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Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Giveaway and Other Cool Stuff!

I've discovered the best way to beat the winter doldrums: go shopping!

I pre-ordered a copy of Ina May Gaskin's new book Birth Matters, which is due out in March. When my FaceBook fan page reaches 250 "likes," I'll give away this book to a lucky fan! (If you pre-order your copy before March, will give you a discount price.)

The UK version of
Ina May's book, from
Pinter & Martin LTD.
The first thing I noticed about this book was the cover: the British versions feature a photo of Ina May next to a nekkid kid, umbilical cord clamped, little doinky in full view of the world in all its newborn glory. In the US version of the book, this portion of the photo is cropped - perhaps to preserve this child's dignity, or because it's perceived as child pornography in the eyes of discerning US censors (or perhaps they're a little uneasy at the sight of an intact penis). Whatever the case, it almost seems like they're heading Ina May off at the pass - the title of the book is, after all, "Birth Matters: How What We Don't Know About Nature, Bodies, and Surgery Can Hurt Us." (emphasis mine.)

My next purchase was inspired by Birth Without Fear's blog post on Peggy Vincent's Baby Catcher. So far it's an easy, thought-provoking read and I can't wait to really get into it. I love her description of her own labor: wracked with pain and trying desperately to adhere to the advice of the Lamaze pamphlet ("the little blue book of lies") and her own humiliation, even as a childbirth educator, in asking for drugs during her labor. Vincent chronicles many of the births she's attended throughout her years as a midwife, and one thing is for sure: birth stories never get old!

I also picked up a copy of Marsden Wagner's Born in the USA, which I've been meaning to check out for some time. I haven't had much of a chance to really delve into it, but the introduction caught my eye over morning toast:
"Much of what is in this book will come as a shock to women and families in America. There are two reasons for this. The first is that accepting that our present maternity care system is as abusive as documented here is a hard pill to swallow. No society wants to believe itself capable of putting its most vulnerable members - pregnant women and their babies - at such risk. The second reason is that the American obstetric profession has managed to keep a big secret from the public for fifty years."
Right on, Dr. Wagner.

I also snagged a second copy of Tina Cassidy's Birth, just in case. Perhaps for a future book giveaway, perhaps to lend to someone who needs to read it. Come fall, I'm seriously considering suggesting this to my book club - I chickened out last time and wished I hadn't. Why? Because I was concerned that for some women, it might highlight the vulnerability they perhaps experienced while pregnant and laboring, maybe even bring back memories of past bad birthing experiences. While I want people's eyes to be opened, if they're not as birth-nerdy as me, they might take it as an affront to the choices they made while laboring, and I don't want it to end up that way. (But mostly now, I think the word needs to get out, so if they have issues with reading it, let the chips fall where they may.) If we do read it, I'm really interested to see what kind of discussion comes out of it: especially since I think women who otherwise don't discuss such intimate details with each other flow like Niagara Falls when it comes to discussing their births of their babies.

And because I just couldn't help myself, I stopped over at Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson's "A Child is Born." I remember seeing photos that this miraculous photographer has taken over the years, and even caught part of the Discovery show's TV special on it. Unbeknownst to my husband and I, the very process of fertilization was taking place in my body, almost as if it were being orchestrated with the broadcast. We found out about two weeks later that we were pregnant with our first baby.

When I  gleefully brought the book home to show my husband, he cried. (He tends to be a very emotional guy as it is; when it comes to babies, he's a big ball of blubbering mush.)

Nillson started taking pictures in utero in the mid 1960s, including well-known photos of pregnancy on a cellular level - which astounded everyone (as it should!). Also included in the book are wonderful photos  - mostly emphasizing normal birth. One image shows mom pushing on all fours; and while analgesics are mentioned, nearly all of the photos of laboring mothers are free of IV tubing and monitors. The book does extensively cover preemies, and shows beautiful shots of moms (and dads!) in skin-to-skin contact with their babies, including plenty of images of babes at their mama's breast.

The book has been updated several times since its first publication in 1965, to include advancements in medical technology like IVF. There is also quite a bit of coverage devoted to artificial insemination, and interestingly enough only one page is devoted to cesareans. Among the reasons listed for them is "fear of childbirth," which in some ways is true, while in other ways isn't. I think the photographs are more representative of the normal birth culture in Sweden, where I assume most, if not all, of the photographs are taken. In this blog post, a dad talks about the process of midwives assisting throughout the pregnancy and birth and why he and his wife feel it's superior to giving birth in the US. He also mentions that Sweden's cesarean rate, not surprisingly, is around 17 percent.

While perhaps some of the text is out-of-date (the cesarean rate in the US is reported to be between 20 and 25 percent) that can easily be overlooked due to the amazing photographic content. While at first I was hesitant to buy this book, I thought of my kids and how soon they would be wondering, Where do babies come from? I figure this is a good place to start: with pictures of normal pregnancies and normal birth. When they're ready to be intrigued by naked boobies and body stuff, I want this to be the book they turn to.