Books with Birth Scenes
When I was pregnant, I was hungry for birth stories. Naturally, I notice them in fiction and poetry now. I log them here to keep a running account of birth in books. If you come across any books with birth scenes that aren’t mentioned, please let me know & I’ll update the list.
I also log books with women nursing, so peep my books with breastfeeding list if you’re needing some inspiration (er, distraction?) while you’re up late with a sweet/demanding baby at your breast.
Books with birth scenes, alphabetical by author:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | Janine gives birth & all the Handmaids attend.
She’s grunting now, with the effort. “Push, push, push,” we whisper. “Relax. Pant. Push, push, push.” We’re with her, we’re the same as her, we’re drunk. Aunt Elizabeth kneels, with an outspread towel to catch the baby, here’s the crowning, the glory, the head, purple and smeared with yoghurt, another push and it slithers out, slick with fluid and blood, into our waiting. Oh praise.”
Birth & What Came After by Jessica Bates | My book of birth and motherhood poetry has a lot of birth references. Here’s one from What the Body Remembers:
At 10 am I travelled into my body and found my sack of water and told it, break!, and it listened. I was a glistening goddess, naked and pacing. My mother brushed and braided my hair. I breathed forever, just breathed. In out. In out. It will not, cannot, last forever.
We were all suspended in a white cloud that knew no minute hand. There was just me, a heavy body that cracked ever so slowly open. And then I split in two and he was born, blue and quiet. I felt raw and inside out. I felt the power of my body, and I felt no pain.
Tracks by Louise Erdrich | Nanapush narrates the chapter where Fleur labors and eventually gives birth. Eli, the father, runs off into the woods, overcome with emotion. He later returns.
The Fireman by Joe Hill | (SPOILER!!) Nurse Harper’s world gets hit by a plague casually called Dragonscale, the shit all hits the fan, and finally she gives birth to her baby. Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, whose wife had home births. I learned that in the introduction of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison | Near the beginning of the book, we hear the story of Pilate’s birth. Her mother died in childbirth, and Pilate survived.
After their mother died, she had come struggling out of the womb without help from throbbing muscles or the pressure of swift womb water….he was there and had seen the eyes of the midwife as his mother’s legs collapsed. And heard as well her shouts when the baby, who they had believed was dead also, inched its way headfirst out of a still, silent, indifferent cave of flesh, dragging her own cord and her own afterbirth behind her.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See | Two sisters are in a holding center in the United States as they await official immigration status. One sister gives birth in the shower.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward | Ward writes beautifully and truthfully about a pit bull named China giving birth to her pups at the opening of this book. She reflects on the death of her mother, who died in childbirth with her brother.