image for Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa Jo Baker

Summary from Goodreads:

A lawyer with a well-stamped passport and a passion for human rights, Lisa-Jo Baker never wanted to be a mom. And then she had kids. Having lost her own mother to cancer as a teenager, Lisa-Jo felt lost on her journey to womanhood and wholly unprepared to raise children. Surprised by Motherhood is Lisa-Jo’s story of becoming and being a mom, and in the process, discovering that all the “what to expect” and “how to” books in the world can never truly prepare you for the sheer exhilaration, joy, and terrifying love that accompanies motherhood.Set partly in South Africa and partly in the US (with a slight detour to Ukraine along the way), Surprised by Motherhood is a poignant memoir of one woman’s dawning realization that being a mom isn’t about being perfect—it’s about being present.

This is one of my wonderful discoveries from Net Galley. I remember requesting for this book last May — 10 months after giving birth, despite not having any idea about the author’s life except what was written in her short bio attached to the book. The title really caught my eye, and upon learning that the author was a lawyer like me, I thought I had something to get from this book.

I turned out to be right. There were a lot of things that a new mom like me can easily identify with what the author had been through.  I shared her fears and frustrations, her worries and feelings of inadequacy. And I shared her joy of discovering the beautiful surprise of motherhood — amidst the sleepless nights, the smelly diapers, and the icky vomit. Reading Surprised by Motherhood feels like I am reading my own journal. This book is so me.

What I loved about this book is the honesty and sincerity of the author. She wasn’t ashamed of admitting her faults and flaws. She did not sugarcoat the reality of motherhood — the struggles for self-appreciation and worth, the financial troubles, the unappealing home. Because of this truthfulness, I found comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone in my struggles and fears. Here was someone who knows me and understands me and was not afraid to write about me.

Lisa Jo-Baker’s account of her journey towards motherhood was an inspiration. Before I read this book, I sometimes thought about how I had been miserably failing at my motherhood subject. Because if  I looked at other parenting and motherhood books out there, including articles I found on the internet, it seemed that everything  I had been doing weren’t right. My baby didn’t drink lots of water, didn’t have enough teeth growing at her age, didn’t drink enough milk, didn’t say the syllables she ought to be speaking. But here’s Lisa Jo-Baker saying that I am normal and my baby is as normal as she can be. And she speaks from experience.

Seven years ago, I thought there was a formula to parenting — you do what the books tell you to do, and then the baby does what the books tell him to do. I’d aced college and law school and figured motherhood would go down the same way. It turned out my baby had completely different plans in mind.

True, there were times that the narrative became meandering and the discourse too long it seemed that it was only going around in circles trying to get to the point, but all in all, the book was really great. The last few chapters, in particular, were really heart-warming and challenging and inspiring. I loved how motherhood changed the author’s perspective in life and how it had changed her view on what God is capable to do. There is nothing like motherhood to expose how flawed we really are and it is only by God’s grace that we continue to march on.

All is grace. All is undeserved gift. I saw the miracle now with both eyes wide, wide open.

The best thing about Surprised by Motherhood was that after I was done reading, I checked the author’s profile and blog, which led me to discovering this very inspiring site for courageous women, which  led me to join this five-minute no-edit writing fray every Friday on my personal blog.

Reading this book was my inspiration to pursue excellence in my parenting. It changed my perspective on what really matters in life.  There is nothing shameful about dirty floors and upturned furniture. As long as my little girl looks at me with love and appreciation, I am content. The dishes and laundry can wait.


My rating: 4/5 stars.


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