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A Midwife's Story

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,330 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
A hundred miles from New York City, in a place as different from it as possible, Penny Armstrong delivers babies. She works by the light of kerosene lamps, without fetal monitoring systems, X-rays, surgeons, or anesthesiologists. The nearest phone is several fields away.
From the moment her own phone rings until she delivers the newborn into its mother's arms, each birth is
Mass Market Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 12th 1988 by Ivy Books (first published 1986)
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Very disappointing.

This quote from page 35 sums up the author's attitude throughout the book:
[Discussing young inner-city mothers in Philadelphia:] "We stayed close to these girls,we avoided doping them up and wiring them up, not because they were less entitled to intervention, but because they were less informed consumers. If a well-educated middle-class woman came in to have natural childbirth and she decided halfway to throw in the rug, that was her business. She'd read the baby manuals....Bu
Jun 14, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for a good memoir, and pretty much anything centering around pregnancy, birth, and/or midwifery (I swear under other circumstances, I'd love to be a midwife; as it is, however, I'll have to settle for reading obsessively about it). This book did not disappoint on either count. It's a very down-to-earth, moving, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking account of one midwife who caught babies in an Amish community for a number of years. Also paints a very real picture of what is wro ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book written by a midwife who actually has a story to tell instead of an ax to grind is a rare thing. A Midwife's Story is unusual in its unwillingness to put the Amish on a pedestal in order to appreciate them as people. Something that I haven't found much of in the "about the Amish" literature out there. The fact that it's through the relationship of midwife to client lends the story intimacy and insight into the women she helped that you'd normally never get from such a private people.
Jul 13, 2012 Pat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, as you can see by the 5 stars, I REALLY enjoyed this book....I am all for hospitals/pain meds (although I delivered all my kids at Kaiser in the days before they popped an epidural in you as you walked in the door...most I had "natural"...but not by choice)...this memoir of a midwife's education and ultimate life delivering babies amongst the Amish was very absorbing. The book is a bit dated...published in 1986..but gives an insight into birthing attitudes from post WW2 (let the doctors do ...more
Nov 15, 2010 Eliza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book a handful of times over the years and it has moved me every time. Written (with a collaborating author) by a woman who--initially very skeptical of homebirth--worked as a homebirth midwife among the Amish people for decades starting in the 1970s, it's a fascinating look at modern childbirth and at the Amish culture. Recommended for anyone who's interested in either. Her concluding words left me thinking for days about life and death and how our culture treats both.
Sharman Wilson
This book made me want to go back 36 years and have my babies over again with someone like Penny at my side. I did what we called natural childbirth then, with husbands in the labor and delivery rooms at the hospital, but I definitely needed a trained, nurturing person to help me with my long deliveries (especially the first). I actually was yelled at by a nurse to stop making so much noise. That was after 26 or so hours, and they had told me to resist the unbearable urge to push because it was ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was interesting to any novice of midwifery and/or Amish life, but it lacked a certain depth. Although you're shown some real hardship (i.e. farm accidents and stillbirths), Armstrong very rarely allows her reader to see any misdeeds, either her own, her husband's, or her clients'. No doubt she is protective of all the people in the book, but this protectiveness allows the reader only a shallow, sunny portrayal of what I'm sure to be the real picture of life for Armstrong and her client ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Charlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like this story of a midwife in the Amish community . I like that she found a profession that she loved and found a perfect place to practice, and did what it took to be accepted. Interesting to read of the Amish customs too
Sarah Stanfill
It was an ok read, not the best midwifery memoir I've read but it was interesting. There was something a little grating that I didn't like about the author which likely affects my overall rating as well. I did enjoy reading about this intimate side of the Amish and penny's profession from medical to home birth but there was still something off-putting I can't quite put my finger on.
Apr 20, 2016 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The miraculous story of life and birth, and the beauty of a vanishing tradition."

That pretty much sums it up.

A beautiful memoir of a midwife who goes to help the Amish birth their babies at home without all the technology our culture has grown to say is best or better. And she was not open to it at first but then realized it was where her heart was.

I have a special place in my heart for people like Penny who help women and families bring babies in the world and do not think of birth as a dise
A surprisingly beautifully written book. There was a certain eloquence that I've not seen with a lot of other memoirs. I'm a sucker for memoirs and midwives, so this was kind of a shoe-in for me liking it. Though the chapters are mostly unconnected, they still flow pretty well.

I see the critiques that the author (well, Penny Armstrong the midwife - the book is actually written by Sheryl Feldman) is paternalistic, particularly in her comments about the teenage mothers from the inner city that she
Dec 26, 2015 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore midwives and the gentle work they do. I can say this because I chose to have my babies under the care of midwives. Reading this book opened up my eyes to the history and hardships midwives endured on their road to winning respect in and outside of the hospital setting. Also, I was appreciative of the rich Amish history Penny detailed and applaud her for continuing to provide care under primitive conditions that the Amish live in. Wow. She is a godsend to these women. These Amish women ar ...more
This was ok. I enjoyed reading about the Amish people and their way of life and I always love reading about birth, but this book didn't really have the charm I hoped for.

For one, I didn't care for the author as a character. She seemed pretty self-important. She talks about her transformation from working as a nurse-midwife in a hospital - thinking that all births ought to take place in the hospital and that it was in fact barbaric to birth at home - to doing primarily home births in a rural set
Penny Armstrong has captured well the diverse nature of childbirth today...a strong contrast between the Amish 'way' of bringing new life into this world and the English 'way' of over-intervention in our modern hospitals. I found it very interesting that the Amish face their labor and delivery as a normal, natural event...not much fuss, allowing their bodies to do what God made them to do. Of course there are times when deliveries go wrong and a mad dash to the hospital is necessary. But compari ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Emy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-story, 2013, memoir
This is the story of a young midwife's journey from a student in Glasgow to setting up her own clinic amongst the Amish in rural Pennsylvania.

I was dithering between giving this book three or four stars, but eventually decided on three because there was a lot that irritated me about it, despite the fact I enjoyed the read.

For a start, A Midwife's Story is rather preachy. Yes, it puts a good case forward for the more natural methods of childbirth over excessive medical intervention, but it felt a
Jan 06, 2013 Shannan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you read any other review or synopsis, then you know this book is about a midwife that focuses a majority of her practice on the Amish people of Lancaster county in the 1980's. the book begins with her training in Scotland, through her hospital internship, and her eventual progression into a self lead home birth practitioner. Here's the funny thing - although I adore the philosophy of midwifery - I came away from this book with peaceful images of the Pennsylvania Dutch and not so much from th ...more
Nov 08, 2015 SingingK rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has a humble, compassionate voice, with insights into human nature reminiscent of Jim Herriot and Jennifer Worth. I enjoyed her respect for the Amish and portrayal of their lifestyle from an outsider's perspective. There isn't that much medical observation or clinical detail. Overall, the style is engaging and the story well-paced; however, there were one or two plot lines started that were not appropriately wrapped up. Probably because of the setting, there's no need for warning abou ...more
Sep 08, 2009 Chrystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a pretty quick and interesting read, so even I was able to complete it in a decent amount of time.

I'm glad that I don't live within driving distance of Amish country right now because I'd probably start stalking them or something after reading this book. I love learning about other cultures. A few years ago, while I was on a week-long training for work, I stayed in Lancaster and even went on a buggy tour of an Amish community, including an actual home. Penny's description of her life birth
Donna Harberson
Jun 03, 2014 Donna Harberson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartwarming and Interesting

I own the hardcover version of this book which unfortunately is in storage at this time. Since I enjoy this story so much that I read it once a year, I purchased the kindle version. It's a wonderful and touching story that never disappoints. Over the years, I have recommended it to several friends
Mar 25, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to say I loved this book. I loved how Penny went from being fast paced and technical and unbelieving to slow, comforting and believing - maybe not in the same God or values of the Amish but certainly in a higher being and a force outside herself.

The stories of her life are sweet and endearing - even the last one of sweet Leah.

An amazing life and an amazing read. Loved it.
Jan 30, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I've read other books about midwives and a few books about the Amish but nothing to compare with this poignant and well-written, honest, thoughtful, and deeply insightful story. I was sad when it ended but it ends perfectly and left me with much to think about. Highly recommend!
Lillian Abrams
Jul 21, 2016 Lillian Abrams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read this book because I had been watching the PBS series, call a Midwife. This is the story of a midwife serving the Amish in Pennsylvania. It is warmly written with insights into the Amish way of life and what it means to have a profession that welcomes a new lives into the world.
Kimberly Smith
Oct 03, 2010 Kimberly Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book about a midwife working amongst the Amish people. In High School I was in a play about Amish people called "Plain and Fancy" and had to study the Amish to prepare for the play. I had the opportunity my senior year to visit Amish country in Pennsylvania on tour, and see farmers using hand plows to plow their immaculate farms, the buggies driving along the roads between semi trucks and regular vehicles, slowing down traffic, to see first hand their quaint existence. Th ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Cindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! If you are interested in the Amish, midwifery or both, you will not be disappointed in this book, in my opinion. This book brought tears to my eyes at the end. Here's an excerpt:
"The Amish are born, do their work - as directed by their abilities - and die. Each one of them has value because each one has to be part of God's work. That is enough of an awesome thing. No one life counts more than another; each life is necessary to the whole. During his time on earth, each man is respons
Rita Kelley
Apr 29, 2016 Rita Kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Midwife's Story

A very well written and touching story about birth with the guidance and help of a dedicated midwife. This gave a close look at the Amish culture and simple but very blessed way of life. Full of humanity, joy and love of God, this was a wonderful little book.
Aug 18, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it interesting to read about how she became a midwife, some of the struggles she had, and the deliveries of babies she did. I did find it a little too descriptive in some part, but for the most part enjoyable and gave me more of a glimpse of the Amish people.
Mar 30, 2014 Ginny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading about Penny's story but I would have enjoyed hearing about more experiences with the women and their births. I thought that her writing about hospital births was very negative. I had my babies during that time with hospital births and had caring staff taking care of me.
Mar 29, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book about a midwife to the Amish. It is the true story of a woman who ended up in an Amish community and became very close to them. Her experience living and working among the Amish, her respect for them and their beliefs, made this book very interesting.
Lisa Forsen
Oct 13, 2014 Lisa Forsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book I stumbled upon while searching for another midwife book. Enjoy reading birth stories but was even more exciting, it was about a midwife who set up a practice in Pennsylvania among the Amish(another favorite subject).
Dec 19, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part soft-core cultural athropology, part memoir of personal discovery, and part gentle midwife manifesto-- this book is totally engaging. I read it in one gulp and I want to jump right back into Penny's world.

The midwife/author goes from being a willful young woman, striking out on her own, to a mature and humble midwife serving the Amish community in Pennsylvania. She describes births-- each one an amazing little drama, and she describes the Amish families that hire her. As she grows, their w
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500 Great Books B...: A Midwife's Story - Penny Armstrong, Sheryl Feldman 1 2 Jul 27, 2014 07:52PM  
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  • Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir
  • Diary of a Midwife: The Power of Positive Childbearing
  • Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey
  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
  • Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth
  • Birth Matters:  A Midwife's Manifesta
  • Listen to Me Good: The Story of an Alabama Midwife (Women & Health C&S Perspective)
  • Catching Babies: A Midwife's Tale
  • Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care
  • Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
  • Tales of a Midwife
  • The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
  • Motherwit: An Alabama Midwife's Story
  • Homebirth: The Essential Guide to Giving Birth Outside of the Hospital
  • Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience
  • Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali
  • Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth
Penny Armstrong has delivered over 1,800 babies and enjoyed a 25 year career in nurse-midwifery including teaching and practice in home, hospital and birth centers.

She and her husband Rich currently live and work in their home state of Maine where she counsels people on living healthy lifestyles.

More about Penny Armstrong...

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