When a one night stand with an ex leaves Rachel pregnant, she decides to go ahead and have the baby by herself. She is a strong, independent woman, she will be a great mother. But as the sleepless hours tick by, she starts to resent baby Joe. Why won’t he just go to sleep?
Go To Sleep is an incredibly honest look at the stress a baby can put a woman under. Determined to cope by herself, Rachel shuts everyone else out but soon she finds how difficult things are when she has to do every little thing with a small, crying person in tow. Without support, she gets less and less sleep and the stress starts to get to her. She’s not bonding with Joe and she wishes there were something wrong with him that can be fixed. As she starts to unravel, the tension mounts and it’s a real page-turner despite the fact that not a lot really happens.
Joe is not hungry, not interested in my breast. He just wants me. That’s what this boils down to. On some basic level he’s worked out that my role is to nurture, his is to take. He doesn’t need me for anything right now, he’s taking because he can. I leave him on the bed, watch him a while. Thrashing. Outraged. Sobbing so hard his larynx starts to vibrate. I catch sight of myself in the bedroom mirror and cave. I’m scared. I’m really scared. Cope, Rachel, just fucking cope.
Rachel works as a social worker in Liverpool and I really liked this side of the story too. We only see a little bit of her working life before the birth but it is something she just can’t let go of. Her kids need her and whilst she is not in a position to be rescuing them, I admire her for it. I guess it’s easier for her to help them than help herself. It also highlights some of the racial tensions of the area. Joe is mixed race and Rachel suspects her father of being racist, of disapproving of her ex and shutting him out.
If I was under any doubt as to not having children, this book would be a great reminder why they are not all sunshine and roses. Women who think a baby will “fix things” should certainly read it! I’m not a huge fan of books focusing on new mothers, as they tend to be a bit sentimental or imply motherhood is the sole purpose in life for the characters, but this couldn’t be further from that. I did find the chapters covering her labour a bit much although I am sure they are more realistic than any other novel. Yes, chapters, and it’s hard for her. I read in disbelief as the hospital turned her away again and again, but I imagine busy, city-centre hospitals have to work that way. Perhaps mothers will appreciate the reality check. It’s not a bit of deep breathing and out they pop!
Go To Sleep is published by Canongate and is now available in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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