Book Review: The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth
Authored by Felice Austin
Authored with Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, Robyn Allgood, Sheridan Ripley
542 pages, softcover
Reviewed by Molly Remer, Talk Birth
Written for women who wish to delve into the divine nature of pregnancy and birth from a Christian perspective, The Gift of Giving Life is co-authored by several childbirth educators and doulas who are also members of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) church. The book is rich with the stories and experiences of dozens of LDS women who share their birth stories and reflections. These additional stories are sprinkled throughout the body of the text, making it very easy to read and “digest” in small sections. The stories represent a wide breadth of experiences—I anticipated many of them to gloss over the difficult parts of pregnancy and birth, but they address both the nitty-gritty, challenging aspects and the transcendent. I especially appreciated that women’s experiences with pregnancy loss and baby loss are integrated throughout the book rather than relegated to a specific subsection. A helpful touch is that stories dealing with loss are indicated with an awareness ribbon symbol, so that if a reader does want to avoid these stories, she is readily able to do so.
As a non-LDS woman as well as someone who does not identify as Christian, I did encounter many segments that had little relevance to my own experience of or interpretation of the world. For example, it was startling for me to come across repeated statements that seemed to hold a literal view of “Satan” as a real entity holding some kind of power or control over people. That said, I was impressed with how deeply and solidly integrated the text is with the spiritual teachings of the LDS faith. For women who wish to permeate their pregnancy and birth experiences with an intimate and intricately woven connection to Christian theology and scripture, The Gift of Giving Life is a faith-based treasure.
As I noted in my recent interview with one of The Gift of Giving Life‘s co-authors, I am fascinated by the concept of Heavenly Mother and really enjoyed the sections of the book that touched on the relationship with Her. I also enjoyed the book’s explanation of Eve’s pivotal choice in the Garden, which was very meaningful framing of the event in a way that was completely new to me.
The Gift of Giving Life has much to offer both to pregnant women and to birth professionals. It will likely have most appeal to those with LDS connections and to members of other Christian traditions who are familiar with scripture and wish to apply these messages to the childbearing year.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.