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Posted in: Motherhood & Custody, Feminism

Published on May 01, 1998 by Phyllis Chesler

Published by

With Child

A Diary of Motherhood

To each daughter who bears a child the experience seems without precedent. Since no one prepares daughters to become mothers, the transformation is often lonely, the new identity elusive. Drawing on the diary she kept during her pregnancy, and the first year of her son's life, Phyllis Chesler shares her experience in this extraordinary account of pregnancy and new-born motherhood. In exploring her own feelings and perceptions -joy one day, anger then next- Chesler reveals, as no writer ever has before, the creative intensity of motherhood.

Originally published in 1979, this 1998 paperback edition includes a new afterword by the author and a preface by Ariel Chesler, the author's son.


"Phyllis Chesler's myth-shattering insights could literally save the sanity of many women, where we are mothers or not, and involve many men in a critical human experience.

"With child is written at the heart of experience. It revels in the warmth of closeness and yet it faces the aching knowledge that we are all alone, even in life's most intense intimacy. It is a deeply felt, passionate, personal, and very moving book."
-- Alan Alda

"A precious object... Makes childbearing and motherhood significant—and beautiful—as well as truly hard and anguished. Thank you for doing it or all of us at last."
-- Helen Yglesias

"Phyllis Chesler gives women a chance to share her deeply personal account of her pregnancy, childbirth and the overwhelming impact of early parenthood… the never ending pull of the umbilical cord (is) so vividly portrayed, that every one of us will be able to identify with the author's joys and struggles… I found myself reading and saying, 'yes, that's how it was, just like that… amen'
-- Elizabeth Bing

"A pioneering daily recording of an unusual birth into motherhood... Another first for Phyllis Chesler."
-- Tillie Olsen

"Phyllis Chesler has given us a work to make all mothers (and most daughters) who read it weep: tears of rage, love, ambivalence, laughter-and recognition."
-- Robin Morgan

"Phyllis Chesler's myth-shattering insights could literally save the sanity of many women, whether we are mothers or not, and involve many men in a crucial human experience."
--Gloria Steinem

"Phyllis Chesler has written a brave book about one woman's journey into motherhood… A straightforward, unsentimental, yet poetic account of birth as a rite of passage…"
--Erica Jong

"Filled with the love of life, of adventure, of new horizons. Ms. Chesler gives us the gift of her journey."
--Judy Collins

"A book no man could have written – but which every man must read."
--Gerold Frank

"A tender, personal, and 'in the round' account of… this most important task of any culture: mothering."
--Marilyn French


Poignant…The mystical and the practical are intermingled.. so that the reader is drawn into this very private, too little discussed experience.

Library Journal

She presents herself openly and honestly and will certainly provide a comfort to the new mother struggling with similar conflicting emotions.

The Daily Leader

This is a beautiful book, full of doubts and fears and a love so deep it is almost erotic. The reader may hate this book or love it, but no one can walk away untouched.

New York Times

The appealing thing about Miss Chesler's confessions is that it turns out she feels just the same as we all do about pregnancy and giving birth…I admire her greatly for writing it all down. It will no doubt cause an immense flurry among the Sisters…a nice mixture of romantic charm and intellectual insight.

Charlotte Observer

She feels what we all feel, I think, and expresses it beautifully. With stunning clarity, Chesler describes the deep and mysterious bond between mother and child…the often conflicting demands of home and workplace.

Los Angeles Times

Chesler's book combines the "ordinary" thoughts and fears of expectant mothers with the "not-so-common concerns" of a successful career woman…Although this "diary" can be read in a couple of hours, Chesler's observations will cling and resurface days, weeks later.

Chicago Sun Times

Though forests have been felled for countless "how to" books on children very little has been said about what it's really like to have a baby….A recent exception is Phyllis Chesler's With Child.

Cultural Information Service

This diary is a brilliantly written human drama by a woman who refuses to cover up the doubts, fears, bitterness, and anger which come when she is forced to juggle a whole new set of questions about her identity, work, freedom, privacy, responsibility, and marriage.

Washington Post Book World

An informal very personal narrative, charged with nervous energy, enthusiasm, and anxiety…For Chesler, pregnancy and life with her son are enriching experiences. They connect her more deeply to tradition, create an understanding of other mothers.

New York Daily News

She serves it all up with wit, with poetry, and with venom. Women used to go to the kitchen and share their knowledge of motherhood. Chesler will not be relegated to the kitchen and she is a lot more honest about her rite of passage than any Madonna in the kitchen ever thought of being—or thought it was all right to be. Things will get better with Chesler playing Frisbee with the halos.

Publishers Weekly

…her insights are compelling and she offers documentary evidence of the tension afflicting a professional woman who is also a mother…the intensity of her reactions seem appropriate…Chesler's account also carries validity because it is immediate and deeply felt.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Intriguing, intimate…exhilarating..breathtaking.. This lyrical volume is particularly reassuring coming as it does from so ardent a feminist.

Lilith Magazine

Chesler's With Child has put motherhood on the map. And what a map it is. She spares us nothing. Chesler asks more questions than can be answered in any one book. ..She has written not a scholarly tract but a prose poem.

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