Book-Traveling Thursdays: A Book Recommended to Everyone

Book-Traveling Thursdays is a weekly feature in which the blogger discusses a book related to the chosen theme for the week and examines the various covers of that book. Today is Read Across America Day, so this week’s theme is a book you would recommend to everyone.

According to a Gallup poll published in 2013, 94% of Americans have children or hope to have them someday. Despite that, our country takes a shockingly flippant attitude toward maternity and childcare. Midwifery is illegal in eleven states, cesarean sections — surgical births that can have dangerous consequences for the mother — and induced labors have been normalized due to the convenience for the healthcare provider, painkillers are pumped through the mother’s and baby’s systems in most spontaneous births, and while new parents are entitled to twelve weeks of maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, there is no requirement that it be paid by their employer, forcing many women to go back to work shortly after giving birth, no matter their health. (I am so blessed to have already left work during my pregnancy, as my midwife had me on bedrest for a month after delivery, and I struggled to walk or sit comfortably for two.) Investigative reporter John Oliver gives a great report on our horrific attitude toward maternity leave in the clip below from his HBO show Last Week Tonight.

I had no idea how important proper maternity and delivery care is for mother and child until reading Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin while pregnant with my son. Gaskin is largely responsible for the revitalization of the tradition of midwifery and natural birth in America and teaches a new generation of midwives and doulas at the commune and midwifery center she began with her husband, the Farm. I desperately want to attend one of their workshops and become trained as a midwife’s assistant at the Farm after reading this book — I can only imagine how rewarding helping to deliver babies would be!

The dust jacket description alone will give you an understanding of just how important the information Gaskin provides in Birth Matters is:

In Birth Matters, America’s leading midwife, Ina May Gaskin, reminds us that the ways in which women experience birth have implications for us all. Renewing confidence in a woman’s natural ability to birth provides transformative possibilities for individual families, and for society at large.

A woman who gives birth in the US today is more likely to die in childbirth than her mother was. With one in three babies born via cesarean, the US ranks behind thirty-three other in neonatal mortality rates, and forty other nations in maternal mortality rates. Confidence in women’s bodies and women’s choices has been lost. Known around the world for her birthing practice’s exemplary low rates of intervention, morbidity, and mortality, Ina May Gaskin has gained an international reputation in obstetrics for demonstrating the magic key to safe birth: respect for the natural process. Birth Matters is a spirited manifesta showing us how to trust women, value birth, nurture families, and reconcile modern life with a process as old as our species.

Least Favorite Cover

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There are only two editions of the book at this time, and both use the same image of Gaskin with a newly born baby. Nonetheless, I am less fond of this cover. I find the blue tint to be strange and unnecessary — why not just use the natural colors of the photo? I also don’t like the way the photo was cropped for this cover. In this smaller version of the picture, Gaskin leans over the sleeping newborn from a foot or more away with a concerned look on her face. It doesn’t feel very “warm,” nor does it express any of the warm-and-fuzzies it’s impossible not to feel when admiring a sleeping infant.

Favorite Cover

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While it is the same photo, seeing the rest of the photo gives me those “warm-and-fuzzies” the cropped version failed to produce. Instead of looking like she’s worriedly watching a baby sleep from a foot or more away, Gaskin tenderly clutches the foot of the infant, who we can now see is naked and so looks even more innocent and in need of love and protection. (Can you tell I’m a mom?) Gaskin’s body is curved around the baby’s small and prone one, conveying the urges towards love and protection that we can presume she’s feeling toward this little one.

Featured Image: “Newborn” by Jonny Hunter (2008)

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