A new memoir brings humour to the everyday pain of pregnancy and motherhood
I meet Marianne Levy in a laidback café near her north London home, doorways wide enough to accommodate the bulkiest of buggies, highchairs stacked in a corner, our conversation punctuated by the odd high-pitched shriek or crying jag (not ours). It’s the kind of place, Levy says, mothers on maternity leave tend to meet, “Where normal people don’t want to sit, because it’s got a screaming baby.” This place is a regular haunt for her and her children: an eight-year-old daughter and a son, nearly four. “It’s big and wide and the staff don’t actively hate children, they’re kind to them.”
There’s something a bit pointed about meeting in such a mother-and-child-friendly space to talk about Levy’s memoir, Don’t Forget To Scream, when the book is a heartfelt attempt to break the discourse about motherhood out of this silo, and bring it to a wider and more diverse audience. It’s an unvarnished look at the grimy, lonely, frightening, alienating side of pregnancy and motherhood, spanning birth phobia and physical trauma, the erosion of Levy’s sense of self and self-worth in the early months and years, and the structural, social, economic bind in which so many mothers find themselves. Twenty years since my eldest child was born, it stirred up emotions I had buried, conjuring stultifying, lonely afternoons of quiet pram-pushing despair.