Tag Archive | reviews

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.

DVD Review: Dance of the Womb

DVD Review: Dance of the Womb: Belly Dance for Pregnancy and Birth
By Maha Al Musa, 2009
Red Polar Pictures
164 minute DVD, $49.95 (AUS)
http://www.bellydanceforbirth.com

Maha Al Musa has created a remarkable treasure for the birth world—an easy-to-follow, beautifully presented, step-by-step instructional bellydancing DVD called Dance of the Womb. Maha’s interest in Middle Eastern Dance was sparked by her Palestinian/Lebanese roots and she brings a lot of love and authenticity to her presentation of the dance techniques. Maha has also published a gorgeous companion book, Dance of the Womb (see previous review).

Dance of the Womb contains a 45-minute dance stretch warm-up. The exercises are comprehensive, gentle, and easy to follow. There are also six instructional dance technique chapters that cover specific beginning bellydance movements.

One of the special treats of this DVD is the included 50 minute video about Maha’s own homebirth journey with her third child (at age 46!). It also contains interviews with several homebirth midwives. The still photographs and birth footage are beautiful and brought a tear to my eye several times! Another bonus feature is a seven minute guided relaxation exercise.

Dance of the Womb is a great introduction to the basic physical elements of prenatal belly dance and also to some the spiritual and rhythmic aspects of giving birth. The DVD is a gentle and nurturing experience for both pregnant women and the women who serve them.


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

Review: Moby Wrap

Several months ago, I was sent a sample Moby Wrap. I was absolutely delighted to receive the Moby, because amongst my friends and LLL Group members, a Moby Wrap is hands-down the number one pick for babywearing with an infant. I have a variety of slings and other baby carriers available in my demonstration bag to show parents during the final week of classes, but I did not have a wrap-style carrier (though I was always sure to mention that parents rave about wrap carriers!). I’m so pleased to actually have one available for parents to practice with.

The Moby Wrap is very versatile and can be used in a variety of positions from birth until over two years old. The fabric is soft and nice and hugs the baby closely and securely into your body. The knit of the fabric is also lightweight enough that you do not get roasting hot while wearing the carrier. A Moby Wrap is a long piece of breathable cotton fabric that is “wrapped around the wearer to create a safe, custom-fitted and versatile baby carrier.” Another benefit is that it can be used for “kangaroo care” with premature babies or any baby needing special care.

Babies that are “worn” cry much less frequently and parents can be hands-free to go about daily tasks while still being in close contact with their babies. When my first son was a baby, I was only half-joking when I would say that I would not be able to live without my baby carrier. With my second baby, I greatly appreciated being able to grocery shop while comfortably nursing him and still having both hands available to push the cart!

Recent negative press about slings has made me all the more determined to share the benefits and joys of babywearing with parents in my birth classes. (Reports about sling dangers are referring to a specific type of “bag” type sling [see more here], not to carriers like the Moby Wrap.)  I am currently working with very young parents for a series of prenatal classes and I am eager to introduce them to babywearing and to show them how a Moby Wrap can help them bond with their baby!

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.

Book Review: Birth Day

Book Review: Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirth
By Mark Sloan, M.D.
Ballantine Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0-345-50286-5
370 pages, hardcover, $25

Written in a fast-paced journalistic rather than academic style, Birth Day is a biological, historical, and sociocultural look at birth in our species, highlighting the experiences and skills of the fetus and newborn infant. The focus of Birth Day is on childbirth, but as a pediatrician, the emphasis of the journey in this book is on the baby and its development, skills, and remarkable adaptations to the womb and to life on earth. The book contains frequent references to evolution, which is not a concern to me, but may be to other readers.

The author’s personal experiences and observations are interwoven skillfully throughout the book lending an engaging “human” component—I loved his wry and occasionally self-deprecating honesty and realistic sharing. We read about the births of both of his children (one a very long labor eventually with an epidural and the second a scheduled cesarean due to placenta previa), his experiences as a medical student, and his observations as a hospital and clinic pediatrician. Dr. Sloan has been present at over 3000 births as a hospital pediatrician and 20 births as the baby “catcher” (medical school OB rotation). There is no real mention of homebirth, but occasional, supportive references to CNMs and to doulas.

The author has a healthy respect for the process of birth, noting in his conclusion that “…the most striking thing to me after all these years is how often such a complicated process goes right.” As a breastfeeding counselor, an element that I loved in this book was the author’s complete acceptance and integration of the importance and normalcy of the birth-breastfeeding continuum as well as the assumption of breastfeeding present throughout (bottles and formula do not make a single appearance throughout the 370 pages). This presentation was both very refreshing and completely appropriate.

The content of Birth Day was reminiscent of Birth by Tina Cassidy, with the primary difference being the emphasis on the infant’s experiences. There were occasional instances of questionable data such as, “An unattended breech birth, for example, is nearly always fatal to mother and child.” (?!)

Fast paced and often very funny, the author of Birth Day has a knack for explaining complicated concepts in simple terms and using effective analogies. I learned some new facts about the history of birth and was pretty captivated by the whole ride.

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

Pathways Article

I was happy to have an article and an accompanying sidebar in the winter issue of Pathways to Family Wellness (the magazine of ICPA). This was one of my most exciting publications to date as Pathways is a lovely, full color magazine and they laid my article out so nicely and professionally. I’m posting about it here, because the articles were based on two posts originally written here:

What to Expect When You Go to the Hospital for a Natural Birth (re-named in Pathways as “The Hospital ‘Birth Plan'” and available in an online version here)

and

Can I Really Expect to Have a Great Birth? (included as the sidebar in Pathways)

As long as I’m writing about writing, I wanted to share links to some of my recent books/film reviews also:

Multimedia Review: Baby’s First Gift

Book Review: Labor of Love

DVD Review: It’s My Body, My Baby, My Birth: A film About Natural Childbirth

Book Review: The Power of Women

Book Review: Fathers-To-Be Handbook

Book Review: Permission to Mother