"To bring anything new into the world is to open one’s self and therefore to take on risk, to contaminate oneself with the other, to be made vulnerable. This requires not just courage but many things, among them faith, hope, help, companionship, grace—in a word, love."
While living in one of the world's most impoverished countries, Rachel Marie Stone unexpectedly caught a baby without wearing gloves, drenching her bare hands with HIV-positive blood. Already worried about her health and family, Stone grappled anew with realities of human suffering, global justice, and maternal health.
In these reflections on the mysteries of life and death, Stone unpacks how childbirth reveals our anxieties, our physicality, our mortality. Yet birth is a profoundly hopeful act of faith, as new life is brought into a hurting world that groans for redemption. God becomes present to us as a mother who consents to the risk of love and lets us make our own way in the world, as every good mother must do.
"Ask me what this book is about and I will struggle to give you a simple answer. It is about pregnancy and birth, anxiety and despair, blood and water. It is memoir and history, poetry and theology. Ask me, though, why you should read this book, and my answer is very simple—because you are a person with a body in and through which you bear pain, fear, and failure. Read this book for its necessary wisdom. In our most desperate vulnerability, when all we can do is endure, God is there too."
"Birthing Hope drew me in from the first page to the last. Rachel Marie Stone’s masterful interweaving of family story, theological truth, and personal reflection on birth, life, and loss puts her in the company of writers such as Rebecca Solnit and Eula Biss. I will return to this book for wisdom, beautiful writing, and encouragement that, even in the face of loss and sorrow, it is good to give ourselves to the light."
"We all carry fear with us in our bodies. Some of us try to escape it, some excel at denying it, and others attempt to bully it into submission. Rachel Marie Stone’s shimmering writing instead invites readers to recognize the ways in which fear shapes us (and sometimes breaks us) as human beings. Birthing Hope reveals, with honesty and grace, the ways in which holy, embodied hope can re-form our response to fear."
"Rachel Stone writes with power in this captivating reflection on the legacies of pain, procreation, and promise that echo through women’s (reproductive, emotional, and familial) lives. Part memoir, part travelogue, part time travel, Birthing Hope kept me glued to its pages. Highly recommend!"
"I’ve been waiting for a book like this one for years, and no one could have written it more beautifully and wisely than Rachel Marie Stone. With the skill of a poet and the patience of a doula, Stone invites the reader to look straight into the face of fear and find in it the spark of hope. There are words and phrases from these pages that I will go on pondering for years. Theologically rich and carefully researched, Birthing Hope is a book for everyone, but as a new mother it proved life changing—the kind of book that leaves you breathless."
"Every woman who gives birth knows that it is a profoundly spiritual experience. Something in us changes as our bodies bring life into the world. Rachel Marie Stone puts words around the ways the birthing process pulls women into the depths of pain, but also identity, fear, mercy, and even death. In doing so, she offers a clear look at the physical, emotional, and mystical messiness of birth."
"Profound theology, deep psychic insight, and the kind of wisdom that only emerges from immersion in life and the Scriptures—Rachel Marie Stone's book is a treasure, unforgettable, entirely compelling."
"Why do so many movies and TV shows portray birth so laughably poorly? It's as if we've all agreed the real thing—the most elemental human reality—is too raw and inelegant, too terrible and ecstatic, to be honest about. Rachel Marie Stone upends this conspiracy in this feisty, smart, theologically illuminating book. In her hands, birth is not only a sacrament of solidarity, a sign of hope amid the chaos of doubt and fright, but also a reminder that, for all our talk of immortal souls, we have and are bodies, fearfully and wonderfully so."
"Birthing Hope will plumb your depths and, if you let it, bring rise to something new in you. Reading this book, I rediscovered pieces of me I had hidden away, dusted them off, and found that they were now different from when I had last concealed them. These are powerful words crafted by a tender heart and hands. Rachel Marie Stone has written a book for our souls. I urge you to spend time with this book."
"I love this book. You needn't have given birth to love it. Maybe you don't even have to be curious about God or life as a human being to love it—the prose is that strong and compelling that perhaps even the God-and-human-uncurious might love it. My copy is going on my read-once-a-year shelf, after Jane Smiley and before Robert Penn Warren."
"A quiet memoir on hope as the most paradoxical of virtues."
"The book is, itself, a kind of dreamscape. Stone's narrative is at once focused—specifically, on the aftermath of a single episode in a Malawian birthing room—and, at the same time, incredibly diffuse in scope. As her reflections circle on the recurrent motifs of birth, fear, divinity, and mortality, Stone touches down on many different chapters in her own life: her lifelong struggle with an inherited bone disorder, and her children's experiences with the same disease; her grandmother's alcoholism and her mother's bipolar disorder; her childhood fears, pets, playthings; her work as a doula, a writer, an English teacher; her sojourns in Germany, Scotland, and Malawi. Her experiences become a kaleidoscopic lens through which we view her most salient themes."
"Stone is, above all, in a raw, faith-inspired, and benevolent relationship with the enduring metaphors of birth. . . . Stone's book makes clear that suffering, struggle, and deliverance are very much a part of the human story."
"English teacher and author Stone . . . writes movingly about childbirth and its meaning for women in this wistful memoir. . . . Her description of birth as both painful and joyful, and her exploration of how the two emotions feed each other, are highlights. Stone's style is reflective, making the book more of a meditation than a traditional memoir, and the prose is evocative throughout. . . . Readers will be gratified by how Stone turns the process of birth into a metaphor for her own personal and spiritual evolution."
"While Birthing Hope is filed as a Christian book, Stone’s story is so universal that it also fits generally among memoir, women’s health, and parenting titles. Stone’s faith is a large motivator for her and something that is woven throughout the book, but her story is relatable and its themes sympathetic regardless of religion or belief system."
"In these profound reflections on the mysteries of life and death, Stone unpacks how childbirth reveals our anxieties, our physicality, our mortality. All who are born or give birth will someday die. Yet even in the midst of our fears and doubts, birth is a profoundly hopeful act of faith, as new life is brought into a hurting world that groans for redemption. God becomes present to us as a mother who consents to the risk of love and ultimately lets us make our own way in the world, as every good mother must do."
9. The Odds
15. Till We Become Real