Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This reflective diary in nine parts (one for every month of pregnancy) can be a bit metaphor-laden at times, but still manages to be gripping, entertaining, educational, and overwhelmingly poetic.

Chitra Ramaswamy is a former newspaper journalist and seems eager to demonstrate just how well read and cultured she is. There’s references to the works of James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, Leo Tolstoy, and Mary Shelley amongst many, many other literary depictions and descriptions of pregnancy, labour, and birth.

While the prose style can take a little while to get used to, the underlying story of an educated young woman trying to come to terms with a wanted pregnancy is as compelling as you’d maybe expect. Her life seems charmed – with her wife, frequent trips to the Scottish isles, and arts correspondent job – but there’s still an undertone of anxiety as she worries about not bonding with her baby.

The most successful chapter, as it is in Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, is the final one detailing a home birth that ends with an emergency caesarean. The reader is struck by how unprepared women are for the real, lived experience of childbirth – an experience that no amount of book-reading can prepare us for. And yet, this book might offer a small comfort.

Available on bookshop.theguardian.com

Words: Ana Hine

Image: Chitra Ramaswamy


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