Friday, December 07, 2007

A clever title, but not much more

Remember Birth, the book that changed (and bettered) my life?

Well, I just finished reading its antithesis, a book called Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood, by Naomi Wolf.

Birth was an uplifting, unbiased, informative look at historical and modern birthing experiences and methods in America. Misconceptions is a nagging, negative, judgmental book that would have me believe that the entire obstetrical world, city planners, and my husband himself have banded together in a mission to keep me from achieving my potential.

Her main theme seems to be, "Why didn't anyone tell me it would be this difficult/soul-sucking/painful/life-changing/tiring/career-ending/, marriage-ruining?" I have heard women voice this complaint before, mostly on Oprah (I only watch it when I'm in the Middle East, I promise). And let's face it, there are times when I feel elements of this question creeping up in my own life. But to make it your battle cry, as the author of this book has done, seems disingenuous.

The obstetrical profession in particular gets scathing treatment from Ms. Wolf. I don't doubt that there are bad OBs out there, but she would have us believe that 99% of them are evil and intent on ruining our birth experiences. And even though it is clear that several years have passed between the publishing of her book and the experience of being pregnant with her first child that she relates in the first few chapters, her conversations with her OB were apparently tape-recorded. Surely that's the only way she could have used full, quoted conversations throughout the book -- complete with facial expressions.

City planners also get blasted for not providing us mothers with fenced-in play structures, complete with snack bars and heated out-buildings for the cold season. If only this world were perfect in other ways, too...

Husbands get an especially bad treatment in this book. They are portrayed as being nothing but lazy, unsympathetic career-squashers. Then again, maybe that is an accurate representation of the author's circle of friends.

Within all of these areas, Ms. Wolf makes several good points. Why are some OBs so terrified of home births, and why aren't hospitals more forthcoming with C-section and maternal/infant mortality rates? Why are other countries so far ahead of us, in many ways, when it comes to making life in a city more child-friendly? She also accurately describes the "Solomon's Sword" hanging over women forced to choose between raising their child and maintaining any semblance of a career outside the home.

So you see, I did finish the book. Sprinkled among the histrionics were some very interesting anecdotes about birthing and mothering in America. But the author's tone and defensive, judgmental stance was, for me, extremely off-putting.

If you're interested in reading a whiny book about everything that's wrong with the pregnancy and birthing process in America today, Misconceptions is the book for you. If, however, you are looking to reaffirm your belief in woman's ability to overcome many challenges in giving birth to babies and raising families, skip it. Birth is much better.


Shannan said...

Naomi Wolf is nagging, judgmental, and whiny. I've seen her on the "mothers" show on Oprah and I thought, wow, she gives us complaining moms a bad name because no one takes it to the next level like Ms. Wolf. I was ready to switch to the other side of the couch - the moms who "never had any problems at all" with motherhood just to NOT be on the same side as Naomi.
Whew! Just had to get THAT off my chest -

I should read Birth considering that's what I'm doing in about 12 weeks.

Crissy Bear said...

Where we live there is one huge playground, and ten others all within walking distance. We also have an indoor playroom. It is AWESOME! Speaking of which, have you heard of hypno-birthing? My friend Erika has done it with both of her children and her second little one just slide out. I'm thinking about trying it next time I decided to get pregnant. I know just working my own visualization exercises with Grace it was easy to get to a seven with no different then Ezra though. Anyway I'm curious to see how it would be with some training. We'll have to see. Although that is a long way off so don't hold me to it.

Bridget said...

When I said I saw uber-complaining moms on Oprah, I didn't realize that this same author was on there - are you saying that was her, literally? No wonder that show came to mind!

Liz, if you comment, you can address Crissy's hypnobirthing question.

Liz Johnson said...

I LOVE HYPNOBIRTHING. This comes from an admittedly high-strung person who doesn't "just relax" easily at all. I love it. I use it almost daily when frustrated or when I simply need to 'simmer down now.' I am planning on having my second child un-medicated using hypnobirthing (first was an epidural, and I am still glad I did that), but even if I get epidurals or even c-sections with the rest, I will not regret taking my hypnobirthing class. Great stuff.

I really want to read "Birth." I'm on the hold list at the library.

Have you read "The Power of Now?" Just curious. Not really related to birth. But it's another I want to read.

Phil Villarreal said...

I'm Phil Villarreal, a reporter with the Arizona Daily Star and I'd like to interview you about Festivus (I saw you had a post that mentioned the holiday). Please give write me at Thanks!

Mikael said...

That sounds terrible! I have no problem with the medical world today (except I have heard that some dr's push woman into C-sections just to speed up the process). I have had good experiences and hope this next pregnancy and birth is the same.
And I think we can have "careers" and be moms. I teach all the ballet I want and I still get to stay home. There are good balances.
I agree that there needs to be more kid friendly things around (I think they should have a kid plane, equiped with cribs, kid movies, etc. haha).
Sad that lady is living such a negative life. Poor her.

Crissy Bear said...

Wow Bridget you are FAMOUS but does anyone else thing it is weird that guy posted on the birthing post. Come on should have stuck with IKEA!

Bridget said...

And Jeremy says no men ever comment here...

Eevi said...

Bridget, do you find these books at the library or do you buy them?

I love reading your witty posts:)

Bridget said...

The library. It's pretty much my favorite place in Tucson. :)

I only buy books that I know I'll read again and again.


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