Motivated by her frustration as a first-time mother navigating the nuances of pregnancy and motherhood, Seattle-based writer Angela Garbes embarked on a passionate journey to better understand this new world of physical, mental and emotional chaos. After writing an article in Seattle’s alternative paper, The Stranger titled “The More I Learn About Breast Milk, The More Amazed I Am” which turned viral, she quickly realized that many women wanted unbiased information and advice on pregnancy.
Through ardent research, conversations with friends and medical experts, and candid recollections of personal experiences, Garbes breaks down various cultural myths about pregnancy in an enthusiastic and awe-filled fashion in her first narrative book, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy.
The thoughtfully written and researched book addresses questions that most women during pregnancy and new motherhood wonder about through a scientific and cultural lens. Throughout the book, Garbes highlights the strong women in her life – her mother and Lola Lily, and how their experiences as Filipina immigrants guided her through her pregnancy journey. Between her own personal experiences and those of friends, she substantiates it with scientific data and facts from different cultures.
Each chapter touches on a different circumstance that expecting women come across – from first finding out you’re pregnant, to miscarriage, to the placenta (the most fascinating chapter in the book), and to labor and postpartum care. Garbes successfully translates hard to understand medical jargon into information that is much more palatable and accessible by presenting the information in layman terms.
The book raises questions about the lack of information and resources available on various aspects of pregnancy – case in point, information about the placenta. She dedicates a whole chapter to it and skillfully explains the importance of this organ – which is a completely new organ that grows inside the body and helps nourish the baby during pregnancy! Additionally, Like a Mother highlights the various ways that our culture is unkind to pregnant women and mothers, and how we obsess over what to eat or not eat, where or how the best way to go into labor is, etc. Throughout the book, Garbes gives permission to question resources and medical authorities and insists that women are deserving of more information and autonomy.
Garbes helps better inform women about pregnancy and encourages choosing a plan that is right for them, rather than filtering information and suggesting what they should do. By presenting information in a nonfiltered way, it allows women to feel less anxious and overwhelmed about pregnancy and impending motherhood. Garbes mentions how most books she picked up during her pregnancy did not answer her questions, felt outdated, and made her feel insecure and judged. This view extends to media where pregnancy and motherhood are commonly portrayed in a particular light, where doctors are restrictive and women are too strict on themselves, as she mentions in Like a Mother. This realization only fueled her desire to take her skills as a journalist and apply that to the research she would embark on in fulfilling her curiosity about pregnancy.
Like a Mother is an empowering resource that allows the reader to be informed of pregnancy and motherhood in a way that resonates with folks from various backgrounds. She presents stories and information with humor and enthusiasm. With Garbes, a Filipina as the author, she demonstrates the importance of representing the voices of intersectional women: who are women of color, who come from marginalized communities, who battle depression or have suffered miscarriages. Garbes beautifully gives every unique experience the affirmation that they are valid and provides unbiased guidance and support for other women are navigating pregnancy and motherhood. The book will leave you with a new sense of admiration and appreciation of the female body and will leave you feeling glad that a book like this finally exists.
Angela Garbes will engage in conversation with fellow author Lindy West on Wednesday, June 13th at 7:30 pm at The Summit on Pike. Tickets are $5. For more information, go to www.townhallseattle.org. The Summit on Pike is located at 420 E Pike.