Sunday, August 12, 2007
It was about this time two years ago that I found out I was pregnant. Lately, I've found myself thinking about all the books I read while I was pregnant. These days, I kind of miss "birth world." Before I was pregnant, I had no idea there was this whole community of women who were intimately involved with birth and pregnancy, every day as a career. Midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, labor and delivery nurses, obstetricians.
It's the kind of life path that never occurred to me as a college student. It is a fascinating world, and reading about it is the next best thing to experiencing it. While it is interesting to contemplate, I'm not ready to experience pregnancy again at this point!
Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife, by Peggy Vincent. This author became a midwife in the late 80s, when the return of the professional midwife was a very new trend. She'd worked for several years as an labor and delivery nurse when she got her midwifery degree, and she hoped to practice in a hospital setting. At that time, hospitals were not ready to allow midwives onto their labor floors, so Vincent began a home birthing practice. Her book is full of stories about some of the many home births she assisted. She's quite a storyteller, and the births vary from being funny to really interesting to down-right scary. There is one delivery that is particularly harrowing, so if you happen to be pregnant or really hormonal, you may want to keep an eye out for this chapter and skip ahead.
A Midwive's Story, by Penny Armstrong. Here is another author who became a professional midwife in the late 80's, while hospitals were very reluctant to allow anyone other than OBs practice in their maternity wards. Armstrong was also an experienced labor and delivery nurse when she became a midwife. She then had the chance to practice as a midwife with the Amish community in Pennsylvania. Initially, she also planned to do her deliveries at the local hospital, but administrative resistance at the hospital, and cultural resistance among her patience encouraged her to begin doing homebirths. Armstrong also has a flair for storytelling, and her perspective on Amish life is really interesting, too. Her stories about women giving birth at home, after completing monumental amounts of housework just hours before delivering, is inspiring, to say the least! Like Baby Catcher, the book also has one particularly harrowing birth story, so be warned!
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin. This is a childbirth book, with lots of great tips for getting through childbirth naturally. It's not a nonfiction account of a midwifery practice, like the other two books, but the book includes a lot of stories about various deliveries Ina May has assisted, and it paints a fascinating picture of what life is like on The Farm. The Farm is a old hippy commune in Tennessee. Somewhere along the way, the women on the commune decided to give birth at home, and to assist each other with their births. A number of women who lived on the commune became practicing midwifes, and Ina May was the lead midwife of the group. She's developed a number of very effective natural childbirth methods, and her practice has a very low c-section rate. But the really fascinating picture in this book is what life is like on The Farm. Personally, Utopian societies are just not what they are cracked up to be. I have a feeling life on The Farm is very intense, and whatever kind of religious life they have created is rather strange. This might be a great place to give birth, but I wouldn't want to live there!