “parenting book” as it’s also beautifully written, alternating Lazarus’s and Fried’s voices. Providing this view from first one parent’s perspective, then the other’s, is an engaging ­device.

I salute the authors on a wonderful book that deserves a wide reading.

 

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