On her son Archer's first birthday, Rebecca Woolf writes him a letter that says, in part, "Thank you for choosing me to mother you." That sentence encapsulates so much of what this book is about, from Woolf's childhood as a misfit in Southern California, to becoming a mom and winding up back in the land she simultaneously loves and hates. From her unexpected pregnancy at age 23 to dealing with her son's delayed speech and the nonstop barrage of advice she's given, Woolf dissects her life pre- and post-baby, showing the through lines between each and how she is passing on her own naturally rebellious, independent nature to her son.
She laughs at herself when she finds herself wearing a pashmina while at a concert ("I might as well have tattooed MOM on my forehead"), and struggles to find herself, and her place in her family, both the one she's created and the one she grew up in, as well as in her friendship circles. Her relationship with her own mother changes, and in one of her most moving chapters, where she veers from calling her mother a "----ing b--ch!" to having a heart-to-heart with her and coming to understand her better.
She writes that "Maybe Archer will be the glue that holds us together, because sometimes love isn't enough," detailing her uncertainty about the permanence of her marriage but her faith that this young family she has created will survive. I'm not a mom (yet), so I can't speak to the accuracy or not of the motherhood experiences Woolf describes, but I can say that whether you've read her blog or not, you will find here an unflinching, sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always searching look at Woolf's life as it transforms and grows along with her child. There are times here where it's easy to forget that Woolf is only in her mid-twenties, and other times where that is eminently apparent, and both make one marvel at her ability to roll with the punches and not just expect the unexpected, but crave it. After all, this is a woman who wanted to name her child Colette, if she had a girl: "Promiscuous French free spirits with cocked pens and erotica in their oeuvre have always been my greatest heroes."
Woolf doesn't have all the answers but thankfully, she doesn't pretend to. This is an often stream-of-consciousness, in the moment, figure it out by the seat of her pants kind of memoir, the kind that invites you deeply into Woolf's world and will inspire you to keep reading as she documents her second pregnancy on her blog. Though choppy at times as she veers from her own childhood to her son's, Rockabye is still a powerful new voice that never backs down.