Giving Birth

Women have been creating new rituals that use traditional images and texts to reflect their experiences of childbirth.

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Contemplating how childbirth can connect us to our foremothers has reminded me of one of the few details that I know about my paternal grandmother, who gave birth to eight children. My father, who was second oldest, recalls that the older children were made to leave the house when his mother delivered. Still, she screamed loudly enough that the frightened boy could hear.

I screamed my heart out when Samara was born and hoped at that moment that my grandmother's screaming may have been like my own: Liberated, defiant of pain, awe-struck, thrilled. I have come to think of my screams as my foremothers' and my Judaism's presence in the delivery room. The work of naturalizing and assimilating women's responses to childbirth is in progress. And there is much work still to do--to honor the laughter of Sarah, to sanctify the screams of our mothers, and to bequeath powers of articulation to our daughters as they labor in the creation of worlds to come.

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Lori H Lefkovitz

Lori Hope Lefkovitz is Professor of Gender and Judaism at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Academic Director of Kolot. She is also a fellow of the Institute of Philadelphia Association for Psychoanalysis; author of The Character of Beauty in the Victorian Novel and editor of Textual Bodies: Changing Boundaries of Literary Representation.