One of the things that drives my linguistic study of the birth environment is that so little has been done in this area so far. In situating my contribution to the literature, I've had to go back a few decades to find relevant books. So here's this beauty: published in 1984, Birth Stories, edited by Janet Isaacs Ashford, is a collection of birth stories (bet you couldn't have guessed that!).
An interesting feature of this book, though, is that the stories collected range from 1915 to 1983, so it really gives a big picture of a variety of obstetric practices and childbirth tendencies over several decades. You may have heard of some of them: overuse of forceps due to complete unconsciousness of the mother during delivery; "Twilight Sleep;" women being left alone, without friends or family, to labor; routine shaving, enema, and episiotomy... Unfortunately, the list goes on. I'm so grateful to be mothering in an era when most of these have faded into the past. I watched many of them fade as I turned the pages of this book.
Throughout the decades, themes persist. There are women who feel there must be a better way, who seek alternative care. Some of these women find it. They deliver at home or birthing centers with the care of experienced midwives. Some are treated with respect in the hospital and voice their preferences and are listened to. Birth empowers them. Some go without care and face unfortunate consequences. Some feel that they can't find it, and end up being subject to the interventions they were hoping to avoid, even though they vocally protested. These women feel a loss of control, and birth is a severely disempowering experience. Their stories are told in this book.
After reading this book, I believe more strongly that birth is a story we must keep telling. We must tell our experiences, good and bad, and seek to make birth better and better for our birth-giving posterity.
Now to close, I have two questions for you, dear reader: 1) Would you be interested in also reading article reviews of the journal articles I'm reading about language and childbirth? and 2) Do you know of any books I'm missing out on that talk about language and birth? If so, comment below!