Anne Lamott was thirty-five, single, and newly sober when she gingerly entered the world of motherhood. Already a seasoned novelist born in 1954 in San Francisco, this transformative period of her life became the foundation for her first foray into non-fiction, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. Far from offering a rosy, picture-perfect portrayal, the book delivers a raw, unfiltered account of the early days of motherhood. Rendered in Lamott’s characteristic blend of brutal honesty and wit, the diary pulls no punches, capturing just as many lows as highs in the emotionally charged journey of caring for a new life.
The Diary Entry
Have I mentioned how much I hate expressing milk? I do it nearly every day so there will be bottles of milk on hand for whoever comes by to take care of Sam, but I hate the fucking breast pump. It’s the ultimate bovine humiliation, and it hurts, the suction is so strong. You feel plugged into a medieval milking machine that turns your poor little gumdrop nipples into purple slugs with the texture of rhinoceros hide. You sit there furtively pumping away, producing nebbishy little sprays on the side of the pump bottle until finally you’ve got half a cup of milk and nipples six inches long. It’s so incredibly unsexy and secretive, definitely not something you could ever mention on “Wheel of Fortune,” nothing you’d ever find in a Cosmo piece about ten ways to turn on your lover-crotchless underpants and a breast pump. I sit there in the kitchen miserably pumping away, feeling like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, pumping out a bottle of milk for the little infant Antichrist. Yesterday the refrigerator wasn’t working, so after I produced a small bottle of breast milk, I had to store it in a wide-mouth thermos filled with ice, like it was a severed finger that I was about to rush to the hospital to have sewn back on. It was too ridiculous for words.
Anne Lamott’s journal was published by Pantheon Books in 1993, four years after the birth of her son. Titled, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, it’s a very funny, sometimes uncomfortable, and occasionally exhausting record of one of life’s most intense chapters. Highly recommended. Years later, Lamott’s son became a father, leading to another book titled, Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son.