|Image of Sylvia Plath as a new mother from mahmag.org.|
|Poem from UPenn.|
I really liked this poem. It reminded me of the time that I was a new mother as well. I craved adult conversation so much, I actually contemplated going to the office just to talk to people! Not only that, I was suffering postpartum blues (crying every day!) and I was terrible at breastfeeding because I never really learned how (yes, it's learned, it's not natural and you don't get it by looking at a poster). I was desperate and logging every breastfeeding session in a journal including what breast and how many minutes. It was terrible. Indeed, I didn't feel like my life belonged to me. I was actually alienated by my life. Don't get me wrong: I love my kids to bits. But the thing is: new motherhood really does feel like an alien invasion.
I totally get the time distortion that Mayer talks about in the poem. Time really does get distorted for a new mother. These things kept occurring to me: "Didn't I just feed the baby?" "When did I last take a shower?" "Why does this have to hurt so much?" "Will I ever feel normal again?" "Why is the baby crying again?"
It's true that so much literature and images of new motherhood look picture-perfect, emotionally fuzzy, and joy-ful. But it's actually not. Especially with a first child. It's a time of great confusion, dazed activity, and tears. I couldn't drive while recovering from my Caesarian section and I felt so closed in, locked out of the rest of the world. It got to a point where I begged for something to do like deposit money in a neighborhood bank just so I could get out of the house. I find Mayer's "I-do-this-I-do-that" description of time spot on in that it's confused and arbitrary and decidedly non-narrative.
I do see the turning point of "it's time to die." It reminds the speaker to live, to read, to not suppress the fantasy of having her baby getting raised by wolves.
I see it as a refusal of the automaton's life. At some point during my maternity leave I started to paint. In a way, I saw it as my own refusal to be so domesticated and chained, without blaming anyone, really. Feeling domesticated and chained is a choice. No one imposed it on me. My circumstances and hormonal state of mind made me feel isolated but I didn't have to give in to it. Like Berrigan's "3 Pages," choices needed to be made. One needs to open the windows to let in the good cold air, wake up, drink some champagne, and maintain that aesthetic life, time that is no one else's but one's own. Recognizing the time to die is also recognizing the time to live.