Waiting to Unfold offers an unflinching and honest look at the challenges and blessings of early parenthood. Poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat wrote one poem during each week of her son’s first year of life, chronicling the wonder and the delight along with the pain of learning to nurse, the exhaustion of sleep deprivation, and the dark descent into — and eventual ascent out of — postpartum depression.
While some of these are poems of wonder, others were written in the trenches. These poems resist and refute the notion that anyone who doesn’t savor every instant of exalted motherhood deserves stigma and shame. And they uncover the sweetness folded in with the bitter. By turns serious and funny, aching and transcendent, these poems take an unflinching look at one woman’s experience of becoming a mother.
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The intense observation of the poet and the intense observation of the mother unite in a celebration of what is new and newborn, what is intensely felt and cherished and what is lost and mourned. Rachel Barenblat’s poems are easy to enter into, and they carry both the uniqueness of her persona as poet and serious Jew and the universality of love that has made us all. There’s a subversive wit here too, — a changing table that’s also a throne of glory, or the baby chewing on his mother’s tefillin — that speaks to a newly emerging sensibility about what is reverent and what is holy. It’s in the everyday as our best American poets have taught us, and as Rachel Barenblat teaches us in a new way too. — Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus and the lowercase jew
These rich poems will carry you into the great timeless miracle and mystery of unfolding littleness, nonstop maternal alertness, beauty and exhaustion and amazing, exquisite tenderness, oh yes. — Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Fuel and The Words Under the Words
In these remarkable poems Rachel Barenblat traverses the world of first-time parenthood with insight, generosity, rare courage. She shares first innocent awe, then unexpected darkness as a winter of the soul claims squatter’s rights in the nursery, and finally, aching, yearning, growing toward hope, a relearning of holy presence in small things. We ascend and plummet on the rollercoaster with her, terror in the pit of the stomach, knuckles white, and then — unparalleled joy. “Daily I expand how much I can love/ your toes, your cough, your raised eyebrow… Each day your glee polishes my rough edges/ and I shine///” New parents will be astonished that someone has found words for their deepest secrets, parents long past these early months will gratefully nod — yes, I remember, this is true. — Merle Feld, author of A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition and Finding Words