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Having Faith

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  520 ratings  ·  101 reviews
As an ecologist, Sandra Steingraber spent her professional life observing how living things interact with their environments. Now, 38 and pregnant, she had become a habitat—for a population of one.Having Faith is Steingraber's exploration of the intimate ecology of motherhood. Using her scientist's eye to study the biological drama of new life being knit from the molecules ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Berkley (first published 2001)
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The Baby Book by William SearsHow to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele FaberWhat to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi MurkoffThe No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth PantleyThe Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
Most Influential Parenting Books
70th out of 258 books — 440 voters
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Women's health and environment
3rd out of 52 books — 42 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,002)
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Molly Westerman
One of the most thought-provoking books I've read recently, and the most thought-provoking book about human reproduction I've ever read. Having Faith intertwines the story of Steingraber's first pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding experiences with a compelling account of how fetal development, breastfeeding, and environmental toxins work. I appreciate the specificity and care of Steingraber's prose: her style expresses wonder at the beauty and complexity of human lives/bodies/brains/breasts/f ...more
Willie
I just started this (don't tell my mom), but it is really great so far. Good mix of science and lyricism.
...
--Ok, so it took me six months to finish this, but only because I enjoyed it so much. It is great love story of having a baby, as well as a clearly articulated assessment of scientific risk. One of Steingraber's points is that we humans are not strictly at the top of the food chain-- our nursing infants are. And that every toxin in nature becomes more concentrated as it moves higher up the
...more
Kerry
This book was a struggle for me to get through. The author's environmental concerns regarding pregnancy are well conveyed and argued. Anyone who has ecological concerns will find solid backing for legislation in this area. However, all the detailed explanations in scientific jargon were frequently inaccessible for me. It's too bad because I think that knowing how pollutants and chemicals influence an embryo's development are important. She dispenses a lot of useful, but also frightening informat ...more
Kristin
A welcome departure from all the hyped up "pregnancy" books. A scientific way of looking at being pregnant and fetus development. Anyone who is remotely interested in science should read this, pregnant or not!
amelia
Now, this book certainly isn't for everyone, especially if he/she will soon become a parent. There is a lot of potentially upsetting material, detailing the environmental pollutants currently present in our world and the often horrifying effects they have on developing fetuses and young children. That said, it felt like the perfect time to read it for me. She juxtaposes her factual information with a month-by-month account of her own pregnancy & breastfeeding, which I found ingenious as a me ...more
Elaine
Several people recommended this book to me, a few of whom had used it in classes they teach. I thought I would peruse it as a potential teaching tool (I seem to be collecting works on women's reproductive issues for a class or three in the making) but liked it so much that I read it in full.

Steingraber is a really talented writer, with an ability to distill scientific information in a way that is palatable to the general (formally educated) public. She is also a bit of a poet, and in this book
...more
Jen
Oddly enough, I found this recommended in the young adult shelves of Powells, so from the cover I assumed it was a novel about a pregnant teen...no, and as someone with a hobby of trying to push science books onto teens, I don't really see many, pregnant or no, really getting into the book. But it's a perfect fit for me, and I'm really liking it so far. (Although a bit of an odd find right after I finished the neurobiologist's journey to motherhood book...) Good change from the insipid and repet ...more
Brian
I picked this book up on a whim and got sucked into it. I normally don't like books which alternate between personal narrative writing and informative/educational writing, but I guess I liked both aspects of this book. I think anyone who is a parent with a job in academia will appreciate the personal tale. I found the scientific sections invigorating, which is no small feat when the topic of environmental exposures is so commonly overplayed and offputting to a scientist. Here the case under ques ...more
Vanessa
I tried to read this book as fast as possible due to having nightmares every night about the public health outcomes of lack of regulation on all kinds of dangerous chemicals in our environment.

The author is an excellent and compelling writer, as well as a very informed ecologist. She definitely convinced me that tighter regulations on toxic chemicals are essential to the health of the next generations of humans - as well as other species.

Pretty much everyone should read this, especially those wh
...more
Jocelyn
This was a fantastic read. It was incredibly sobering in that I had no idea how saturated with toxins my world is, but I loved it because it captured the beauty and wonder of pregnancy. I loved reading her month-by-month descriptions of her pregnancy and the masterful way she puts words together. I would not, however, recommend this book to a pregnant or soon-to-be pregnant mother, as some of the things she writes about are disturbing. Again, though, the way she describes pregnancy and motherhoo ...more
Kat
I chose to read "Having Faith" as part of an independent study in ecofeminism during college, and I'm glad I did. This book does a fantastic job of exemplifying the often overlooked connection between the environment and the human body, and the devastating effects that pollution has on the next generation before they're even born.

I don't ever plan on having a baby, so I didn't have nightmares of birth defects after reading this book, but if I were a pregnant woman reading this it would probably
...more
Cynthia
I would recommend reading this before you got pregnant -- not while pregnant, as I did. Because this book can seriously freak you out. There is so much in our environment that can negatively affect fetal development that it is truly a miracle we all come out as normal as we do.

I love the way Steingraber organized this book. She weaved stories of her own pregnancy with scientific explanations of fetal development and the impact of environmental toxins such as mercury, lead, PCBs, etc. It's a smar
...more
Dawnlindsay
Despite the worries some readers might have, I read this during the first trimester of my first pregnancy and have no regrets.
It woke me up and helped me become determined to live a more fully aware life with my child and family.
After reading this book, I started a garden, began eating mostly organic food, and thought things through on a much higher level. It frightened me into making the changes I thought perhaps were necessary prior to reading the book. Post-read, I knew I had to.

Amy
Such a great book! I had skip parts because I read it while I was pregnant the first time and some parts kinda freaked me out. But I find the premise -- that birth mothers' bodies are the first environment and we are damaging babies in utero with the polluting we refuse to adequately regulate -- so incredibly powerful that I regularly reccommend this book to people - even pregnant people.
Lesha F.
A must-read for all potentially- or formerly-childbearing women and the men who love them. Not just a scientist, but also a beautiful writer, Steingraber explores the effects of various chemicals on a developing fetus.
Värske Aju
Raamat ilmus Petrone prindi kirjastuses, autor Sandra Steingraber, kes on ökoloog ning kirjutas raamatu olles lapseootel. Epp Petrone: “Mis mind üha uuesti hämmastab, on autori stiil. Ta on ühteaegu luuletaja ja doktorikraadiga ökoloog – ja just selline on ka raamat, mille ta on loonud. Nii nagu maailmas on tegelikult kõik seotud, on ta sidunud iseenda munarakud, linnud ja kalad, kõikjal toimuvad keemilised reaktsioonid, suurettevõtete korruptsioonid ja inimliku vastutuse kõige selle eest, mida ...more
Kelly
I highly recommend this to parents and even anyone who's just thinking about having children one day. The book reads alternatively like a science book and a memoir, and I really enjoyed the marriage of the two. The "science" parts are done in a way that makes them relatively easy to understand, and they're interspersed with stories of the author's own experiences being pregnant and mothering her daughter in the first couple years of her life.[return][return]But what I most enjoyed about this boo ...more
Meg
This was my favorite book that I read during pregnancy and my child's infancy. This book joins a memoir of the author's pregnancy with description/ exploration of the science around pregnancy and birth, especially focusing on ecology and the environment. Beautifully written, deeply spiritual, and extremely moving. There were some parts that were a little difficult to read while pregnant (like the part about thalidomide) but were still powerful. I reread parts of this book many times while pregna ...more
Sonya Feher
Let’s just start by saying I am not a science person. As a vegetarian since birth, I couldn’t even dissect frogs in my high school biology class. Thank you, Mr. Gilroy for providing me with coloring book pages of animals’ insides!! The only reason I passed Chemistry was that Paul Judges let me use his labs. So I wasn’t sure about reading Sandra Steingraber’s memoir. From pregnancy through her daughter Faith’s toddlerhood, Having Faith is a parallel exploration of Steingraber’s personal experienc ...more
Erin
I was already disinclined to have children, any youthful and idealistic desire to bear fruit having slowly been eroded away over the years by tales from all my friends' experiences. This book sent the Reproductive Desire-o-Meter plunging even more sharply south. It struck terror into my soul.

The author, an ecologist, describes her personal journey through pregnancy and breastfeeding through the eyes of a pragmatic scientist, using her experience in studying environmental toxins to illustrate the
...more
Kristen
After having read this book, I am shocked that I had to special order it from my local book store and that I haven't heard people talking about it for years. It is a tremendous book and, while the message is ultimately quite grim, the storytelling is fantastic.

The author is a scientist who delves into the literature about prenatal and postnatal exposure to environmental toxins once she discovers she's pregnant. Her prose is lyrical and she makes reading about the science behind reproduction a pl
...more
Jamie
I first heard about this book through Mother Earth magazine, after which I ordered it immediately. The book is strikingly unique and refreshing in its approach to pregnancy and environmental contaminants. Writing from her own perspectives both as a first-time pregnant woman and as one who has deeply researched the ways in which humans are affected by chemical contaminants, she shares poetically and factually, interspersing her own experiences in pregnancy with detailed research which is enormous ...more
missy jean
I wish I could make everyone read this book just so I could talk to everyone about it. I learned so much from this book, which is an ecologists' accounting of her own pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding experiences coupled with scientific research about growing healthy babies. I loved the tone of the book, the awed and gorgeous explanations of the workings of the female body and nature in general (Steingraber's style reminds me a bit of Natalie Angier's); I've never read such poetic descriptions of me ...more
Lauren
Jan 22, 2008 Lauren rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone pregnant,thinking about becoming pregnant, or has been pregnant-& to her partner!
I wanted to read this book now, when pregnancy seems a long way off for me, in case it scared the crap out of me. But I would actually say that it is "safe" for women to read while pregnant--it won't feed your paranoia any more than it probably already is being fed by the national media (I'm thinking recent press coverage of caffeine, anyone?).

Steingraber is a biologist who writes luminously for lay audiences interested in environmental health and toxicology. If you liked the movie _Erin Brockov
...more
Alicia
This by far has been my favorite pregnancy book - I would highly recommend it to every woman, pregnant or not. Sandra writes in a style that is easy to relate to and understand, and even though she is coming from a position of authority (PhD level ecologist) she does not intimidate the reader or talk down to the audience. She transitions beautifully from describing her personal experiences during pregnancy to discussing issues that face pregnant women today. She has done a tremendous amount of r ...more
Elizabeth
This book was a Christmas present from my sister-in-law who is a doula. I'll admit it took me three months to finally crack it open, because I feared a self-righteous natural mom ranting about pollution (the author is an ecologist). I actually found it to be much better than I expected, and probably the most informative book about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding that I've ever read. It really doesn't fit on the shelf next to Ina May's Guide or What to Expect, but is in a league entirely of i ...more
Amanda Moore
If there were a way to give this book 6 stars, I would. It is an ecologist's memoir of her pregnancy and breastfeeding experience, woven together with her observations of nature and easily understandable explanations of scientific studies about the effects of the external environment on the environment of the womb.

I strongly recommend this book to any one, particularly to any woman considering having a child at any time in the future. Even women who are already mothers may find this a fascinati
...more
Angela
This book looks at pregnancy (the entire experience) from a whole new perspective. As a biologist, the author talks more about all the many miracles of the first trimester as the baby takes shape and it's body develops. Most books just move right past that.

The main focus of the book is on raising awareness of what our current ecological policies are doing to unborn children and pregnant women. A Warning - it can be difficult to read some of the stories while still carrying your own child, and i
...more
Kate
This book is life changing. Women preparing to have children will find this book both frightening and fascinating (don't read it while pregnant, it might give you nightmares). I'd recommend this book to all consumers. It illustrates how environmental toxins lead to birth defects, mental impairment, and disease in children all over the world. It also asks why women are being asked to modify their behaviors, such as avoiding fish due to mercury poisining, and the coal plants releasing the mercury ...more
Sharon
Feb 22, 2008 Sharon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in good science writing--not just parents-to-be!
A combination of a scientist's view of human pregnancy, a woman's journey towards motherhood, and an ecologist's warning about the harm done by pollution to infants still in the womb. Steingraber describes scientific processes so beautifully that it's like reading poetry, and those were my favorite parts of the book. She makes a very valid point, that society expects pregnant women to restrict their activities for the sake of their unborn children, while refusing to acknowledge that industrial a ...more
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Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health. She received her doctorate in biology from the University of Michigan and master’s degree in English from Illinois State University. She is the author of Post-Diagnosis, a volume of poetry, and coauthor of a book on ecology and huma ...more
More about Sandra Steingraber...
Living Downstream: A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis Post-Diagnosis The Real Cost of Fracking: How America's Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food The Spoils of Famine: Ethiopian Famine Policy and Peasant Agriculture

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“I'm beginning to perceive motherhood as a long, slow letting go, of which birth is just the first step.” 11 likes
“In the world outside this glass room, songbirds are feeding and resting in the trees. Some will take off tonight and not land until they reach Venezuela. Sandpipers, plovers, and broad-winged hawks have already left for Patagonia and Panama. Bats are headed for caves in Kentucky and Tennessee. Out in the Atlantic, humpback whales pass by on their way to the Caribbean. Even now, Canada geese are honking toward us from Quebec. It is a good day for the beginnings of journeys.
Every time I look at you, I think, Now I cannot die.”
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