Author Mieko Kawakami chronicles her day-to-day experience from the time she and her husband decided to start a family in 2011, when she was 35, through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of motherhood. As her body undergoes dramatic changes, and as she experiences just as dramatic mood swings, she candidly expresses her feelings?in rhythmical prose mixed with Osaka dialect. Sometimes eliciting laughter, sometimes tears, she brings the reader along on her journey leading up to and following the birth of her son.
No sooner does Kawakami rejoice at becoming pregnant than severe morning sickness strikes. When this subsides, it is followed by insatiable food cravings. Then she becomes moody and takes it out on her husband. But the fetus develops normally and the time comes for her to give birth. The labor and delivery are described in gripping detail that makes the reader feel as if he or she were in the room?the pain of the Caesarian, the uncontainable gush of love she feels for the child placed in her arms. Then come the relentless demands of caring for the newborn. Resuming work while still being wakened every two hours to nurse, and determined to keep up with her cooking chores as well, she drives herself virtually to the point of breakdown, exploding in rage at her husband as she vents her frustrations before recognizing that she is pursuing an impossible ideal of motherhood. She realizes that she must not be alone in this, and reflects on how oblivious to the lives of young mothers she had been until becoming one herself.
While writing in light, witty prose, Kawakami draws needed attention to a number of weighty issues relating to pregnancy, birth, and childrearing: the Japanese employment system that makes it extremely difficult for men to play a role in childcare; the social expectation that bringing up children is solely the responsibility of the mother; the prejudice against epidurals that persists in Japan; the pros and cons of prenatal chromosome tests.
“Please take your time growing up. I’m so glad to have met you. Thank you for coming into my life,” the author says to her son on his first birthday. It is a volume that makes one wish nothing but happiness for all children and parents everywhere.