Suggested Reading List
Compiled by Kara L.C. Jones

These two suggested readings come to you simply because I've recently read these two books and because there were excerpts from each that affected/effected me and changes in me. One is the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and the other is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

Yes you could say they are "girl" books, both edging on nothing more than the romance genre. But if you've read (or when you read) these books, you'll find that both authors did quite a bit of research and investigation into the background, lives, environments, and time periods for each book. It's not all fluff when the author has researched the bible or the life of the Highlanders during the 1700's!

So what? Well, you could blow it off, if you wanted. But I couldn't because both books offered a look at childbirth and the death that visits us during childbirth-- even if your labor results in a healthy, live birth, death is still edging the room while you contract and push-- you know it does. So what are these excerpts that have made me babble like this? Read on:

From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
 "Why did you do that?" I asked, curiously.

 "What?" He was momentarily startled; I think he had forgotten I was there.

 "You crossed yourself when the bird flew off; I wondered why."

 He shrugged, mildly embarrassed.

 "Ah, well. It's an old tale, is all. Why plovers cry as they do, and run keening about their nests like that." He motioned to the far side of the tarn, where another plover was doing exactly that. He watched the bird for a few moments, abstracted.

 "Plovers have the souls of young mothers dead in childbirth," he said. He glanced aside at me, shyly. "The story goes that they cry and run about their nests because they canna believe the young are safe hatched; they're mourning always for the lost one--or looking for a child left behind." He squatted by the nest and nudged the oblong egg with his stick, turning it bit by bit until the pointed end faced in, like the others. He stayed squatting, even after the egg had been replaced, balancing the stick across his thighs, staring out over the still waters of the tarn.

 "It's only habit, I suppose," he said. "I did it first when I was much younger, when I first heard that story. I didna really believe they have souls, of course, even then, but ye ken, just as a bit of respect..." He looked up at me and smiled suddenly. "Done it so often now, I'd not even notice. There's quite a few plovers in Scotland, ye ken." He rose and tossed the stick aside. "Let's go on, now; there's a place I want to show you, near the top of the hill yon." He took my elbow to help me out of the declivity, and we set off up the slope.

 I had heard what he said to the plover he released. Though I had only a few words of Gaelic, I had hear the old salutation often enough to be familiar with it. "God go with ye, Mother," he had said.

 A young mother, dead in childbirth. And a child left behind. I touched his arm and he looked down at me.

 "How old where you?" I asked.

 He gave me a half-smile. "Eight," he answered. "Weaned, at least."

 He spoke no more, but led me uphill.

And from The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, the main character Dinah has worked in the midwifery trade for a long time, but she has some reality checks when she finally gives birth herself. The story takes place during biblical times when midwives and goddesses where still melding in explicit ways with biblical stories. Dinah always had a variety of items in her midwifery bag including herbs and two bricks. These bricks were presented on the ground for the mother to place her feet on, to stand on and squat over in the traditional birthing position. This is the excerpt that spoke to my heart and it references the bricks:

"Why had no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test? Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers? But of course, there is no way to tell this or hear it. Until you are the woman on the bricks, you have no idea how death stands in the corner, ready to play his part."

Of course the Outlander book is 850 pages and The Red Tent is 321 pages-- these excerpts are very small parts of each book. These are not books specifically about stillbirth, childbirth, motherhood, grief or healing. But both have touched something familiar in me. Both books spoke to the bereaved mother I am, to the healing path I'm on. And they are both fine pieces of the writing process at its best! This isn't fluffy girl romance. And I think you'll find something in each of them to touch your heart, too.

Reviewer Biography
Kara L.C. Jones is a founder of KotaPress and a grieving mother who lost her first born son on March 11, 1999 at 4:47 p.m. She works toward healing by doing her own writing and offering poetry therapy consults to other bereaved parents. If you wish to contact her, please send email to

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