Pregnancy Tales – Journeys into Parenthood

I just finished quite a fun read, Pregnancy Tales – Journeys into Parenthood, edited by Amy Tilston. I zoomed through it, in fact, as it’s a light and often entertaining read. The book claims to gather together stories of parents telling their stories as they really are. From conception to birth, young mothers to mothers with many years between their children, unplanned pregnancies to long struggles to conceive, a wide range of experiences are told. The book is at times humorous and often heartfelt. I imagine it would make a good gift for a pregnant friend, especially if it’s her first pregnancy.

The stories are told through a cacophony of voices. At times, it’s a bit Mumsnet and, at others, it’s kind of The Vagina Monologues. I admit, I found the use of acronyms a bit distracting though I understood that they’d been retained for authenticity and there were a few typos here and there. Overall, though, I felt like I was in a room with those women, listening to their stories. There was something quite enjoyable about that. I would have liked for the book to have included more of the longer stories, where we got to stay with a woman for an extended part of her journey. I was drawn into Kathy’s story of falling pregnant at university and finishing her degree regardless, and found that I would have liked to have stayed even longer with her.

I must admit, too, the birth stories chapter left me a bit sad in the way that watching One Born Every Minute does. There were hardly any stories which weren’t highly medicalised or which featured the calm, gentle births I believe women can have. I understand that all the mothers were just speaking from their experience and telling it like it is but as someone who is preparing to do it again and doesn’t believe it has to be that way, I’m not sure I want to read this right now. It’s great to hear that women can get through just about anything but it would also be great to hear more stories where they didn’t have to.

Pregnancy Tales ends with some final thoughts from a second time mother, which for me, provided the greatest gem in the book since I’ll be doing the newborn thing while doing the toddler thing. Rachel writes: “First: being a mum is a noble task. But that task is made up of hundreds of menial tasks. The challenge is not to mistake menial as meaningless.”

On the whole, I think the book encourages women to talk about life-changing experiences that others may not consider so important and that’s pretty valuable in itself. Pregnancy and birth connect us to other pregnant and birthing women as a universal experience. And we are not alone. We never have been.

Over to you – how much would you have liked to have heard (or would you like to hear) about pregnancy and birth beforehand?

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  • stories are great but so often we get the high drama/emotional rollercoaster rides and I would love for stories that are representative of expereinces across the spectrum of pregnancy and childbirth. And for there to be room for the postive stories to be included. I remember after our first postive homebirth someone coming up to me at church and telling me to not talk about it as I would soon lose friends as that is not how it normally goes. I was thankful that both my midwife and NCT instructor invited me to share my story with others as a positive story to encourage others as they too felt that all to often the high drama stories are all that we know and validated our expeirence. Being told not to tell my story made me feel as though I had not truly expereinced birth as I should have. Labour was hard work and not without pain and effort but yes it fast and at home, neither should minimise what a woman goes through and sometimes fast can actually be traumatic for both mum and baby as we discovered with our third home birth but thankfully due to the skill of our midwives this time we have a wonderfully healthy little 7 week old girl.

    • I’ve heard others talk about being told not to share their positive stories too. What an odd thing! Certainly stories like yours need to be shared. I can’t believe your little girl is 7 weeks already!!

  • I loved the book. I’d recommend it to anyone. There are lots of stories available and lots of reading material but I believe this is really accessible and easy to read in short snippets

  • Sounds like an interesting read. I too would like a mix of birth stories. I get equally frustrated by books which only tell me beautiful birth stories since that feels misleading to me. It would be good to hear about both sides of the coin.
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    • That’s a good point, Ella. I really enjoyed reading Spiritual Midwifery recently because although there are a lot of physiologically normal labours and births in there, there are also episiotomies, assisted births, etc. But, I’ve got to say, all of them are beautiful nonetheless.

  • I was obsessed with reading about pregnancy and birth when I was pregnant with Frog. If we ever have another baby I don’t know if I’ll be as obsessed, partly because I’ve experienced it before and now know that I don’t have control over Every. Single. Aspect of it. And partly because now I have one child to look after alongside work deadlines and the regular stuff of keeping house I don’t think I’d have time!

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