Sisterhood Blog

Birth Stories Are the New War Stories

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

The fact that birth stories are almost always intense and captivating is common-knowledge among women. The same goes for abortion stories, though those are less-frequently shared.

The comings and goings that occur in a woman’s womb are as dramatic and emotional as what happens on the battlefield. As entertaining, too.

There are moments of despair and moments of triumph, all bound up in feelings of doubt, confusion and relief. Every delivery story, every abortion story, every miscarriage story is epic in nature, perfectly capturing the tug-of-war between fragility and resilience that marks our experiences as human beings.

And yet, for so long, these stories were spoken only in private moments between friends, female friends—if they were told at all. Missed opportunities. Every one of them.

This was made all too clear by articles last week in the New Yorker and New York magazine. The New Yorker ran an heartbreaking essay by Ariel Levy about her unexpected and ill-fated pre-term birth in Mongolia last Thanksgiving. New York magazine collected abortion stories from 26 women, who expressed a wide range of emotions about terminating their pregnancies. Placed outside the context of politics and culture, they are a reminder that abortions are complicated, emotional, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, experiences for most women. The problem is, they are rarely given a chance to reflect on it as such, and almost never in a public, and mainstream, forum.

In addition to these two very powerful reads, there is also the well-rated newish BBC show “Call the Midwife” (pictured below) about a upper-class woman named Jenny who moves to London’s poor East End to deliver babies and live in a convent. The series, which first aired a year ago, relies almost exclusively on the birth stories of individual women as it sources for drama and tension, and they are deeply moving each and every time.

Lastly, there is Alice McDermott’s soft-spoken novel “Someone,” a finalist this year for the National Book Award, in which the climax, if there is one, is the protagonist’s lengthy, and traumatizing, delivery scene. McDemott so tenderly, and yet majestically, captures how giving birth to a baby is the moment in many women’s lives when they feel the greatest sense of power and weakness, victory and defeat.

For too, too long war, an historically man’s game, has had the stronghold on what we deem as epic. From Homer to Spielberg, the great human existence stories are almost always about man vs. man, or man vs. himself in the context of man vs. man, in a struggle for survival. How wonderful to see, finally, what happens in a woman’s womb to finally start to get the attention women have quietly, invisibly been paying to it, I imagine, since the beginning of time.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: women, womb, mothers, abortion, Jewish

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.