Chana’s review of Midwives > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Rebekkila (new)

Rebekkila I am so glad that you wrote about your experience. I disliked the book because I felt it didn't give a positive portrayal of home births, it spent so much time focusing on one that went wrong.
I agree with you that the portrayal of the midwife as a pot smoking midwife was a bad decision.


message 2: by Chana (new)

Chana : ) Thanks, I really appreciate your comment! Jewish? Good Shabbos!


message 3: by Judy (new)

Judy Interesting, thoughtful response, Chana.
I remember this book as wonderful, disturbing, powerful. Just checked my BookCrossing journal entry from Jan 2003:
Powerful, deeply affecting story of a Vermont midwife's desperate attempts to save a baby's life, the death of the mother, and the resulting questions, courtroom case, and personal agonizing.
I guess for me the novel wasn't so much pro or con-midwifery, but more a thought- & spirit-provoking story of a human tragedy.


message 4: by Liz (last edited Jan 02, 2014 11:59AM) (new)

Liz Love your review. I actually thought the author did a good job portraying homebirths in a positive way until the last few chapters.. but the ending did completely rub me the wrong way and I was trying to vocalize why that was and this review just explains my feelings completely. the hippie references and some of the outdated thinking didn't bother me so much given the year this story is taking place, as well as the year this book was written in, but the ending could have been so so much better.
I think the title might have bothered my the most. What the heck! Talk about sweeping generalizations. To me it is like calling To Kill a Mockingbird "Jim Crow-era African-Americans". I do like this story when I think of it being about one particular midwife in a particular time among horrible circumstances but that is really hard to do considering the title.
It's also interesting that just a few reviews down from yours is a reviewer who hated the book because she thinks it promotes homebirths... I guess this book probably reads better when you aren't on either side of the fence.


message 5: by Chana (new)

Chana You brought up a lot of interesting points I hadn't thought about in the particular way you are bringing them out. I appreciate that. I think you are right, that if one can read it as a story, without having strong preconceived ideas about home vs hospital birth, then it is a more enjoyable reading experience. I had pretty strong opinions on home birth when I was younger but have relaxed over time. I've had 5 grandchildren born in hospitals, 3 in NY and 2 in Israel, no drugs and no complications, thank God. Every woman has to make up her own mind about how to give birth. My opinion of the book remains unchanged though, got my back up.


message 6: by Liberty (new)

Liberty Clayton I have to say I completely agree with you. I really wanted to like this book, especially as it covers one of my favourite topics, midwifery and home birth. (I had my second baby at home with a fully qualified midwife.)
Sadly, I really disliked it. Not just from a narrative perspective (I HATED the ending and the fact that the daughter grows up to be an OB), but because of what it implies about midwifery. Some reviews of this book suggest that the author gives a balanced portrayal of home birth and midwives, but I disagree. I think he panders to all the stereotypes about midwives, and the only positive description of them he gives is by the lawyer, who you come to see as slick and morally questionable. Eg, he tries to seduce his married client. Despite the fact that what he says is completely true, home births for low risk women offer better outcomes than hospital births, this gets lost in the rest of the book.
Often times I think the way he undermines midwifery is subtle. He has drawn Sybil in such a way that you think he has created a sympathetic character, but then he goes into detail about her being a hippie, doing drugs, flirting with men other than he husband (who also drinks too much - what this adds to the story other than to undermine him as a person who is ok with home birth is beyond me) and generally so incompetent that she can't tell the difference between a person who is alive or dead! What the author has done is created a character who is so enamoured with delivering babies that she will under any circumstances and in doing so is a danger to women and children, ergo society in general. And then he suggests that all lay midwives are like that. He even calls the book Midwives, plural, rather than singular, suggesting that this book is about all midwives.
Ok, I know it is fictional, and perhaps some of this was unintentional. However, I think it belies a fear deeply embedded in our collective subconscious about non-medicated birth. That it is somehow reckless and crazy, and that those who support natural birth are too.
I know where I live, in New Zealand, almost all pregnant women are under the care of a midwife for the length of their pregnancy unless they are high risk for whatever reason and are then referred to an OB. They can choose to deliver at home, in a birthing centre or in hospital. And midwives here must be qualified, and have attended midwifery school, so they are different to lay midwives and CNM in the US. And our rates of intervention and C-section are lower than the US, as is the case with most countries who have chosen to go with a midwifery model for prenatal care. It is no more dangerous or risky, in fact just the opposite. But beyond that, it is ultimately about choice. I loved my homebirth experience but accept that it is not for everyone. Why can't people on the opposite view see that too?


message 7: by Chana (new)

Chana Thank you Liberty. I appreciate your insights on this book and it is fascinating to know about midwifery in New Zealand and how successful this model of prenatal care and birth is. I would love to see this in the U.S.


message 8: by L** (new)

L** Not tackling any of what happened in your birth experiences, just the novel itself. I liked your review, but you glossed over a major issue-- the oatient at hand wasn't healthy and lied to Sybil. As you note, a healthy woman and skilled, experienced midwife are likey to have a safe, healthy, and joyous birth experience in the home. But when a patient misleads her midwife or doctor or anyone involved in birth plan-- neglecting to divulge pertinent health information-- then teh home setting, and a midwife with no medical education are a recipe for disaster. CNM (or the equivalent) in homes or birth centers are extremely common in parts of Europe with far better maternal and infant survival rates and lower rates of complications- so skill, training, the best pre-natal care, and honesty are crucial to the best outcomes. And that comes through in this book.

Gut shabos un a freylikhe yontif (US July 4th)!


message 9: by Chana (new)

Chana Hi, Gut Shabbos and freylikhe yontif! :) I actually don't remember the book's details well enough to comment, but all your points are well taken. I agree that a falsified med history and an unskilled/uneducated midwife would potentially be a disaster. I think CNM for home or birth center makes a great deal of sense. I love that some hospitals offer doula services. My daughters, one in NY and one in Israel, have given birth in hospital settings with no drugs and no interventions, very much like a home birth would be, and thank G-d, all is well.


message 10: by Chana (new)

Chana oh, I guess I should add that my midwife was skilled, trained, experienced, gave great prenatal care and was really intuitive to the nuances of what people said and didn't say. The hospital staff, in my case, were much less in touch with me and couldn't figure out what was going on with the baby, not even after he was born. I had to go to a private pediatric doctor who examined him and watched him with me, she suspected and was right about the diagnoses of Prader-Willi syndrome.


message 11: by L** (new)

L** Yeah-- I was just rereading the book, with the possibility of using it in a class, along with the Business of Being Born and some academic texts, to discuss issues related to modern pregnancy/ representations of it and delivery, and social and cultural narratives of what makes a "good mother" (the right birth, breastfeeding vs. bottle, etc.). For example, students today are shocked to learn that "good" middle class mothers, until recently, did not breastfeed, and they are horrified by what a "twilight sleep" delivery was like, and why an epidural seemed like such a better way to go!


message 12: by Chana (new)

Chana That is so interesting! Sounds like a great class. I do remember some of the older people being dismayed that I planned to (and did) breastfeed. To them it wasn't modern and I could understand it, modern medicine had been miraculous. I had already shocked them with the home birth idea though. Breastfeeding was just another hippie/anti-establishment thing I was doing. Now look at me, the old grandmother, haha!


message 13: by Laureen (new)

Laureen Thank you, Chana! I, too, experienced both hospital birthing and home birthing. The hospital doctor was rude to me and to the nurse--who, in turn, was rude to me also. I was treated like a sick person, made to stay in the bed with beeping and hissing noises next to my head when there was nothing wrong and I was having a normal delivery. Second birth, I had learned my lesson and engaged a midwife to help us bring our second child into the world at home--totally beautiful, natural experience, part of the mix of life in a family, not a crisis moment as the hospital made it feel like.


message 14: by Chana (new)

Chana Beautifully said Laureen. Thank you for sharing.


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