In 2015, Angela Garbes was a new mom and the full-time food writer at The Stranger. As she writes in her forthcoming book, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy (May 29, $24.99, HarperCollins), “There wasn’t one minute when I wasn’t thinking about, writing about, eating, or producing food.” It was that notion that inspired her in-depth article about breast milk, which became the alternative newspaper’s most viral story: To date, it has had more than 2 million page views.
Reaction to that article, “The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am,” solidified something Garbes already suspected: that new moms were craving the same kind of unbiased, scientific information about nursing and motherhood that she was. A book agent, also a nursing mother, came calling, and a year later—after quitting her job to focus on the deep dive required to research such a complex subject—Garbes turned in a probing manuscript. Her book goes beyond breast milk into the science and culture of what women experience during pregnancy and as new moms, without any of the usual prescriptive overtones.
If you’ve ever wondered how and why a woman’s body and mind shifts—the good, the bad, the ugly—before, during and after childbirth, it’s a fascinating read. “Pregnancy is scientifically fascinating,” she says. “You’re growing a person inside your body. But that’s not what we talk about: It’s don’t do this, it’s bad to do that. We’re overdue for just giving women information—straight.”
Most importantly, the book brings the voices of often underrepresented women into the conversation—women of color, nonbinary people, single mothers, mothers who’ve suffered miscarriages or battled severe anxiety or depression. As a Filipina woman, Garbes says it was important to her to make sure her research was balanced, and ultimately, to arm women with the information they need to make their own decisions regarding their babies and their bodies. “There is no right or wrong way to be pregnant, to become a mother, to make a family,” she writes. “There is only one way—your way, which will inevitably be filled with tears, mistakes, doubt, but also joy, relief, triumph, and love.”
Little Known Fact
Angela Garbes’ favorite chapter to research and write was the one about the placenta. “It grows most similar to how cancer grows—and nobody talks about it!”
Staying on Course
Garbes very nearly gave up her writing career (“You keep getting asked to do more and get paid less”) to pursue a master’s in public health and nutrition, but deferred admission to grad school when she found out she was pregnant.
In a Family Way
Her daughter, Noli, is now 3. Garbes and her husband welcomed a second daughter, Ligaya, in early March.