metro mama

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Metro Mama Reviews: The Birth House

I’ve just finished The Birth House by Amy McKay. What a terrific read. I completely neglected all the other things I should have been doing and read it in two days.

The novel takes place in Nova Scotia in the early 20th century. It tells the story of Dora, a young girl who befriends, then becomes the apprentice of the local midwife, Miss Babineau. Miss B. teaches Dora the many skills she has accumulated, from delivering breech babies to brewing medicines to induce labour or prevent an unwanted pregnancy. In addition to medical assistance, the women provide comfort, support, and encouragement and want nothing in return.

When a self-assured young doctor comes to town, he tries to convince the village women to put their bodies and babies in his hands in his “modern” medical facility. Dora struggles to help the village women keep control of their bodies in the advent of “modern medicine” in the face of growing distrust of traditional methods.

Part of the reason I found this book so interesting is because I have such mixed feelings about the medicalization of childbirth. Birthing babies was, and continues to be, risky business. The novel doesn’t gloss over this fact. Modern medicine has saved the lives of many a mother and child. However, I often wonder how my birth story would have been different had my labour not been induced. Also, I didn’t get the emotional support I needed. There was little interaction with the doctor who delivered Cakes. I loved my OB, but he wasn’t around when it was time to deliver my child. I felt like a product on an assembly line, each worker eager to finish his job in order to meet his quota.

Of course midwifery and modern medicine can coexist--we can take the best from both worlds. I think it’s desirous to have a minimal amount of medical intervention in childbirth if that’s what a woman chooses. If she chooses more intervention, that too is her prerogative. I’m pretty sure I’ll break down and beg for an epidural after five minutes of contractions again.

I’m strongly considering a midwife instead of a doctor if (big IF!) I have another go at this birthing business. I’ll still give birth at a hospital--after what happened last time there’s not a chance I’ll risk being at home. I hope things go better next time, and if they don’t, I want the person calling the shots to have a little more empathy. Scratch that--I want to be the person calling the shots.



Blogger bubandpie said...

This book is definitely on my must-read list. And I would definitely say "go for it" on the midwife thing. I haven't used one myself, but many friends of mine have and I've heard nothing but raves, especially from those who went the OB route the first time.

5:11 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

I just read it up north and I loved it. I loved the circle of women, and their hidden power and support for each other.

Re Midwives....I was blessed, easy pregnancy, easy labour, no complications. I had midwife births in the hospital (for D's peace of mind.) A midwife will always err on the side of caution and hand over care to the obgyn's if she thinks there is a need...they do not want to risk their reputations.

Just for the peace of mind, if you can if you want and if big daddy wants, I would highly recommend midwife birth.

Also did both drug free, not out of any noble reason but because I am more scared of needles than is imaginable. Excruciating but manageable pain.....really....


6:30 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

That does sound like a good book. I'm hoping for a VBAC when we try for our second child. As much as I'd love to use a midwife, I know I'm a little more high-risk now, so I'll probably be in a hospital with my doctor. (Who at least is an awesome doctor!)

However, if I do get the chance for a vaginal delivery, I'm considering having a doula with me. They fill the void between support people and medical people - having knowledge to help you through labor, but also just being there to support you.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

I read your birth story and it is terrifying. Although nothing like yours, my first was not a great experience either. 3rd degree epis. and a very rough recovery from it.

I had my second last October with the help of a midwife-no epis, no tearing, no drugs and amazing. I had to be induced but they used miso instead of pitocin. It made such a difference. I thought I'd be done at two but after having such an amazing experience, I'm considering a third. Midwives are wonderful!

10:07 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

You know, the more I hear about other people's stories, the more I love my doctor. My family doctor is one of the hadnful left who still deliver babies, and she has been my doctor since I was five. I feel so comfortable with her. even though I was under the eyeball of an obgyn and nurses at the hospital, she was popping by and checking on me regularly, ready to be there for the birth. As it happened, I had the emergency c, and she was there attending at that instead. I love how she straddles for me the line between being medical care and being a comfortable, caring support.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous krista said...

This book sounds even more interesting to me than the last you reviewed.

I gave birth with midwives for both my kids. One in the hospital with an epidural, and the other a natural water birth at home.

Both times I found the midwives absolutely wonderful and supportive of my choices. There was always a great deal of emotional support from them. I think midwives are awesome.

9:24 AM  
Blogger penelopeto said...

I agree; fantastic book. a must-read.

I am a huge advocate of midwife supported pregnancy/labour/birth. My own experience was luckily, blessedly, a best-case scenario - home birth, no drugs, short labour (relative term here), and it never got as bad as i thought it would. However, had things not gone as smoothly, there is noone I would have trusted more to care for me or my baby than my midwives. And where else do you end your appointments with a hug?

p.s. average ob appt - 7 min.
average midwife appt - 45 min. they are thorough and they *listen*.

11:15 AM  
Blogger petite gourmand said...

sounds like a great read.
My birth experience was a wonderful combination of midwife and modern medicine.
I'm forever grateful for my midwife (she was amazing)
and very grateful for the caring staff at the hospital..
and really REALLY grateful for the drugs....

1:06 PM  
Blogger DaniGirl said...

Thanks for the book recommendation - I was just looking for something new to read.

Great blog, too! It's the first time I've been here, but I will be back.

1:38 PM  
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