Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake & Abby Epstein

Your Best Birth is about knowing your birthing options and not feeling pushed around by doctors who often seem to disregard maternity patients' wishes. Or at least, that's what the book says. I don't know what it's like to have a baby in a hospital in the US; I probably never will. But I know my own mom's experience (at least, when she had me) was less than satisfactory, and she's still a little bitter, I think, about the treatment of OB-GYN gave her. If she'd felt there had been other options, she might have tried them.

So, here's breaking the news: I am pregnant; I'm at the beginning of my second trimester. And I remember two people singing the praises of this book: Jenn at Devourer of Books, who had a baby last year, and Dooce, who also had a baby last year.

Now, of all my generation in my family--several cousins, a sister--only one of them hasn't had a C-section. I don't know the particulars about why all of them had C-sections (except my sister--my niece was floating around in her placenta, basically swimming laps, and wouldn't stay heads-down), but I don't want surgery. And I certainly don't want to be pushed into it because of hospital protocols, which is often, apparently, what happens. I am also in love with the idea of a birthing pool, ever since I read on Pacing the Panic Room about the birth of Tessa Tangerine. (I started following Pacing the Panic Room because I loved the pictures he was taking of his wife every week of the pregnancy.)

My sister says she hates books like Your Best Birth because their goal is that everyone has a totally natural birth and they make you feel guilty if you want pain meds or if you have a C-section--which is how her prenatal classes made her feel. My response was that, yes, Your Best Birth is really heavy on supporting the decision to have a drug-free labor, home birth, midwives, doulas, and all of that. But mostly, they just don't want you to feel pushed into having a less-than-joyous birth experience you didn't need to have; they want you to have more facts than you're likely to get from hospitals and doctors. They acknowledge that C-sections are sometimes necessary (though there are an alarming number of elective C-sections) and that after 24 hours of labor, you really might need an epidural to keep going. And that's FINE. What you need, you get. But they don't want you to be pushed into having an epidural by the nurses who pop in every half hour or forty-five minutes to ask if you're ready to have an epidural yet, or get jacked full of Pitocin on Tuesday by the doctor who really wants to go away Thursday night to start a long weekend instead of waiting for your labor to start/progress naturally.

Also, Lake & Epstein provide lists of questions for doctors, midwives, doulas, etc., as well as a history of widwifery (really interesting) and a general (if a little biased) overview of the birthing industry in the US. They also made a documentary, which I haven't seen but would like to, called The Business of Being Born.

Now, unfortunately, I don't think BC's health care--or the health care from my husband's employer--would pay for a midwife and doula for a home birth. In fact, I am pretty sure there aren't any truly qualified midwives in my town, and to get a midwife to deliver my baby, I'd likely have to go to Vancouver Island. So I think the homebirth in a tub is out.

Fortunately, my doctor says that here in BC, they approach pregnancy and labor a little differently, with as few interventions as possible. There are showers and tubs for laboring moms at the hospital and they won't hook me up to an IV--or even put a needle in, in case I need one later--unless it becomes absolutely necessary. And I can feel free to walk, squat, whatever positions I want. I feel much better knowing that.

Of course, I have yet to take a look at the maternity ward here. There's only one hospital in town, so I have pretty limited hospital options (again, unless I want to take ferry to Vancouver Island while I'm in labor). But I've heard nothing but good things about its maternity ward, and I find it pretty comforting that most women in town receive their prenatal care from their general practitioners rather than an OB-GYN. There's only one OB-GYN and he's the prenatal care for high risk pregnancies and otherwise, expectant moms only see him for emergency C-sections (though I'm told he's also skilled with forceps and can be called in for that as well).

I'm really glad I read this book, because I don't think I would have considered that there are options other than hospitalization to have a baby, or that doctors could have ulterior motives for offering epidurals or kick-starting labor, or that there are so many options even if you choose to go to a hospital. I strongly encourage other pregnant women to read this book--even if you've already had children. It's fascinating.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman

Patsy Harman is not an unusual woman. She worries about finances. She gets irritated with her husband's ability to sleep no matter what their current crisis is. She feels the need to listen to her patients and colleagues, and is just as sensitive as any other woman you're likely to meet (even if she doesn't cry as much).

What makes Patsy Harman a bit of an anomaly is that she's a midwife in Appalachia, and she and her OB-GYN husband operate their own medical practice, even though they don't deliver babies anymore (obstetric malpractice insurance got ridiculously high). They've had a bit of bad luck with accountants, and Patsy finds it difficult to balance the problems of her patients and friends with those of her own life.

One of the early reviewers said that The Blue Cotton Gown (a memoir) reads like a novel--and it really does. I didn't want to put it down. I had to know how Patsy was going to handle the accountants, whether she was ever going to get to sleep on her own, whether her teenage patient who lost twins was going to see the light about the loser she was sleeping with--or her friend's daughter, who was having a similar problem in her love life.

I cheered her victories and good decisions and commiserated in her frustrations and worries (seriously, how many inept accountants are there?). She introduced me to the business side of medical practice, which I hadn't really considered before. As with all businesses, there's a fine line between solvency and bankruptcy, and the Harmans are walking it. But even the financial worries--they got a letter from a legal firm; are they getting sued? or how do they get the IRS to quit taking the money they no longer owe them?--are nothing like worrying about whether or not you have cancer, whether or not you'll have to have a hysterectomy, whether that kid's overdose was an accident or suicide. And Harman balances them all beautifully in this memoir, with a generous splash of humor and other bits of light-heartedness to keep you from losing sleep over her problems.

If there's one thing that didn't quite sit comfortably with me, it's that most of the time, I had no idea this book was taking place in Appalachia, which has its own distinct character. Harman's practice could have been in Idaho or Maine or Texas if it weren't for the occasional references to local geography or the very rare mention of an Appalachian trait of the locals. Maybe it's because Harman isn't from the area, but I think I would've appreciated a little more local color.

All in all, highly recommended. I really wish I could remember whose blog I read a review of this book on--whoever you are, thank you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dewey: The Small Town Library Can Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

I'm a cat person. You must know this by now. I mean, our cat made international news last December (and we're still introduced to new people as "the people who's cat waited at the side of the road for them for two days after their accident in Wyoming--you saw it on the news, right?") and though I think our Wavey is every bit as remarkable as Dewey, I must admit, Dewey's story is pretty amazing. And he is one handsome cat.

I cried when I read about Myron taking him out of the book drop after the coldest night of the year, with his paws frostbitten and him so cold there was no heat coming from him. And I cried at a lot of other things in the book too. I, however, skimmed most of the bits about life in Spencer, Iowa (I come from an even smaller town in Ohio and highly doubt life is all that much different there) and rolled my eyes several times at Myron's insistence that Dewey's behavior was unusual for a cat (I often disagreed)--but there is no denying he was a remarkably well-suited cat for a library.

I loved the stories of specific library patrons and the statistics of how their patronage increased after Dewey became a fixture there, and the way stories of Dewey spread until people from all over the world were coming to Spencer, Iowa, just to see him. (I would've been one of those people who detoured a road trip to go meet Dewey.)

I would give this book to any cat person to read.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HP #7, re-read)

Do not read this if you haven't read
or have forgotten a lot of what
happened in Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows.

When the rest of my family reached the end of this book after its release in 2007, they all immediately read it again. I didn't, so I've only read The Deathly Hallows once prior to the Harry Potter Reading Challenge, and I'd forgotten a lot. What I did remember: leaving the Durselys'; the loss of Hedwig; some scandal around Dumbledore; breaking into Gringott's; Neville and the Sword of Gryffindor; the result of the final battle between Harry and Voldemort and why it happened like that.

But I forgot so many of the details that it was almost like reading The Deathly Hallows again for the first time. Almost. I forgot the role Kreacher played. I forgot what happened to Dobby. I forgot that Delores Umbridge reappears; what's waiting for them at Godric's Hollow; how they get the sword of Gryffindor; and The Tale of the Three Brothers. How I forgot that last one, I don't know. I forgot that Harry is a kind of horcrux himself, even though when I finished reading #6 all those years ago (before the release of #7), I had a theory that he was.

And I kinda want to read it again. Right now. (But I promised my husband I wouldn't. Apparently, I get really wrapped up in Harry Potter world.) Maybe next time I undertake re-reading the whole series (probably reading it aloud with kids), I'll have forgotten most of this again. I'm hoping so, anyway.

This reading challenge was a most satisfying experience. Thanks, Galleysmith!