Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey” as Want to Read:
Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  557 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
A midwife’s memoir of living free and naturally against all odds

In her first, highly praised memoir, Patricia Harman told us the stories patients brought into her exam room, and her own story of struggling to help women as a nurse-midwife in medical practice with her husband, an OB/GYN, in Appalachia. In this new book, Patsy reaches back to tell us how she first learned to
ebook, 0 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Arms Wide Open, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Arms Wide Open

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
i had a really tough time getting into this book. i sped through the first fifty pages & then found myself completely wiped out. because the first two-thirds of the book really just document the author's life as an enormous hippie. there was no real narrative thread, as far as i could discern. characters, settings, & choices are presented with very little context & it was difficult for me to find my bearings enough to care about the author's next big hippie adventure. not that there ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Catherine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
There's a great deal about this book that didn't make sense to me. The structure - three sections, with long years between each one - gives the book a disjointed feel that it never really overcomes. How Patricia and her family members get from one moment to the other is never really explained, a situation that's particular jarring when it comes to the third section. Patricia is an out-and-out hippy for parts one and two of the book, but by part three she's living in a gated community in a large, ...more
Chris Spiegel
Having just finished, and enjoyed, Harman's novel, The Midwife of Hope River, I was anxious to read her memoir, Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey. The memoir begins when Harman, unable to sleep and wandering the house, uncovers her dusty journals. She begins to look back upon her decades as a rural, and later hospital-based, midwife and Cerified Nurse Midwife. Interlaced throughout is Patricia's lyrical, nature-centered voice. Whether she is describing her encounters with curious bears, tape w ...more
Mar 16, 2011 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really fascinated by this book, although I have not read her previous title yet. The descriptions of her primitive, pioneer-type life as a hippie in the North Woods of Minnesota was at once absorbing and somewhat horrifying. Harman never articulates a really clear rationale for why they have gone to such extremes (I mean there's saving on fossil fuel and then there's grinding your own wheat with a mortar and pestel in a shack miles from a road) so it's a bit arresting, like we've just been ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't supposed to happen. I never meant it to happen.

I've had other lovers, beautiful and exciting men, but this one makes me so happy.

Sometimes when there's nothing special to be happy about, except that you have your friends around you and no one's lost in a blizzard, you just have to celebrate... They are my family and I want to stop life right now, hold it just as it is.

TV and movies portray hippies and protestors as kids going crazy with love and drugs, but in reality there was
I was hoping this book would be about the author's experiences as a midwife. It was NOT. The birth stories in this book were very few. If you are looking for a boring book about hippies living in communes in the 60's, this is your book. If you are looking for a great book with a lot of birth stories, try Baby Catcher.
May 10, 2011 Fran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arms Wide Open
Author: Patsy Harman
Reviewed by Fran Lewis

Living in the 60’s and 70’s were turbulent times. Imagine living in cabin without any electricity, devoid of many modern conveniences with a young child and your first life partner. Imagine being happy. Take a trip back to that time period along with author Patsy Harmon as she shares her life with the reader, takes us on a career and life journey a time when Woodstock came about, hippies were prominent, the music controversial, the times un
Viviane Crystal
Jul 08, 2011 Viviane Crystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patricia Harman's second memoir tells the story of her hippie years and later her years as a married woman developing and practicing the science and art of midwifery. For those old enough to remember, we recognize in her character a true hippie who protests the Vietnam war, rejects everything about living a wealthy lifestyle that destroys the environment, and protests any forum that would be considered traditional or conservative. It's a time when draft-dodgers are running to Canada or sticking ...more
Jun 12, 2011 Melinda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, usa
This is an engaging, thoughtful memoir, focusing primarily on the author’s life in hippie culture, living as off-grid as possible, first with her partner and later as part of a commune. Patricia Harman tells the story of her introduction into midwifery, starting with her first time giving birth, in one of the few hospitals that wouldn’t tie down a woman to the bed, and through her journey of helping other women give birth. Harman’s account of living a rural, low-energy life is engaging, and when ...more
This was an interesting read for my generation as it follows a single family's account of how they progressed from their hippie lifestyle to a more conventional existence. Given the numbers of flower children at the height of the movement and the seeming depth of their belief, I have always wondered why there aren't more communes in the US. While this book cannot speak for the entire movement, its tracing of the evolution of one family (through the eyes of one woman in particular) does provide s ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, signed-copy, memoir
I am in a unique position to review a book by a woman who has become my friend, and it was fascinating getting to know her through her memoir. Harman writes with confidence about her unique life, first as a hippie activist attempting to live a sustainable life in rural Minnesota, then as a part of a commune in Ohio as a young mother with a growing family, and finally as an empty-nester dealing with the drama of working within the medical establishment. This memoir is really Harman’s reflection o ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know it's cheesy, but I love her Author's Note: "Arms Wide Open is not just for those interested in midwifery or feminism. It's for anyone, of any gender, young or old, who cares about the earth and social justice. We each have our own song. This is mine and I sing it for you."

Other quotes I like so far:

"By 10:00 a.m. I was five centimeters, and Stacy joked that I might have the baby by noon. Then progress slowed. The nurses wouldn't let me walk, so I threw off my blue hospital gown and swayed
McGuffy Morris
Jun 24, 2011 McGuffy Morris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Midwife’s Journey

By Patricia Harman

In Patricia Harman’s second book she draws on her journals of many years as a midwife. This is actually the prequel to her memoir, The Blue Cotton Gown. In this book she reveals what brought her into midwifery. She tells of her early years, living in the wilds of Minnesota in a log cabin that she helped to build. After several years of living this way, she longs for a human connection.

Patricia moves into a commune with like-minded people of the counter-cultur
Nov 13, 2013 Kelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave up at the end of the first section. I just don't care enough to read any more whining about being a hippie.

I guess I thought it'd be more about midwifery and less about the backstory that leads up to it.
Jennifer Castellano
I had a very hard time getting into this book. Her first book was wonderful! I was so disappointed with this book.
Apr 15, 2011 Carrie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Thanks Goodreads for this win!! Excited to get this in the mail to read! Looks good :)
May 04, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Patsy Harman has led a very unusual life. In her twenties and thirties, she lived in the backwoods of Appalachia with her lover Stacy and their young son Mica. As self-proclaimed hippies, Patsy and her band of friends eat organically, protest environmental pollution and attend demonstrations against the Vietnam war. Living out in the deep woods of Minnesota, the small family lives simply, without electricity, indoor plumbing or running water. They grow and tend a subsidence garden and fill the c ...more
Blayne Gunderman
This is one of the best books ever! Love Patsy's transparency - I feel like She shared some of her innermost thoughts, fears, and dreams. Read it again & loved it just as much as the first time.
Becky Nelson
Not as good as her other books. Language was rough in spots,
Mar 14, 2017 Kayla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book showed up like a long lost friend I needed to see and didn't know it. I casually picked it up on my last trip to the library and couldn't put it down. I loved the easy way the author wrote the story and had no problem passing between time periods in her life. I have her other books on hold for me at the library, I simply can not get enough Patricia Harman!
Feb 27, 2017 Janna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.
MaryJane Rings
May 26, 2014 MaryJane Rings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Growing up in the 60's and 70's was a pivotal time in history as well a noticeable change in culture. This book brings about the real life of a commune and the people who worked together to keep it sustainable. It's not the myth of the drugs,sex, rock and roll stereotype story, but a story about not being afraid to protest against a war which was unpopular, unnecessary and took many young lives. These young persons were very dedicated to what they believed and fed up with the complacency of peop ...more
Cathryn Wellner
Jul 04, 2015 Cathryn Wellner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I read the Goodreads reviews after reading the book and was fascinated by what appears to be an age gap in responses to Arms Wide Open. As someone who lived an ordinary, middle-class life during a period of social turbulence, I loved the book. Few of my high school and university friends joined the back-to-the-land movement, but in my middle to older adult years I have met many who did. So for me the book was an insider's look at the young, idealistic people who eschewed consumer culture and dre ...more
Deborah Gray
I wasnt' sure what to think about this before I began. I love memoir when the life in question has enough action and drama in it to read like a novel. This wasn't one of those. This is a quiet account of a midwife's journey from free love flower power hippie living off the grid to a more conventional life of midwife married to an OB/GYN. It is possible to care for the land, love our neighbours and live a conscientious existence and still have electricity and running water.

There are no extraordin
Jan 22, 2013 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Life is a journey and you never know whose life you may touch."

From a tiny cabin in the forest to a commune to a gated community, I got to read about the life of Patsy Harman. Pacifist starting during the Vietnam War (a time I lived through also), her story resonated through me.

Her and the men in her life, including her three sons, were hippies during the Flower Child movement. She and her family and friends feel extremely close to the glories of nature and the protection of our planet and actu
Barb Terpstra
I had always thought that living off the land would be somewhat romantic and idyllic. This book showed me that it's a lot of hard work! Patricia choose an interesting life - building a log home with her bare hands, living off the land, no electricity or plumbing. Sure, the walks in the country and the appreciation for nature are still there, but man, that's a lot of work.

This story was about more than being just a midwife. It's about being self-sufficient, it's about commune living, the good an
Patricia Harman chronicles her young life as a revolutionary hippie trying to live in the old way as a revolt against polluting the environment but life catches up and as time goes on, she becomes an LPN, a nurse midwife while her husband becomes a Gyn,OB. The birth scenes are great to read about as I never had that experience at having a home birth. Her later life in a modern clinic with all the complications of running it is not so good nor is it so good to read about the practice wearing her ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Donia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Anyone has the right to pen a memoir. It can be risky exposing ones life for others to judge. There are two issues with this book for me. First from a technical standpoint, the writing is disjointed and fractured. The story line is hard to follow except for within each little tale. Whole years are skipped and the story jumps around.

There is something off putting about Harman as a person. I can't understand why a mature women would tell readers decades later how as a young woman she slept around
Allison Rockwell
Feb 28, 2013 Allison Rockwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
I picked this book up at the library after hearing an interview with Patricia Harman on Iowa Public Radio.

Almost every birth story in this book brought tears to my eyes. I must just be at that age where that happens.

Harman has a wonderful voice, and it was fascinating to read about "hippie life" recorded while it was happening, and not just from memory (the book is based off of her own journals from the 60s and 70s). I have a couple of aging hippie friends now that I can really picture in this
May 15, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still on my midwifery kick, I ended up just grabbing all of Patricia Harman's books. This one is a somewhat disjointed narrative which covers her early adulthood as a very hardcore hippie (living off the land with her "lover" and son in a remote cabin in Minnesota) and flashes forward to her later adulthood (sharing a women's medical practice with her doctor husband and living in a housing development in West Virginia). I really would have liked to learn more how she went from chopping wood and ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart- A Midwife's Saga
  • Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir
  • A Midwife's Story
  • Birth Matters:  A Midwife's Manifesta
  • Diary of a Midwife: The Power of Positive Childbearing
  • Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth
  • Midwife on Call: Tales of Tiny Miracles
  • Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
  • Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife's Story
  • Gentle Birth Choices
  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
  • Listen to Me Good: The Story of an Alabama Midwife (Women & Health C&S Perspective)
  • Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth
  • Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities: A Guide to the Medical Literature
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide (medically updated)
  • Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali
  • Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience
  • Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth
Patricia Harman has spent over thirty years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center.

She spent over a decade in the sixties and seventies in her wild youth living in rural communes in Washington (Tolstoy Farm), Connecticut

More about Patricia Harman...

Share This Book