The Birth Project

Open letter announcing the beginning of the birth project, February 2012:

Hi all of you cool moms,

Over the past months, most of you have spoken with me about this fledgling project I’m working on about birth. The idea arose from my own experience this past year with pregnancy and the birth in January 2011 of our little Brendan – with midwives, in our new home (the curtains had yet to arrive…). Not quite the plan – I’d thought we’d go to the hospital for the delivery part. Ha ha – like I wanted to get in a car once labour started!

What really got me thinking about this project was not the birth itself, but the process through which my thinking about birth shifted through my pregnancy. I started from the perspective of “drug me up and wake me when it’s over,” and ended, well, with red wine, a tylenol and a lot of monastic moaning. And, of course, with the conviction that my body was designed to do this thing. I knew on a gut level that I could trust its strength, its power, its ability to complete the phenomenal act of creation it began nine months earlier.

To be clear: I am grateful to be of child-bearing age in this century, in this country, and my over-arching perspective is that a healthy baby and a healthy mom is the desired outcome of the birth process – whichever way that transpires. What I want this project to do is to empower women to believe in their biology. To understand on a profound level that they can do this amazing thing, and that all the “usual” medical interventions may not be that usual after all.

With the stories all of you have to share, I want to take the trauma out of the birth process for those next on this journey. Many of you shared stories with me that helped shift my thinking. These stories need to get out into the world!

Leslie Howarth, one of our midwives, suggested I read Ina May Gaskin’s powerful book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, in my seventh month of pregnancy. It’s full of birth stories, changed everything for me, and inspired this project. What I want to create is a “coffee table” book that will sit in midwives’ and doctor’s offices that is full of birth stories told by local women – you – paired with beautiful portraits of these women and their children – preferably in the place they gave birth. The photos will ground the words, make them real – real women, here, now, not “somewhere else where they can do it naturally.”

Here’s what I think would work: you write whatever it is you know about birth from your experiences that you want to share with other moms-to-be. I arrange to come and do a photo shoot with you and your little one(s) over the next months. If you need help with the writing, I can do that as well – even do an interview if that suits you best. As we complete the stories and photos, we can post them on my new blog. Once we’ve gathered, say, 20 or so, we put them into a book (probably through With any luck the blog conversation takes off, and more women share their stories that way, too.

What I need from you is feedback. I’m thinking about 1000 words max for the stories to fit on one page, across from a photo. Is that reasonable? Too little space? Way too much? For those of you who had hospital births, do you think we can gain access to that space to do the photos? Are there angles to this project that I’m not seeing at all? Places you could see it going that excite you? People you know who you think would like to participate? Similar projects you know about that we could link to or expand on?

Thanks for reading.

So, are you in?

All best,