Thursday, January 27, 2011


Earlier this month we had a massive swapfest at Relief Society. I was super proud of myself because I brought about three boxes of books to it, and I only came home with two books! One of them was Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I grabbed it because it had an Oprah's Book Club emblem, I cannot tell a lie. I never watch Oprah and I have some issues with her whole materialistic/pseudo-spiritual philosophy (and she called her new thing OWN? Really, as in OWN more stuff!) but I have found she usually chooses decent reads.

Midwives was a good one. Part legal thriller, part women's health manifesto, part family drama, it kept me engaged as I blasted through it in just a couple of days because I have not been feeling too hot. (Would that a midwife could perform a lithotripsy for me, because all the doctors around here seem to be very busy.)

The story is told from the point of view of the teen daughter of a young Vermont ex-hippie lay midwife in the early 1980s. It's also seen through excerpts from the midwife's diary. The midwife is assisting a home birth during an ice storm when the laboring mother dies suddenly and the midwife must perform a c-section to save the baby. The state prosecutes the midwife for manslaughter and for practicing medicine without a license. It gets more complicated than that, but that's kind of the foundation of the story.

Considering that it's about late-20th century secular mores and pregnancy and childbirth, it's a pretty darn chaste book. OK for even very sensitive readers in that regard, I would say.

What I really liked was its treatment of how different people view events and remember them differently, and how even people who are as sure as they can be of themselves may look back on past actions with doubt and regret. Moments come in life when we make huge decisions. And sometimes we have to look back and question those decisions the rest of our lives.

It was interesting for me to read it as I am permanently closing the door on fertility. (Yes, that process is taking me a while, ok?) I used to have opinions on everything related to pregnancy and childbirth and nursing and parenting. Now, a lot of it is pretty irrelevant for me. I guess I have also learned that everybody does whatever works for them, and homebirthing hippies and regimented schedulers can both make good parents and have good families. Times have changed! I'm still interested in what people do, but I'm kind of past making those decisions for myself and definitely past thinking I have a clue how other people should approach them.

Thumbs up on the book. Enjoy.

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