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
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:
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
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
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,
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org