Review from Brain, Child

Debra Rienstra examines the birth and first year of her third child through the lens of spirituality, an aspect of the pregnancy and birth experience she finds lacking in popular guidebooks. For Rienstra, virtually every aspect of becoming a mother provides opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection, from the desire for a child, which she likens to a yearning for the divine, to breastfeeding, a metaphor for God’s grace since ancient times. Even when Rienstra battles painfully with a form of postpartum depression, she turns to Psalms for sustenance, praying, “I want to get through this shadow valley. Don’t let me get stuck here forever.” Ultimately, her faith enables Rienstra to rise from her despair stronger in her beliefs and able once again to delight in her child. Although Rienstra’s devout Christianity shapes her prose, this thoughtful memoir-which draws not only on scripture but also on Greek mythology and the artwork of Judy Chicago-can speak even to readers who do not share Rienstra’s beliefs. Tempting as it could be to lump Great with Child in with treacly devotionals for expectant and new mothers, dismissing Rienstra’s thought-provoking, wide-ranging reflections on the spiritual aspects of motherhood, and womanhood in general, would mean missing out on an important new voice in feminist spirituality.

– Norah Piehl

Brain, Child 4.4 (Fall 2003)

p. 61

I have published books on motherhood, Christian spirituality, and language in worship. I write regularly about all sorts of topics for The Twelve, and I teach literature and writing at Calvin College, where I have served on the faculty since 1996.

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