More books: Midwives and Empires

I’ve been moving slowly that last month or so with reading. I’ve kind of been up-in-the-air between series; even though I have new ones I just couldn’t decide where I wanted to go. Throw in some non-fiction, which takes longer, one of which I’m about 3/4 of the way through but is still quite a long book, and my number of updates is not speeding along! That’s OK, my goal is to enjoy my reading, and I still have 11/26 of the letters down by the end of March! And I still have 2 book updates to share now. As always, click on the picture to go to the Amazon page.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Ina May Gaskin

I had heard Ina May referenced by many natural-birth proponents, and finally decided to look up her work. This is the only book of hers I have read…but I loved it. Ina May is a total hippie who was part of a commune that was started decades ago where they decided they were going to go back to a more naturalistic type of birth; women attending women, with trained midwives rather than OBs. Her statistics are phenomenal, and she is respected by midwives and OBs around the country (and even around the world). The first half is nothing but birth stories. All kinds of birth stories from births she (or her team) attended. You see, women in her community don’t fear birth, because it is not a topic of horror stories. It is presented as hard, tiring, and painful, but not something to be scared of because basically everyone they know has done it and has found peace and joy in it. In our culture, however, the culture of birth is full of fear. So to counter that, Ina May presents her readers with a large number of birth stories from all different women with all different experiences, from short, easy labors to ones that took days, from unwed teenagers to “high risk” older women. She is trying to share her culture of confidence with the reader by sharing all of these stories. And since her c-section rate is under 3%, and forceps and vacuum extraction rates are even lower, and maternal death is almost unheard of, these stories really are typical of what she sees (and if I remember correctly, I believe there even was an assisted birth story in the tens her former clients shared).

The second part discusses her views on birth, including many tips for coping and many techniques she found to work, along with attitude. She wrote this book because after the stats she gave at the end of her last book an OB came up to her and said he wanted to know how she achieved those stats. This book was her answer. She describes “sphincter law” which she follows (along with the “law of 3 Ps” which OBs follow). Basically, she says that the cervix and vagina are sphincters, just like the rectum or urethra. And just like how it is hard to poop in front of a large group of hostile strangers, it is hard to let your cervix dialate and let your vagina relax to avoid tearing in front of a large number of strangers (or really any other situation in which you are uncomfortable or stressed). This insight alone I thought was really cool and worth reading the book for (trust me, she explains it better). The information and techniques she shares in here are really interesting, but her view definitely is one-sided. She is definitely not advocating for episiotomies or c-sections, though she is glad they exist for the women who need them, and while she doesn’t bash hospital birth she does point out many potential downsides from it being standard.

Overall I found this book very, very empowering. That seemed to be her biggest point. Throughout the whole thing there is this message that women can birth. We are made for it. And, generally, we can do it just fine. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is pregnant or thinking of becoming so, but it’s one you have to pick up on your own. I would never give it to a friend unless I knew she was open to natural birth because it is so one-sided, and what feels empowering to someone open to that may feel pushy to someone who wasn’t. However, looking at reviews, it seems that if a women comes to it on her own even many very pro-hospital-birth women thoroughly enjoy the book.

Hidden Empire

Orson Scott Card

This book is the sequel to Card’s Empire from 2007. In the first book there is a civil war in the US. In this book there is a world-wide epidemic. Are the conspiracy theorists right? That’s what we get to find out. The main character is a special ops agent who runs his jeesh of highly specialized soldiers. Other semi-main characters is single mom who is an advisor to the president and a young African monkey-catcher. This book is very action-packed and full of excitement. It was enjoyable and I did get somewhat sucked in, but it was nothing special. Good, not great. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, so that can ruin a book for me, but if you want some brain candy and like good action, then this is a pretty good choice.

You can tell my apathy by the length of my commentary.

1 Comment

Filed under Books

One response to “More books: Midwives and Empires

  1. Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors. I haven’t not read the above though.
    If I am being honest, his more recent stuff has left me a bit “meh” and so rather than be disapointed I’ve skipped him for a while. He’s got some really wonderful books out there though.

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