Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The American Way of Birth

1992, later undated edition from Dutton/ William Abrahams
Jessica Mitford
The American Way of Birth
Original price $23.00, purchase price $3.99
Hardcover in good condition

This is another book that convinced me, in my 20s, that if I ever had a baby, it would be a home birth with a midwife.  As in the 1950s women's fiction and Armstrong's A Midwife's Story, the hospital practices (including the fetal monitor, which is still being used 20 years later, despite Mitford's hopes) range from insulting to life-threatening, for mother and child.  Mitford traces the history of midwifery and obstetrics, the former from the Middle Ages to its comeback a couple decades before this book came out, and it's clear which she prefers.  (She does admit to being uncomfortable with the spacier, hippie-ish side of some advocates, but she emphasizes the compassion and proficiency of the midwives themselves.)

Her title here is a spin on her "Death" book of three decades earlier, and she does address the financial and legal sides, as there.  She discusses her own experiences, giving birth four times under very different circumstances.  (When told, years later, that she must've imagined the air enema, she does research to prove that this was one birthing fad.)  As always, her wry humour is apparent, if not as prevalent as in the Muckraking collection, perhaps since like death, birth is often too serious to joke about.

Mitford died four years after this book came out, her funeral costing $533.31.  Her now only surviving child, Constancia "the Donk" Romilly, became an emergency-room nurse and had two sons by an African-American activist she never married, which no doubt would've shocked Farve had he been alive, and hadn't Jessica herself rebelled so much.  And, yes, Deborah is alive, as 93-year-old Duchess of Devonshire.  Unless I pick up a copy of her 2010 Wait for Me!...Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister (I checked it out from the library when it was released), this is it for blogging about this colourful family.

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