Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery.
—Andy Warhol (1928–87) American Painter, Printmaker, Film Personality
I’m hurt, hurt and humiliated beyond endurance, seeing the wheat ripening, the fountains never ceasing to give water, the sheep bearing hundreds of lambs, the she-dogs, until it seems the whole country rises to show me its tender sleeping young while I feel two hammer-blows here instead of the mouth of my child.
—Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936) Spanish Poet
Most of a modest woman’s life was spent, after all, in denying what, in one day at least of every year, was made obvious.
—Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) English Novelist
Telegram to a friend who had just become a mother after a prolonged pregnancy: Good work, Mary. We all knew you had it in you
—Dorothy Parker (1893–1967) American Humorist, Journalist
Luckless is the country in which the symbols of procreation are the objects of shame, while the agents of destruction are honored! And yet you call that member your pudendum, or shameful part, as if there were anything more glorious than creating life, or anything more atrocious than taking it away.
—Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–55) French Soldier, Duelist, Writer
We are celebrating the feast of the Eternal Birth which God the Father has borne and never ceases to bear in all eternity…. But if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.
—Meister Eckhart (c.1260–1327) German Christian Mystic
These wretched babies don’t come until they are ready.
—Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022) Queen of United Kingdom
When real nobleness accompanies the imaginary one of birth, the imaginary mixes with the real and becomes real too.
—George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick (1746–1816) British Nobleman, Politician
What is birth to a man if it be a stain to his dead ancestors to have left such an offspring?
—Philip Sidney (1554–86) English Soldier Poet, Courtier
We have been God-like in our planned breeding of our domesticated plants and animals, but we have been rabbit-like in our unplanned breeding of ourselves.
—Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) British Historian
Our birth is nothing but our death begun, as tapers waste the moment they take fire.
—Edward Young (1683–1765) English Poet
A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake.
—Georges Gurdjieff (1877–1949) Armenian Spiritual Leader, Occultist
There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.
—John F. Kennedy (1917–63) American Head of State, Journalist
He plough’d her, and she cropp’d.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616) British Playwright
Compassion and shame come over one who considers how precarious is the origin of the proudest of living beings: often the smell of a lately extinguished lamp is enough to cause a miscarriage. And to think that from such a frail beginning a tyrant or butcher may be born! You who trust in your physical strength, who embrace the gifts of fortune and consider yourself not their ward but their son, you who have a domineering spirit, you who consider yourself a god as soon as success swells your breast, think how little could have destroyed you!
—Pliny the Elder (23–79CE) Roman Statesman, Scholar
If men were equally at risk from this condition—if they knew their bellies might swell as if they were suffering from end-stage cirrhosis, that they would have to go nearly a year without a stiff drink, a cigarette, or even an aspirin, that they would be subject to fainting spells and unable to fight their way onto commuter trains—then I am sure that pregnancy would be classified as a sexually transmitted disease and abortions would be no more controversial than emergency appendectomies.
—Barbara Ehrenreich (1941–2022) American Social Critic, Essayist
What is this talked-of mystery of birth but being mounted bareback on the earth?
—Robert Frost (1874–1963) American Poet
Do not breed. Nothing gives less pleasure than childbearing. Pregnancies are damaging to health, spoil the figure, wither the charms, and it’s the cloud of uncertainty forever hanging over these events that darkens a husband’s mood.
—Marquis de Sade (1740–1814) French Political leader, Revolutionary, Novelist, Poet, Critic
Birth and death are so closely related that one could not destroy either without destroying the other at the same time. It is extinction that makes creation possible.
Media mystifications should not obfuscate a simple, perceivable fact; Black teenage girls do not create poverty by having babies. Quite the contrary, they have babies at such a young age precisely because they are poor—because they do not have the opportunity to acquire an education, because meaningful, well-paying jobs and creative forms of recreation are not accessible to them… because safe, effective forms of contraception are not available to them.
—Angela Davis (b.1944) American Political Activist, Academic
I have no conscience, none, but I would not like to bring a soul into this world. When it sinned and when it suffered something like a dead hand would fall on me,—“You did it, you, for your own pleasure you created this thing! See your work!” If it lived to be eighty it would always hang like a millstone round my neck, have the right to demand good from me, and curse me for its sorrow. A parent is only like to God: if his work turns out bad so much the worse for him; he dare not wash his hands of it. Time and years can never bring the day when you can say to your child, “Soul, what have I to do with you?”
—Olive Schreiner (1855–1920) South African Writer, Feminist
Behold, I was shapened in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
—The Holy Bible Scripture in the Christian Faith
Birth was the death of him.
—Samuel Beckett (1906–1989) Irish Novelist, Playwright
Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.
—Erich Fromm (1900–80) German-American Psychoanalyst, Social Philosopher
Good birth is a fine thing, but the merit is our ancestors.
—Plutarch (c.46–c.120 CE) Greek Biographer, Philosopher
Features alone do not run in the blood; vices and virtues, genius and folly, are transmitted through the same sure but unseen channel.
—William Hazlitt (1778–1830) English Essayist
I have learned to judge of men by their own deeds, and not to make the accident of birth the standard of their merit.
—Sarah Josepha Hale (1788–1879) American Poet
My mother groaned, my father wept, into the dangerous world I leapt; helpless, naked, piping loud, like a fiend hid in a cloud.
—William Blake (1757–1827) English Poet, Painter, Printmaker
What a strange thing is the propagation of life! A bubble of seed which may be spilt in a whore’s lap, or in the orgasm of a voluptuous dream, might (for aught we know) have formed a Caesar or a Bonaparte—there is nothing remarkable recorded of their sires, that I know of.
—Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron) (1788–1824) English Romantic Poet
It is so characteristic, that just when the mechanics of reproduction are so vastly improved, there are fewer and fewer people who know how the music should be played.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) Austrian-born British Philosopher