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Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women

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An impassioned and irreverent argument for dismantling our cultural narratives around pregnancy. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, a rate that is increasing, even as infant mortality rates decrease. Meanwhile, the right-wing assault on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy has also escalated. We can already glimpse a reality where An impassioned and irreverent argument for dismantling our cultural narratives around pregnancy. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, a rate that is increasing, even as infant mortality rates decrease. Meanwhile, the right-wing assault on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy has also escalated. We can already glimpse a reality where embryos and fetuses have more rights than the people gestating them, and even women who aren't pregnant are seen first and foremost as potential incubators. In Belabored, journalist Lyz Lenz lays bare the misogynistic logic of U.S. cultural narratives about pregnancy, tracing them back to our murky, potent cultural soup of myths, from the religious to the historical. In the present she details, with her trademark blend of wit, snark, and raw intimacy, how sexist assumptions inform our expectations for pregnant people, whether we're policing them, asking them to make sacrifices with dubious or disproven benefits, or putting them up on a pedestal in an "Earth mother" role. Throughout, she reflects on her own experiences of being seen as alternately a vessel or a goddess--but hardly ever as herself--while carrying each of her two children. Belabored is an urgent call for us to embrace new narratives around pregnancy and the choice whether or not to have children, emphasizing wholeness and agency, and to reflect those values in our laws, medicine, and interactions with each other.


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An impassioned and irreverent argument for dismantling our cultural narratives around pregnancy. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, a rate that is increasing, even as infant mortality rates decrease. Meanwhile, the right-wing assault on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy has also escalated. We can already glimpse a reality where An impassioned and irreverent argument for dismantling our cultural narratives around pregnancy. The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, a rate that is increasing, even as infant mortality rates decrease. Meanwhile, the right-wing assault on reproductive rights and bodily autonomy has also escalated. We can already glimpse a reality where embryos and fetuses have more rights than the people gestating them, and even women who aren't pregnant are seen first and foremost as potential incubators. In Belabored, journalist Lyz Lenz lays bare the misogynistic logic of U.S. cultural narratives about pregnancy, tracing them back to our murky, potent cultural soup of myths, from the religious to the historical. In the present she details, with her trademark blend of wit, snark, and raw intimacy, how sexist assumptions inform our expectations for pregnant people, whether we're policing them, asking them to make sacrifices with dubious or disproven benefits, or putting them up on a pedestal in an "Earth mother" role. Throughout, she reflects on her own experiences of being seen as alternately a vessel or a goddess--but hardly ever as herself--while carrying each of her two children. Belabored is an urgent call for us to embrace new narratives around pregnancy and the choice whether or not to have children, emphasizing wholeness and agency, and to reflect those values in our laws, medicine, and interactions with each other.

30 review for Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    "Something is wrong with what you are doing. I don't know what yet, but give it time. You are doing something wrong. But for now, enjoy the zucchini inside you." BELABORED is part memoir, part history, part meditation on what it means to be a "mother" in modern America. What makes the book so powerful isn't just the author's snark surrounding patriarchal structures or religiously based viewpoints but the empathy with which she presents each fact. Lenz shows that even when everything goes "right" f "Something is wrong with what you are doing. I don't know what yet, but give it time. You are doing something wrong. But for now, enjoy the zucchini inside you." BELABORED is part memoir, part history, part meditation on what it means to be a "mother" in modern America. What makes the book so powerful isn't just the author's snark surrounding patriarchal structures or religiously based viewpoints but the empathy with which she presents each fact. Lenz shows that even when everything goes "right" for a mother who fits our cultural ideal, she will still struggle to be seen as a whole person and maintain autonomy. And if that is the case, how much more difficult must it be if the person carrying the child is a person of color, or single, or trans, or seeking an abortion. There are no easy solutions, but this book is a great place to start when seeking to engage in dialogue surrounding the role of mothers and their bodies.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jade

    In Belabored Lyz Lenz takes us on a journey from conception to the fourth trimester, analyzing what it means to be a woman, to be pregnant, and to be a mother in our society. This is not a pregnancy help guide, but it’s a book that every first time parent should read: it’s an honest overview of what it is like to conceive, to be pregnant, and to deliver in the US today. And it’s also not just a book for pregnant people either, it’s for everyone to read. Lyz Lenz uses a mix of historical facts an In Belabored Lyz Lenz takes us on a journey from conception to the fourth trimester, analyzing what it means to be a woman, to be pregnant, and to be a mother in our society. This is not a pregnancy help guide, but it’s a book that every first time parent should read: it’s an honest overview of what it is like to conceive, to be pregnant, and to deliver in the US today. And it’s also not just a book for pregnant people either, it’s for everyone to read. Lyz Lenz uses a mix of historical facts and examples, her own personal experiences, as well as some current facts and examples to illustrate just how difficult it is to be a woman, and to be a mother in our society. We live in a society where we are never going to be good enough, based on arbitrary goddess woman pedestals erected by white men. Having personally birthed three children in this country I related to many areas evoked by the author: to the fears, the worries, the trauma, and the overall feeling of constantly failing to meet expectations that nobody ever really meets anyway. So much research went into Belabored, from the historical and biblical stories that the author details for us, to the modern day medical racism and lack of care for pregnant and postpartum women in general. The overall theme being that as pregnant people and then mothers we rarely are allowed to own our own bodies, constantly having to claw back pieces of ourselves for ourselves; constantly having to explain why we are this way and that and not doing this and that. For a long time I felt so guilty that I hadn’t been more vocal during the delivery of my first child. The way I was treated, both during labor and delivery, and afterwards was abysmal. And then after I had my second child when the hospital clerk asked loudly why I wasn’t married (this was in NYC in 2015!!), and then gave me a look full of pity and told me it was ok not to put the father’s name on the birth certificate if he wasn’t interested in signing the form (um wtf we were and are still very much together thanks very much, we just don’t feel the need to be married!!). And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I will tell my stories another day. Let’s just say that what the author describes in Belabored is more common than what you are going to read in What To Expect, and also provides a great overview on how important it is for us to fight for our right to autonomy of our bodies and ourselves in general. As a side note I loved that Lyz Lenz details her visit to Tara Westover’s family home in Idaho - Educated was one of my top 10 reads of 2018, and it was interesting to see an outsider’s take on the family dynamics and beliefs. Highly recommended read, especially for those looking for more insight on what it means to be pregnant in this country, and how hard you may have to fight for your rights on any given day, especially if you aren’t white, wealthy, and weigh 120 pounds. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    ‘Belabored’ is a fascinating feminist treatise on contemporary pregnancy, labor, and motherhood. The text is a well-researched but incredibly readable meditation that combines memoir, history, religion, science, and most notably cultural criticism. Though pregnancy and motherhood are extremely common and often have profound changes on individuals psychologically and physiologically, it is often overlooked in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, superficial opinions, contradictory information and observa ‘Belabored’ is a fascinating feminist treatise on contemporary pregnancy, labor, and motherhood. The text is a well-researched but incredibly readable meditation that combines memoir, history, religion, science, and most notably cultural criticism. Though pregnancy and motherhood are extremely common and often have profound changes on individuals psychologically and physiologically, it is often overlooked in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, superficial opinions, contradictory information and observations are practically endless in our society. Lenz explores these ideas in a very inclusive way, touching on the myriad of issues and problems related to pregnancy and motherhood, from inadequate medical care, lack of bodily autonomy, and societal expectations. As a thirtysomething mother of two young children and long-time feminist, I felt so connected to the author as our status is similar though our journeys through life are very different. Lenz relates her personal experiences with vulnerability, thoughtful observations, and humor and documents the endless contradictions that make up the experience and perception of pregnancy, labor, and motherhood in the western world. Thank you NetGalley and Perseus Books / Bold Type Books for providing this ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Part memoir, part history and cultural observations on the way society treats pregnant women and mothers. The author covered a lot of topics but something was just not clicking for me. She would touch on her own experiences, and reference some history, but never really drives any particular point home. It felt a bit like preaching to the choir, and I’m not sure how much this book pushes forward the conversation. I also felt like her writing was generally fine but overly graphic at times. Lastly, Part memoir, part history and cultural observations on the way society treats pregnant women and mothers. The author covered a lot of topics but something was just not clicking for me. She would touch on her own experiences, and reference some history, but never really drives any particular point home. It felt a bit like preaching to the choir, and I’m not sure how much this book pushes forward the conversation. I also felt like her writing was generally fine but overly graphic at times. Lastly, the essays didn’t feel cohesive or organized. Overall, it was fine but not something I’d necessarily recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Johnson (Jameson)

    I wanted to read this because I thought it was going to be pretty scientific and data driven. (Update 2/8/21: if you're looking for a book that's closer to that description, try Like a Mother by Angela Garbes.) It’s actually a collection of personal essays (with kind of a lot of repetition of details among them) with some light historical, cultural, and socio-anthropological context about pregnancy. It’s fine, just not what I was expecting to read. I wanted to read this because I thought it was going to be pretty scientific and data driven. (Update 2/8/21: if you're looking for a book that's closer to that description, try Like a Mother by Angela Garbes.) It’s actually a collection of personal essays (with kind of a lot of repetition of details among them) with some light historical, cultural, and socio-anthropological context about pregnancy. It’s fine, just not what I was expecting to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jen Knights

    Goddamn. This is an awesome book. Yes, incendiary and irreverent but also well-researched, thoughtful, poignant, and just. If you are a person who has been pregnant or given birth, or who has wished to, you will find your truths spoken into words that you may not have had before. If you have not lived that experience, you will gain an understanding, and hopefully some empathy, and maybe righteous rage, on behalf of the people—the mothers—who perpetuate the human race.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Hoehn

    While I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure how much it adds to the conversation of women's rights. Most of the material has been covered before. I also found the tidbits about the author's ex-husband distracting. While I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure how much it adds to the conversation of women's rights. Most of the material has been covered before. I also found the tidbits about the author's ex-husband distracting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Annette Harris

    I would like to yell from the rooftops that every human person should read this book. While occasionally irreverent it is just...true. It’s so so true. And it’s important. The humor helps, but mostly it is one devastating observation after another. I loved it. I learned a lot I didn’t know. My perception of pregnancy is forever changed (improved). What more can you ask from a book? Thank you, Lyz Lenz.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Really well-written. A combination of memoir (she's given birth to two children but also suffered a sexual assault in college) and the many ways the deck is stacked against pregnant people in America, starting from perceived virginity or sexual availability through pregnancy and then post-pregnancy (the "fourth trimester"). Lenz covered historical aspects really well, and also makes a real effort to cover racial disparities and LGBTQ+ issues in pregnancy and parenthood, but I thought that perhap Really well-written. A combination of memoir (she's given birth to two children but also suffered a sexual assault in college) and the many ways the deck is stacked against pregnant people in America, starting from perceived virginity or sexual availability through pregnancy and then post-pregnancy (the "fourth trimester"). Lenz covered historical aspects really well, and also makes a real effort to cover racial disparities and LGBTQ+ issues in pregnancy and parenthood, but I thought that perhaps there could have been a stronger conclusion or presentation of issues facing pregnant people/parents/etc to tie everything together. Her own story was concluded well.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becca Moser

    This is expertly written, and every American should read it to learn how we're not caring for mothers. This is expertly written, and every American should read it to learn how we're not caring for mothers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Camryn

    I feel like a lot of this was pretty basic in terms of how women’s bodies are controlled and women do the brunt of the work in the home and have no help in the government. It was still an easy read, and I found all of her stories about motherhood to be interesting — and very terrifying.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    The topic of this book is unlike any I have ever read but was greatly intrigued by a book that discusses the less cheery side of pregnancy and postnatal motherhood in America. As Lenz points out, many of the images we see of pregnant women highlight financially comfortable, straight, CIS women but pregnancy and postnatal motherhood look a lot different for those who lack financial resources, are disabled, LGBT+, or not white. Historically, American laws, systems, and culture have sidelined the n The topic of this book is unlike any I have ever read but was greatly intrigued by a book that discusses the less cheery side of pregnancy and postnatal motherhood in America. As Lenz points out, many of the images we see of pregnant women highlight financially comfortable, straight, CIS women but pregnancy and postnatal motherhood look a lot different for those who lack financial resources, are disabled, LGBT+, or not white. Historically, American laws, systems, and culture have sidelined the needs of the carrier/mother in favor of the needs of the fetus/baby, and while pregnancy is obviously about carrying a soon-to-be human and postnatal motherhood is about caring for one, the carrier/mother is just as important. If reading about pregnancy and motherhood from a different lens is of interest to you, then I highly recommend checking out "Belabored."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin Barnes

    Thanks to NetGalley and Bold Type Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don't have kids, nor do I have plans to have kids anytime soon, but I have always been interested in how mothers and women are treated in America. This book is hands down the best book I've read on the subject. The author does an amazing job of weaving together her own motherhood experience with meticulously researched information from a wide and diverse array of sources. The book is all Thanks to NetGalley and Bold Type Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don't have kids, nor do I have plans to have kids anytime soon, but I have always been interested in how mothers and women are treated in America. This book is hands down the best book I've read on the subject. The author does an amazing job of weaving together her own motherhood experience with meticulously researched information from a wide and diverse array of sources. The book is all at once emotional, humorous, infuriating, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for anyone even remotely interested in how women and mothers are treated now and have been treated throughout history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    madison

    Any person that can publicly describe their post-pregnancy vagina as looking like "raw ground beef" is good people in my eyes. I wish everyone talked about their bodies with the openness Lenz demonstrates in this book. Let's normalize the wild shit our bodies do! I'm strangely obsessed with reading anything about pregnancy, midwifery, reproductive rights, women's bodies, motherhood. So, it was easy for me to enjoy reading Belabored and I finished it really quickly. It was a fun, enjoyable read. T Any person that can publicly describe their post-pregnancy vagina as looking like "raw ground beef" is good people in my eyes. I wish everyone talked about their bodies with the openness Lenz demonstrates in this book. Let's normalize the wild shit our bodies do! I'm strangely obsessed with reading anything about pregnancy, midwifery, reproductive rights, women's bodies, motherhood. So, it was easy for me to enjoy reading Belabored and I finished it really quickly. It was a fun, enjoyable read. The book is part memoir, part history lesson; it traces cultural and religious views of pregnancy and motherhood, from the Bible to Beyonce. It discusses the ways American and European culture have demonized women, mothers, wives, vaginas, making pregnancy and motherhood a losing game. Criticism is magnified especially for mothers who are BIPOC, queer, trans, poor, or an individual belonging to other marginalized groups. The way Americans view pregnancy and motherhood is fucked, and Lenz makes that super clear. She accurately describes the everyday injustices pregnant people and mothers endure as their lives, behaviors, diets, appearance, emotions, and weight are judged and evaluated. Once pregnant, your body is no longer yours, your autonomy, whatever you had of it before, is gone. Our bodies are so rarely treated as our own. It belongs to everyone else to pick apart. Lenz conveys the heavy weight of all this through her writing, weaving in her own voice and emotional honesty at the same time. She also has a witty, hilarious sense of humor that I very much appreciated. Thank you to #NetGalley and Bold Type Books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    On the surface, I totally agree with Lenz’s premise: women’s bodies have been controlled and marginalized by men since the beginning of time, and it continues today, especially in the area of reproductive healthcare. However, I feel her execution of that thesis fell flat. Overall, her writing is tangential, wandering from personal anecdote to medieval fable to quote from somebody else’s book that all have little to do with each other. And of course her premise that doctors and hospitals are all On the surface, I totally agree with Lenz’s premise: women’s bodies have been controlled and marginalized by men since the beginning of time, and it continues today, especially in the area of reproductive healthcare. However, I feel her execution of that thesis fell flat. Overall, her writing is tangential, wandering from personal anecdote to medieval fable to quote from somebody else’s book that all have little to do with each other. And of course her premise that doctors and hospitals are all bad, and midwives are all good rubbed me the wrong way. Sure, historically speaking this is applicable, but she uses medical stories from the 1800s to stand in for today’s practices. Where is her research into the evidence-based medicine that is practiced today? Give me some cold hard data, not a story of what someone told you one time. Intellectually speaking, of course I am glad she included all the ways women of color and low SE status are even more impacted by gender inequality. But coming from her, a privileged white woman (as she points out many times) it just comes off as preachy. It would be much more valuable to actually let those women of color speak for themselves, give them space to use their own voices to share their experiences and needs. I think Lenz succeeded most when she kept it personal, speaking about her family and her own experiences. It felt more genuine and relevant, instead of trying to speak for all women since the beginning of time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Boldon

    Essays on how motherhood is a raw deal, past, present and likely future if nothing changes. Interwoven is a memoir on Lenz's divorce and how hard it was to live with a non supportive spouse. That Lenz survived marriage and early motherhood and went on to write this to urge the world to better support mothers is a gift to us all. Plus, a chapter about Tara Westover's family from Educated is like bonus material for that other book! Reading this is prompting me to put together a list of real-life m Essays on how motherhood is a raw deal, past, present and likely future if nothing changes. Interwoven is a memoir on Lenz's divorce and how hard it was to live with a non supportive spouse. That Lenz survived marriage and early motherhood and went on to write this to urge the world to better support mothers is a gift to us all. Plus, a chapter about Tara Westover's family from Educated is like bonus material for that other book! Reading this is prompting me to put together a list of real-life mothering books.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sam Bruner

    This book weaves humor and facts into a tale of the wonders and horrors of being a parent. It's a must read for anyone who thinks they want to bring a child into the world, or is curious about the realties. This book weaves humor and facts into a tale of the wonders and horrors of being a parent. It's a must read for anyone who thinks they want to bring a child into the world, or is curious about the realties.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book is equal parts unflinching memoir and piercing feminist manifesto. Truly a very good thing to read on the eve of my first anniversary of entering motherhood.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie

    I thought I'd like this book, but it was only OK. Part of that was due to the reading style of the audiobook (overly dramatic, made some parts sound mocking instead of sympathetic). The other part is I don't think I'm the intended audience. Most of the injustice surrounding reproductive rights isn't news to me in 2021, but is presented as revelatory. I don't have a spouse who ascribes to parenting gender norms, so I couldn't relate at all to tales of her ex-husband. It felt like writing-as-thera I thought I'd like this book, but it was only OK. Part of that was due to the reading style of the audiobook (overly dramatic, made some parts sound mocking instead of sympathetic). The other part is I don't think I'm the intended audience. Most of the injustice surrounding reproductive rights isn't news to me in 2021, but is presented as revelatory. I don't have a spouse who ascribes to parenting gender norms, so I couldn't relate at all to tales of her ex-husband. It felt like writing-as-therapy for the author (who I like! I seek out her stuff), and I couldn't get in to it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    X.H. Collins

    Lenz is a brilliant essay writer. She's done it again - she blends personal stories and research into prose that's funny and hear-broken all at once. Be prepared to be shocked and to feel uncomfortable when you read the book because truth that challenges our cultural and societal norms hurt. But the truth is also liberating. I for one feel justified by my choice of pursuing my own passion and interest that has nothing to do with being a mother, and I feel no need to apologize for my choice. Lenz is a brilliant essay writer. She's done it again - she blends personal stories and research into prose that's funny and hear-broken all at once. Be prepared to be shocked and to feel uncomfortable when you read the book because truth that challenges our cultural and societal norms hurt. But the truth is also liberating. I for one feel justified by my choice of pursuing my own passion and interest that has nothing to do with being a mother, and I feel no need to apologize for my choice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I received an advanced copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. I feel so grateful for having received this book, because it took me on a personal thought journey that I did not want to end. I devoured this book. And when I say I devoured this book, I covered myself in blankets and pillows and drank endless amounts of coffee while slowly letting the words dissolve into my brain. This book, broken up in Trimesters (including the often-forgotten fourth trimester! I received an advanced copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. I feel so grateful for having received this book, because it took me on a personal thought journey that I did not want to end. I devoured this book. And when I say I devoured this book, I covered myself in blankets and pillows and drank endless amounts of coffee while slowly letting the words dissolve into my brain. This book, broken up in Trimesters (including the often-forgotten fourth trimester!) takes a look at the journey of pregnancy and early motherhood, a momentous time lauded as magical where those who grow life inside and birth life into the world are put on a pedestal by society. But that illusion of elitism is all smoke and mirrors, a trap often used to control women. After all, women exist solely to become mothers, no? Society places obscene expectations on how women are to perform, from the moment they are born. Make sure you look good and act sexy, but don't be a slut. Be pure and a virgin, until you are married, then expect to sexually gratify your partner whenever necessary. Have babies, but not too many babies. And there are the expectations on how you are supposed to perform while pregnant, all while society tells you why any decision you make, no matter how intuitive or well-researched, is wrong somehow. Know all the answers, but don't ask any questions. Discover motherhood and explore it, but do it alone with no support, because if you ask for help you are failing at something that should be "natural" all while society works to remove that which is the natural progression of growing and birthing life. You are a mother now, no longer a woman. No longer an autonomous being. Anything you do for yourself, is selfish. You live only to be the label of someone's child, to someone's wife, to someone's mother. This book, though slight in page numbers, is thick with information ways in which women struggle to meet societal expectations while maintaining control, especially when it comes to motherhood. In the United States, women, especially women of color, have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the entire world. The author points out several times where patriarchal society cuts women up into parts in an effort to take control of the parts, and in essence control women as a whole. We deny equitable access to birth control and abortions, politicians decide when conception equals life, religious and cultural mythology decides when a woman is "pure" and a virgin, when a woman should have children, and how many children that woman should have, and at every decision-making point along the way there is shame. So much shame. As though the plight of mothers is to be in a constant state of guilt and pain. Even in 2020, we continue to tell new mothers, "these will be the hardest years of your life" and yet do next to nothing to make changes so that does not have to be the case. I loved this book. It contained a fire that only the word "Vindication" can describe. Yet was written so eloquently. Where there is anger and spite, it is justified, where there is retrospect and epiphany, there is tender understanding. I loved that the ideas contained within touch on themes that have circled in my head for years since becoming a mom. I love my children, more than I love myself, but I do still love myself. Working to balance being a mother and having my own autonomy is a constant struggle. I think it is a silent struggle for many mothers. And despite all this, we as women still control bringing new life into the world, because as of right now there is no other way. And we gladly do it. We gladly go through the motions and the performances to the outsider eye, and then we squeeze our children, we kiss them, and we try to make the world a better place because of them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is special. I'm upping it to 5 stars (I would have given it 4.5) because it is special. Part memoir, part manifesto, part sociology lesson Belabored takes on Western history and modern medicine with an eye toward social justice. Lyz Lenz, true to form, writes this book as if it is a single essay, lighting a path of meticulously researched history with the fires of her own deeply personal experiences in her own human body. Lenz's prose is artful, deft, and easy while managing to pull to This book is special. I'm upping it to 5 stars (I would have given it 4.5) because it is special. Part memoir, part manifesto, part sociology lesson Belabored takes on Western history and modern medicine with an eye toward social justice. Lyz Lenz, true to form, writes this book as if it is a single essay, lighting a path of meticulously researched history with the fires of her own deeply personal experiences in her own human body. Lenz's prose is artful, deft, and easy while managing to pull together a narrative spanning most of human history to give us this gift: the experience of having a body that can make life. Amazingly, this book (unlike any other I can think of) works as an excellent companion book to Angela Davis's Women, Race, and Class. Where Davis's book ends on a note about sterilization and capitalism (in 1981), Lenz returns to the themes of gender, race, and class and adds to them sexuality, the internet age, and identity. This is a near perfect book that combines great artistry, vulnerability, and research. It should be read by all people who inhabit bodies.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lexieabbott

    I think this book was excellent and well researched. However, I think there was too much focus on the history and not enough on the modern day treatment of pregnant people. The focus on the historical basis of a lot of these subjects was good, I just don’t think it was enough to carry the chapters. That said, I do think this book is important, and I would definitely recommend it. I really how the book is organized like a pregnancy, and there were so many great points made in these pages. Thanks I think this book was excellent and well researched. However, I think there was too much focus on the history and not enough on the modern day treatment of pregnant people. The focus on the historical basis of a lot of these subjects was good, I just don’t think it was enough to carry the chapters. That said, I do think this book is important, and I would definitely recommend it. I really how the book is organized like a pregnancy, and there were so many great points made in these pages. Thanks to NetGalley for the free eARC!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Kendig

    There is a lot of great reflection and revelation in this book on the ways in which mothers, during and after pregnancy, are violated by the actions and expectations of their societies, their religions, their doctors, their families and even themselves. My only complaint is that I found this to be consistently more of a lamentation than a vindication; I wanted, among the dark truths and bitter pills, just a little more acknowledgment of how people can - and, in some contexts, do - create environ There is a lot of great reflection and revelation in this book on the ways in which mothers, during and after pregnancy, are violated by the actions and expectations of their societies, their religions, their doctors, their families and even themselves. My only complaint is that I found this to be consistently more of a lamentation than a vindication; I wanted, among the dark truths and bitter pills, just a little more acknowledgment of how people can - and, in some contexts, do - create environments of respect and validation that fight back against some of these ingrained degradations.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    In her new book "Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women," Lyz Lenz. a columnist with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, examines the paradoxes of pregnancy and motherhood in modern America. It's a time when women find themselves the centre of attention & worship -- and yet also the subject of scrutiny and criticism. (Example: "You're eating for two! -- but don't eat too much, and should you be eating THAT?") Pregnancy and motherhood are rarely about the woman herself or her wishe In her new book "Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women," Lyz Lenz. a columnist with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, examines the paradoxes of pregnancy and motherhood in modern America. It's a time when women find themselves the centre of attention & worship -- and yet also the subject of scrutiny and criticism. (Example: "You're eating for two! -- but don't eat too much, and should you be eating THAT?") Pregnancy and motherhood are rarely about the woman herself or her wishes. "To be pregnant, to be a mother, is to occupy a political space where your body is fought over and you feel powerless to control the conversation that rages around you," Lenz writes in the introduction. " Power over our bodies begins with consent and consent begins with choice and choice is the primary right that is stripped from people in their journeys to and through pregnancy." The book is part polemic, part sociological/cultural study, part history lesson and part memoir. It is honest, pointed and frequently funny. Lenz was raised and homeschooled in a large, conservative Christian family, married a conservative, Christian man, and gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl. As a teenager, she received a "purity ring" from her father, which she gave to her husband on her wedding night. But she was keeping a dark secret from him: she was sexually assaulted at a college conference, and remained silent about it -- until she watched Christine Blasey Ford testifying against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court. In the years between, she wrestled with her guilt and shame, and the growing rift between the ideals and the realities of pregnancy, motherhood and married life. (She and her husband are now divorced, and as I read the book, I could understand why...!) This is a short book, but it packs a lot into its 224 pages: purity, conception, creation, hunger, the desire for children, maternal death, doctors versus midwives, natural childbirth versus C-sections, breastfeeding and pumping versus formula, pain, maternity leave (or the lack thereof in the U.S.), women's bodies and who controls them, and much more. There is so, so much here to chew on, both in terms of ideas and how well they're presented. I read this on a Kobo e-reader, and I have 10 pages (!) of electronic bookmarks. If I'd had a paper book in my hands, it would have been dog-eared from folded page corners, or papered with yellow post-it notes. As someone who is childless after infertility and stillbirth, I was curious to know whether infertility and/or pregnancy loss were addressed in the book. I'm happy to say that yes, they are (with some great observations & insights). In answering the question of "who gets to be a mother?" in the introduction, Lenz doesn't address the fact that some of us don't get to be mothers at all (and what happens then? how kindly does society view THAT?), which I found disappointing -- but I forgave her as I read on, particularly a chapter titled "Miscarriage" (in which she describes her own miscarriage experience) and another titled "Desire." Four stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Eirene

    This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read. "In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in whi This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read. "In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in which she’s smiling, draped in a gauzy dress, framing an almost nonexistent bump with her hands, wedding band glinting in the light. We are happy for her. We say, “Congrats,” over and over in the comments. Her hair is perfectly curled. Her husband smiles benignly behind her. She is the modern-day Virgin Mary." It's funny, dark, depressing, hopeful and relevant in this current time. She writes about feminist issues, about women's bodies, about pro-choice and anti-choice politics, about how men and politicians want to control women in all aspects of their lives. It felt like an "this day and age" Gloria Steinem book. She writes about non-cis gendered women, writes about how women are supposed to 100% live up to an unreachable standard in all aspects (give birth, go back to work immediately, but DO NOT PUMP! Don't bother your employer for modifications, but don't take time off from work, but make sure you lose that baby weight in 2 weeks!). I liked that she was inclusive. "America scorns a fat mother. In 2019, writer Virginia Sole-Smith reported in a story for New York Times Magazine that fertility clinics will refuse to work with women if they deem their body mass index (BMI) is too high." "To become pregnant and to have children is to wade deeper into a world where your body is no longer yours, your body is debated by politicians, your body is manhandled by medical practitioners who won’t listen, your body is a thing people in the Target checkout line and on the school playground and around a holiday table have opinions about." "Corporations will penalize you for taking time off. Childcare will be unaffordable. If you’re a white woman with a white smile, ruffly blouse, impossibly clean white jeans, a sign that reads “Live, Laugh, Love” on your wall, and perfect blonde curls cascading down your back (how does she do it, and with a baby?!), strangers will smile at you and tell you you’re blessed. But people will also tell you to use cloth diapers. Or disposable. Whichever one you are using is wrong. Whatever you do is wrong. You are exactly what society has told you to be, and yet, you are still wrong." This book will make you laugh, make you rage, make you want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. But I definitely recommend it. Read it. Especially now, when our rights are on the table, again. (Under His Eye, right?)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie_Rae

    Holy frigging moly. I read this book in one day - it was that good. This book made me re-examine and re-think the different mythologies surrounding motherhoods, from the early Christians (I did not ever think Eve ate The Apple out of hunger, not out of temptation, until this book) to our own modern myths (the woman who has it all!). This is an unflinching, honest to goodness, brutal look at the tool motherhood takes on the bodies, minds, and spirits of people just wanting to bring children into Holy frigging moly. I read this book in one day - it was that good. This book made me re-examine and re-think the different mythologies surrounding motherhoods, from the early Christians (I did not ever think Eve ate The Apple out of hunger, not out of temptation, until this book) to our own modern myths (the woman who has it all!). This is an unflinching, honest to goodness, brutal look at the tool motherhood takes on the bodies, minds, and spirits of people just wanting to bring children into this world. This is a book I know I will re-read again and again and find something new in it every time. She touched on history, art history, biology, true crime, statistics, and the sad state of affairs in this county (why doesn't the U.S.A. have family leave yet!?!!?!?) into a stellar package. Side-note 1: So glad this author divorced her husband. The man was a frigging tool. Actually, that is an insult to tools, who can be useful when applied correctly. The man was a drag, through and through. Side-note 2: The author got to meet with Tara Westover's parents and "Shawn" - the brother who delivered intense psychological and physical abuse to Tara. It is a small snippet in the overall book, but nevertheless interesting and well-woven into the overall book. Side-note 3: I know it is often said books made people cry and laugh within one tome, but this book is one of the few that made me chortle and snicker in one chapter and tear up in another. All the kudos to the author. I look forward to more works from her.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emily Kraynak

    To me, this was an expansive book on feminism and motherhood, rather than simply a book on pregnancy rights (or lack thereof). I hope this reaches the wide audience who should be reading it. Lenz often writes angrily - at times I could almost feel my head pulling back in reaction to the intensity of certain sections. But you know what? She has reason to be angry. We all do! Some takeaways for me: 1) keep fighting for paid family leave ... it is astonishing and embarrassing that we don’t have this To me, this was an expansive book on feminism and motherhood, rather than simply a book on pregnancy rights (or lack thereof). I hope this reaches the wide audience who should be reading it. Lenz often writes angrily - at times I could almost feel my head pulling back in reaction to the intensity of certain sections. But you know what? She has reason to be angry. We all do! Some takeaways for me: 1) keep fighting for paid family leave ... it is astonishing and embarrassing that we don’t have this yet 2) in general let’s all place less stress on mothers being one way or another, and support them instead of judging them. Breastfeeding vs formula is the primary example but this applies to many things 3) the need to increase postpartum care... how do mothers here get 1 checkup in the first year (compared to the newborn’s 7 visits) when the WHO recommends 4 in the first six weeks? 4) let’s have a more nuanced approach to the expected societal sacrifices of pregnancy, birth and postpartum - “doing whatever is best for the baby” and place more weight on the mother’s point of view and happiness (yes, imagine that!)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hanna

    I was very intrigued by the title of the book Belabored by Lyz Lenz. Nowadays any book that has the words: "pregnancy, woman, labor, childbirth etc" in the title makes me want to read it. I received this particular copy from netgalley in return to my honest review. I enjoyed reading this book and actually had some thoughtful conversations with my husband after reading certain chapters. The author made me want to stop and think for a second on the topic of mothers(future mothers) being judged no I was very intrigued by the title of the book Belabored by Lyz Lenz. Nowadays any book that has the words: "pregnancy, woman, labor, childbirth etc" in the title makes me want to read it. I received this particular copy from netgalley in return to my honest review. I enjoyed reading this book and actually had some thoughtful conversations with my husband after reading certain chapters. The author made me want to stop and think for a second on the topic of mothers(future mothers) being judged no matter what they do. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant or is thinking about becoming one, the society "stamps" certain rules and regulations on her. Lyz Lenz talks in depth about her own experience and the experiences of other women regarding the matter. I would recommend this book to not only to the future moms but mostly to the future dads because they need to understand what women are going through.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nuha

    Thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy! Available August 11 2020 Before I read Belabored, I had no idea who Lyz Lenz was. By the end of the book, I am hoping we will one day cross paths and share a good laugh. Part political commentary, part medical history, part autobiography, Belabored discusses various aspects of pregnancy from conception to postpartum care. With a keen eye, Lenz hones in on various medical, social, and political "innovations" which greatly rest Thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy! Available August 11 2020 Before I read Belabored, I had no idea who Lyz Lenz was. By the end of the book, I am hoping we will one day cross paths and share a good laugh. Part political commentary, part medical history, part autobiography, Belabored discusses various aspects of pregnancy from conception to postpartum care. With a keen eye, Lenz hones in on various medical, social, and political "innovations" which greatly restrict pregnant women's rights and freedoms. Anything is game from vaginal secretions in pregnancy to a critique of Dr. Sims to Lenz's own upbringing in a conservative Christian household. Lenz's unique conversational, almost conspiratorial tone made it a far more enjoyable book than I would have expected. Definitely recommend!

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