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10 / 16 Every Birth It Comes Different: The Mothers' Hospital

Liesbeth de Block reflects on a publication which inspired radical midwives and poets alike - Every Birth It Comes Different: Writings from the Hackney Reading Centre (1980).

‘Reading these pieces again, they are as fresh, direct and interesting as they were all those years ago. At the time we were working on this there were very few written accounts of childbirth by women, let alone working class and immigrant women. I remember the sessions where we shared reading the pieces and making a selection. It was hard to stop the storytelling and make decisions. Everyone had so much to say and many important memories to share. It was the same when we came to choose the photos for the book. So not only were we publishing a book but we were sharing experiences and personal stories.

I had done a lot of the photo research, contacting photo agencies and freelance photographers and radical midwives’ groups and made a selection for everyone to pick from. The front cover photo was particularly difficult to choose. We wanted the power and energy that the uplifted hand conveys but we were concerned that the baby is clearly premature and that this would affect the mood and aims of the book. In the end the hand won! The back cover photo was taken during the session when students and tutors came to do the page layouts in preparation for printing. It shows (from left to right) Isaac Gordon, Jud Stone, Hannah Raymond and Ayden Mehmet Ali.

Many years later the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre contacted me to find out if I had a spare copy of the book as theirs was so well used it was falling apart. Of course, it is not poetry but line broken text, but it was fantastic to hear it was so well used. It has also been widely used during midwives training.

Personally I used the description of baby massage when I was learning how to massage my own baby.’


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Doing the layout for Every Birth It Comes Different, 1980, courtesy of Jud Stone
Front cover of Every Birth It Comes Different, 1980 © Jane Grant