When the Columbia High School alumna, Lisa Catherine Harper, graduated and went on to study in the creative writing program at Princeton, get a masters in Creative Writing and then a Ph.D in English from University of California, Davis, she hadn’t envisioned writing a memoir. But once she discovered she was pregnant, Harper embarked on the project “almost immediately.”
In her new award-winning book, A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood, Harper tells both the personal and the universal story of motherhood. Using her own experience along with medical research, Harper examines the biology of pregnancy to illuminate the monumental transformation all women go through.
“It’s about the process of becoming a mother and how everything changes so profoundly,” said Harper, who will be discussing her book at Words Bookstore this Thursday.
“You’re hungry for information when you’re pregnant,” Harper said. So she read nearly everything on the pregnancy shelf at the bookstore. What Haper discovered, however, was none of the books “captured the totality” of process, a process she called, “fantastically complicated.”
Harper’s discovery prompted her to write a book that encompassed all the changes women undergo during pregnancy. She wanted to understand the physical along with the emotional and psychological. She turned to medical journals to examine exactly what happens to the female body during pregnancy. “The more I started reading and learning, the more I realized the physical was really a metaphor for the mental.”
Harper’s pregnancy certainly impacted her in dramatic and unforeseen ways. “Becoming a mother fundamentally changed my point of view about the world,” she said, acknowledging a greater sense of responsibility and much more contemplation about the larger world.
Even Harper’s politics changed. “I felt home life and domestic life should be valued, and I never thought I would feel that way.” She now believes feminist ideology got this part of the women’s movement wrong, noting the rhetoric emphasized the power of the marketplace rather than valuing the family and the importance of the work involved in maintaining it. She added, “We tend to think of mother issues and child issue and family issues as separate from human issues.”
On a more personal level, Harper marveled at the difference a child made in her life. “Having one child made everything in my life better – my work, my relationship to my husband. Making the commitment to be parents together made us much, much closer. It strengthened our marriage.”
Motherhood changed her life in other less dramatic ways, too, as with her perception of time. “When we brought the baby home, I felt like I was living in a different world – that I had been gone for years. I felt like my life before the baby was in distant past.”
Aside from everything Harper learned writing the book, she said her biggest discovery was finding that motherhood engaged her. “I was interested in the act of mothering. I enjoyed it so much. I don’t think I ever realize how much it would enrich my life. I found it intellectually interesting. Interesting to teach her and to watch her learn.”
Hear more about the book, which Harper noted is for anyone who is a parent, might want to be a parent, is about to become a parent, or just wants to understand the complex process this Thursday at Words.
Discovering Motherhood Book Discussion
What: Book reading and signing.
Where: Words, 179 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood, NJ 07040.
When: Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 pm.
Cost: Free event.