Feminist Pregnancy Book Needed (Fiction or Essay Anthology Edition)
November 4, 2019 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Friends of AskMe, I find myself with child, after two years of trying and two rounds of IUI fertility treatment. I am having a lot of Thoughts and Feelings, and I yearn for reading about feminist perspectives on the experience of pregnancy, whether it leads to birth or not. Therefore, I find myself in need of a Feminist Pregnancy Book.

What I don't need:
- a book covering basic biology (I teach this subject to children.)
- a book going super in-depth on biology (I don't care, sorry.)
- a book telling me "what to expect" monthly (I have this.)
- anything relating to diet or being "natural" (Not my interest.)
- anything concerning religion whatsoever (I'm atheist with pagan leanings.)
- podcasts (I can't.)
- Internet articles or "think pieces" (Just not what I'm craving.)
- anything smarmy or condescending

What I'm looking for:
- a novel would be ideal (I just finished re-reading the All Souls Triology by Deborah Harkness, and I strongly enjoyed reading about the main character's experiences as a professional woman going through pregnancy. I also enjoyed the fantasy elements, and the historical ones.)
- an anthology of essays about being pregnant would also be great
- a set of short stories about being pregnant would be great
- novels that feature loss of an infant or miscarriage would be fine (really!)
- descriptions of people's Thoughts and Feelings during pregnancy with a feminist perspective

Thanks in advance.
posted by Temeraria to Human Relations (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
The M Word
posted by avocet at 8:27 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


A friend raves, about California by Edan Lepucki. I haven't read it yet because I need a break from post-apocalyptic fiction, but it does center on a newly pregnant woman.
posted by kestralwing at 8:27 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


If you’re open to graphic memoir, Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley was a great read for me.
posted by castlebravo at 8:31 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


+1 to Kid Gloves, it is good. During my last pregnancy I read Of Woman Born which is a classic of the genre by the incomparable Adrienne Rich, and more recently I also enjoyed Like a Mother by Angela Garbes which does have some biology stuff but a lot of other thoughts provoked as well.

Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work is not quite exactly what you're asking for but it is SO, SO what you want to read when you're going crazy with a brand new baby in the house that I feel I really should just point it out to you as something you may want to invest in for the future. I think it might have scared me if I'd read it before I had a kid but reading it, like, with a sleeping baby on your lap? Balm for the thoughtful feminist soul. (Honestly, that reminds me that now that I am no longer pregnant and instead have a baby in the house I should probably read it again.)

Also, you may really enjoy The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson, which is about pregnancy and also a whole lot of other stuff, including gender transition and parental relationships and just generally what it's like to go through Major Life Changes as an adult. I have read it a bunch of times including twice during pregnancy and really can't recommend it highly enough.

Looking forward to seeing what else gets recommended. Great question - I feel this is a sort of underserved market but there's also just a lot of really great work that's flying under the radar because nobody thinks they want to read it unless they're pregnant.
posted by potrzebie at 10:12 PM on November 4 [6 favorites]


I know she tends to be a bit controversial around here, but I enjoyed “Misconceptions” by Naomi Wolf quite a bit.
posted by macrowave at 11:11 PM on November 4 [1 favorite]


Sarah Knott's new book, Mother: An Unconventional History (2019), published in the US as Mother is a Verb: An Unconventional History, has been highly praised. It covers pregnancy as well as childbirth and after. See the review by Helen McCarthy in the LRB.
posted by verstegan at 2:29 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish - I think you would love this.

Also Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother and Tender Hooks (poetry), both by Beth Ann Fennelly, are great.
posted by atlantica at 4:21 AM on November 5


Maybe someone can help with this: in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series I (think I) remember Cordelia having some children after Miles is an adult. The uterine replicators appear in several books but this one has the most detail about the experience of "decanting". Which book is this?
posted by Botanizer at 4:22 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Seconding Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. I was pregnant when I read it, and it helped so much to read something that didn't describe parenting as only a) for cis people and b)happening in a cishet relationship (I am in a cishet relationship and I found the gender essentialism of everything I read to be pretty alienating, all the hippie books are so very small-c conservative in their assumptions.)

Also, when I found out I was pregnant I immediately went to the library and picked up both the "what to expect" book and one written by/for lesbians going through conception and pregnancy. I don't remember the name, sorry, and it was a bit dated in its assumptions too, but I appreciated having something that reflected my experiences a bit more - the very early awareness of pregnancy, for instance, that comes when you're tracking your cycle closely (I am old and was old when we were trying to get pregnant.)

I really enjoyed reading Ina May Gaskin books, which are full of birth stories. Reading birth stories was incredibly helpful for me in understanding the possibilities of pregnancy and birth, since I had never gone through it and didn't have a group of new parents to talk to (again, I was old while doing this.) Historicizing them (and everything else I read) helped me set aside some of the woo stuff that didn't work for me.

Avoid: anything about the Bradley method. Centers the (inevitably male) birth partner so much, wtf.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:48 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


I loved reading the late Sheila Kitzinger 30+ years ago. A lot is out of print but available at the library(maybe inter-library loan).

and Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery is very, very hippie-influenced, but so many stories of birth experiences was what I wanted.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on November 5


If you want birth stories but with way less hippie stuff than Ina May's books, roll on over to reddit.com/r/BabyBumps where redditors share several of them a day for free covering a much more diverse and modern set of birth experiences than you'll find in any published book.
posted by potrzebie at 8:41 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


Oh man also the graphic novel Pregnant Butch is well worth hunting up!
posted by potrzebie at 8:45 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


When I was recently pregnant, two books I really enjoyed in this vein were Angela Garbes's Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy (though perhaps a bit too biology-focused for your interests?) and Molly Caro May's Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage Into Motherhood.
posted by Synesthesia at 8:49 AM on November 5 [2 favorites]


In addition to Potzrebie's fantastic list, I'd offer a few others:
For novels,
Department of Speculation - Jenny Offill
Future Home of the Living God- Louise Erdrich
Severance- Ling Ma
Rosemary's Baby- Ira Levin (not kidding)
Although Sheila Heti's Motherhood is about deciding whether or not to have a child, not being pregnant, it can be moving in the moment you're in.

For nonfiction-
The Blue Jay's Dance- A Memoir of Early Motherhood- Louse Erdrich
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year- Anne Lamott
Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty- Jacqueline Rose
A Woman Is a Woman Until She Is a Mother- Anna Prushinskaya
Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History- Camille T. Dungy
Little Labors- Rivka Galchen
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 9:51 AM on November 5 [3 favorites]


Nonfiction-
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (CW pregnancy loss)

Seconding Kid Gloves and Great with Child.
posted by lakemarie at 12:19 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


This is a bit adjacent, but I really liked The First Bad Man by Miranda July as a short novel that very acutely depicts the yearning for a child and contrasts it with another's ambivalence about pregnancy.
posted by vunder at 2:40 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


I haven't read it myself but was intrigued to learn of this new release via Twitter:
The Mother-Infant Nexus in Anthropology

Over the past 20 years there has been increased research traction in the anthropology of childhood. However, infancy, the pregnant body and motherhood continue to be marginalised. This book will focus on the mother-infant relationship and the variable constructions of this dyad across cultures, including conceptualisations of the pregnant body, the beginnings of life, and implications for health.

This is particularly topical because there is a burgeoning awareness within anthropology regarding the centrality of mother-infant interactions for understanding the evolution of our species, infant and maternal health and care strategies, epigenetic change, and biological and social development.

This book will bring together cultural and biological anthropologists and archaeologists to examine the infant-maternal interface in past societies. It will showcase innovative theoretical and methodological approaches towards understanding societal constructions of foetal, infant and maternal bodies. It will emphasise their interconnectivity and will explore the broader significance of the mother/infant nexus for overall population well-being.
posted by slidell at 4:09 PM on November 5


Thanks, everyone!

I'm not marking this resolved, because people seem to be coming back to chime in, and I want to encourage that.

This is a great reading list for me to start with. I'm grateful for AskMe on a regular basis, but even moreso today.
posted by Temeraria at 6:06 AM on November 6


I want to second Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. If I remember right there's a little about going to church in there, but that part is very much about loving community and accepting people even when they're flawed and messy, and not about actual religion per se. I'm not religious and I love this book a lot.

Also seconding just hanging out in reddit.com/r/BabyBumps where there are a LOT of regular people sharing their biggest Thoughts and Feelings and Experiences in depth all the time. They have subgroups by due date month and eventually those split off into secret Facebook groups that continue to be close-knit communities long after the kids are born. If you would like to make 100 new best friends who understand you like nobody else can and are sharing exactly what you are going through, you can. It's kind of a unique experience.
posted by beandip at 10:15 AM on November 7


I have just started Full Surrogacy Now, and it might blow your mind. It's kind of blowing mine, I probably shouldn't have started it in the moment my kid left the dinner table to have a tantrum in the other room (it was the only book in the dining room).
Review.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:46 PM on November 12


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