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.

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Parenting: a Subject with Many Books but Few Answers

“Harry — I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”

And she sprinted away, up the stairs. […]

“Why’s she got to go to the library?”

“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It has been several long months since I last wrote here! Before I jump back into book reviews and other fun things, I figured a little update is in order.

I approached motherhood the way I approach everything: with research. I read the now-classic What To Expect When You’re Expecting and the polar opposite (and significantly more helpful) Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta cover-to-cover, as well as several other books on growing, birthing, and parenting a baby. I knew that this didn’t make me an expert, but I figured it would give me a significant “leg-up,” and give me remedies for every possible problem that could arise (reflux, colic, trouble sleeping, trouble nursing, etc.) that I could just slap on like band-aids.

Being a mom has turned out to be the first thing in my life that I could not approach with research, that I could not study in books. I realized too late that no book could have taught me how to become a step-mother to my eight-year-old, either. To those who don’t already have children, when you hear people say that skilled parenting comes from a great deal of experience, patience, and love, know that they are not exaggerating! These are the only ways (in my limited experience) to approach the subject. And when you’re living off a few hours of broken sleep for years, the screaming won’t stop though you seem to have tried everything, and you feel like you’re about to lose your mind, skimming the indexes of baby books won’t help you; there is no magic remedy, at least not for my baby. The only thing to do is give your child even more love. “It requires real strength to love Man. And to love him despite all invitations to do otherwise, all provocations and all reasons why one should not. … To love is the road to strength. To love in spite of all is the secret to greatness” (L. Ron Hubbard, “What Is Greatness?”, A New Slant on Life). Fortunately children have the ability to produce in us infinite wells of love and patience. Locating and drawing upon them in moments of anger, frustration, and utter exhaustion can be an enormous challenge, one at which I have probably failed at more times than I have succeeded (I’m improving all the time, though!), but it builds character and teaches your children by example.

It has also been tougher than I had anticipated, and I had to take some time to get my bearings. I kept being told, “Once you two have your routine down, it will get so much easier!” but Oliver changes, develops, and has different challenges every week, so our routine does, too. I’m finally accepting now, in his eighth month, that our routine, if you can call it that, is “playing it by ear” and doing what we both need at any given time, and that has made life so much easier. As I realized while reading one of my (highly recommended) parenting books, Baby-Led Weaningmothers in most cultures are expected to alter their own lifestyles to meet the needs and schedules of their children; our practice in the West to expect our babies to conform to our own lifestyles is unique, internationally. (Unfortunately the standard of absurdly short paid maternity leave in the U.S. makes this a luxury when it really ought not to be.) Life flows so much more smoothly when I prioritize Oliver above all else. Everything falls into place behind him.

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I can only get through a fraction of the books I used to read, unless you count children’s books, in which case I am still a very avid reader. (Haha!) Most nights I fall asleep putting Oliver to bed around 7:30 pm! However, I am still committed to this blog and am going to do my best to churn out useful book reviews and post at least once a week, even if it’s only with a personal update or meme. Please bear with me during this exciting and demanding time in my life! ♥