A reading list for Natalie Portman: five new mom books (and one blog)
Natalie Portman gave birth to a boy yesterday. If she were my friend I'd send her a congratulations card, but I would wonder (as I always do) if I shouldn't send a sympathy card instead. Being a new parent -- as I have been, twice -- is exhilarating, but it's also traumatizing. Because Portman is a celebrity, she will have access to all sorts of help that most of us can only dream of, but that doesn't mean she will be spared the hormone-induced self-doubt and anxiety that everyone feels right after they give birth.
To ease any pain of brand-new motherhood, I recommend the following books:
1. "Operating Instructions: A journal of my son's first year": I devoured Anne Lamott's 1994 book about her first year as a single mom. My first baby was very difficult, but Lamott's was worse. I took comfort in that, and grinned with deep delight every time she related a fantasy of hurling her screaming infant against a brick wall. (Like Lamott, I would never actually do it, but I sometimes kind of wanted to.)
2. "Bossypants": It takes a while for Tina Fey to get to the mothering stuff in her recent memoir, but when she does, it's so good. Fey, like many modern moms, had trouble breastfeeding and rails against those moms with freezers full of breast milk who make women who can't nurse feel really bad about themselves. At one point she challenges a self-satisfied breastfeeding mom to a contest 13 years in the future to see whose child is smarter. Totally inappropriate and totally awesome. Bonus: It's available as an audiobook, so you can listen to it and feed your baby (by breast or by bottle) at the same time.
3. "Life Among the Savages": This breezy 1953 memoir of raising children in Vermont is by Shirley Jackson, the writer behind "The Lottery" as well as the novel "The Haunting of Hill House." Here she shows a lighter side--as a mother of four at her wits' end. My favorite line in the book comes after she has just described a house overflowing with children, books and toys: "I cannot think of a preferable way of life," she writes, "except one without children…." I hear ya, sister!
4. "The New Basics: A to Z Baby and Childcare for the Modern Parent": As a new parent you need a place to turn (besides the Internet) when you notice a bumpy rash on your baby's arm, or are worried about that coat of white stuff sticking to his tongue (it's not milk, it's thrush). My favorite book in this category is by Dr. Michel Cohen, a TriBeCa pediatrician with a celebrity clientele and an attitude that can best be described as laissez laissez faire. His suggestion for how to get your kid to sleep through the night? Put them down at 7 p.m., shut the door and get them up at 7 a.m. Ignore all the crying in between and have a glass of wine instead.
5. "Happiest Baby on the Block: The new way to way to calm crying and help your newborn sleep longer": I'm not breaking any new ground here, but this book is a bestseller for a reason: It works. (And if you don't have the brainpower to read the book, watch the DVD.)
And the blog: The Longest Shortest Time: The title of this blog is so right on. Having a new baby is the longest shortest time; when you're going through it, it feels like it will last forever, when it's over you realize it went by in a blink. Author and radio producer Hilary Frank created this blog to reassure new moms they are not alone.
Photo: Natalie Portman at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 30. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times