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Elizabeth Heineman is a professor of history and of gender, women's, and sexuality studies at the University of Iowa. Her published works include Before Porn was Legal, Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, and What Difference Does a Husband Make? She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

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Elizabeth Heineman

Ghostbelly is Elizabeth Heineman’s personal account of a home birth that goes tragically wrong—ending in a stillbirth—and the harrowing process of grief and questioning that follows. It’s also Heineman’s unexpected tale of the loss of a newborn: before burial, she brings the baby home for overnight stays.

Does this sound unsettling? Of course. We’re not supposed to hold and caress dead bodies. But then again, babies aren’t supposed to die.

In this courageous and deeply intimate memoir, Heineman examines the home-birth and maternal health-care industry, the isolation of midwives, and the scripting of her own grief. With no resolution to sadness, Heineman and her partner learn to live in a new world: a world in which they face each day with the understanding of the fragility of the present.

“Heineman’s story reveals the depths of emotional pain associated with stillbirth and reveals that parental love has no boundaries.”

—Publishers Weekly

Ghostbelly is by far the most beautifully written and intimate account of something a lot of us have gone through, which is the death of an unborn child. It’s an incredible and moving book, and I’m so thankful for it.”

—Jane Pratt, founding editor of xoJane and Sassy

Ghostbelly illuminates the complex emotional landscapes of stillbirth—putting into frank and poetic words the unspeakable experience of simultaneously grieving and mothering a baby who has died. Heineman demonstrates the value in determining what hold meaning for you, and then unapologetically going for it, not matter what others might think.”

—Deborah L. Davis, author of Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby

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