Midwife's Story
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Midwife's Story

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  663 ratings  ·  87 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...more
Mass Market Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 12th 1988 by Ivy Books (first published 1986)
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Dree
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...more
Lisa
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
Sharon
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 it's 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.
Eliza
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
Pat
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
Suzyberry
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
Emy
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...more
Shannan
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
Chrystal
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...more
Lee
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.
Kimberly Smith
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
Cindy
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...more
Ginny
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.
Diane
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.
Rebecca
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...more
Abbey
What a really lovely memoir that will make you better for having read it! I started reading it because it was on a list set in Glasgow, where I would be traveling in a few days. In actuality, about a chapter of the book takes place in Glasgow; instead I became entirely endeared to the Amish as I read. I found myself thinking differently about technology and how my prioritization of time is reflective of my values in comparison to the shared Amish values Penny/Sheryl present. As a midwifery book,...more
Karen
Not sure, but I did feel it enlightened me on a few subjects. I have a hard time with classic mainstream medical care, and this book definitely has an agenda against that. I enjoyed reading about the Amish.
I could live close to a group of people like that. And I almost would try for a better child-birthing process, after reading her stories. Alas, too late for me to change that.
Meghan Price
A beautiful glimpse into the life of a midwife living and working amongst the Amish in Lancaster County. Honest and self-aware, the authors illustrate the nuances of being a midwife, and the lives of the women that grant them the privilege of caring for their families.
Kristen
When I was pregnant with my 2nd, I had a really good friend who was trained as a lay-midwife. Through our many discussions, she convinced me to do a little research, so I read a whole bunch of books on natural childbirth at that time. This one was just a fascinating look at the Amish society that, obviously, doesn't believe in hospital births. It gave great insight into the many different ways of coping with childbirth - as different as each individual woman.
And as a result of my many readings,...more
Michelle
I read this book years ago. I really loved it and I have been looking for it at libraries to read again. Maybe I loved it because it is about things I love; birth, babies, and Amish (I lived very close to the Amish when I read it.) I want to read it again!
Marnie
I liked the birth stories in this book, I wish the whole book had been that. Instead she talked about the Amish a lot, which I find mildly interesting but more so in this context. She talked about several other topics that I practically skimmed through because I just wanted to read the birth stories. I've recently become interested in midwifery and this was a great book to start with. It did strike me as odd that the book is a memoir written in the first person, by someone else that knew the "au...more
Molly 'norman' yamamoto
A very interesting look into home births (especially among the Amish) and hospital births. Having done one hospital birth, I can look back on it and agree with most of the main character's qualms about them. Don't get me wrong though, she's not anti-hospital per se, but thinks there needs to be a little less intervention which I can fully respect. I enjoyed her respectful perception and found learning a bit more about home births and the Amish quite interesting! Definitely a good read for a soon...more
Jennie
This was a wonderful biographical book told in first person, about Penny Armstrong's experiences as she begins her life among the Amish as a midwife. The book provides a compassionate, fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Amish, especially the women; and also into the everyday life and work of a nurse midwife who has chosen to work independently as a direct entry midwife, assisting mostly single-handed in home births. The story was beautiful and funny and, at times, heartbreaking. Once I go...more
Kathryn
fantastic insight into the amish life. seeing birth as it is, a part of life, not something that required a full medical team and a set of stirrups. Really enjoyed the book!
Michelle
A good read. A midwife to the Amish (not Amish herself) set in the 1970's Pennsylvania. She was definitely biased against hospitals. So that part felt a little dated, because I think there have been big improvements in labor/delivery - more compassion, more mom's choice, etc. Fascinating insights into the Amish mindset and lifestyle. The ending was rather a downer, wish the book could've ended more upbeat. But, all in all, a compelling read.
Marilyn
I loved this book. Cleanly written with just enough philosophy embedded amongst the anecdotes.
NC
I love these midwife stories. This one was more about the Amish with whom she worked. It didn't touch me in the same way that Blue Cotton Gown did. It is a very interesting look at the way women give birth in America and the way hospitals work versus home births. This comes from someone in the medical profession that was skeptical about home birthing until she started helping with them. A good read. Three and a half stars.
Lady Susan
This is a really great read about a hospital-trained midwife who ends up as a midwife for the Amish in PA. It is a fairly short read. I would have wished for a little more birth stories and less general Amish information, but that is just my personal preference. I also liked how her perception of home births changed as she moved from the hospital to the home setting.
Sara
I had very high hopes for this book, being about midwifery and the Amish. It simply did not live up to it. I was not fond of the way the story was told, and it didn't grab my attention like I had hoped. However, I found it absolutely fascinating to read the side by side comparison about a regular hospital delivery versus an Amish midwife. The Amish women are truly amazing!
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