Special Focus: Getting Meta on Birth Stories

Birth or labor stories have a peculiar place in our culture. Oftentimes, mothers who have had traumatic births keep their stories to themselves, so as not to scare women away from having children. Other times, these stories pour out and what unfolds is a sort of one-upmanship for whose birth was the most harrowing. Typically, the birth stories we hear are on the extreme ends of the spectrum: either the horror stories or the blissful tales  (like Ina May Gaskin’s “orgasmic birth”).  

How have birth stories impacted you? We are looking for essays with an argument or a point about how birth stories get shared and/or how they should or should not be shared. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How have birth stories impacted (helped or harmed) you? For example, are you someone who heard traumatic birth stories and made the choice not to have kids?
  • Recent research revealed that the U.S. has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. Have the maternal death narratives that accompany this reporting affected your decision (not) to have children?
  • If you’ve had a traumatic birth, how have you decided to share/not share you story and why? Do you feel compelled to hide/share your traumatic birth? If so, how have you reflected on your need to share/not share versus your audience’s need to hear/not hear?
  • If you are considering having children, how much do you want to know about labor before you make the decision to have a child? Are you actively seeking out birth stories or avoiding them? If so, why?
  • Are you a childfree woman who has been somewhere where suddenly women start sharing their birth stories? How did that affect you?
  • Are there places and times for birth stories? What are they? Have you ever used or heard others telling birth stories in ways that are competitive (whose was worse or whose more magical?) Why do you think this happens?
  • How are birth stories used to influence childfree women to/not to have children?
  • If you are a medical professional who works with pregnant women or women deciding whether or not to have children, what stories do you share and why?
  • What do the narrative trends in our birth stories reveal about the culture of motherhood?
  • Are there different cultural expectations for sharing birth stories? In other words, do some cultures share more details or talk about birth stories in different ways than others?


MotherShould? accepts pitches for 800-1,200-word candid personal essays, Q&As and reported pieces about the choices women make to/or not to be a mother. We are also open to shorter pieces as well as long-form essays. We are seeking thoughtful, non-judgmental pieces exploring the decision to/not to have children, particularly-but not only- after you’ve reached the “high-risk” age of 35 and examining the inherent complexities. We are especially interested in essays that wrestle with specific problems and pose difficult questions and develop fresh insights.  Our audience is women at the crossroads who crave honest narratives to help make their own decisions, as well as women who want to melt the wall between child-free women and mothers.

We want you to share your story. We’re interested in pieces that explore the following:

  • Choice to adopt and the adoption process
  • Choice to foster and the experience of fostering
  • Choice to become a single parent
  • Child-free by choice
  • Choice taken away
  • Choice regretted
  • Women over 60 who chose to (over 35)/not to have kids reflecting on their decisions
  • Lesbian or queer women who are choosing to or not to
  • Transgender women who are choosing to or not to
  • Women whose racial/ethnic/religious/cultural background is in tension with their choice to or not to have children
  • Technological intervention
  • Couple conflict

We are not interested in platitudes, chronological narratives that lack insight and complexity, rhapsodies, or didactic posts. MotherShould? does not wag fingers in any direction.

Tell us (in a paragraph) what you’d like to write for the site. While we believe writers deserve to compensated for their work, we are staffed solely by volunteers and are unable to pay at this time. We will, however, provide strong, encouraging feedback on drafts, bringing our combined 33-years of teaching writing experience to help our writers produce their strongest possible work.

Please use this form to submit your ideas to us.
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