What We Talk About When We Talk About Birth

Elissa Schappell

It’s an elemental, almost animalistic urge—the expectant mother’s hunger for birth narratives. We are inundated with how-to guides and month-by-month pregnancy manuals when what we truly crave are artful, entertaining, unvarnished accounts of labor and delivery. We want to know what really happens—the good, the bad, and the ugly. In anticipation of the publication of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers, celebrated author Elissa Schappell brings us “What We Talk About When We Talk About Birth.” In this frank, funny, and bittersweet essay she explores the phenomenon of sharing birth stories, reveals her reluctance to tell her own, and discovers that talking about childbirth—the joy, the fear, the pain—is as instinctual as the act itself.

And if you love birth stories as much as we do, read thirty more essays like this one in Labor Day: True Birth Stories By Today’s Best Women Writers, including Lan Samantha Chang, Julia Glass, Lauren Groff, Ann Hood, Danzy Senna, Dani Shapiro, and Cheryl Strayed.

Share your story here.

About Elissa Schappell

Elissa Schappell is the author of two books of fiction, most recently Blueprints for Building Better Girls, which was chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Use Me, her first book, was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her fiction, nonfiction, and criticism have appeared in many publications, including The Paris Review, The New York Times Book Review, Spin, Bomb, One Story, and anthologies such as The Mrs. Dalloway Reader, Lit Riffs, Cooking and Stealing, Bound to Last, and The KGB Bar Reader. She is a contributing editor and the Hot Type columnist at Vanity Fair, a former senior editor at The Paris Review, and a cofounder and editor at large of Tin House magazine. She teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia and in the low-residency MFA program at Queens University in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn.

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