Friday, May 18, 2007

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Tina Cassidy

Allison III
Originally uploaded by Sara Heinrichs (awfulsara).
"I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different." T.S. Eliot

This was one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time (Sagan's was also pretty rockin'!) Right off the bat, though: Becky, you probably can't stomach this one. And dad, you probably don't care much about the topic. So, mom...are we alone now? What a great book this was. You've been there, so I'm sure you can stomach the finer details.

Basically, Cassidy finds herself talking about the birth of her new daughter with the other women in her family and realizes how different birth was for different generations. This sends her on a quest to learn about birth in different times and different cultures. The sheer variety of medical procedures ("twilight sleep?"), expectations of the mother (SILENT labor?!), and cultural traditions (coils around the father's testicles which the birthing mother pulls on so he can feel some of her pain (-: !!) were so interesting and unexpected.

Of course, I also found myself crossing my legs as tight as possible during discussions of labor difficulties and the different implements "doctors" used to save laboring mothers. And sometimes doctors weren't allowed to save the mothers. During certain historical times, Catholics weren't allowed to sacrifice the baby's life for the mothers - the baby hadn't been baptized yet. So mom and baby usually died during difficult Catholic deliveries. Fun!

The history of birth experiences was fascinating. However, I felt there was a larger message to this book - life is precious. Reading about how many mothers have died trying to bring their children into the world broke my heart. Thinking of how many infants died before taking their first breath broke my heart. And with all of this heartbreak, I was reminded of how big love and sacrifice are...lessons I've learned only upon becoming a mother myself. Life is so precious and brief and that's so important to remember. I really thought this was a beautifully written, researched, and thought out book.


Becky said...

I was crossing my legs while reading your review, so yes, I probably will have to pass. But sounds really interesting! I promise I'll post soon...I've had a hard time getting into the last few books I've picked up, but now I'm reading "The Secret Life of Bees" and I like it so far, so I'll post soon.

Jackie said...

It does sound interesting. I remember when the "twilight sleep" was still being used- as a student nurse (1968)I struggled to keep many laboring mothers from hurting themselves as they thrashed around in their "twilight sleep". Scopolomine was the drug used and, while it induced amnesia for the labor/birth, it also caused women to act as if they were possessed by demons! It was frightening to watch and looked more like some horror scene from the "Twilight Zone".