Review: Birth, Breath & Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula

Reading Birth, Breath & Death makes me want to hold my family close and also hold my heart open to strangers. And it makes me wish that Amy Wright Glenn had written more.

Glenn, who’s been a philosophy teacher, birth doula, and hospital chaplain, meditates thoughtfully on birth and death and the body-spirit through-line of breath that connects them both. She observes,

“So many women never witness childbirth until it is directly upon them, until they themselves are in labor. Death, like birth, is often cornered off into anonymous hospital rooms.”

But I think her writing really shines when she moves from philosophy to the flesh and lungs specific stories of her life and work — a birth she attended, a dead man she prayed over. Through stories she’s able to convey much wisdom, as in this birth scene where we learn what unrelenting birth support looks like:

“Never doubting the power of my body, they reassured me that I had the strength to complete this difficult birth.”

Glenn’s words in this lovely little book moved me to tears more than once, and helped me to reflect on my own journey as a parent and as a person holding space for others’ journeys.

“Doulas stand at the doorway of life. They support birthing women as they transform into open vessels.”

Note: I received a free review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own. 



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About Sarah Whedon

Sarah Whedon is founding editor of Pagan Families, the author of Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year, and former Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in the Boston area with her partner and their children.