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on April 22, 2008
Rebecca Walker writes honestly and eloquently of the many feelings and beliefs she has carried over the years about becoming a mother. The subtitle of her book, choosing motherhood after a lifetime of ambivalence, together with her main title, telegraphs the denouement of her story; namely, that her ambivalence takes a decidedly positive turn at some point in her story. Her change of heart is not a simple matter, and she shares the complex and often subtle experiences that ultimately change her.

The book is written as a diary in a style that is informal and pleasantly conversational. The topics are many, such as working versus motherhood, fears of having a baby, indecision (once deciding to have it) as to where to have it (at home or in a hospital), the complexities of relationship, and so many more. None of theses are new issues, to be sure, but each is pondered thoughtfully from differing aspects and the reader is invited to ponder them as well.

I was impressed by Walker's willingness to share her vulnerabilities, to reveal the lessons she has learned over time such as her tendency to "mother" others--to shower others with the emotional support that she craved but had not received as a child. She credits Glen, the man with whom she eventually would have her child, for much of her increased self-understanding, for his help with her moodiness, her depression, her sometimes disabling insecurities. He is consistently present and supportive, though never agreeing simply to please her. His intelligent rebuttals to some of her ideas bring an additional depth and dimension to the story.

Walker makes no secret of her antagonistic relationship with her own mother (author Alice Walker). Not an easy thing to display one's deep and continuing hurt by a famous mother for all the world to read. In the very first chapter of her book, the author reveals her mother's astonishing indifference to her announcement that she is pregnant--an indifference and often outright nastiness that is sprinkled generously throughout the pages of this book. There can be little doubt that this hurtful relationship is a significant factor in Rebecca Walker's deep-seated ambivalence toward bringing her own child into the world.

But Baby Love is not without humor. After a visit to the maternity department of a shop with "... haggard-looking mothers being dragged around by whiny, unruly kids," she calls Glen and laments, "Am I going to be trapped behind a stroller for the rest of my life, at the beck and call of some badly behaved toddler screaming for his sippy cup?" Perhaps this scene amuses me only because it brings back similar feelings of my own from so many years ago.

I never fully understand Walker's change of heart when I suddenly come upon her pleasure over being pregnant and later her euphoria over her son, who has become everything to her, or her euphoria over motherhood--which she now feels she can embrace wholeheartedly while still accomplishing great things, a concept that I, being of her mother's generation, continue to question.

She writes of the maturity that comes to her with the experience of pregnancy and motherhood, of her willingness " walk through fire" for her son. She talks of what it feels like to become a mother without having had a proper mother, "...what becoming a mother without a mother feels like." She names her son Tenzin, after Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a name that I suspect will not easily be accepted by his peers, not to mention an impossibly high standard to lay on any child. But then again, I think, Why Not? Who knows what this child will accomplish?

Walker and her partner, Glen, are serious thinkers. She writes, " few people break away from the expectations of their parents to live their own, authentic lives. Guilt and fear keep so many of us ensnared. Who can stand the emotional blowback that comes from choosing a different path?" However, as she points out, "If we aren't diligent in our efforts to mature, at some point cutting the cord of familial expectation, we become infantilized by it." I can think of few psychological insights more important (and harder to actually apply) than this statement.

This author's desire to be true to herself informs every page of her writing. I hope she is writing the continuing chapter of her life from the point where Baby Love ends. She is a skilled writer, a human being eager to live her own truth, and she has hooked my interest in the continuing flow of her life. I have my wallet out to buy her next book.

by Duffie Bart
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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VINE VOICEon August 5, 2007
I read this book in two sittings and have meant to write the review for several days now. I can't decide if it mostly narcissistice drivel or just occasionally dripping with narcissism. I enjoyed some parts of the book, but my copy is filled with comments penciled in the margins. I'm still processing the book.

I will say that some parts of this book would have made more sense if the reader read her previous book, _Black, White and Jewish_ where she tears into her mother and offers a memoir that will make you vacillate between feeling sorry for her and then wondering how in the hell she could be so damn egocentric.

That said, this book is like the book end to the previous book with the diatribe(s) against her famous mother. She is obviously working through her issues regarding too much freedom that she was given by her parents. What has troubled me between those two particular books (and I have read her other books/anthologies and many of her essays) is the way that she places full blame or most of the blame for her ambivalence and sense of not being loved on her mother.

Is it easier for her to attack her mother or does she just make it easier? I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think that she is overly harsh or perhaps not harsh enough on her dad.

Granted, her mother has said some unbelievably cruel things to her. Her mother was trying to raise her w/ choice, independence, and in the process didn't give her enough attention. And, it appears that RW blames her ambivalence and failed relationships wholeheartedly on her mother. I could have done with less of the Alice Walker blaming and more of her musings.

What really troubled me w/ this book was the poor editing. The editor should have dealt with the tired cliches and woefully eyerolling colloquialisms that were nothing short of over the top. Many of her observations made me think: btdt as mother of two children, but also in terms of the myriad of other (better) written memoirs of motherhood or pregnancy.

I'll suggest this book to others, but w/ a caveat. What I'm really looking forward to is discussing the book with other feminist mothers. I'm RW's age and didn't have the ambivalence that she shares, well, and not the privileges of an Ivy League education and the vast world travelling! It's worth reading, but there are countless other books that are ten times better: anything by Ariel Gore, for instance.
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on March 25, 2007
The narcissim, banality and lack of intelligent thought in this book is simply stunning. I am a new mother, and I cannot fathom how this book would have been useful to me during pregnancy; certainly not in retrospect. Because I also share a lot of Walker's racial/sexual/class/political experience I bought this immediately. I was deeply offended by a lot of her claims about feminism and what she insinuates about lesbian vs. heterosexual parenting, but truly jaw-dropping is her assertion about biological vs. non-biological parenting. She is so unable to get past herself, and so unable to recognize that her first stab at "parenting" was more playing house with an immature rocker and less the stuff of intentional motherhood. Perhaps that is part of what undermines the bond with her son that she then goes on to universalize. The revelations about the breach with her mother are frankly embarassing, and again, feel self-serving--like a desperate stab to hook a readership that she can't otherwise win and hold.
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on May 13, 2007
I think the author seemed confused rather than ambivalent... the book offers no clear thinking through her own motives for this constant theme through her work: one-sided blaming. The writing is one dimensional and ascribes a lot of dark motives to many, except Rebecca.

Something cutting about her piecemeal narratives, esp her cold claim about the only kind of 'real' experience of being a mother is to give birth. She's a couple years shy of 40 years old and sees her body aging...well. What can be said about that. So much of the material here sounds like a 12 year old rather than a mature woman equal to her years.

For new mothers, I would recommend Ann Lamott's work, all of it. She is a very real mother who writes with deep love about various kinds of ambivilance and certitude regarding her precious son; she a single mother. Lamott has the gift of simple narrative that is literature without grunting with the effort to write litter-a-toor as Rebecca seems to try to do.

The thing is, there's a dearth of writings for new mothers, and mothers to be and adoptive mothers... fanning peacock writing like 'baby love' wont cut it for most.

If 'baby love' were a book by a person named Rebecca Smith, I think few people would look at it. Considering her tiresome writing m.o. of dissing her mother, (which also has this odd gloss to it; it just doesnt ring true... her examples of how badly she's been treated sound like a spoiled child complaining they only got everything except two things they wanted and they are really mad. Truly abused children carry an entirely different timbre) I wonder why she didnt keep her father's name instead.
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on August 11, 2007
Baby Love is filled with annoying musing by Walker that disappointments, discourages, and enrages me. As a feminist who supports motherhood, I expected a writing of personal reflection that would be both individual and collective, that would inspire as well as deepen the conversation on motherhood, women, feminism, parenting, family dynamics, and other topics. Instead, Walker's writing focuses on her financial fears, her elusive search for resolution and peace with her mother (that carries such an adolescent bent that it is difficult to read without hurling the book across the room), and her very inward, selfish focus on motherhood. I can not condone such a privileged woman complaining of financial fears, nor can I condone her attempts to reinforce male privilege (evident within her interactions with her male partner). Even with her references to a ex-lover who is female, she lacks a consciousness of the multiplicity of the definition of family and of the privileges she inhabits within her heterosexual relationship. I wonder how her experience would be different if she was not only shopping, watching Sex and the City reruns, writing in her diary, eating, and being pregnant, but actually working without the luxury of a secure bank account or without the comfort of having several homes to habitat. She appears very adamant about being the victim in her life-- with her relationships, her own mind/depression, her mother, her father, her ex-lovers, her medical care (from a variety of health care providers), her difficulties. I long for a more mature perspective that incorporates part of the core of feminism which is to have an eye that sees the injustices within and beyond ourselves. I expected better writing, a less selfish and whiny perspective, and a more rewarding experience.
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on March 28, 2011
This book stems from a pregnant daughter's search for trust in herself. The trust vital to go through pregnancy and achieve motherhood. The inability to trust her mother from her childhood seems to be the underlying cause. Education, partners, career nothing seem to provide compensation for that lack of trust.

RW is not alone in this predicament. She is articulating for a lot of women. Women who have no trust issues in their important relationships specially mother/daughter relationship will not be able to identify with RW and the book. They may still find interesting the details of what steps todays women are taking during pregnancy. I found the doola issue instructive. Maybe because I am a first generation immigrant engaged in scientific endeavor and do not have enough real life examples.

I hope RW goes past the mistrust issue now that she is herself a mother. A lot of us who are not self-aware propagate these issues to the next generation involuntarily. I am waiting for her next book............
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on September 10, 2013
Really, I did. I think that Rebecca Walker has an amazing voice, and she's someone who I wanted to be able to relate to. Her writing style itself is beautiful and she's able to vocalize a lot of the emotional tumult that motherhood brings to the table, but I can't get past how narcissistic and privileged she is. The entire story of her pregnancy sounds like the diary rants of an angry teenager who's fighting with her mommy. She makes irresponsible choices during her pregnancy but acts like she's some kind of hero for simply surviving it. Honey, women have been giving birth for millions of years, and yes, most of the time, we did it without drugs and without gaining sixty pounds. She doesn't need to be shamed for the choices she made, but they don't exactly deserve applause, either.

Her tone and attitudes switch so rapidly that Ms. Walker sometimes seems like her life has just been one huge identity crisis after another-- one minute a radical vegan, the next, shoving steaks down her throat at the speed of light. One minute acknowledging her privilege, the next, acting like her life is unimaginably difficult even though she's obscenely wealthy and hasn't had to work or support herself at all. One minute talking about her "son"-- the child of a woman she'd played house with for a couple of years-- and the next, declaring that he really isn't her son because adoption is not at all like being a real mom (what a HUGE insult to adoptive parents!). I read the whole book wondering who the heck Rebecca Walker actually is, because she can't seem to make up her mind.

I really did want to like this book, but I just didn't. If Rebecca could get over her narcissism just a bit, she might have the capacity to be a talented author. For now, though, nuh-uh.
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on April 16, 2007
First I will start with the obvious...Rebecca Walker is without a doubt a very gifted writer...the way she puts words and phrases some ways is almost melodic. I was not disappointed with how this memoir was is the content that disappointed me. I am 34 years old and 28 weeks pregnant. I have felt a lifetime of ambivalence about having children. I thought this book was going to explore the pathways between that ambivalence and the decision to embrace motherhood. Yet Rebecca stated that she always wanted to have a see her struggle with finding the right opportunity for getting pregnant but never with the desire to be pregnant. I kept on feeling that in that sense the subtitle was somewhat misleading. I have read the reviews on this board and other reviews as well and no one seems to be willing to truely "critique" this book. Is it because she is who she is? I don't feel that reviewers have been truely honest about the merits of this book. Not to mention the fact that so few women will be able to relate to this writer and her experience.
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on April 12, 2008
this might possibly be the book for you (I'm "ambivalent" about whether she actually matured). A truly self-absorbed young woman becomes pregnant, and suddenly things she's feeling become "truths" about the world -- such as the fact that "you" [meaning everyone] do not feel the same about an adopted child as about a biological one. Now, this may be how she felt, but that's not how she wrote it -- she wrote it as a universal truth, and that's where I gave up with her. She hasn't found truths about the world -- she's found how she views the worls, but sadly, for Rebecca Walker, if she thinks it, it must be true -- whether or not it contradicts other people's experiences, whether or not she's completely full of self-absorbed caca. Rebecca Walker is surely searching for something in this life, and possibly the birth of her son opened her eyes to the fact that the world does not revolve around her -- but I'm just not sure. At the very end of the book, RW writes that Glen was there for her, and they were both there for the baby, but nowhere does she write that she was there for Glen. Glen in this memoir is little more than the provider of sperm and anything else RW wanted. If I were her life partner, I would be saddened by how I little I figured in this story of the birth of their son. She also only refers to her ex-partner as one who cheated on her. That may be true -- but it is cold and only possibly tells half the story. But of course, in Rebecca Walker's world, the only story worth telling, is hers.
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on April 5, 2007
What a stunning waste of twenty bucks. As a 36 year old woman contemplating motherhood I expected to find thoughtful musings and good company on the journey. Instead, a "dear diary" of jumbled confessions from an admittedly privileged but incredibly solipsistic narrator. Join her pity party as she boo-hoos her way through a hospital stay, a search for a physician/caregiver, the loss of her figure and sex appeal---never mind she indulges in more navel-gazing and food than any pregnant woman has a right to (explaining to her stepson, for example, that at 16 weeks there are just certain things she can't do, like climb stairs. Or focus on others. Or put her fork down--she gains 35 pounds in 20 weeks and claims her job is to sit around "rubbing her belly and glowing.") The few honest confessions and discussions are by far overshadowed by her need to indulge and reassure herself that she is a good and holy creature, that her exes and famous mother done her so horribly wrong, and that nothing on the planet--partners, careers, even longed-for adopted children--is so incredibly sublime worthy of exultation and love as giving birth to your "own" child. A supreme disappointment from a bright young scholar from whom I expected so much more.
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