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Labor Day: Birth Stories for the Twenty-first Century: Thirty Artful, Unvarnished, Hilarious, Harrowing, Totally True Tales
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Labor Day: Birth Stories for the Twenty-first Century: Thirty Artful, Unvarnished, Hilarious, Harrowing, Totally True Tales

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  122 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Thirty acclaimed writers share their personal birth stories—the extraordinary, the ordinary, the terrifying, the sublime, the profane

It’s an elemental, almost animalistic urge—the expectant mother’s hunger for birth narratives. Bookstores are filled with month-by-month pregnancy manuals, but the shelves are virtually empty of artful, entertaining, unvarnished accounts of l
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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For context, I should note that my response to this collection probably has a lot to do with the fact that I read two-thirds of it while repeatedly slamming my head into the emotional brick wall that is a stubborn breech baby. So in one respect, this collection was helpful because pretty much any group of birth stories, in the aggregate, will be all about how this shit doesn't go to plan. It just doesn't. It is peripherally comforting to remember that, as one's plans crumble around one's ears.

I have an essay in this anthology, but I am rating this based on the work by my fellow contributors, women like Cheryl Strayed, Joanna Smith Rakoff, Dani Shapiro, and many, many, more. This anthology offers so many diverse birth stories, and each took my breath away: they're honest, they're harrowing, they're moving, they're funny, they're true. It's a great, necessary book!
Destinee Sutton
So I'm six months pregnant and getting tired of reading blah prose about pregnancy and birth. I was really excited to find a book of essays about childbirth by great writers. Finally! A pregnancy book the English major in me can sink her teeth into (really the English major in me should say, "into which she can sink her teeth").

Now, I liked this book for the quality of the writing, but I'm going to say that I sort of regret reading it. If you're a pregnant lady trying to prepare for an unmedica
Ellen Keim
This is a collection of well-written essays by women writers about their experiences with pregnancy, labor and birth. If you've had this experience yourself you will find this book fascinating, but I would definitely not recommend it for someone who has yet to go through it, especially if she is pregnant. Not all of these birth stories are harrowing, but almost all of them make labor and delivery sound extremely difficult and often fraught with unseen dangers.

A lot of these stories are by women
WHITE LADY BABY FEELINGS TIME. Still worth reading if you're pregnant or have been pregnant, but don't buy it. I got RULL tired of the incessant "the only good birth is the home/unmedicated/'natural' birth and any other birth is only worthy of lesser assholes who feed their children food with high fructose corn syrup" crap, and thus got to revel in schadenfreude when they had to face the reality that all the holier-than-thou in the world won't solve medical issues during labor and birth.
Literary Mama
Feb 20, 2015 Literary Mama added it
Shelves: essays
Pregnancy and childbirth provide a glimpse of ourselves at our most elemental. There is no room for inauthenticity or the masks of politeness that we wear daily. There is only the experience—a ride that grips, lifts us into a mighty paw, and takes us to a destination guaranteed to be unknown. Control is never more glaringly absent than in these life-rending moments when things are given and others are taken away. Labor Day, a collection of birth narratives from 30 women writers, captures the raw ...more
This was a lovely read. Just lovely. I can't help it...once I had children, I became addicted to birth stories. There really is something magical about that moment when you move from non-mother to mother.

I loved this collection of stories because the stories were so personal and so full of varied emotions. Each had its own context and aftermath, and reading each was like being invited into someone's personal and sacred space. I laughed, and, yes, I cried at times.

I gave it four stars vs. five (
It's really interesting to read birth stories. I love how a birth story is almost always so much more than just the birth of a child: it's the story of the couple's relationship at the time, it's the story of their fertility journey, it's the story of their parents. People who have more than one child usually end up having their birth stories blend together. This book contains well written, intriguing stories. That part is really wonderful and we need lots of those.
What bothered me about some of
Hayley DeRoche
This book is part wonderful and part trigger-warning-y. Like most collections of stories from various authors, there were stories that were hits and misses to me. Some shone, others I scratched my head over, wondering why they had bothered to contribute at all if *that* was what they were going to turn in. Some stories were inspiring, others had outcomes nobody who's pregnant wants to think about, particularly when they turn up unexpectedly on the page. As a collection, I give it a high rating, ...more
Good for pregnant women who are not easily alarmed. Really nice to read birth stories penned by good, thoughtful writers.
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally published at

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 i
I have to agree with an earlier reviewer who wrote that this book had a "sameness" for him, and that "this collection has put its finger on the concerns and experiences of well-educated, well-informed, married, intentionally pregnant women writers of New York Times notable books who seek out midwifery care and who have caesarians at a noticeably lower rate than the norm, which is to be expected as an artifact of economic/access privilege." In some ways, this book has a range of birth stories: si ...more
I think this book came at the perfect time in my life: after having one child and considering having another next year or the year after. Every essay is beautifully written and poignant, and each one gave me a lot to think about. I also reflected on my son's birth and thought about what might happen during a future birth. Life is so precarious and precious, and this collection is an illustration of the many ways we fall down and get back up when we produce that life.
I liked most of the stories in this book, but I would have appreciated more of the "I would like as many drugs as possible, please." variety. Most of the births here were, or were intended to be non medicated, and the authors were pretty judgy about epidurals and c sections. Like the use of them was a failure. That part I didn't like, but many of the stories were quite touching.
Celeste Fairchild
I was drawn into this after encountering some of the included essays on Slate (and I think Salon?) -- notably Cheryl Strayed, Lauren Groff, and Marie Lee. The rest of the collection didn't disappoint, and it seems like every possible variety of birth story (or western birth story, at least) is represented here. Moreover, it's plain gorgeous writing.
Stacey Lorimer
This book was amazing and wonderful. The voice of each author carries along joys and fears and expectations that I share as I think about my future pregnancy(ies). I'm reading this as my husband and I make the plans to start our family and it is wonderful to read so many mothers' experiences and honest emotions. Loved every word of it.
I love birth stories. I comb the internet for them. Unfortunately, many of them are just not well written. Guess what? Writers write good birth stories? Who could have guessed?

Andrea Rizzo
Perhaps one of the best books I've read during my pregnancy. Filled with true stories of birth--some heartbreaking--but mostly evidence that no two births are alike.
Jessica Smock
Terrific anthology! So many of my favorite authors. This is a much-needed examination of birth by female writers.
Vicki Curtis
May 01, 2014 Vicki Curtis marked it as to-read
Per Shelf Awareness newsletter
Just lovely. I adore this collection of stories. Highly recommend to every mother or mom-to-be!
Some good birth stories, but really just started running together after awhile. Has a good range of stories though, from natural births to inductions to c-sections. If you want to go into birth with eyes completely wide open, it's a good read; otherwise some of the stories might feel frustrating to a pregnant woman (many of the women want natural births, and end up with multiple interventions).
Oh, a book written exactly for me? Well, I cannot resist but to give you 5 stars then, book.

Fans of birth stories will obviously gobble this up. Even more so if you are a fan of literary memoir. More than one contributor seems to have named a child after Willa Cather, if that gives you a sense of what kind of moms and what kind of stories we are dealing with here.

This was a great book to read while pregnant. It gave me some great insight into the many many ways babies come into the world and it rarely goes according to plan.
Review to come.
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