Thursday, September 06, 2007


(You know you're reading too many books when your "What I'm Reading List" on your blog can't keep up with real life.)

I don't think I've ever mentioned here on this blog, or even on Miriam's blog, what a traumatic experience giving birth was for me. And I'm not going to give gory details, either, because I don't believe in unsolicited labor horror stories. I will say only that it was extremely traumatic and it has taken, lo these two long years almost exactly, to get over it enough to even consider giving birth again.

(To give you an idea of how much it has stayed with me, I still can't listen to Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" (the song that was, inexplicably, stuck in my head during labor) without getting the shivers.)

But here's a book that has suddenly helped me tremendously: Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born, by Tina Cassidy. Basically, this is a book that I have been wanting to read since Miriam was born, and so you can imagine how happy I was when I found out a few months ago that it actually existed. It is exactly what its title suggests: a history of birth through the ages.

It is very distantly related to
A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (a fellow Mormon) in subject matter. But while A Midwife's Tale just made me glad I wasn't giving birth in 18th-century New England, Birth has made me excited about trying again in the 21st century.

The best thing about Birth is that it's not a "choosing a birth method"-type book. I've always found such books less than helpful because no matter how hard the author tries, they always come across as being preachy, snobby, or dismissive of one or several methods. Birth does not even try to give advice. It is a simple account of, well, the history of childbirth, that withholds judgment wisely, and entirely.

Another reason this book really struck a chord with me is that in the end, it reinforced my personal beliefs about childbirth that were formed while we were living in Damascus. I was pregnant with Miriam at the time and we were seriously considering arranging our travel schedules (involving trying to get to Arizona in time for Jeremy to start his PhD program) so she could be born there. While talking with my Syrian OB, he said something interesting along the lines of: "Childbirth is not brain surgery. It's something that happens all the time, everywhere. I like to treat it as a natural thing, not as something that women need to be saved from."

Believe me, if there had been a way to give birth to Miriam in Syria, we would have found it. As it turned out, we had the above-mentioned less-than-stellar experience here in Tucson.

Not that I'm complaining - I realize that everyone (including my midwife and myself) did everything they thought was right at the time. But when I do it again, I sincerely hope it will be different. It's hard to get over the sense of guilt that keeps pushing itself on me for being dissatisfied with my previous birth experience. After all, I still managed to come out of it with a healthy baby, right? That's the most we can ask for, and more than some people get. Still, I think I'm allowed to hope that next time will not be the same, but better.

I don't think I'm alone, either. I know there are plenty of moms who read my blog and I'm interested in hearing your stories of birth, both satisfying experiences and those that were not.

In the meantime, I'm grateful for Birth, the book that has armed me with stories from the past and instilled in me the confidence to give childbirth at least one more chance.

See the next post for comments.

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