As of yesterday I am 35 weeks pregnant. Last week we had our first NCT classes, which were okay though the instructor kept talking about “fear tigers” which produce adrenaline and slow down labour, rather than using a more sensible word like stressors… Though I think people have avoided telling me lots of the labour horror stories they like to pile on first time mothers because of the awful time that we’ve had this pregnancy, I think I’ve read my fair share in books. I would recommend that anyone considering giving birth avoid the following books with spoilers below.
1) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The novel follows Daniel Sempere as he attempts to track down a mysterious man who is intent on destroying all copies of a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. It later transpires that Julian had planned to elope with his friend’s sister, Penelope Aldayar, without realising that she was secretly his half-sister. Penelope’s parents lock her in a room leaving her to bleed to death in childbirth bringing Julian’s stillborn son into the world.
2) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Plenty of things to dislike, or “fear tigers” if you will, here. The story opens with Mabel and Jack, childless after their only pregnancy ended in a still birth years before, looking for a new life on the Alaskan frontier. One evening, much like in the fairy tale, they make a snowman and over the next few days they spot a little girl, pale as though she’s made from snow, wearing the hat and gloves they put on the snowman. The girl turns out to be Faina, the semi-wild orphaned daughter of an alcoholic trapper. Faina eventually becomes their almost adopted daughter and falls in love with their neighbour’s son, Jack insists that the pair marry when it becomes clear that Faina is pregnant but she contracts a fever after prolonged childbirth. The most awful thing about this for me is that when the fevered Faina wanders off in the Alaskan winter never to appear again, the family seem to think of it as an apt ending to their encounter with the snow child, as, after all, they’ve been left with the baby they always wanted…
3) The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The much hyped novel about the girl with the semi-prophetic dollhouse… One of the first miniatures Nella receives to fill her cabinet is an ornate baby’s cradle, but it is only much later into the novel that she realises her sister-in-law, Marin, is pregnant with their manservant Otto’s child. Refusing a midwife, Marin retains her placenta and dies shortly after her daughter is born.
4) The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
A one hundred year old woman lives in a mental hospital which is closing down, and her narrative of her life is interwoven with that of the hospital psychologist. When Roseanne was a young woman, heavily pregnant and abandoned by her husband, she goes into labour on a long walk home after her mother-in-law refuses to help her. Giving birth on the sea front in a storm, she passes out when the baby is born and when she regains consciousness the baby is nowhere to be seen, resulting in Roseanne being accused of its murder. Jon has already been instructed to follow our baby anywhere that she is taken if I can’t go with her.
5) The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
For all that I felt that this was a very flawed novel, the descriptions of Elina’s traumatic labour which leaves her confused about how her baby came to be born and waking panicking at the disappearance of her bump, with memories of jets of blood shooting in the air have certainly stayed with me…
So, as I prepare to go into hospital and take some books with me to pass the time, are there any other books that you recommend I avoid?