Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Midwife's Story

1986, 1988 Ballantine edition
Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman
A Midwife's Story
Original price unknown, purchase price $3.95
Very worn paperback coming loose from binding

This is an autobiography, with help from Armstrong's long-time friend Feldman.  You'd think with two writers someone would've caught all the typos, but I had to mark this down from a B-.  As for the content, it's pretty interesting, with Armstrong telling of her experiences delivering babies in hospitals and in homes, especially for an Amish community.  I found her a bit gushy about the Amish at times.  Yes, there are admirable things about their lifestyle-- kindness, hard work, etc.-- but the conformity bothered me.  She points out that the Amish people aren't "cookie cutter," but I couldn't help wondering, what about the people who really don't fit in, like gays?  Are they among the teens who leave and never return?  Also, while it's great that the women give birth without technology and (generally) surrounded by warm, supportive families, it is disquietening how close together the births are, with Armstrong referring to the "babies" and "toddlers" in plurals for a couple.  Not that Armstrong is there to judge, but she seems to accept their lifestyle with almost no questioning.

I will say that this is one of the books that I read in my 20s that convinced me that I would employ a midwife if I ever had kids.  The hospital births in this book, like those in the '50s women's fiction (The Group, Lessing's novels) are disgustingly dehumanizing.  Perhaps they aren't always that bad, but I knew I would rather be in a warm, comforting environment, with people I cared about.  At 45, it's increasingly unlikely I'll ever give birth, but I haven't changed my mind that it's not something I'd want to do hooked up to machines, and treated like a machine myself.

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