Tuesday, April 15, 2014

book review: Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers

The basics: Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers, edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon, brings together an impressive group of contemporary female writers from a variety of genres to share their experiences giving birth. The essays are as varied as the women who write them.

My thoughts: Admittedly, before I got pregnant (and even early on in my pregnancy), I shied away from birth stories. Rarely do I favor ignorance, but in this case, I was scared of labor and childbirth, yet I knew I would be going through it, and I wasn't ready to deal with it. At some point in my pregnancy, I became eager for birth stories. I'm still frightened, of course, but I find comfort in imagining myself in a variety of different scenarios, both the positive and negative.

I'll be honest: this collection of essays often veers to the negative and sad. There are some heart-breaking stories told in these pages. I shed many, many tears as I read, yet even the most heart-breaking essays, I found a sense of comfort and kinship with the writers. These strong, beautiful voices moved me with their tales of the times before, during and after birth. To combine such intimate details about life, birth, and new motherhood with beautiful language is a true gift.

Favorite passage:  "I suppose we are always alone in our pain, but we are rarely positioned appropriately to view the isolation accurately. Most of the choices with which we are presented in childbirth are secondary to the one most important in practice we must be prepared to labor alone, even in the company of others, even with the brilliantly blinding help of loved ones. Perhaps the debates regarding child birth are so he did because in the end it’s one woman’s experience, not a shared cultural phenomenon. It’s you and your pain; it’s you and it’s your baby.” --Sarah A. Strickley

The verdict: This collection is superb. While some essays are objectively better than others, only one rang hollow for me. While I connected more deeply with some than others, I appreciated and gained something from each one. I'll be giving this book to many, many pregnant friends in the years to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 321 pages
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Source: publisher

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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  1. I am just only now at the point where I can read about birth, and I'm 32 weeks. This collection sounds wonderful, I will look out for it.

  2. I became really interested in birth stories AFTER my own child was born. My favorite novel on the subject is The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna. It's stunning. I will definitely give this collection a try.


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