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.