We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349014296

Price: £18.99

ON SALE: 5th May 2022

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Memoirs

Select a format:


Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.






Following the birth of her first children, twin boys, Jessica Cornwell collapsed in a fever. Rushed back to hospital, she was initially dismissed, before a life-threatening infection was diagnosed. Alone, recovering, watching her body bruise and break, a curious thing happened: she stopped feeling.

At home, the numbness remained. Nursing her boys through jaundice, learning to breastfeed, slowly re-emerging into a world where other mothers seemed to cope, Jessica hid her secret – she felt no love, only fear. Worse, vivid memories began to surface, of moments in her past she thought buried.

Jessica began to name, one by one, the shadows that returned to haunt her first year as a mother. And in claiming back the words, she fought to claim back her life and the love she bore her young family.

Birth Notes is the story – luminous, breathtaking and courageous – of forging a self from fragments. With eloquent rage and searing honesty, it speaks for the unvoiced and shines a light on maternal mental health. It is the love story of a mother for her children and a woman for herself.

What's Inside

Read More Read Less


Cornwell puts words to experiences that are often rendered beyond words because they are of traumas that are minimised, shamed or shunned. Her prose is presented with with arresting beauty and I know her book speaks for countless others. I'm so glad she wrote it.
Julia Bueno, author of The Brink of Being
A hauntingly beautiful and unflinching, yet graciously shared experience of birth and mother hood. I savoured every word from the very first page, and half way through, was calling my best friends and asking them to pick this up and read!
Abi Daré, author of The Girl with the Louding Voice
While reading this stunning book, a sentence from Virgina Woolf's Room of one's own came into my mind, for Birth Notes "lights a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been". Jessica Cornwell explores a chamber unspoken of, cornered with spiders and nightmarish visions, where blood and milk blend, where mothers are denied words and care. This book will change lives, for it is a quest, a fight, a light, casting away hundred-years-old shadows. It is a book of love.
Adélaïde Bon, author of The Little Girl on the Ice Floe
An unflinchingly honest exploration of birth trauma, and ultimately a redemptive tale of the power and wisdom of women's bodies
Leah Hazard, author of Hard Pushed
An astonishing memoir. It is about the intersection between birth trauma and sexual trauma, medical misogyny, and trying to find a way to be a mother while dealing with something unspeakable. It is hugely important, courageous, and beautifully written. A rallying cry.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, author of The Tyranny of Lost Things
Birth Notes is a riveting and deeply moving examination of birth trauma and post traumatic stress in a world where new mothers and their needs are too often ignored or dangerously minimized. The misogyny laden origins of psychiatry and the medical profession are also explored, vignettes and historical information interspersed throughout a memoir as skilfully and beautifully written as I have read.
Michelle Bowdler, author of Is Rape a Crime? A Memoir, an Investigation and a Manifesto.
A feat of strength. Jessica Cornwell doesn't shy away from the conflicting forces at work on women's bodies. She is open about the struggles faced during pregnancy and in early motherhood; has searched for answers to explain a legacy of undisclosed trauma in maternity care; and shows the jagged, uncomfortable journey towards recovery that PTSD survivors undertake if they are to live in the present, fully themselves. Her story is impossible to ignore. So many women will feel less alone after reading this book.
Katie Ward, author of Girl Reading
Vivid, beautiful and brave, this book undid me - and filled me with hope.
Dr Elinor Cleghorn, author of Unwell Women
This is a magnificent book which is an odd thing to say about the work of such acute sorrow. It is also a work of truth, understanding, scholarship and hope. A major contribution to women's experience.
Susie Orbach, author of In Therapy
A luminous, visceral reel of life after birth and trauma. At once devastating, validating, tender and raw, Cornwell guides us through the foundations of the hardest moments of her life with honesty and invitation. Despite its sensitive contents, I often found it impossible to put down, her words endlessly comforting in their openness. I'll be taking her words forward with me, as a talisman for what may be waiting around the corner for many of us. Anyone interested in personal histories of birth, trauma and embodiment should read this vital book for its company and consolation.
Caitriona Morton, author of How We Survive