Babies are magnetic creatures by design. Those enormous eyes, that sweet little coo; all is engineered to appeal to our instincts to love and protect these helpless creatures. But as friends and family we too often rush to gush over and to care for the baby and forget that mom needs some tender love, too. In Purple Leaves, Red Cherries: A Gift for Mothers with Short Stories, Journal & Toolkit (Flower Cap Press, 2011), Tania Elfersy and Andrea Katzman offer the literary equivalent of a warm hug and an understanding nod of the head to these new mamas. In it, they have collected the words of a diverse group of mothers with the goal of letting those with newborns know that they are not alone in their challenges, whatever those may be. Additionally, they provide space and encouragement for journaling and a “toolkit” with simple, but poignant, projects for moms to complete. A space for online community building is also available on their website.
The full-time work of caring for little ones, which so often falls to mothers whether or not they also work outside the home, is difficult, emotional, and pays delayed dividends, which can leave mamas feeling alone, confused, and unsure about their ability to do it all. From my personal experience, I never expected things, such as how I fed my son, to cause me to question my worth as a human being. But it did. In the thick of new motherhood the stakes seem so very high. Elfersy and Katzman have arranged this series of short, one-page, first-person narratives into twelve categories that range from the esoteric and emotional (such as evolving self-expectations of ourselves in new motherhood) to the corporeal and practical (issues of changing sexuality and body image, for example).
Everything in this book is geared for the mother who only has minutes to spend on herself, but wants to make those minutes count. The anecdotes are the perfect length for reading on the run, the journal pages are generously spaced for those trying to write while nursing or with a babe-in-arms, and the projects are doable in the five-minute windows that your little one allows you to lay him/her down for a nap alone. Beautifully illustrated in a folk art tradition by Nomi Melul Ohad, this book is a wonderful gift that celebrates and records the unique journey of moms.