Brett Paesel's Angsty Memoir

Wednesday, January 2, 2013






Mommies Who Drink is Brett Paesel's 2006 memoir.  She's a TV writer who has written for shows on HBO, Comedy Central, Oxygen, etc..  As an actress, she has had insignificant roles in significant television programs like Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Gilmore Girls.  She also writes for the New York Times...sometimes.  But these things aren't what initially drew me to her book, it was this awesome book jacket.  I bought Mommies Who Drink while I was pregnant; and I’m willing to admit here that I treated my pregnancy as an independent research project.  Perhaps I was inspired by that shiny, supple, slender woman with the lampshade head.

I had been feeling bombarded with people and literature (including, but not limited to, articles from The Bump) conveying to me variations of the following:  my new name will be ‘Poppy’s Mom’; I will no longer be interested in going to graduate school; I will never again have time to read the NY Times....ever. 

For me, this thing was unrealistic.  The alleged impending transformation was the unrealistic part.

This woman, Brett, offered a welcome contrast.  She doesn’t take things too seriously.  That isn’t to say that she shirks her motherly duties, quite the contrary.  She’s concerned about getting her child into good schools, and she’s a committed TV nazi (no non-educational programming for this lady’s offspring) but she doesn’t let the fact that she’s a mother take over her identity. 

The first half of the book talks a lot about people in groups:

‘Yes, I think, it’s something about groups. Something that dulls the active mind and subdues the eager heart.’  

This aversion doesn't stop Brett from attempting the occasional playdate in the chapter entitled ‘Mommy Groups and Me’.  Her playdate participation is in vain hope that the new mothers in attendance are in search of the same thing she is: adult conversation, a safe place for the baby to roam, and booze.

After a few attempts she ultimately describes her mommy peers as ‘sinking to their most boring common denominator’ in the playdate setting.  
I wouldn't know because I have yet to do the playdate thing with Poppy; and I imagine that playdates in California are different than playdates in Dallas.  But perhaps some relevance shines through.  To be determined-

The following summary of Brett’s chapter entitled ‘Parental Guru to the Stars’ illustrates one of the many reasons why I dislike California:

Brett is at a prenatal yoga class given by Cindy Crawford’s personal yoga guru.  The guru requests that the forty or so women share with the group their names, their doctor’s names, and where they are planning to give birth.  Whenever one of the women announces that she’s having a home birth (like Cindy did), the rest of the group turns to her en masse to convey hazy looks of endorsement while the guru mutters ‘Home Birth’ approvingly.  One of these pregnant women offers up her previous birthing plan gone right as motivation for her quasi-yogi peers: 'My last home birth, during which I was in labor for thirty-two hours, I managed the pain by chanting and making a gorgeous daisy chain that now encircles my garden.'



I have friends who are into this at-home drug-free birthing bit and I must say that I have yet to understand the appeal.  It's like they want the Girl Scout badge for ‘Most Painful Birth’.  I might understand this practice if the badge gave your child some extra IQ points, or if it gave you some sort of edge in parenting prowess.

I’ll leave you with this funny scene where Brett and her OBGYN are discussing the method of delivery for her second child (who's in the oven).  Having already had one C-section, Brett's doctor has just finished explaining some of the risks associated with trying for a vaginal delivery (VBAC):

Brett:  ‘That’s okay, I’ll take the C-section, I think.’

OBGYN:  ‘You’ll probably want to go over your options with Pat.’

Brett thinks to herself:  C-section is fine.

The OBGYN continues:  “If you decided on the C-section . . .’

Brett thinks to herself:  C-section, yes, that’s the one I want.

OBGYN:  ‘. . . we’d schedule it a week earlier than your due date.’

Brett:  “A week earlier...”

OBGYN:  “Yes.”

Brett:  “I’ll take the C-section.”

OBGYN:  ‘But, a lot of women really want to go for a vaginal birth. It’s important to them.  Me, I’m not really into vaginal heroics.’


Personally, I recommend the audiobook.  It’s read by the author whose voice reminds me of a comically apathetic cartoon character-

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