Double Time is Jane Roper’s personal, hilarious, and thoughtful account of the first three years of life as a mother of twins. She starts at the beginning, with her more challenging than anticipated effort to get pregnant, makes us laugh out loud in the ultrasound room with her when she and her husband discover there are two heartbeats in her uterus, and leads us by the hand through their first sleepless months as parents and beyond. From the start of the story, Jane’s voice is warm and engrossing; she is funny and smart, unflinchingly honest when things that are difficult, and able to convey the incredible wonder and mystery that is laced through life with small children.
The first year of Jane’s daughters’ lives is exhausting and overwhelming, and contains some ups and downs – I was particularly moved by the way she described her anxiety about feeling closer to one daughter one day, the other the next, and worrying that she didn’t love them ‘the same’ – but it is largely a golden, blissful time. Jane juggles the many components of her life – her daughters, her marriage, her job, the novel she’s close to finishing – with aplomb and feels competent and calm.
As we move past Elsa and Clio’s first birthday, however, Jane begins to experience the first of several bouts of severe depression. Her grappling with these episodes, and with questions about why they are happening now, so often, and so deeply, forms the emotional heart of the book. I, too, suffered from depression after becoming a mother, but mine was the more traditional postpartum version. I am certain that Jane’s frank and brave account will be a light for other mothers who face depression after the conventional PPD period. It is a testament to Jane’s strength as a person – and to her skill as a writer – that she is able to so harrowingly describe her multiple descents into clinical depression without ever losing sight of the bright glow that her daughters are.
Both determined and frustrated, with a growing sense of sadness that she is missing out on critical moments of her daughters’ lives, Jane seeks new doctors, new answers, new treatments. She frets about her girls seeing her so sad, but comes, at the end of the book, to the same conclusion I, as a reader, drew:
I also like to think that, by doing my damnedest to get over my depression and going after the life I want, risks and all, I’ve set a pretty decent example for my children.
Double Time made me smile and it made my eyes fill with tears. On many, many pages. Jane’s story is reassuring, an inspiration to never give up in our effort to fully inhabit our lives and a reminder to keep our eyes on the big picture, even during years that overflow with tiny distractions and exhausting details. I highly recommend this story and think most moms will find much of it chest-tighteningly familiar. Jane’s penultimate paragraph distills Double Time beautifully:
But I also realize now – as I think all mothers, twin or otherwise, come to realize – that the feeling that there’s more noise, more frustration, more work, more chaos, more stress, and more everything than i can gracefully and seamlessly handle is an inherent part of motherhood. There will always be times when I am strained by the burden, and when the constant effort of it feels like too much. But there will also always be moments of joy that make it worth the trouble.
Local Boston people! Jane is reading from Double Time at Brookline Booksmith at 7pm tonight, May 8th (I am hoping to be there!) and at Newtonville Books at 7pm on May 17th. Don’t miss her; she is charming and hilarious in person, and I know her reading will be terrific.
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