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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Everyone tells you that motherhood is supposed to be exciting and filled with love. A mother is supposed to have an instant connection with her baby; there should be nothing but warmth, love, and gentleness. The baby is meant to adore the mother, to need her completely, and to be happiest when she is near. What happens, though, when none of this is true? Is there something wrong with the mother, or with the baby? Could it just be bad circumstances? Why doesn’t anyone believe that there is something wrong? I recently read The Push by Ashley Audrain, a novel that dealt with a disconnect — a hatred — between a mother and child, and what happens when a mother’s concerns are dismissed.

“These are thoughts I never let leave my lips. These are thoughts most mothers don’t have.”

-Ashley Audrain, The Push

Blythe Connor had a difficult childhood. Her mother and her grandmother had difficult relationships with motherhood and with their daughters. Blythe felt unfit for motherhood but agreed to have a child with her husband, Fox, who she was utterly in love with. Their daughter, Violet, is born, and Blythe struggles to connect with her. Violet seems to hate Blythe. Nothing Blythe does can soothe her cries. Blythe is exhausted, depressed, and convinced that there is something wrong with Violet.

Violet is a complete daddy’s girl. She is instantly soothed when Fox comes home from work. Fox says it’s all in Blythe’s head. He dismisses her concerns. To Fox, Violet is the perfect daughter.

Eventually, Blythe and Fox have another baby: a son named Sam. Blythe is obsessed with him. She feels the connection she lacked with Violet. Sam loves her. Blythe’s maternal instincts are in high gear. Violet, though still cold to Blythe, seems to like him. Their life as a family seems to be improving, and Blythe begins to relax, until it all comes crashing down in an instant.

The Push is a psychological drama written in the form of letters from Blythe to Fox. Blythe is determined for Fox to know her side of the story. Most of the story was written in a combination of first and second-person points of view. Blythe was writing the letters directly to Fox. She would refer to him as “you” rather than his name. I enjoyed this; it made the story more immersive and made Blythe’s tone appear more accusatory at some points in the novel. There are some interruptions to this POV in which we hear stories about Blythe’s childhood experiences with her mother, Cecilia, and Cecilia’s experiences with her mother, Etta, which provide a good context for Blythe’s fear of motherhood.

The Push, Audrain’s debut novel, could be a tough read at times because of the heavy, emotional content, but it was a shorter read at 320 pages. It had short chapters that jumped between time periods, events, and characters.

The story had many echoes of Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, a previous novel I’ve read which dealt with a mother who was hesitant about having children, writing letters to her estranged husband about their son, Kevin, who is in prison for murdering nine people in his high school. Both novels are stories of mother’s concerns being dismissed, and then being blamed for their child’s consequent actions.

Reading this book reignited many of my deepest fears about motherhood. Motherhood isn’t easy. Society tells you exactly how motherhood is supposed to go. First of all, you’re supposed to want to start a family and be a mother (What else are you living for if not to reproduce?). When you do have a child, you’re supposed to love them from the start, no questions; you’re supposed to have maternal instincts; you’re supposed to think your baby is perfect; your baby is supposed to change your life for the better. Mothers who feel otherwise are often shamed and made to feel like something is wrong with them. There is so much stigma about pregnancy, motherhood, and postpartum. I enjoyed reading a book with a character who shared my fears and showed that motherhood is not all sunflowers and roses. It is hard, it is life-changing (not always in a good way), and most of all: it is not meant for everyone.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Mikayla Bunnell is a freshman at the University of Connecticut. She is double majoring in Journalism and Political Science, and hopes to pursue a career as a political journalist after graduation. In her free time, Mikayla enjoys weightlifting, listening to music, thrifting, and making Dunkin' Donuts trips. She is also an avid reader- she'll love to talk about books with you!