“To buy or not to buy Bonkers” | Aurelia Kelly

Bonkers… one of the best baby gifts ever and not just for Mums.

Bonkers by Olivia Siegl is one mother’s journey through the well trod path called ‘motherhood’ but penned in a conversation/letter as if she was your sister or best friend telling you ‘the truth’ about the highs and lows of this new found role.  There are no ‘rose tinted’ glasses worn but the reality – the good, the bad and the down right ugly.

“To buy or not to buy Bonkers” was the first question I asked myself as I sat with my finger hovering over the ‘Buy Now’ icon on Amazon last week.  As a Mum who had struggled and fought the cruel illness of PND, 8 years ago should I reawaken my own journey with this crippling illness now that I was ‘recovered’.  Even my sister, made me doubt my decision but once I had explained why I had to read this book she fully comprehended my rationale.

Olivia takes the reader on a journey from the reality of a couple deciding they should ‘try’ for a baby and explains very clearly about the ‘window of opportunity’ that exists for this to happen.  It is not just an eureka moment the first time you try and how the wonder of ‘ovulation sticks’ helped the words ‘three-four weeks pregnant’ appear on the ‘digital test stick’ albeit in French as Olivia and her husband’s baby journey begins in Switzerland where they are both living.

The parallels to my own life with the arrival of a premature Christmas baby even down to an identical birth weight of 5.2, a failed epidural, stopped me in my tracks remembering all too vividly the path I had walked almost 24 years ago.  Even though my journey was further in the past with the birth of my first child too, our feelings of delivering and caring for a ‘preemie’ were identical.

Olivia punctuates the chapters in the book with ‘reality checks’ which are brutally honest including the list of ‘all things I wish I had known before entering the labour room’.  In addition to the realisation that a birth that keeps Mum and Baby healthy is the only type to focus on.

It is so refreshing to see a book focusing on Maternal Mental Health written in a way for Mums like me ‘who have walked the walk’ to say “Yes”, I experienced those feelings too.  To have a book where I underlined words/sentences and hash tagged them in the margin in pen gave me affirmation that I wasn’t alone and like the author “I was so desperate for help” in the early days following my second child’s birth too.

The early warning signs of the ‘Illness’ (Post Natal Depression) are so vital to read for any new Mum to be, really for anyone who loves you unconditionally (your hubby/partner, your own Mum and Dad, your sister, your best friends).

Olivia reminds the reader that we have a birth plan but there should be in reality a post birth plan to recognise quickly when things are not right and it’s ok not to be ok!

Of all the words I underlined these words really hit home – “depleted and desolate with no energy to smile, let alone get dressed and leave the house … I stopped answering phone calls and texts and stopped leaving the house.”   Our paths were mirror images of each other as I started to ‘withdraw’ from the outside world.  A world that doesn’t get ‘a place at the pregnancy party’ or ‘baby shower’ where everything is pink or blue, fluffy and the colours of grey and black don”t permeate.  We then begin to follow Olivia’s road to get help, which is a ‘personal battle’ that CANNOT be fought alone.  Like any other illness you need to be well again and if it takes a ‘pill’ to do so, then just swallow the thing and go forward.  There is no shame in taking an ant-depressant,  As Olivia says “You haven’t done anything to deserve this.  You have done nothing to cause it.  It is NOT your fault’  Your baby/child is the reason you need to be well.

The reader also gets a understanding of ‘Postpartum Psychosis’ which Olivia refers to as her ‘Dark Stranger’ – and what the NHS refers to as a ‘serious mental illness’.Olivia in her true and effervescent style also reminds Mums to take reality checks throughout the book and remind themselves that they are ”Good Mums’ and in reality if your baby is healthy and happy and you are too that’s all that matters.  There is no shame in pulling out a jar/pouch of ‘ready made baby food’ from someone else’s ‘kitchen’ at home or in public to feed your baby.

Olivia (Liv) writes like a big sister,  your best friend holding your hand telling you the truth and nothing but the truth about her early days through motherhood with both her daughters –  warts and all.  The addition of odes/poems within the chapters of Bonkers help the reader relate to the narrative.

There is no one size fits all motherhood mould.   It does bring joys but what Olivia cites very clearly is that “the most important part of our body that we need to be fit is our mind”. Our ‘maternal mental health’ is paramount in motherhood.

I would say this is an essential read for any first time Parents, actually any woman who has journeyed the path of motherhood.  I would also recommend it to health care professionals and students to read first hand ‘the walk taken by a new Mum in the depths of Post Natal Depression and/or Partpartnum Psychosis’.

Thank you my friend for writing this mother of all books telling what every other magazine, book, blog fails to tell you.  Did I regret my decision to ‘Buy Now’ – not in the slightest … an easy to read book with a powerful message that although motherhood is not always a walk in the park there is HELP out there and don’t be too proud to ask for it.  ‘You have a right to enjoy motherhood’ and if you are not ‘enjoying’ it do ask for help, there is HOPE – you are not alone and you can smile again, get dressed, leave the house and enjoy the Bonkers world of motherhood.

Reviewed by –
Aurelia Kelly
Mum of 2, son aged 23 and daughter aged 8.
Retired Lecturer and founder of ME at 8.
Bonkers by Olivia Siegl is available to buy on Amazon HERE