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Labor Day - Proceed with caution!!

When you're pregnant with your first baby, it's impossible not to wonder how your own labor is going to go.  Different people respond to this wondering in different ways.  Some don't want to hear anything about anyone else's story because they don't want to psych themselves out.  Others yearn to read/hear every story they can possibly get their hands on to prepare themselves for any eventuality.  Both of these are completely valid approaches.  Eventually your baby will come out of you and you will have your own birth story to share/terrify/encourage/regale others with. (It's generally considered polite to only share these stories when asked, btw.  It's also considered polite not to terrify first time mothers - just sayin'.)

In case it hasn't been obvious from spending 30 seconds on this blog, I was definitely in the "tell me all the things" camp when it came to preparing for my own labor.  The problem with this, of course, is that most sources of labor stories are friends (I have a limited number), websites like Baby Center (where most of the stories lack coherence or punctuation), your birth class (which has the agenda of not wanting to scare you).  For this reason I absolutely loved the well written, well curated, beautiful and brutally honest stories in the anthology Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers.  To be honest, none of the writers's names jumped out at me as ones I recognized.  But also to be honest, I cannot say that paid all that much attention to their names - so engrossed was I in their stories.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I read this book in between my 2 pregnancies (perhaps had I read it while pregnant with my first, I may have had a different response).  My first labor was difficult and had some unexpected twists and turns (everyone came out healthy, see the many pictures of my daughter on this very blog).  I cannot say that I entered my second pregnancy relishing to give it another go.  Perhaps for this reason I found reading these stories so cathartic.  Some experiences described here were like my own, some were not.  Some choices were not ones I would make or have had to make.  Some of the stories in the book were quite tragic (the table of contents does tell you which stories to avoid if you are pregnant and want to avoid the tragic ones). However, the great take away I got from reading this book is that birth, no matter the trajectory or outcome, is so deeply and profoundly transformative for all women that it occupies our thoughts even decades after the fact.  In this I found my solace and my community.

If you're reading this review while pregnant with your first (or contemplating this path), proceed with caution to this book.  Know thyself.  Regardless, if you are pregnant, soon you will have your own story to carry with you.

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