It’s supposed to be “the best time of your life,” but what if it isn’t?
As Mother’s Day arrives this weekend, Jackie Schoemaker Holmes has a message for those moms who are struggling emotionally, a message delivered in the form of poetry.
The local resident has penned and self-published a collection of poems called Eating Her Young: Poems for the Disruption of Motherhood, a title provocative enough to lend credibility to her claim the book is “subversive.”
The mom of a seven-year-old girl named Aya, Schoemaker Holmes, most recently in the news during her tenure as chair of Refugees for Brockville, is a sociologist and “empowerment specialist,” who provides non-clinical counseling to women, helping mothers “prioritize and re-center themselves in their lives.”
“Eating Her Young,” of course, is an exercise in irony, meant to acknowledge the more difficult aspects of motherhood and “communicate the weirdness of all of it.” Schoemaker Holmes also uses the phrase as her Instagram handle and the title of a blog.
She’s been pleasantly surprised by the book’s sales since releasing it before Christmas. The collection, consisting of more than 200 poems, is available on Amazon.
“It’s really sort of about my experience of climbing my way out of postpartum depression and anxiety,” she said.
Schoemaker Holmes has been writing poetry since adolescence. She set herself the goal of writing a poem every day, not realizing it would turn into a book until that format presented itself.
A key message of the book is that if moms are going through the very opposite of the best time of their lives, that’s OK and there is hope.
In Old Dreams, she writes: “It’s okay to be sad. / Bone-tired. /Hopeless. / It’s okay / Not to fit. / Feel uncomfortable. / Make space for / Yourself.”
Another poem, Mistress of the Universe, begins: “I want to give up, / But I haven’t. / I want to save the world, / But I’m tired. / I want to remember who I was, / But I can’t. / I want to tell my truth, / So I did.”
Schoemaker Holmes writes in an accessible, free-verse medium that favors the message over the symbolism. Further on in Mistress of the Universe, she adds: “I want to love and be loved. / I want my anger / To burn up. / I want autonomy. / I want a fresh start. / I want to wonder and adventure. / I want surprise / And awe.”
Balancing these natural desires with the demands of motherhood is difficult enough, and when her own postpartum depression hit, it took a while for her even to realize she had it; she just didn’t have enough information.
“Talking about it became really, really therapeutic,” she added.
With help from her doctor and her loved ones, she got through it.
“And then it became a negotiation of my identity,” she added.
“How am I going to define motherhood in a way that I can understand myself as a mother?”
She hopes that on Mother’s Day, more moms will be able to find themselves in such a context.
The goal is not to be swallowed hole in the process, said Schoemaker Holmes.
Or to use a different metaphor, she tells moms: “You don’t have to occupy the back seat in your life; it’s better for everyone if you occupy the driver’s seat.”
(City hall reporter Ronald Zajac can be reached at Rzajac@postmedia. com.)