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Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood
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Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood

4.3  ·  Rating details ·  638 Ratings  ·  108 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Berkley (first published 2001)
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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
Sep 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
Apr 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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, 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
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.

Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazingly informative. I first read it 10 years ago and it made such an impact on me I had to read it again once I became pregnant. But it is now 16 years old. And with the Paris agreement signed and then backed out of, I want to know what the consequences are NOW for environmental pollutants in embryologic development and breast milk. This topic is more about protecting the future AND THE PRESENT than any economical strategy ever could be.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written account of pregnancy and breastfeeding from an ecologists perspective. Very much suggested for second pregnancies. Hard to really grapple with mercury poisoning and the deep sadness of a polluted world the first time around but on my second go I’m much better prepared to take it in.
Sarah Hepinstall Rundle
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a life changer for me- thought provoking, well-written, and a beautiful blend of science and story telling. I have heard the author speak and I read her other books as well.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pregnancy, parenting
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
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
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
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
missy jean
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sonya Feher
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book focuses on environmental hazards during pregnancy and lactation, which have profound and potentially lifelong impacts on our future generations. Best nonfiction I've read in a long time. I've been recommending it to everyone. Public attitudes towards health in the US very much reflect our individualistic society: that health status is largely determined by individual behavioral choices. But Steingraber pulls apart the behavioral narrative on all the foods/activities pregnant and nursin ...more
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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“I'm beginning to perceive motherhood as a long, slow letting go, of which birth is just the first step.” 15 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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