Tag Archive | birth books

Book Review: She Births

Book Review: She Births: A Modern Woman’s Guidebook for an Ancient Rite of Passage By Marcie Macari
Infinity Publishing, 2006
ISBN 0-7414-3390-7
255 pages, softcover, $23.95
http://www.shebirths.com

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

She Births is a book that “goes beyond” the average birth book. It is a particularly good read for mothers having subsequent children—perhaps for a woman who is well read in the physiology and stages of labor and who wants to dig deeper into the emotional and spiritual meaning of giving birth. It is also helpful for first-time mothers, though I felt that there was a lot of content that seemed to assume the reader had already given birth (and was perhaps reading this book to reflect, process, and prepare for future births).

The emphasis of She Births is on childbirth as a rite of passage and as an opportunity for spiritual growth and personal transformation. There is a lot of content that has a very “New Age” flavor. While I personally do not mind—and actually enjoy—this framework, other readers may consider some of the sections to be offputting.

Each chapter ends with a short chapter-topic meditation and several pages of related journaling exercises.

The book contains a higher than average number of minor typographical errors, as well as odd mid-sentence capitalizations, and too-short dashes between ideas. Persistent capitalization of words such as Birth and Spirit were a bit distracting. The book contains a variety of empowering birth stories, but none of them have attribution, making it difficult to identify who was giving birth. (The author? The woman in the previous story?) It was hard to grasp who was the “I” reflecting and sharing in each story.

She Births has several particularly wonderful passages that are well worth quoting and it also has a lovely cover. It is a passionately written book that is very dynamic and “alive” to read. The book is strongly written—the author does not mince words nor attempt to “balance” her perspective and this can be a refreshing approach. She Births also raises thought-provoking questions such as, “The way a society views a pregnant and birthing woman, reflects how that society views women as a whole. If women are considered weak in their most powerful moments, what does that mean?”

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Book Review: Get Me Out

Book Review: Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth From the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank
By Randi Hutter Epstein, MD
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
ISBN 978-0-393-06458-2
302 pages, hardback, $24.95
http://www.randihutterepstein.com/

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

Since it shares a subtitle about the history of childbirth, I expected the new book Get Me Out to be very similar in content to the recent book Birth Day by Mark Sloan or to the book Birth by Tina Cassidy. I wondered how much more could possibly be reported about the history of childbirth. It turns out there is plenty more and I was delighted to discover that Get Me Out stands alone as a unique and interesting contribution to books of this genre.

Written by a physician and mother of four, Get Me Out focuses on some very recent elements of birth history including assisted reproductive technologies (ART), ultrasound, and freebirth, subjects not addressed in the books referenced above. Aside from familiar content about things like the Chamberlen brothers and the Twilight Sleep movement, the remainder of the text was fresh and engaging. Part one included an interesting and disturbing chapter about Marion Sims and his research and experiments with fistula repair on enslaved women. A later chapter explores Sims’ research with artificial insemination (this time with middle class white women). In fact, the latter half of the book contains an extensive historical look at artificial insemination, moving into present day history including an exploration of sperm banking and cryo-preservation of eggs.

Unique among birth history books is Epstein’s chapter on freebirth (more commonly known as “unassisted childbirth”) followed with a chapter about ultrasound including content about 4D and “novelty” ultrasounds. There is also a chapter exploring DES and its effects on reproduction.

Also different than Birth Day and Birth, is the total absence of memoir or personal reflective content. Epstein is a medical journalist and Get Me Out is written in that voice. There is a light, personal tone to the text, but nothing personal aside from occasional descriptions, observations, or quotes from interviews with sperm bank mangers (for example). I found myself feeling a little curious about her personal history of childbirth, an element freely interspersed throughout the texts of other recent birth history books.

As the author says, “…the way we give birth is a story about our deepest desires and our fundamental concerns about life, death, and sex.” Get Me Out is a fascinating tale focusing on our collective, cultural story about birth in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as dip into the story that continues being written today.


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Book Review: L’Mazeltov

L’Mazeltov: Your Personal Guide to Jewish Childbirth Education
By Pamela Nadav
L’Mazeltov, Inc. 2008
Softcover, 248 pages, $18.00
ISBN: 978-097786610-6
www.lmazeltov.org

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE

The title of the new Jewish childbirth education book L’Mazeltov combines “two important Jewish symbolic expressions—L’Chaim (To Life) and Mazel Tov (Good Fortune).” The first half of the book consists of basic childbirth education and preparation. The second half is about “Jewish Life Cycle Education.” The strength of this book is the fusion of the two.

The childbirth education section was very conventional and conservative. I was surprised by some of the advice offered such as, “Always follow your doctor’s advice in all matters related to your pregnancy, labor and delivery” and in the section about anesthesia, “All of these modern technologies are designed to assist you in having the best possible birthing experience, and are considered to be relatively safe.” Personally, I feel like an important piece of childbirth education is encouraging pregnant couples to be informed birth consumers. There was no element of this perspective within L’Mazeltov.

The book includes some population-specific pregnancy information such as a short section on Jewish genetic diseases and testing.

There is a nice recipe section at the end of L’Mazeltov. I was inspired to make some delicious Challah bread for my family! There is no index, resource list, or glossary of terms (as a non-Jewish reader, many words were unfamiliar to me—-the author does a good job defining many within the body of the text, however).

Despite my wish for a more creative and evidence-based approach to the birth education portion, this book is a one-of-a-kind contribution to birth literature, covering both the “oys and joys” of preparing for parenthood. What a resource for Jewish couples expecting their first baby! “There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation.”

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Review first published in The CAPPA Quarterly, January 2010.