A groundbreaking exposé and diagnosis of the silent epidemic of fear afflicting mothers, and a candid, feminist deep dive into the culture, science, history, and psychology of contemporary motherhood.
Fear among new mothers is a growing but largely unrecognized crisis. In the months before and after birth, countless women suffer from overwhelming feelings of fear, grief, or obsession that do not fall neatly within the outmoded category of "postpartum depression." These women are left isolated and captive, fending for themselves with scarce resources for their care and precious little time or support as they attempt to distinguish normal worry from debilitating anxiety. This crippling state of madness, though sometimes temporary, is commonly left untreated, and, perhaps even more dangerously, treated as a taboo in our culture.
Drawing on extensive research, countless interviews, and the raw particulars of her own experience with anxiety, writer and mother Sarah Menkedick gives us a comprehensive examination of the biology, psychology, history, and societal conditions surrounding the crushing and life-limiting fear that is becoming the norm for so many. Woven into the stories of women’s lives, Menkedick examines factors like the changing structure of the maternal brain, the ethically problematic ways risk is construed during pregnancy, and the marginalization of motherhood as an identity, asking how motherhood came to be an experience so dominated by anxiety and how mothers might reclaim it. Writing with profound empathy, visceral honesty, and deep understanding, Menkedick makes clear how critically we need to expand our awareness, compassion, and care for women's lives.
Longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
Praise for Homing Instincts:
"Menkedick is a superb storyteller and her writing is filled with remarkable scientific and literary references. She explores her reinvigorated relationship with the Midwestern landscape, seeing quiet beauty in an environment she once longed to leave behind. She details the normal day-to-day tensions between her and her husband during the pregnancy. She takes comfort in her close family relationships while contemplating her new identity as a pregnant woman and mother-to-be. This is a moving and deeply personal look at one woman’s transformation." —Publishers Weekly
"Menkedick's writing is insightful and evocative, drawing on all the senses, and readers will be impressed by the sense of place in her writing, even while she's laboring to discern the meaning in her experience. Menkedick's driving question is to figure out “whether returning home signifies growing up or giving up or both—and if it’s both, what exactly we want to give up in exchange for what.” The magic of this book is that she makes so personal a question so easily accessible to readers." —Kirkus
"Her meditations on pregnancy shift like the tide as she propels herself outward, recalling past travels, and then draws inward, reflecting on her newfound stillness. As a new mother, Menkedick strives to hold on to her artist lifestyle despite the pressure of today’s parenting conventions, hoping instead to live slowly and in the moment with her young family. 'This is the mystery: moments of calm knowing that contain within them nothing larger than the everyday.- Menkedick’s first book gracefully encourages careful introspection and finding one’s true self and place among the everyday moments." —Booklist
"In the eight essays that comprise this poignant, probing memoir, Menkedick contemplates the mysteries of motherhood and the surprising pleasures of establishing a permanent home—a place where she can write, reflect and prepare for the arrival of her daughter. 'For the first time, I recognize this delving into my own heart, mind, and body as a journey,' she says. This revealing book is a lovely exercise in self-inquiry that will resonate with mothers-to-be."–Bookpage
“An emotionally raw, tender, and hauntingly precise meditation of impending motherhood, Homing Instincts put me under its spell and brought me such joy. This is a book that makes me want to take a walk in the woods with my dog and rediscover solitude. Menkedick wrestles with what it means to be home, and redefines herself while wandering fiercely toward the unfamiliar in this stunning debut collection.” —Jeanne Marie Laskas, best-selling author of Concussion
“A bold and lyric debut, Homing Instincts is a rapturous meditation on motherhood and modern femininity. Poetic in its prose, Menkedick explores the corners of our globe both near and far, offering heart, humor, and grace.” —Amy Butcher, author of Visiting Hours