Labour of love? What women need to know about childbirth

‘The birthing mother is surrounded by the dusts of death,’ reads an inscription on a 3,000-year-old clay tablet, thought to be an ancient Assyrian incantation to ward off death in childbirth. There have been pressings of beads into clay, writings on vellum or cave walls and singing and making art about childbirth and motherhood for as long as small humans have been emerging from women’s bodies. Yet contemporary depictions of the process of becoming a mother – known as ‘matrescence’ – can be misleading or simply absent. As Katie Vigos, who set up the online Empowered Birth Project for women to share their birthing experiences, has said: The female body

Why are we so squeamish about describing women’s everyday experiences?

The way that language is shaped by the facts of biological sex is a rich subject. (The way that biological sex is framed, and sometimes refuses to be shaped, by language is perhaps one for another day.) Some languages have evolved forms which are distinctly those of male or female users. Japanese has speech patterns described as male or female, such as (male) the informal use of da instead of desu. There are scripts used exclusively among women, such as the syllabic Nüshu in Hunan, China. Many languages have gendered grammatical forms in ways that are not just metaphorical. Nouns such as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ are masculine and feminine in

How to make the most of the third trimester of pregnancy

The final trimester of pregnancy is a strange time. You’ll be told to rest, as if you can somehow bank sleep. The reality is likely to be a dash to buy everything you need, as well as don’t need (a hi-tech ‘nappy bag’ for instance). Once the baby arrives, even trying to get out of the house becomes a mission. With that in mind, here are some helpful ways to focus mind and body during the final few weeks, if you’d rather not spend too much time obsessing over the correct shade for the nursery.  Complete your baby courses The National Childbirth Trust runs the most well-known antenatal courses, but

Reality and online life clash: No One is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood, reviewed

Some writers — Jane Austen, for example — get to funny sideways, using irony and understatement. The American poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood isn’t one of them. She is straightforwardly hit-the-rubber-nail-on-the-head funny. There are punchlines, there are callbacks. On Twitter she is known for her zany ‘sexts’: ‘I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter. You put your whole head through me.’ In 2013 she went viral with her prose-poem ‘Rape Joke’, which was deliberately, powerfully not funny, yet still let in some killer laughs. (‘The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.’) Her memoir Priestdaddy (2017) featured a hilarious, tender portrait of her