This image shows the cover of Juneau poet Emily Wall’s new book “Breaking Into Air.” The book published by Red Hen Press details a wide array of different birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)

This image shows the cover of Juneau poet Emily Wall’s new book “Breaking Into Air.” The book published by Red Hen Press details a wide array of different birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)

A book is born: Local author releases poetry book portraying the many faces of childbirth

It details “the incredible power of women, and their partners.”

Birth is a fundamental part of everyone’s human experience, so it’s no wonder that many people have vastly different experiences giving birth.

For Juneau author Emily Wall, bringing those stories to life, the good and the bad, was an art that was going under the radar — and she wanted to change that.

In her latest book of poetry, “Breaking Into Air: Birth Poems,” Wall compiles more than a dozen varying stories of childbirth mixed with her own experience as a mother to bring the poetry to life. The book, which also includes a poem co-written in the Tlingit language courtesy of X’unei Lance Twitchell, reflects on both the joys of childbirth and the pain of loss that can come with it.

This photo shows Emily Wall, who recently authored a book of poetry focused on various birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)

This photo shows Emily Wall, who recently authored a book of poetry focused on various birth stories. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s a story about the incredible power of women, and their partners,” Wall said. “I hope it spreads the message that women are doing this incredible thing, and we should pay more attention to that in whatever way it happens.”

Wall has spent 26 years living in Juneau and the last 25 years teaching and writing poetry at the University of Alaska Southeast. As a mother of three, she said the idea to write the book came to her after the birth of her third child when during that time she regularly talked to other parents about their experiences with childbirth.

[Serenity and salinity: Emily Anderson’s ‘Salt & Water’ nearly ready to flow]

Wall said she found herself in awe of how “diverse and powerful” each story was, and it inspired her to write poetry that reflects each birth of the people she interviewed in its own unique way that embraces that no birth is the same.

“Some of these stories are beautiful, but some of these are terrible,” Wall said. “There has certainly been shame associated with it, and I hope the theme is to show what a powerful experience this is, and there is no right or wrong way.”

Wall said everyone and “their grandpa” will find something that connects them to this book. The stories vary from the happiness of a healthy birth to another detailing a lesbian couple’s journey to pregnancy through in vitro fertilization, but many stories share the reality of loss and the pain felt when things don’t go to plan.

Shayna Rohwer, a nurse, and mother whose birth story was one of the stories included in the book, said she found comfort and reflection being about to share her story and see her story being transformed into a poem.

“It’s such a cool project hearing from different people. I think in our culture we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the stories of our births and how impactful it is for the rest of our lives,” Rohwer said.

From her time as a nurse, Rohwer said birth stories are especially important to her, as she has firsthand seen the impact childbirth has on the patients she works with.

“Women remember the day that they give birth for the rest of their lives,” Rowher said. “To share and have someone write about it in another context is really powerful.”

Wall’s book, “Breaking into Air: Birth Poems,” is available for purchase at Hearthside Books and Kindred Post in Juneau, or online. Wall is set to host a book signing at the Merchants Wharf Hearthside for July’s First Friday, as well as a reading in September at the Douglas Public Library.

Contact reporter Clarise Larson at Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for t​​he Week of Oct. 1

Here’s what to expect this week.

Michael Beasley drops a ballot into a drop box at the City Hall Assembly Chambers on Election Day Tuesday morning. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Preliminary election results: Tight Assembly races, narrow City Hall rejection

Results released early Wednesday, more votes to be counted in next two weeks.

Students in the Juneau School District fared better on standardized science tests during the past year than their peers statewide, but the local proficiency score of about 43% was nearly 6% lower than the local scores last year, according to results released last Friday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Statewide test scores show Alaska’s students still struggling

About 37% proficient in science statewide; Juneau at 43%, down from 48.6% a year ago.

A closed sign sits on Delta’s ticket counter after hours inside Juneau International Airport in August of 2022. The airline announced this week it is suspending service between Juneau and Seattle from Nov. 4 to June 6, 2024. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Delta Air Lines canceling Juneau-Seattle flights from Nov. 4 until early next June

Airline cites “commercial and operational constraints,” analyst says higher local airfares likely.

Residents sit in voter booths at the voter center located at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Tuesday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Election Day kicks off in Juneau

Preliminary results of municipal election expected to be announced late Tuesday night.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Monday, Oct. 2, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the House floor after being ousted as Speaker of the House at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote

WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday… Continue reading

An exercise station at Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon is seen on Monday. The “Fitness Cluster” offers opportunities for strength and cardiovacular training, and signage gives fitness information and advice. Two-thirds of Alaska adults are overweight or obese, and about a fifth of them engage in no physical activity, according to an annual report released by the state Department of Health. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Report: Alaskans dogged by chronic diseases

Many residents lack healthy lifestyles or regular screenings.

Most Read